Tauranga Welcomes You!

Tauranga Welcomes You!

Aucklanders & Other Kiwis Blog


Dave Baxter aka Avalanche City | The New Album, Becoming a Dad and Moving to Tauranga
20 February 2019
Dave Baxter aka Avalanche City | The New Album, Becoming a Dad and Moving to Tauranga

When Dave Baxter (aka Avalanche City) was a teenager living in Hamilton, he was drawn back to his childhood home of Tauranga to be part of the underground hardcore music scene.  A tiny, concrete shed near the waterfront housed some of the generator-powered shows performed by Dave's teenage hardcore band, 'One Must Fall'.

The award-winning artist, who broke onto the music scene with his platinum debut single, 'Love, Love, Love' in 2008, has come a long way since those early days; but Tauranga has once again, drawn him home. After two years of doing a weekly ping-pong commute between their 'Guacamole Farm' in Tauranga and Auckland,  Dave and his wife, Sharanna, now have both feet firmly on Tauranga soil.

Amidst the release of his third album, 'My Babylon' and the arrival of their first child, Dave took time to reflect on what drew him home and what living in the Bay of Plenty has meant for his music career.

This is his homecoming story.

Dave, what part did music play in your life when you were young?

I pretty much stopped all sports and only cared about music when I was a teenager. It would have been good if I’d carried on with soccer and basketball but I was very one track minded. At that point I was all about playing technical, heavy music and I soaked up all the heavy bands I could find. I loved Deftones and Tool at first, but I was introduced to Swedish metal and the hardcore scene and chaotic metal. I was in a hardcore band called One Must Fall. There was a really cool scene of underground bands between Tauranga and Hamilton and we played shows quite often. 

What was your pathway to a career in music?

The formal part of my career I guess started at Wintec in Hamilton where I studied music, it was a commercial music degree, majoring in production. After that I got a job in Auckland at a studio called Kog. There I recorded bands, mostly hip hop and RnB, but there were all sorts. Alongside that I wrote music for TV. I did a bunch of composition for ads, documentaries and short films. It was super fun. 

After a while I wanted to go out on my own. I started teaching guitar as a way of bringing in money while recording bands in my home studio. It was then that I started learning how to sing. I started writing little melodies and eventually songs and I sang live for the first time as Avalanche City at a gig called Tea Light Acoustics. My friend Grace organised those every month and I played one she had put together for a few people all playing their very first live gig.

It went ok. I played more shows and eventually got better at singing and I started to really love it. I ended up writing my first album 'Our New Life Above The Ground' in 2010. 

I recorded it and mixed it myself because I love doing that stuff, plus I had no money to go into a studio. I hired a little hall up north for $12 a day and spent a week there tracking all the instruments. I recorded the vocals at home though because it took me a long time until I was happy with them. I’d only really been singing live for five months at that point so it was still brand new to me. 

I think about six months later it was all done, mixed and mastered. It takes a long time when you’re doing it all yourself in your spare time. I was also releasing it by myself online for free, back when doing that was considered radical. Now all music is free online. I’d built up a bit of a following by then, and I remember I finished mixing and mastering everything on the Friday, and then I released it on the next Monday. It went really well!

Why did you choose to base yourself in Auckland?

The music industry is in Auckland, so it was the obvious choice for me, plus I wanted to get out of Hamilton. I lived in Auckland for twelve years. They were great years. It’s a really vibrant city and there’s so much happening. It’s fast paced and exciting, especially when you’re young and starting out in a career.

What was the catalyst for your Auckland to Tauranga move?

Sharanna is from Hawkes Bay, which is absolutely beautiful, and I’m from Tauranga. Neither of us really wanted to bring up kids in Auckland. But there’s also the lifestyle choice as well. The fast pace of big cities can be a double-edged sword; it can be exciting, but on the other hand it’s relentless. It never slows. 

We would always drive down to Tauranga because my parents are here and we just found ourselves driving down more and more. Eventually we started dreading the trip back up to Auckland. Not bagging on Auckland, because it really is a great city, and I love it, but there’s this calm that would come over us when we’d first come into the orchards outside of Katikati.

There are a lot of slow drivers on that stretch of road but I would always be okay with it because you’re surrounded by green.  In the big city I’d be road raging and waiting for a gap to pass but on that stretch of road, why bother? You have the Kaimais on one side and the harbour on the other. It’s a pretty special place. 

We love the pace in Tauranga. People are relaxed here. We also really wanted some land. In Auckland we had a tiny section and we were ready to move on and spend more time outside. We managed to get a little avocado orchard here which has been great for us.

Did you think moving to Tauranga was a risky move for your music career? 

I was initially worried about it. So much of any career is about being there in person - face to face is a big deal. We’d wanted to move here for a long time before we actually did. And part of that was waiting until I felt like I was established enough to not have to be in Auckland all the time. Tauranga is so close to Auckland though, and I would often drive up. In fact, for the first two and a half years we drove up for two days a week. I would do studio work and Sharanna would work at her job at a designer fabric importer. It was good but it was tiring. Now that Billy is born we’ve stopped that and we’re here full time. 

How do you like your new rural life?

It's great. We have fifty avocado trees and sixty lime trees on our property. There’s one magical month when they’re both ripe at the same time. Guacamole Season. It’s when we forget the problems of the world and everything is good!

What has living on the land been like for your creative process?

It’s been really healthy actually. I used to be at home by myself everyday. I would have almost no outside time, so I’d just spend day after day in the studio and sometimes it would drive me crazy. I have a different approach now - a mixture of studio work and outside work spaced throughout the day. It's like a balanced diet, but for life.

