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They're about to play the biggest show of their lives but Six60 tell Chris Schulz they have a larger, Ed Sheeran-sized target in their sights
Matiu Walters, Six60's softly spoken front man, unfolds his arms, gazes at the empty stadium around him, and declares: "We know there's bigger than this."
Bigger? He's got to be kidding, because this Saturday night, the five-piece band will play the most important show of their lives in New Zealand's biggest concert venue.
Nearly 50,000 people will cram into Western Springs to see Six60 headline a hand-picked line-up of Kiwi talent - including SWIDT, Sons of Zion and Drax Project - at the largest show any of them have ever played.
Today, standing with TimeOut inside the empty stadium, the historic moment finally seems to be hitting home for Walters and the band's lead guitarist, Ji Fraser.
"We did Ed Sheeran, which was 25,000," says Fraser, gazing up to the rising concrete terraces at the back. "I'm trying to think what double that looks like."
He pauses, and shakes his head: "This is 30,000 bigger than Rhythm & Vines."
Walters gazes over to a couple of diggers clearing space for their stage. "We have no experience walking out to that many people," he says.
To most bands, selling out Western Springs would be the peak of their careers, the moment they officially stepped up into the rarefied air of rock's elite.
Only a handful of international acts are capable of pulling a crowd of 50,000 to Western Springs, with Eminem the last to do it in 2014.
So no one would blame Six60, who evolved from a jam band in a Dunedin flat into a radio-hogging, chart-topping juggernaut, for putting their hands behind their heads, leaning back in their chairs and saying: "We made it."
But they're not. Despite the historic occasion, they refuse to look at Saturday's show as anything more than a "stepping stone".
"You can't look at any moment as the pinnacle," says Fraser. "Who knows what we can do?"
He references Ed Sheeran's record-breaking run of six shows - three in Auckland, and three in Dunedin - and says: "Maybe we can do three of them."
You wouldn't bet against them, especially when they start pointing out how much has changed for New Zealand bands since Six60 started in 2010. "When we were coming up, no New Zealand band was allowed to do Vector [now Spark] Arena," says Fraser.
Walters: "There's no reason why international [bands] can come here and pull New Zealanders, but New Zealand bands can't. All that is, is the perception about what New Zealand music actually is. I'm pretty keen to change that and I think we're doing a pretty good job."
Fraser: "Now, a kid knows they can do ... this," he says, sweeping his arm around the venue. "They can sell out Western Springs. Above all else, that's really important."
One of Six60's opening acts on Saturday night, the producer and DJ Illbaz, agrees. He remembers seeing Six60 perform in Gisborne at a New Year's festival early in their career. He was 17, and had just discovered music.
But their show that day led him to a career in music.
"I was right at the front of BW Campgrounds when they were playing," he says. "They were just Dunedin students making really great music. It's so cool [because] it gives young musicians here a sense of, 'You can do it. You can absolutely do it.' They did it from a flat in Dunedin. Anyone can do it."
How did they do it? Walters describes their methods as "self-sabotage". He means they refuse to repeat themselves. When their self-titled debut went to No. 1 in 2011, they changed tack, added soul elements, and returned with the summer smash, Special, which also went to No. 1.
Not content with that, they returned to the studio, added R&B flourishes, and returned with an EP in 2017 on which every single song went gold or platinum. Don't give it up, indeed.
"Great things happen when you put yourself out there and aren't concerned about the consequences," says Walters. "I think we enjoy living on that tightrope."
To them, headlining a show at Western Springs is just another tightrope that needs walking. So they've adopted that attitude for their biggest gig yet. Every day at 1pm, they gather at their Grey Lynn studio to run through their entire set, from start to finish.
"It wasn't good enough to just be standing on stage," says Walters. "We're trying to put a narrative into the show, trying to take people on a journey ... rather than just adding fireworks and pyro."
Still, it's 50,000 people. They must be nervous. "We thought twice about it," admits Walters. "But then we came back to our usual grounding."
He crosses his arms, and with the sun shining on his face, standing in a venue that will soon be chock-full of people singing his songs back at him, declares: "This is a stepping stone to great things."
Where: Western Springs Stadium
Set times: Gates open - 4pm; illBaz - 5pm; SWIDT - 5.30pm; Sons of Zion - 6.20pm; Drax Project - 7.20pm; Six60 - 8.50pm
More information: Visit aucklandstadiums.co.nz for road closures, parking and transport options.