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Seeing Reb

15 August 2022
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Reb Fountain performing. Photo: Aaron Lee

Award-winning New Zealand artist Reb Fountain talks taking the stage in her childhood hometown with her album IRIS. Interview Hannah Powell

Welcome back to your home turf! What are you most excited about with your show at the Isaac Theatre Royal?

I did ballet when I was younger and performing at The Theatre Royal was such a stand out … less my ballet skills, more the might of such an iconic theatre. It’ll be a great honour to share our music with you all in such a majestic space in the heart of my hometown of Ōtautahi.

For those who don't know you, how would you introduce Reb Fountain?

Come see our show! Being there in the moment, sharing that evening together, it’ll be the best way to experience one another. I was born in North America, arrived by boat in Port Lyttelton, Aotearoa, and grew up in Christchurch; currently I reside in Tāmaki Makaurau … so I’m coming home. I make music for a living and to make sense of my world. Performing live is the nexus of all the work that I do, it’s what the band and I love to do best. Live music is a magical space and together my band and I bring our songs to life anew every time we play – it’s transformative and electrifying. I’d love to share that with you.

IRIS is such a brilliant album. How would you describe it in a sentence?

A bridge between the heavens and earth, a map out of isolation into connection, a story for every hero, an album for the long drive.

What can fans expect to see from the live performance?

All roads lead to the stage. Our IRIS tour is the first time we’ve performed in New Zealand for over a year – it’s been a long time coming and Dave, Karin, Earl and I are grateful and excited to be doing our work again. We value the choice that our audiences make to share the evening with us and are set to give everything in return. That means a sonic journey awaits you; a night worth leaving the house for. Hold onto your hats … and wear your masks.

Which track are you looking forward to performing most, and why?

I’ve never been one to choose a favourite colour or friend and it’s hard to play favourites with my songs. Each tune comes to life in a new way on stage – I have to embody it in the moment, like it’s the very first time we’ve met. Performing a song live provides an opportunity to explore myself and the world … it’s so fucking cool and terrifying. It keeps our music alive and fresh and also means that I can fall in love with a new song every night – you can bet from start to finish I’ll be in it.

Off stage, how will you spend your homecoming in Christchurch?

We don’t have a lot of time, which is often the way on tour, so I’ll be cramming in a trip to Scorpio Books, Pennylane Records, and if we’re lucky we’ll head over to the Port for Arbour woodfire pizza – the best!

In Ōtautahi, you'll be in the middle of your tour – what does this look like on the road? Set the scene for me...

A whole bunch of kids having the time of their lives; working hard, playing harder and loving every minute of it.

Do you ever feel nostalgic about your early days? Could 16-year-old Reb in her 'Battle of the Bands' era ever see herself on the Isaac stage?

16-year-old Reb wanted to perform but found it hard to feel like she was worthy of the stage and needed a whole lot of Dutch courage to help her through. 16-year-old Reb thought Flying Nun was the coolest record label ever but it felt indelibly out of reach. I don’t think I could have dreamed I would be a Flying Nun artist, nor that I would have the honour of having my own show at the Theatre Royal, but I know that 16-year-old me had a clear goal; become free of my own obstacles and step into my light no matter what. It has been my guiding principle and I’m still on the path.

Is there anyone in Christchurch who you've looked up to, or has been integral to your work? Tell me why...

One of my true heroes is Jess Shanks – heartfelt songwriter and kick ass musician, founding member of The Eastern and creator of the venue Blue Smoke. Jess is an inspiration; she has taught me so much about how to be, how to work, how to write and how fundamental my musical whanau and industry ecosystem are to my health and wellbeing. I’m grateful to call her a friend and always in awe of her creative community focused endeavours.

And for your set on August 18, is there a mantra you carry with you to perform?

‘Burn the coffin’, which translated means ‘set yourself free from the shackles that bind you and live ... live in this moment for that’s all there is’.

Reb Fountain's South Island shows will be in Dunedin on August 17 and Christchurch on August 18, click here for tickets.

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