I wrote my latest album, 'My Babylon', like that at our place and I swear it increased my productivity. There was just less time going around in circles with my writing. I wrote and recorded that album in four months as opposed to four years for the previous one. There were other factors as well obviously, but it was just a healthier way of doing it. We’d go for walks around the mount, head out on the water on our boat, visit the swimming hole just up the road - all things that we never did living in a big city. I think it really helped.

How has your life changed as a result of living in the Bay?

I have more hobbies now I think. I feel like living here allows you space to think about things other than work. We also have a baby now, which is a HUGE change. Mostly it’s amazing, other times I wonder what I’ve done to myself and how did I get myself into this mess? It sort of changes your perspective. I still have the same plans and dreams and goals, but they’re framed differently now. There’s a new human involved, and that’s pretty cool!

How is the Tauranga of today different than the city of your childhood?

The coffee is better! The food is better. It’s not just a giant retirement village now. It feels a lot more vibrant. There are more young people starting up businesses. It’s quite an exciting city to be in right now. All this is happening yet it somehow still maintains the relaxed atmosphere it’s always had. 

What do you do to relax or have fun here?

I go sailing as much as I can. We have a 30ft sailboat. At the moment I’ve just been so busy with album things and with Billy arriving that the the boat’s taken a back seat. But I just love being out on the water. The wind and the swell, and when you turn the engine off and put the sails up, it’s some kind of magic. 

Most of our social time revolves around food, we go eat pizza at Avenue Pizza. It’s easily the best pizza I’ve had outside of Italy. Ironic that it’s part of the Bowling Alley. We have coffee and tea and treats at Folk or Love Rosie or Eddie and Espeths, they’re our favourites.  We also go for drinks at Rising Tide or Our Place. Dumpling Delight is a new Chinese dumpling place and they’re incredible! 

Can you tell us about your new album 'My Babylon'? 

I’m pretty happy to have it out. I’d taken a bit of a break from writing my own music. I didn’t write anything for Avalanche City for about a year. I would do co-writing for other people and work on other projects but I needed a bit of time off from writing for Avalanche City. At the end of that year we went on holiday in Europe for two months and I didn’t think about music at all. When we came back I felt excited to write again and it all came out super fast, which was good because Sharanna was pregnant. I had no time to muck around so it was good that it all flowed quickly and naturally. I have an album release show coming up at Folk in Tauranga that has already sold out. I’ll be doing another one later in the year so don’t worry if you missed out. 

What’s your take on the music scene in Tauranga?

There’s more and more happening here it seems. There’s a cool acoustic scene blossoming around Folk . Hans curates shows once every month or two and it’s developing a really loyal following. Also more and more people are coming to play at Totara St. It’s cool to see the arts finding support here. 

How do you juggle your time between Auckland and Tauranga now?

Tauranga is so close to Auckland. I’ve driven up and back in the same day several times. I guess I’m so used to the drive so it’s not a stumbling block. And it's just a fact of life for me. Auckland is where the music industry is in New Zealand. I stay down here as much as I can, but it’s no big deal to jump in the car and head up if I need to. I can do the bulk of my writing, recording and organising from right here in Tauranga. My management is based in Australia, my publicist is in Auckland, my band are spread between Taupo, Tauranga and Auckland. Everyone's used to coordinating on email and Skype these days so it feels pretty normal. 

What has moving to Tauranga meant:

For your career?  It’s given me a clarity that a busy, stressed out city couldn’t give. I’m more relaxed about it and I feel like I make better decisions because I’m not caught up in the hustle and bustle. 

For your wellbeing? I have SO much more outside time. It’s just a better way to live. I don’t lock myself in the studio for days at a time staring at a screen. I have a way healthier work life balance and I think it’s actually increased my focus.

For your relationships? There’s more time to connect here. People aren’t run off their feet as much and there’s more time for hangouts. It’s been great and we’ve met some really lovely people and made good friends. Plus there’s more time for me and Sharanna to spend with each other, more time to enjoy each other. Pretty healthy I think.

 

Gets You Thinking Doesn't It?

No-one can tell you when you're ready for a change of lifestyle...but when you are, we'd love to have you in Tauranga!

1. Join us on Facebook at www.facebook.com/TaurangaWelcomesYou

2. Subscribe to our montly e-newsletter to receive stories just like this one about people who have already made the big move you are thinking of making. 

3. Have a story to share? We love sharing your sea-change or homecoming stories. Email me at kathryn@priorityone.co.nz to start a conversation.

Meet Kathryn Overall
Explore www.wishyouwereworkinghere.co.nz

 

Looking for work in Tauranga?

Send me your CV and a 100 word bio and we will send it out to local businesess who are on the lookout for good people. Priority One is not a recruitment agency, but as the economic development agency for the region we seek to make connections for people where we can. There is no charge for this service.

Email me at annie@priorityone.co.nz.

Annie Hill | Priority One
Communications/Project Manager

 

 

Contact Annie

Contact Annie

Need help? Contact Annie

Send us your 100 word bio and we will send it out to local businesses who are on the lookout for good people! annie@priorityone.co.nz

Tauranga Welcomes You

Tauranga Welcomes You

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About Kathryn

About Kathryn

ABOUT KATHRYN

Kathryn Overall is the friendly voice behind the 'Wish You Were Working Here' stories and Facebook posts.  Each month she chats with returned Kiwi expats,  Auckland imports and New Zealand immigrants who have moved to Tauranga, collecting their stories and advice to share with you. 


CLICK HERE to read her own story of reluctant homecoming!

 

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