Three years ago on a rainy Monday morning in Christchurch, I picked up the phone and called Ji Fraser to interview him about his band Six60, named for their flat at 660 Castle Street. When I asked him about how he found flatting in Dunedin he responded diplomatically, “Flats are not that nice to live in but have heaps of character.” The house and it’s neighbour, were built c 1927-8, and are now looking their age.
Ji hails form Gisbourne but his Otago experience began at University College in 2005, he and Matiu took a couple of music papers – they’d both been turned down for the contemporary rock course. It doesn’t bother them now. They’ve done very well, they signed with Universal Studios on 8 May 2010, and their single Rise Up 2.0 recently reached number 1 on the NZ charts on 24th January 2011 after entering the charts on 6 Sept 2010.
In 2006 Matiu and Ji moved into 660 Castle Street with friends from University College. They had spent time jamming in their rooms and thought it’d be good to flat together and get a band going. Ji bought a cheap PA. Hoani played the bass. Through the course of the year they met Eli who’s still the current drummer (2011). They referred to the flat amongst themselves, and to others, as 660, and as the band formed and they started playing shows, they became known as the 660 boys. When it came to releasing their first EP, they decided to call themselves Six60, after that Castle Street flat because “it was a place that meant so much to us”.
So, why did this flat mean so much to them. “That’s where it all began”. Ji elaborated, “it’ where I wrote my first song, it’s where we had our first practice together. It was the beginning of everything.” Like so many other Otago alumni, Ji feels the experience flatting has a great impact on students because for many it’s their first time living independently. “They’re really special for a lot of people. So many good times, a lot of bad times too. They’re a rich source of memories.”
Before their first NZ tour Ji contacted a friend who has a clothing label called Search. One of their designers came up with a range of ideas for a logo for the band, the brief was to include the name and reference the Castle Street flat. It was used on the Rise Up 2.0 release cover. The guys like the idea of strong visually memorable graphics to advertise themselves.
Their music video for Don’t forget your Roots (directed by Robin Walters, July 2011) cruises through the Dunedin North landscape and highlights a number of named flats of the day.
Six60 are in town for Orientation and took the opportunity to visit 660 Castle St a couple of days ago before playing last night (20.02.14) at the Starters bar (aka The Orie(ntal) or The Last Moa). They play the Forsyth Bar Stadium tonight (21.02.14)
— Ji fraser SIX60 (@ji_fraser) February 16, 2014