by Chris Familton
Though Sola Rosa continues to be an increasingly collaborative project, the signature sound still comes from Andrew Spraggon who has been on the New Zealand music scene for two decades, predominately as Sola Rosa but also early on as the singer and guitarist for indie rock band Cicada. The transition from guitars to samplers came at a time when he was running out of ideas in the rock realm and increasingly turning to the type of jazz and soul infused electronica that UK producers like DJ Food and Red Snapper were creating.
“When Cicada started out I was an indie rock kid really and I listened to Public Enemy and stuff like that but I was primarily into the rock stuff. As time went on I got more and more into things like the series of Dope on Plastic compilations that were a bunch of producers making funky modern dance music and I got into those and psychedelic and jazz music and I started changing my focus really,” explains Spraggon.
Over the course of five albums Sola Rosa has developed from instrumental jazz funk excursions to a fully fledged nu-soul, beat driven electronic outfit who have developed a reputation for their live act as strong as that of their recorded output. When it came to the recording of Low and Behold, High and Beyond Spraggon was determined to use the talents of some of New Zealand’s top musicians and arrangers which, as he explains, meant that the recording process was often a fractious one.
“We did all the drums over two days in a studio. We did strings in one day and horns in another session. It was kind of scattered really. I’d love to go into a studio and spend ages doing everything at once but it is too hard getting everyone you want to work with int the same place at the same time. Julian Dyne is my favourite drummer in the country and I only had a couple of days to get him in the studio so you have to do it when you can. Scott Towers (Fat Freddy’s Drop) who did the string arrangements and Victoria Kelly who did the strings, they are in my opinion the best in the country at what they do. Sometimes you have to sit around waiting for people if you really want to work with them. You have to work on their clock.”
The international success of Sola Rosa has seen a number of visits to Europe and America and as with many acts from this part of the world there is always the temptation to relocate to the northern hemisphere to be closer to those larger markets. “We may go and live in the States next year, even for six months or a year. At this stage it is hard to tell if we will do that yet. We wouldn’t be going there in the hope that things would take off, we’d go because things are already happening.” Spraggon is aware of the pros and cons of making such a move and already the demand is there yet the scale of the commitment for the band and their families makes it a difficult one. “We are getting great shows and good fees and it feels right to maybe do it. We’d only do it with careful planning. I’ve got a family now so if I can’t take them over and make it work then its not worth doing.”
In the meantime Spraggon is looking forward to bringing Sola Rosa back to Australia to proudly showcase the new album. “Most of the time we have really great shows and that is what we’ve built our reputation on and why we’re at the level we are at.”
this interview was first published in Drum Media