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Ōtautahi ‘neosoul pop’ duo Dillastrate have been taking over stages around the country. What's Hot New Zealand talks touring, new tracks and tea with keyboardist and vocalist Tim Driver.
Congratulations on your new EP, Narrative! What was this one like to record? Thanks heaps! It’s incredible to finally have it out there in the world. Narrative EP was an awesome recording experience for us. The audio production work was done with our friend Thom O’Connor, who has converted a house into a recording studio. There’s something inherently comfortable about literally recording drums in a converted lounge room. The actual recording process itself was so smooth and easy too. The songs seemed to just flow out when we were tracking them.
How has the sound evolved from Dillastrate in 2019? The sound of Narrative EP is quite different from the self-titled album from 2019 – it’s got a much earthier tone to it overall. With Dillastrate, we were aiming at big production, whereas Narrative EP uses a lot more ‘acoustic’ instruments. For example, our track ‘Scorch (featuring LUIS)’ is a fairly heavy hip-hop track, but instead of using the instruments you would expect, drum machines, bass synths, et cetera, we opted for acoustic drums, electric bass, grand piano, etc. Since the EP is all about telling stories, we thought it would be fitting to strip back the production and make it a bit more natural, a more authentic expression.
How do you and Henare Kaa write and create music together? Our writing process seems to be that one of us will write the bones of a song and bring it to the other person to flesh it out. From there it’s a matter of stepping back as much as possible and making sure that we are ‘serving the song’ and not letting ourselves get in the way of the writing process. Musically speaking, we have the great thing going where we make up for each other’s approaches to writing. For example, I’m definitely one to overthink the process far too much, where H has this amazing ability to get a song down to its purest essence. It’s a great working relationship and I think why we’ve been able to get through writing two EPs and an album without strangling each other.
Are you going to be hitting the road for some live gigs this year? Absolutely! Touring is what we do best, so we’re excited to get these songs out on the road for spring/summer 2021. We’ve also acquired a new member who will be joining us – our rapper LUIS. He featured on the track ‘Scorch’ on Narrative EP, and we brought him along with us on our New Zealand Hearty Tour earlier this year. He’s added a massive element of freshness and excitement to the live set, so look out for his appearances at our live shows this year!
How hot is the Ōtautahi music scene right now? So hot. Probably hotter than it’s been in a long time! It’s great to see Ōtautahi musicians going out and touring all over around Aotearoa at the moment and getting that Ōtautahi sound out there. We just recently played the GoLive Festival at the Christchurch Town Hall, which featured a whole bunch of amazing Ōtautahi acts, and I think it’s safe to say that the future of Ōtautahi music is in very safe hands. Speaking of which, we had the opportunity to include some up-and-coming musicians in our set – three young wāhine strings players from Rangi Ruru (Elise Tian – cello, Polly Lee – violin, and Ella Chen - violin). Absolute weapons of musicians, and such an honour to play alongside them.
What track have you got on high rotation at the moment? I’m a mad fan of soul slow jams, so it’s safe to say that I’ve always got a favourite slow jam on high rotation. Right now it’s ‘Until Morning’ by James Vickery – absolutely beautiful voice, and I just can’t resist a 6/8 slow jam.
How do you relax? Ha! But seriously… I personally find myself increasingly loving a cup of tea and a sit-down lately. When I’m able to relax outside of the mad music schedule, I’m a big fan of reading and video games – I’m a big nerd basically – and hanging out with my wife and pets. I can’t speak for H, but I think we both use playing and writing music as a way of relaxing too.
You’re given three wishes – what are they? So much power, so much responsibility. If I could click my fingers and make it happen instantly, my first wish would be to remove the excess carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and give us a bit more time to work on climate change. Can I also wish for world peace? If so, that would be wish two. Then I think I’d have to reward myself for the first two wishes by wishing for a warehouse full of keyboards.
What’s been your favourite venue to perform at? Oh wow, there are so many… I think personally it was playing with AhoriBuzz supporting Shapeshifter on their Delta tour at the Powerstation. We had three nights in a row there, and it was a great night every night. I particularly loved playing to people on two levels, the floor and the mezzanine, in that venue. And for a big venue, the stage felt strangely intimate, so that made playing a breeze. I think my favourite Christchurch venue has to be Dux Central – we’ve played a few shows there now, and every time it’s been a great night.
And favourite gig you’ve attended? Again, so many. Am I allowed to have a three-way tie or do I have to choose one? In the case of a three-way tie, it would be between Stevie Wonder, Radiohead and Leonard Cohen for the best shows I’ve ever seen live. All amazing in their own way. I’m a massive Radiohead fan, so let’s go with that as the number 1!
Who would be your dream collab? Again, I can’t speak for H, but I think it’s fair to say that we have a mutual dream collab in Anderson Paak – such a ridiculously good musician and we love everything he’s ever done.
Are you working on any non-Dillastrate projects? Both H and I are always working on some other musical projects, but Dillastrate takes the lion’s share of our time and commitment. Outside of this, I’ve been writing some ambient piano tracks in whatever spare time I have, which is more of a hobby project than anything else. I know H has been collaborating with other artists providing feature vocals, such as our friend Getset.
What have you got lined up this spring and summer? We are currently in the process of planning our Narrative EP release tour, so stay tuned to our socials for details. We’re also looking forward to paying tribute to our late friend and mentor Aaron Tokona at SpringJam at the Powerstation in Auckland for a massive gig on August 27th – that should be a really memorable night and one that we’re really excited about.