Although New Zealand might not be the first place that comes to mind when one thinks of reggae music, the island nation is home to one of the most passionate, die-hard audiences of the genre in the entire world. For two decades now, New Zealand’s Katchafire has been working hard to establish itself as the ambassador for that scene. With four albums under its belt and a fifth one on deck, the group has enamored fans all over the world with its iconic sunny and laid back brand of reggae, which fuses the classic reggae style with bits of smooth modern jazz and R&B.
“I feel like [cannabis] opens a path to creativeness for me and helps me wash away stress and anxiety. There are a number of uses.”
Recently, CULTURE was able to catch up with Logan Bell, Katchafire’s lead vocalist, guitarist, and one of its songwriters, to hear all about the band’s upcoming new record, New Zealand’s relationship with reggae, and of course, the band’s love of cannabis.
Can you tell me a bit about the new record? Did you have any specific goals or ambitions for it going into the writing and recording process?
Well, it’s been six or seven years since our last album, and over the last three years, we’ve had three of our original members leave us. So, this is kind of the first album with the new band going forward and the new songwriters picking up the guard. Our one goal was to write good music like we always do; quality not quantity. A lot of the tunes were written and recorded on the road and in different countries, and we’ve been excited to work with a whole different bunch of people with new energies.
A lot of people might not traditionally associate the island of New Zealand with reggae music, but it’s extremely popular there; there’s a history of New Zealand reggae artists spanning several decades. What about reggae music do you feel speaks to you and so many other New Zealanders so deeply?
Well, New Zealand is a very conscious place, and the indigenous heartbeat there is resounding and loud. A lot of the indigenous there are proud of their heritage, who they are and where they’re from and will shout it from the mountaintops. So we are very conscious, and we hear these messages of struggle that these artists talk about and I think we can identify with that.
Your band has never been secretive about your support for cannabis. How do you feel about the possibility of New Zealand legalizing medical cannabis? Do you think it could happen?
You know, I didn’t think it could happen. Our leaders have been very conservative in that area. However, the new Prime Minister is actually quite pro-legalization for medicinal use, but I still think there are a lot of people in the government who don’t want it. So, I don’t think it’s going to happen in the next five years, but maybe in the next 10 years. It’s such an effective medicine these days, and world leaders are seeing the benefits for sick people.
Is cannabis something that’s helpful to you and people you know?
Yeah! For sure! I feel like [cannabis] opens a path to creativeness for me and helps me wash away stress and anxiety. There are a number of uses. For my mum, we brought her back some CBD pills, and it’s helping with her diabetes. I’m sure there are all sorts of benefits that are unexplored, because there have been chains and taboos on it for too long.
Besides the upcoming album, does Katchafire have any other big plans or ambitions for the 2018?
You know, we feel like we’ve got a lot more to give and this next album is going to be the turning of a new guard; it’s going to be a sneak preview of what’s to come. I think 2018 will see us lengthening our stops around the world and the tours will just be getting bigger. We’re upping our game; we want to win a Grammy and tour places we’ve never been before. We’re still hungry.