His indie-folk tracks such as Love, Love, Love and, most recently, Inside Out may be nice and mellow but Dave Baxter of Avalanche City tends to seek out something a little faster paced in his travels. “I really get excited about going to Bangkok,” he says. “There’s so much life and excitement in that city.”
Here, the New Zealand music chart-topper shares his favourite travel spots, Auckland’s local haunts and what inspired his second album, We Are for the Wild Places, which is out now.
Congratulations on your new album. Can you tell us how it came to life?
Thanks! The songs that ended up on it were written across a period of about two to three years. But it was only really when I came home to New Zealand and stopped touring that I felt like the serious songwriting began.
What was it like working with Death Cab for Cutie guitarist Chris Walla?
He was really great to work with. We had a very similar approach to music. I’m not a big fan of slick pop production and we both love little bits of character dotted throughout the music. A trumpet line doesn’t have to be pitch perfect as long as it has the right feel.
For me, the vibe of something always outweighs perfect timing or correct pitch and Chris was exactly the same. He soloed a vocal track one time during mixing and was like, “Ah, Dave, there’s bird noise all through this… did you want me to try clean it up?” Usually if there was something interfering like that you’d want to cut it out somehow, but we both really loved the birds so we left them in. If you listen to Giving Me a Sign you can hear them.
Any interesting stories from Seattle studio the album was recorded in?
The building that the studio is housed in has changed hands so many times but there’s always been a recording studio in there since the '80s, just with the equipment of whoever owns the lease. Nirvana recorded their first demos in that place, Death Cab for Cutie took over the lease and recorded a bunch of their albums in there. Then Fleet Foxes took on the building and wrote and recorded most of their last album there, too.
Have you learnt to play any new instruments for this album?
Yes, actually I put hammered dulcimer all through this album. There are various different versions of this instrument from around the world. Some of what’s on the album is a Persian santur, while some of it is a European hammered dulcimer.
Where are you most excited to perform during your September/October tour?
Melbourne, I absolutely love that city.
What’s your favourite city to visit and why?
That’s a tricky one! There are so many cities that I love. I really get excited about going to Bangkok – there’s so much life and excitement in that city. I love a bit of chaos, too, and I feel like that city has just the right amount. Plus the street food is amazing.
And the best place you’ve ever travelled to?
I can’t put my finger on the best place, but I think the most interesting and different place was Cuba. Just everything is so opposite to back home. It was a really unique experience and I highly recommend it.
What five places must people visit in Auckland?
• Little & Friday café for treats – their food is insanely good.
• The Auckland Museum and Domain.
• Walk to the top of Mount Eden for a 360-degree view of Auckland city.
• The Grove – its five-course vegetarian degustation menu is absolutely mind-blowing. You’ll never want to eat another meal again.
• The Auckland Art Gallery is very good. They have a large range of Goldie paintings, one of New Zealand’s iconic artists. He was well known for his incredibly realistic oil paintings of Maori during the colonial period.
Auckland's best place for a coffee?
Supreme Seafarers down by Britomart is really good – there’s no food on offer just great coffee.
And for a drink?
Portland Public House is a great place and they usually have a selection of good craft beer on tap.
What things won’t you go on a trip without?
My camera, a book (usually in Kindle form) and noise-cancelling headphones. That’s it, I usually travel pretty light.