In July 2015, Ladi, Parks, Julien Dyne and Brandon Haru of respected New Zealand soul/rap/beats ensemble Ladi6 spent their Thursday and Saturday nights improvising some vibrantly fresh new songs and beats at Auckland and Wellington's Matterhorn bars. They wrote Automatic in the studio on the clock. This time, they wanted to take advantage of the improvisational possibilities afforded by the inspiration of a live audience.
Having all played numerous memorable shows at Matterhorn in Wellington throughout their careers, when the owners opened Matterhorn Auckland earlier in the year, a split residency made perfect sense. Ladi enthuses -
Matterhorn Wellington is historical. It was one of my first drinking spots as a young musician coming up in Wellington. It's like Dux De Lux in Christchurch. It's a live venue that has been around forever and every musician from that area has in their heart
Across nine gigs, collectively known as The Alpha Sessions, they shaped a series of new songs. In the process, they were successfully tackling one of the most fundamental challenges you can face as a musician, how to change while remaining the same? While the addition of Julien Dyne on drums and Brandon Haru on keyboards had expanded their sound over recent years, things went even further after Parks acquired a Tempest analog drum machine.
In the past Parks has used backing tracks in our set," Ladi explains. "The Tempest let him play them live and gave us more freedom." Equally crucial was creating live and in the moment. "Feeding off an audience changed everything," she continues. "When you're entertaining a dancefloor you can't be dark. We've always been self-reflective and involved in our music, so having the influence of feeding off crowd energy was nice
After The Alpha Sessions, they headed into Red Bull Studios in Auckland to recreate the best of their experiments with in-house engineer Ben Lawson.
Brandon, Ben and I have worked together heaps in the past, so we understand how to put things down and make it natural," Parks explains. "Ben is a great engineer, and we're really comfortable with him. He's one of the few engineers in the country who actually listens to rap music, so he understands where we are coming from, and our influences
Once the initial recording was done, it was time for some reassessment. Ladi's realisation -
We could see all the good in what we'd done, but something was missing
In the process of carving out a fresh synthesiser-heavy soundworld for themselves, they'd neglected the throwback 90s boombap drums they utilized so effectively on their first two albums. Ladi comments -
We saw the potential in our new sound, but we also missed the old thing
Collectively, they'd long viewed Ladi's rich, whiskey toned singing voice as the connective thread in their music. Here however, it became clear how much of what defines the Ladi6 sound is Parks' production.
It properly sunk in and we came to a full realisation," Ladi elaborates. "Parks has created and mastered something good, and we need to keep running with it. If we bring it together with our new shit, we're going to get what we need to hear
Ever striving for higher heights and more profound musical experiences, Ladi6 once again flipped the script to create the 6-track EP Royal Blue 3000, set for release on June 2.
Listen to the lead single Guru here.
Royal Blue 3000 is available to pre-order now via iTunes with ‘Guru’ as an instant grat track.