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The surprise musical twist has been a recurring motif in Neil Finn's long career. But not even his wife suspected this latest one was going to start ramping up after he got his pajamas on. Nor that she would share equal responsibility for its irresistibly strange and propulsive grooves.
Pajama Club began as a private after-dinner racket to fill an empty nest. With their two sons, musicians in their own right, off and away into the big old world, Neil and Sharon found themselves home alone with time, a sensible supply of red wine, copious musical instruments and a 16-track tape recorder on their hands.
"I'd always had a hankering to play the drums, Sharon's had a similar attraction to the bass," says Neil. "We were having a great old time making noise but we didn't think too much about it until we started playing some of it back and found ourselves dancing."
In between unfamiliar tools and naive enthusiasm, a fresh and potent musical chemistry had erupted. It travelled the world on hard drive as Neil toured with Crowded House through 2009. In far-flung hotel rooms he added guitar, keyboard and other melodic lines to take home to Auckland.
Enter Sean Donnelly, a local friend with a shared taste for sonic intrigue — as heard on numerous indie albums under the SJD banner. Neil and Sharon's lounge room funk grooves began to expand with electronic squelches, bleeps and loops. Vocal contributions evolved in similar disorderly fashion.
"We'd take turns singing whatever we thought would work over the top," says Sharon. "Neil did the lion's share. I contributed a few lines — the good ones," she quips. "If I didn't feel comfortable singing something we'd knock it around together, change it."
The tub-thumping Tell Me What You Want was first to find its feet: a heavy breathing tete-a-tete that opened a range of vocal possibilities. Sean encouraged various blends of breathiness and falsetto that led Neil and Sharon deeper into new territory, from the whispers and shouts of You Can't Put It Down Until It Ends to the joyously fucked-up soul chorus of Daylight.
Some of it was downright spooky. The Games We Love To Play is all eerie disassociation and adrenaline; fear and excitement. From a Friend To A Friend is a mysterious scenario of strangers and headlights; simmering apprehension and hopes of redemption....
More info at www.pajamaclubmusic.com
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