San Francisco-born alt-folk sensation Reb Fountain and her band effortlessly combine pop elements with Reb’s trademark noir folk-punk sound, weaving anthemic tunes that create an instant and indelible impression. Reb is a masterful songwriter and an enigmatic and spellbinding performer. Her eponymous 2020 album was nominated for five NZ Music Awards, sold out release dates across the country and won the 2021 prestigious Taite Music Prize. Her latest album Iris, debuted this October at #1 on the NZ Album Charts. WOMADelaide 2022 will be the first time performing in Australia for Reb and band as she mentions.
You must be so excited about playing WOMADelaide?
I can’t you how much I am looking forward it. It will be my first show in Australia, my first time ever at WOMADelaide.
It must be like a dream come true to be added to a stellar line up of this calibre?
It is fantastic and I feel very fortunate to be able to come to such a prestigious festival. I do love the festival vibe and it is very much my style. I’m really looking forward to it as a punter and as an artist to be able to just play after such a long time without being able to tour internationally for me and the band.
Do you approach playing a festival any different compared a more intimate show?
Maybe in some respects, when folks are coming to see you particularly at your show you have free reign in a way. I think in some ways we do at a festival as well but I want to make sure that I am connecting with people who may not have heard of me. Often at festivals you might be playing early evening or during the day and those different times change the environment a little and choices you make about songs. Generally we do the same work we usually do, be present and share with the folks that are there.
Have you been pleased with how fans have embraced your new album Iris?
It is always amazing to me that anyone is listening given that it was the second album I released during lockdown. Being in your bedroom and releasing a record it is hard to feel connected. It isn’t until you go out and see people, speak to them and playing shows is how you get feedback on what you do. I have been very grateful for people connecting and listening even when it has been challenging with all the challenges in life. Hopefully in some ways it was helpful for them as much as them listening is helpful for me.
Are you continually amazed with how far and wide your music reaches?
I’m not so good at keeping track of those sorts of things but I am always grateful for those moments where someone just happens upon it whether it is through an artist they like or on a playlist. There’s lots of ways to connect with music nowadays. For me, I find most powerful is through live music and it can be really transformational for a lot of people. It is a great way to connect and even though it is old school that is my favourite way but I am grateful for the other avenues that allows me as an artist to tour.
Do you think there has been a subtle shift in your sound between both albums?
I definitely think there has been, in many ways it is an extension of my self-titled album. It was made two years later, so we learnt a lot and I have grown as a writer and I am constantly trying to better myself. Also, we have been playing as a band during that time. Iris is very much a band sounding record and was written during lockdown so the flavour is quite different than the self-titled album which was built over a year period. In many ways it is close like an older sibling, still related but different, very unique.
Did it help having the extra time to work on those songs which are on Iris during lockdown?
It was unexpected, we went in to lockdown here and March of 2020, I thought I would write a song a day and keep myself busy and help my mental health. I never really had any intention of doing anything with the songs until we came out the other side and it was something that we could work on as a band and share with the community supporting the studio and venues when we toured it. The impetus was different from a place of lets do this as a community to create work. It wouldn’t of happened without that weird space. It was compressed with time so it happened over a couple of months. It was quite different for me and I had never written like that before. Normally when it comes it comes, there were a lot of things due to having that extra space and time.
Do you think this will change the way you will work on future albums?
It is really interesting, when we came out of a four month lockdown in Auckland, it was really hard going and harder than the previous year. You know what it is like going in and out, it is hard and I got a concussion during lockdown. I felt this thing of the last time I wrote a song maybe I need to do that but actually I needed to do some other self-work to get to a point where I could write the next thing. I find you have to be open to whatever the process is and be really regimented about it.
Where to next for Reb Fountain? Have you thought about what the next album might be?
I’m thinking about that already, it has been a very interesting journey because I have had a concussion and if that has affected my ideas and creativity it has changed things somewhat for me. I’m using that to inform the process and straight away I get excited what I have mixed. The songs from both my albums still feel very present to me and I do perform them. It’s just that this is what I do and the way I make sense of myself in the world. It is always coming.
Is the concussion something you will recover from in time?
When do you fully recover from anything? I’m doing pretty good, I’m functional, I just have to modify my life a little bit and that has been good. We could all use a reminder of how to take care of ourselves better. Ideally that is not a hit on the head with a cherry tree branch but sometimes it is.
Interview By Rob Lyon
Catch Reb Fountain on Friday 11 March on Stage 7 at 9pm and Sunday 13 March on Stage 3 at 4pm.
WOMADELAIDE, 11-14 March 2022, Botanic Park, Adelaide, South Australia
For tickets and information visit: www.womadelaide.com.au