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Rising in the East

Cityscape catches up with Adam McGrath, frontman of the country’s hardest working band The Eastern, on rocking The Great Kiwi Beer Festival, life on the road and impressing Dave Dobbyn.

It seems like you’re constantly touring – where’s home these days?
After a long, long run of many, many rooms and many, many stops in between, home changes. Home becomes the feeling you get enveloped in when you’re with your pals and comrades. Home becomes a little less physical, and a lot more about feeling.

You’ll be sharing a stage with the legend that is Dave Dobbyn at the Great Kiwi Beer Festival; what sort of influence has he had on your career (and will you try to ‘wow’ him)?
Mr Dobbyn’s songs are often said to be part of our cultural fabric and that is true; however, sometimes national treasure status keeps things in metaphysical Perspex. Yet his songs, like the very best from anywhere, live and breathe and grow new shapes and stay alive as long as you can keep listening. I’d like to think I’m too ‘cool’ to try and wow a hero; however, last time we hung out I tried to impress him with my (limited) knowledge of Mezz Mezzrow!

Speaking of beer, any favourite brews you’re looking to sample on the day?
Probably mostly the free ones backstage – the gentle notes of non-paid-for beer add a rich cadence to any taste!

Tell us about the ‘Sit In’.
The Sit In is simply a gentle writing project, sponsored by the Enliven Spaces Fund, whereupon I show up in empty spaces around the city and yarn to folks and make songs from the yarns. It’s been an uplifting project to be part of.

The Eastern

Lyttelton is a hotbed of musical talent – what’s going on over there?
Originally it seemed we were just a group of friends who were all trying to chew down various takes on country music. We all seemed to gnaw on a different leg and from there we all found our own kind of path. There’s music everywhere, often times in the least expected corners. Sometimes a light will shine across for a little while, but it can quite quickly go dark again. Wherever you’re standing, spotlight or no, it’s the work that should be your biggest focus.

You guys are famous for tearing it up on stage; what’s the secret to a killer performance?
Desperation, commitment, hope, no fear, lots of fear.

What’s the best way to unwind after such a gig?

The Eastern is a big-hearted band with a soft spot for a good cause. What’s been your fave fundraiser?
Last year we managed to help raise a bunch of money for the Women’s Centre Christchurch, by hosting a night of Patti Smith songs. The funds we raised were topped up with US$500 from Patti Smith herself. That was a good feeling.

If you could create your dream super band, fronted by yourself, which musicians would you choose?
I’d simply like to be Dave in Sam & Dave during the Stax/Volt review, with Booker T. & The MG’s as the backing band, because singing ‘Hold On, I’m Coming’ within that would’ve been better than an ascension to heaven.

When can we expect a new album from you guys?
Sometime between now and the fire of the sun slowly waning.

The Great Kiwi Beer Festival
Sat Jan 27

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