Tessa Rain

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You’ve got to hand it to Wellington. Some of the hottest musical property in the country is fruit from the golden womb of the nation’s capital.

There’s a sound, a rhythm, a beat that radiates out and encapsulates the music from the likes of Fat Freddys Drop, Trinity Roots and the Black Seeds. It’s a you-scratch-my-back-I’ll-scratch-yours kind of place and badges of honour are seemingly earnt by the amount of side projects a musician is working on.

One of the hottest conglomerations is that of Wellington mish mash musicians, Fly My Pretties. To the uninitiated, the name may conjure up images of Wizard of Oz, but to the initiated, FMP are pure, unadulterated musical genius. Started as a bit on the side by the Black Seeds’ frontman Barnaby Weir, the group stems from a simple objective: To meet, exchange ideas, perform and record the results in front of a live audience.

The concept was a success with five packed shows in Wellington’s Bats Theatre and the accompanying CD, Fly My Pretties: Live at Bats became one of LOOP’s most successful releases to date achieving gold-status and receiving 6 B-Net nominations (winning Best Pop Album). Their second album, The Return of Fly My Pretties, is a mixture of faces of old and new blood, and is out now.

Tee caught up with FMP musician, Tessa Rain to see what made her tick. Born and bred in Wellington, Rain has musical fire running through her veins…

You’re a hard woman to track down background on – what are five things about you that New Zealand should know about you?
1. I grew up running around with dirty bare feet at South Island folk festivals.
2. The first band I sang in was my family, in the car, driving.
3. My favourite venue to play is outside Lower Hutt Countdown.
4. I love yoga and sea kayaking.
5. I prefer crunchy to smooth.

How did you become involved in the FMP scene?
Before Fly My Pretties at Bats I was living as a bit of a hermit. Barnaby Weir tracked me down and invited me to take part. It sounded so interesting and different I had to say yes!

After being the only girl on the first FMP outing, did you prefer a bit of female company this time around with the likes of Hollie Smith etc?
Oh, it was wonderful for me when Hollie and Mailee Matthews joined in. There is the esteem in which I hold them musically, but also it’s nice to hang out in the green room together! Hair and makeup for us girls takes about two hours, so now we can have a laugh.

What do you think it is about FMP that is so appealing to people – even when they’ve never experienced the sounds or songs before?
There maybe a few reasons: perhaps it’s that the cast and crew all obviously enjoy each other so much; there’s the variety of songs; and my Mum says she reckons it’s because it makes people feel nostalgic – there’s an old simplicity in the songs and images and in the way they combine.

What’s your favourite FMP track?
To be frank, I have a new favourite every minute! Because I get to listen backstage each night, the songs are so dear to me that they are inseparable. Each time one starts up, I think “Yeah! This one!”

You’re involved in a lot of collaborations, who else would you like to collaborate with if given the opportunity?
Where do I start? Dave Dobbyn, Sigur Ross, Gillian Welch, Mazzy Star, a medieval choir… and I’ve always wished I were one of Bob Marley’s Wailers.

Do you see yourself heading out on your own in the near future?
For me it’s the opposite. I started on my own and, aside from the precious years working with Age Pryor, I’ve been solo. I’m really looking forward to all the learning that comes from working closely with bands.

Having said that, a solo record called Dirt Poems will hopefully be born soon, it’s been simmering for years! Once that’s settled I’ll feel freer to work with others.

What are three things you’ve learnt that you wish someone had imparted to you earlier?
1. No matter how dumb it makes you feel, it’s good to ask about leads and amps and speakers and electricity. Ask! Even if it takes twenty asks to really get it.
2. No one is like you, so get ideas from other people but don’t compare yourself too much. You’re always doing something that nobody’s done that way before so there are no rules (apart from the usual don’t kill, don’t steal, try to be nice to people)
3. Everything is going to be okay.

What songs are getting big play on your iPod/Discman at the moment?
My First Lover – Gillian Welch
Slave Driver – Bob Marley
Ray Ray – Fat Freddys Drop

What gets you out of bed in the morning?
Curiosity.

What makes you want to stay there?
The view from my window – I’m lucky, I look out over the Cook Straight all the way to the Kaikouras. I’m really an ‘old lady’. I make a tray of tea, listen to the National Programme and stare pensively at the mountains.

Which superhero personifies you?
I just did an internet test to find out, and apparently I am Spawn.

And a final message for nzgirls?
Never ever shake a baby.

Tee Twyford

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