“Hello, good morning, good afternoon, good welcome and haere mai.” This week’s Fangradio episode sees the gang back in their studio to discuss their 1993 fourth studio album Together Alone. And quite a lot is on the agenda. “We have lots of songs for you today,” Neil Finn starts off. “Some live, some pre-recorded. This is my favourite record.”
The show starts with the grungy ‘In My Command’, which the gang effortlessly strip back. Finn apologises for the loud buzz in the room, a product of live instruments, and also the rain that currently falls over Auckland. “We’re in a change of seasons,” he excuses. Then we’re into ‘Black and White Boy’, which equally sees it’s rock sound stripped back and altered.
After the first two tracks, the band all take a minute to chat about the importance of producers. More specifically, their long-time collaborator Mitchell Froom. “Mitchell is point by point defining what a producer should be,” Nick Seymour praises after Froom explains that to be a good producer is to make sure the band are closer at the end of the album than they were at the start. But there was also another teammate on the album that the band need to discuss, the English producer and musician Youth (Martin Glover).
“We had never worked with Youth before,” Finn starts. “So, we go around to his studio and first of all he just lights up this big fat joint.”
“Oh, it really was massive,” Seymour chimes in.
“And he just loved music. Remember? He had vinyls of absolutely everybody.”
“I remember taking a look at them after that big fat joint.”
But from there, the band’s relationship with Youth wasn’t always consistent. While they wouldn’t disclose details, they all agreed that making Together Alone was pretty difficult for the most part. “It was aptly named,” Finn admits. “We weren’t exactly closer at the end of making that record.” For Seymour, he admits it’s taken him a long time to let go of his grudges. “I came away from that record feeling completely dispossessed, and I do still hold a grudge with Youth.”
“I was pretty dark on Youth after the album too,” Finn chimes in. He then goes on to explain a time where he was trying to record a vocal he had been struggling with for weeks, only to find the producer asleep in the studio. “I went up to him and I was like, why are you sleeping?! I’m singing! And he just looked at me and went I was tired, man.” The band all laugh. “Fair enough,” Seymour says. “That’s a great answer.” But no matter what history has been served, it needs to be stressed that the band have immense gratitude for anyone who has contributed to them. “We all have such big hearts for all of our collaborators,” Finn assures. “There was just an alchemy going on with that record that wasn’t always easy.”
But with all that out of the way, the gang get right into fan-favourite ‘Pineapple Head’; which Finn believes is “one of the most successful and tremendously recorded tracks on the album.” Then we’re back to telling critics to f**k off. “Fangradio is a bit of a vehicle for abusing critics, f**k Robert has become a bit of a catchcry.” Finn laughs. “There was a guy who slagged off Together Alone. He said it was an absolute mess and the only song that was worth anything was ‘Walking on the Spot’. So, f**k you JD, just to add you to the list.” Seymour then proceeds to share another critic story, to which Finn just sighs. “Everyone’s got their own opinions about what we should be doing. It’s fun to tell critics to go away.”
Before the crew jump into ‘Private Universe’, Liam Finn shares a story of the time he was left home alone at only 8 years old and decided to throw an egg off the balcony, only for that egg to land on the neighbour’s deck they had just cleaned. “I had to go down and clean it off and I just cried the entire time.” Neil Finn laughs in response. “I told Liam if he didn’t stop crying, the police would come.” The first few chords of ‘Private Universe’ start to play and then Liam’s interrupting again. “I’ve just been told that nana was in fact sleeping downstairs at the house. Mum was horrified that I just said I had been left home alone at only 8 years old.”
From there, we’re hit with ‘Fingers of Love’, ‘Distant Sun’ and ‘Catherine Wheels’, two of which abruptly cut off towards the end. “We’re getting a lot of buffering. Really sorry about that, but we still have a few more songs in us.” There’s then a slight hesitation before the band once again address the death of their original band member Paul Hester. “We miss Paul every single day,” Finn begins. “Crowded House is absolutely indebted to his dear memory and his contribution to what he gave us so, I won’t do ‘Skin Feeling’ because that was Paul’s song.”
‘Walking on the Spot’ is next up. “It’s quite appropriate for a quarantine state of mind. If you’re still in it, I hope there’s some hope and empathy in that song for you.” Then we’re into the classic ‘Together Alone’, which sees the band all sing the Māori chant in a spine-tingling sort of way. It’s an absolutely beautiful note to end on, and a perfect way to close such a weighted chapter of the band’s lives.
“Farewell, good night, goodbye and haere ra. We’ll see you next week.”