Castle St

SIX60

Castle St

In August 2021, New Zealand’s SIX60 flew to America to play a festival and have a short holiday with their families. Then COVID plunged their home country into lockdown, and they were stuck in the US for eight months. Ironically, it took them being on the other side of the world to recapture the spirit of their early days, when they lived in a house on 660 Castle Street in Dunedin, a place which gave them both their band name and the name of their fourth album (the first time in their career they’ve strayed from the tradition of self-titling every record). “We went back into this position where we were living together, and we were writing songs in kitchens and living rooms,” guitarist/vocalist Matiu Walters tells Apple Music. “It’s an amazing full-circle moment.” Co-produced by Grammy Award winner Malay, it sees the band—which formed in 2006—plying their trademark mélange of pop, R&B and reggae while embracing the imperfections that make them unique. “Where usually, in the past, I would take care of backing vocals and chants, or maybe we’d bring in a bunch of backing singers, we just had the band sing all the parts ourselves,” says Walters. “There’s an imperfection to the record which is so beautiful and can’t be replicated because it is just us making noise. It’s our voices, it’s our hands, it’s our action.” Walters talks through all the songs on Castle St. “Tahi” “We really wanted an intro song. We wanted something that set the tone and got the message across that this is a band you may know, but you can expect something a little different out of this record. I was actually thinking about ring walks in boxing. Even when the All Blacks come out, before the game starts, there’s the anthem and there’s the Haka, and then you can continue with proceedings. For a long time, the working title for this song was actually ‘Haka’. Tahi means ‘number one’ in Te Reo Māori, which is the native language of New Zealand. Obviously, ’cause it’s Track 1, it makes sense on that front, but also ‘tahi’ is a little larger of a concept in the culture, where it also refers to a oneness, a togetherness, a connection. Compared to albums in the past, I think we were closer, and we collaborated even more.” “Before You Leave” “A lot had changed when we went into making this album. I’d recently become a father, some of the boys had a couple of kids, so the whole philosophy around music and life had changed dramatically. And we were having a lot of conversations about where we’ve come from. We have a wealth of experience, we have this well of knowledge we can pull on, yet there’s so much more that we see ahead of us, and we’re so excited about the future. And we’re thinking about the wisdom that we could pass down to our children. But at the same time, when thinking about the wisdom that you want to bestow, you actually realise how little you know.” “Hang On” “We thought about home a lot when making this record because we were stuck over [in America] for the better part of a year. And one of the things at home that everyone experiences is tall poppy syndrome. So, we were thinking a lot about that, and we wanted to write a song that addressed it, but not in a whingey, negative way. More from an inspirational, hopeful standpoint. That was what drove the song.” “Nobody Knows” “I think it was the oldest demo that we had. There’s this guitar line that we loved and that we re-worked and re-worked for years. And we’ve always been searching for a way to make it work. And then we brought it to Malay, he re-worked it, and we settled on it, and we made the decision to make this kind of R&B, pop, country record that is completely unique. And conceptually, it’s about self-discovery, about trying to understand who you are. Know thyself, I suppose.” “Say It Now” “Three of us are young Māori boys who love making music, but I never thought I’d be in a room with Grammy Award-winning producers and songwriters and rubbing shoulders with greats. It’s hard not to think whether you deserve to be there. Imposter syndrome. It’s a place you go to automatically as a Kiwi male, and I wanted to write a song that addressed that slightly. Again, just like ‘Hang On’, I didn’t want anything to be whingey, but I think it’s important to address these topics that affect your life in such a heavy way.” “Good Wine” “‘Good Wine’ was another lyrical thing that had been sticking around for a long time. The line ‘Break out the good wine ’cause nothing lasts forever,’ we always knew that was a cool thing and a universal feeling and concept. And we were trying to find a way to make it make sense, and we kept coming back to the idea of a storyline. I was thinking about ‘Eleanor Rigby’ and that detailed storyline style of lyric, so each verse is kind of addressing one person and their shortcomings, and at the end of it [saying] you should not worry so much and celebrate the small moments. We created characters and tried to tell stories on their behalf. It’s quite different for us in that writing style, but again, we’re trying to challenge ourselves.” “Far Away So Close” “It’s a beautiful ballad. We found ourselves stuck away from home and that was really the inspiration for that song. It was a longing that was quite difficult to deal with. That song is also unique because our drummer, Eli [Paewai], wrote the beat before we put any music and lyrics and melodies to it, which we’d never done before.” “Throw It Away” “That song came out of nowhere. We were in the studio, working on a bunch of other music, and as we were having a break in between recording stuff, Marlon [Gerbes] was playing around with this guitar riff, and everyone was like, ‘Stop! What the hell’s that?! We need to work on that!’ It put me in a western movie immediately. I feel like I’m on a horseback in a western, and we added our soulful R&B touch to it.” “Never Been Tonight” “We were really in a celebratory mood. I think we were coming to the end of the album process, and it was really starting to take form, and we were on top of the world. And we were sitting in the studio, drinking wine, and we found ourselves watching a live performance of ‘Come on Eileen’ [by Dexys Midnight Runners] on Jools Holland. That song came on and the whole room just went into joy. It was the coolest thing. We were like, we really want to make a song like that, that is just completely joyful. But at the same time, lyrically and melodically, I’m trying to come at it from a crooner’s point of view, so trying to croon but it’s this pub sing-along at the same time. It’s just a banger. It's undeniable to me, that song—it’s so happy and awesome.” “It Isn’t Over” “Just like we were trying to find the perfect opening with ‘Tahi’, we were trying to find the perfect closing for the album. It’s grand yet it’s very intimate, and I think it brings the album down to a really nice standpoint. We feel like we’re just getting started, we’re just scratching the surface. And lyrically, that song is really touching on that. It’s not over, basically. We’ve gone through things, have experience, but the best is yet to come.” “Take My Hand” “It’s a bonus track because, sonically, it doesn’t quite fit the rest of the body of work because it was recorded a year earlier. Quite simply, I just got engaged, and I wanted to make a wedding song, and that was my chance to do it. And that’s how it came out. [My fiancée] is adamant that I have to sing it to her at our wedding. I think it’s the lamest thing to have to sing at your own wedding, but she’ll probably win!”

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