Once in a lifetime

COngress of Animals' Strange Caravan Tour stops in Dunedin on Friday. Photo: Supplied
COngress of Animals' Strange Caravan Tour stops in Dunedin on Friday. Photo: Supplied
Congress of Animals is what happens when a bunch of New Zealand's most prolific and respected musical talent gets together and jams without any particular goal in mind.

The collective lineage of the group includes Flight of the Conchords, Trinity Roots and Fly My Pretties but to Age Pryor it's still a "little collaborative project".

"It's come about because a few friends were jamming with each other, kind of casually and we started working out these songs without really having any plan," he explains.

"We weren't trying to start a band. It was nothing like that, we just wanted to play some music together just for fun and it has grown the more we've done it.

"So we've kind of just decided it's time to actually play them because it seems crazy to have all these songs ... and nobody hearing them."

And so the Congress of Animals - Bret McKenzie (Flight of the Conchords), Age Pryor (Fly My Pretties, Woolshed Sessions, Wellington International Ukulele Orchestra), Justin Firefly (Fly My Pretties, Woolshed Sessions), Nigel Collins (Flight of the Conchords, Wellington International Ukulele Orchestra) and Ben Lemi (Trinity Roots, French For Rabbits) - is embarking on the Strange Caravan national tour.

The songs they'll be bringing with them were developed through a slightly different process from your typical band, probably because this isn't your typical band. Instead of collaboratively writing songs, they're written by individual members of the band who then direct the group on how to interpret it.

"Whoever wrote the song, it will be their call on how it's arranged and what it should sound like. But there's also the joy of finding surprises in what other people from the group might bring to the song, so it's a very kind of open collaboration in that sense.

"The thing I like most about music and probably what got me into it in the first place is that it is a means to hang out and do something meaningful with other people."

The result is a collection of songs which are clearly defined by the collective, but also strongly express the essence of the writer. How they manifest themselves live is another question ...

"We're just rehearsing it at the moment ... Dunedin will see the second ever performance of it. So we're as excited as anybody else to find out what form it actually takes.

"The things I'm liking about it is there's a lot of variety from one song to another because there's a lot of different styles and different songwriters, so moving from one song to another is quite fun because they're so different."

Either way, I'm curious to see how this caravan unfurls as it trundles into the Captain Cook.

"We're really looking forward to playing in Dunedin and I encourage folks to come see it because I think it's a special show. I think it will be special in the sense that it won't ever be like this again."

See it

• Congress of Animals' Strange Caravan Tour with Lucy Hunter, November 16, at 8pm at The Captain Cook Hotel. Tickets ($35) from undertheradar.co.nz

 - Fraser Thompson

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