Dave Bax­ter takes on the folk- rock gods.

Sunday Tasmanian - Tassie Living - - Front Page - MIKEY CAHILL Our New Life Above The Ground Out now ( Warner)

FRIENDS, we may have a new ri­valry on our hands – a la the early ’ 90s Blur ver­sus Oa­sis smack­down.

Cross­over folk suc­cesses Mum­ford and Sons have a wor­thy new ad­ver­sary: Avalanche City.

The New Zealand yacht-folk out­fit is ac­tu­ally just one dude: the beard-lov­ing, Ponyo-watch­ing, Whit­ley-lis­ten­ing Dave Bax­ter ( pic­tured).

And he doesn’t seem too fond of cre­at­ing an Al­barn ver­sus Gal­lager face-off.

In fact Bax­ter laughs ner­vously and his eyes dart around when the pos­si­bil­ity of such a ri­valry is men­tioned.

‘‘ I don’t know about that. I don’t think we could ever ri­val them,’’ he says.

But on the strength of his de­but Our New Life Above The Ground, it’s clear Bax­ter is his own lit­tle lion man. And it’s also clear he is as good as the Brits. But hang on, all this com­par­i­son to Mum­ford and Sons is rather mis­lead­ing and – in truth – un­fair.

‘‘ I only heard Mum­ford and Sons af­ter I’d recorded the al­bum,’’ he says.

‘‘ They were huge in Aus­tralia be­fore they’d ever got to New Zealand. A lot of my friends were lis­ten­ing to them.

‘‘ I have this weird quirk about me where if enough peo­ple tell me about a band I will refuse to lis­ten to them.’’

Bax­ter has an un­likely back­ground in hard­core bands, be­fore be­com­ing a gun-for-hire work­ing in a record­ing stu­dio writ­ing ap­pro­pri­ate mu­sic for TV doc­u­men­taries, short films and ad­ver­tis­ing.

Bax­ter started a hard­core band when he was just start­ing to sprout a beard in high school called One Must Fall, then formed an­other called The Chase.

One Must Fall sup­ported happy-go-lucky chaps Hate­breed, Park­way Drive and Sick Of It All, but Bax­ter was feel­ing like an au­toc­racy would work bet­ter than a democ­racy.

‘‘ I guess af­ter be­ing in bands with other peo­ple for so long I got sick of hav­ing to OK the riffs with ev­ery­one,’’ he says.

‘‘ I thought I’d write what­ever the hell I wanted to write and no one could tell me that the riff sucked. If I wanted to axe songs I could.’’

Clearly, the hard­core ten­den­cies have been purged from his sys­tem like a cloud drained of an­gry rain.

‘‘ Maybe it’s just be­cause I’m get­ting older,’’ he says.

‘‘ I did that mu­sic for so long it’s just re­fresh­ing to have a change. Avalanche City is my self­ish lit­tle pro­ject.’’

In 2009 Bax­ter wrote and recorded Our New Life Above The Ground all by him­self, play­ing ev­ery damn in­stru­ment you hear on his aus­pi­cious de­but.

‘‘ The one I liked play­ing the most was my lit­tle mandolin ban­jom,’’ he says.

‘‘ It’s tiny and it has a unique sound. I call it a manjo. It’s all over the record.’’

The manjo works its mojo on songs like Oh Life and his New Zealand No. 1 hit Love Love Love.

Love Love Love was the fastest sell­ing sin­gle for a New Zealand group since dig­i­tal mu­sic was first recorded.

‘‘ The other in­stru­ment I love is my an­tique pedal or­gan, it’s over 100-years old. It’s got a beau­ti­ful, beau­ti­ful sound,’’ Bax­ter says.

Lyri­cally, his ap­proach skips from plain­tive on Love Don’t Leave to down­right giddy on You And I.

On the lat­ter he sings: ‘‘ If you had the sweet­est vic­tory, I’d high five you ’ til our hands were sore’’.

‘‘ That song is about me and my wife and our re­la­tion­ship,’’ he says.

‘‘ There are a few lines in the song that re­late to us. She has her own room for sewing and I ac­tu­ally have two rooms for mu­sic.

‘‘ That’s where I get the line: ‘ If you were ad­dicted to fab­ric, you could fill a whole room in our house.’ She does!’’

Not that he’ll see much of Chez Bax­ter for a while.

‘‘ We’ve got the New Zealand tour then a Ja­pan tour and then the UK,’’ he says.

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