This week, Crowded House releases a new album, Intriguer, and kicks off a U.S. tour that wraps up in September at House of Blues in Chicago. Here, frontman Neil Finn talks to RadarOnline about why this incarnation of the band—along with his pitch-perfect voice—is built to last.
RadarOnline: What’s different about the band this time around?
Finn: It’s different in the sense we made a decision to be a band based on kind of comradeship more than anything, and collaboration, and sharing an experience with friends. I’m not saying it wasn’t like that the first time around, but there was a lot of ambition attached to it with young men. At the point we broke up, I was a little bit overwhelmed by the whole thing. This time, although there’s a lot of hard work attached to it and we’re trying to make the records as good as we possibly can. There’s more of a feeling of smelling the roses as it were, enjoying each other’s company, and not putting too many expectations on the results because we’re very fortunate to have a very good live audience. We still have high hopes for our records, but it seems like a little less of the big hoopla of the industry; we have a little independence now.
RadarOnline: When you take the stage, do you still get that same feeling you got when you were starting out?
Finn: Totally. That never let up and in some ways now it feels more precious than ever because there’s a community that follows the songs and they give you great license on stage—A. they sing along, and B. they’re willing to get along with anything and they love when you slip off the script. And it’s a great feeling, and it’s a pretty fresh feeling because we’re not just touring on the back of nostalgia.
RadarOnline: What were you guys going for with this album and did you stay true to the original vision?
Finn: A lot of it is just following your nose and that always has been the case. I think the difference is that we started this record as a band; we’d already done gigs and so there was a certain intuition already from the beginning. But we’re always looking for a fresh angle.
RadarOnline: You said the album contains some "unexpected twists and turns" – what do you mean by that specifically?
Finn: Some grooves that we hadn’t been before, like there’s a big free psychedelic guitar section at the end of the song “Isolation” which is definitely a surprise when it comes. It’s definitely not an expected turn. We like a few unusual twists, and I think there is on this record, possibly the same on every record a bit. From an overall point of view, it’s hard to evaluate your own work. I could probably tell you more in a year’s time how the album hits me. At the moment we’re living it too closely.
RadarOnline: And your son Liam contributed some guitar parts?
Finn: Yeah, at the end of “Falling Down” and at the end of “Isolation”, he played some kind of spirited, wigged-out guitars. He’s been playing since he was 16 years old and he just had an album out not that long ago that opened up a lot of doors for him, so he has a good little career going for himself.
RadarOnline: And your wife sang vocals on “Isolation”; she has a really beautiful voice.
Finn: Thank you, yeah, I think she has a great voice. She had sung some backing vocals for us before, but never like a solo turn, and it was high time. She’s come to it from an enthusiast’s level really. She wasn’t ever trying to be a singer.
RadarOnline: How has your voice held up so well; what’s your secret?
Finn: I haven’t really done much over the years. And, as you can maybe hear now, I get a little hoarse in the mornings on the road, and sometimes that means I lose a tiny bit of top-end on it, but other than that I haven’t really applied any discipline to it at any point and I’m not saying it in a proud way, but I just seem to have gotten away with it up to this point.
RadarOnline: Do you have any rituals before you go on stage, like vocal exercises or drinking tea or anything?
Finn: Not really, no, just a quick little shot of whiskey sometimes just to sort of get the blood warmed up a little bit. We sing collectively, a few harmonies here and there. Then we slap each other on the back and on we go.
RadarOnline: What can people expect from your live show on this tour?
Finn: We try and make every night different from the last, apart from the fact that I think we’re playing really, really well. We’ve done a lot of shows already and there’s a level of instinct and intuition that have kicked in. We’ve been listening to tapes from shows, and we’re playing with great spirit and enthusiasm and apart from that there’s quite a lot of changes from night to night and a lot of unscripted moments, and a bit of jamming, and some good humor, and the audience gets involved and does a bit singing, so all of those things, which to us are reminiscent of playing in someone’s lounge room.
RadarOnline: What’s the strangest place you’ve ever heard one of your songs?
Finn: Somebody said the other day that they were in Columbia, in a little bar on the top of a mountain in the middle of the rainforest, and they heard a very obscure song off the last record called “Say That Again”, which is a really unlikely scenario, which was absolutely wonderful to hear because you just don’t know where that comes from.
RadarOnline: What’s ahead for Crowded House?
Finn: Well we’re an entity now, we’re a living, breathing entity, and it’s there for us, and I’m going to do other things as well, which I always intended to, but it’s a great feeling. We’ll make another record at some point. And we’ll hopefully travel to some more exotic locations. We want to do South America at some point. So, we can take sabbaticals, you know, but it feels good, and they’re my friends, so it’s nice to hang out.
Check out the band’s tour dates at: www.crowdedhouse.com/shows.
By Evan Hosie