Dave Baxter takes on the folk- rock gods.
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.