The band line-up comprises Barnaby Weir (vocals, guitar), Daniel Weetman (vocals, percussion), Tim Jaray (bass), Jarney Murphy (drums), Mike Fabulous (guitar, percussion) and Nigel Patterson (keyboards), supported by a rotating roster of session musicians. Past members of The Black Seeds have included Bret McKenzie, Shannon Williams, Rich Christie and Andrew Christiansen.
Born within the Wellington reggae, soul, roots, dub and hip-hop scene of the late 90s and the early 2000s, The Black Seeds were initially heavily associated with Dr Lee Prebble's The Surgery Recording Studio, Loop Recordings Aot(ear)oa and the free outdoor summer festival circuit of the day.
The Black Seeds’ 2001 debut album ‘Keep On Pushing’ went platinum in New Zealand.
Outside of The Black Seeds, many of the members of the band (past and present) have played in other bands or had their own solo projects. Barnaby Weir performs solo, has an electronic project called Flash Harry and co-directs Fly My Pretties. Former keyboardist Bret McKenzie is a member of Grammy Award winning musical comedy duo Flight of The Conchords, made a cameo in The Lord Of The Rings, has his own solo act Video Kid and recently won an Academy Award for his song ‘Man Or Muppet’ as featured in The Muppets movie (2011). Daniel Weetman plays in desert rock trio About The Deadlines. Mike Fabulous releases his own solo music as Lord Echo. Nigel Patterson heads up his own Jazz three-piece The Nigel Patterson Trio. Former member Shannon Williams sporadically creates electronic music as 100 Plastic Knives.
In 2001 The Black Seeds released their debut album Keep On Pushing via Loop Recordings, which eventually went platinum in NZ. The following year Loop Recordings released a remixed version titled Pushed, with the likes of 50hz, DJ Vee, Rhian Sheehan, Flash Harry and others contributing. Keep On Pushing placed in RipItUp magazine's Top 50 albums of 2001. Singles 'Keep On Pushing', 'Hey Son' and 'Coming Back Home' were well received by student radio, Radio NZ and Channel Z. That year the video clip for 'Keep On Pushing' won both The Knack Award at the 2001 Flying Fish NZ Music Video Awards and the ultimate prize at Radio Active's Handle The Jandal music video competition. Keep On Pushing won Best Downbeat Release at the 2002 BNet NZ Music Awards.
They released their second album On The Sun through Capitol/EMI in 2004, which debuted at No.3 on the NZ Top 40 Album charts and eventually sold double platinum in NZ. The same year Kufala Recordings (Santa Monica, CA) re-released ‘Keep On Pushing’/‘Pushed’ as a double package in the USA. On The Sun was reviewed from moderate to well in outlets like NZ Musician and Muzic.net.nz and won best pop release at the 2004 BNet NZ Music Awards. In 2005 The Black Seeds music appeared in USA comedy series Weeds.
The Black Seeds’ third album ‘Into The Dojo’ peaked at No.1 in 2006.
In 2006 The Black Seeds released their third album Into The Dojo through EMI, which peaked at No.1 on the NZ Top 40 Album charts and sold double platinum in NZ. Into the Dojo stayed in the NZ charts for 52 weeks. Into The Dojo gave them four radio hits with singles 'The Answer', 'Sometimes Enough', 'Cool Me Down' and 'One by One'. That year Into The Dojo was released in the UK by Waiting Room Records and the following year in Europe by Best Seven/Sonar Kollektiv. The video for 'Sometimes Enough' also won Best Roots video at the Juice TV Awards. The album was well received in Germany and France where it reached high radio rotate and was featured as Album Of The Week on stations such as Radio Nova (France) and Radio Eins (Germany). In 2007 French Reggae Magazine praised Into The Dojo, "Ce nouvel opus des Black Seeds est une perle" – "The Black Seeds’ new album is a pearl."
Fourth album Solid Ground was released in 2008 through Rhythmethod. It peaked at No.2 on the NZ Top 40 Album Sales Charts and eventually sold platinum locally. They released it in Europe/UK through Sonar Kollektiv. That year Mojo magazine described it as "charmed… soulful 70s styled reggae… single ‘Make A Move’ is one of the snackiest reggae pop tunes on planet earth." In 2009 they also released Solid Ground in the USA through Easy Star Records, where it peaked at No.15 on the USA reggae charts. That year Solid Ground was name Soul Album Of The Year by Jambase.com’s Dennis Cook. Solid Ground also spent eight consecutive weeks in the Top 10 of CMJ's World Music charts, and five weeks in the overall CMJ Top 200. Solid Ground was also described by The Huffington Post as "a damn fine record… thoughtful, catchy songs rampant with horn lines and stomach shaking bass, not to mention Weir's excellent voice. Hard to turn off, easy to repeat." Solid Ground also reviewed well locally with The NZ Herald, The Press and The Dominion Post.
The same year The Black Seeds also toured America with John Brown's Body, who then toured New Zealand with them. Around this time they released Live Vol.1, a live album only available as a digital download for those who purchased tickets to their New Zealand tour. Their song 'One By One' was featured in the soundtrack of second season of critically acclaimed AMC television show Breaking Bad.
In 2010 The Black Seeds released Specials: Remixes & Versions From Solid Ground a collection of remixes and outtakes from Solid Ground.
Their fifth studio album Dust And Dirt was issued in 2012 through Remote Control Records in New Zealand, Australia and Germany, Easy Star Records in North America and their own international label Proville Records in the UK. Dust And Dirt peaked at No.1 on the NZ Top 40 charts and No.3 on the USA reggae charts. Dust And Dirt reviewed well locally with The NZ Herald, Groove Guide and The Bay Of Plenty Times. It was also well received by overseas media outlets. Dust And Dirt won Best Roots Album at the 2012 NZ Music Awards.
The Black Seeds established Proville Records in 2012 as a central portal for releasing their music overseas and arranging licensing deals with record labels in local and international territories. 2013 saw yet another successful European tour, with sellout dates across the continent.
Over their career The Black Seeds has extensively toured New Zealand, Australia, North America, Europe and the UK. Since the early 2000s they have been regular fixtures on the New Zealand and European festival circuits and conducted their own regularly sold out local tours. Throughout this time they have toured regularly alongside the likes of Shapeshifter, Katchafire, Kora, The Nudge and Salmonella Dub. They have also opened for the likes of The Mad Professor and Roots Manuva.
The black seeds’ songs have appeared in TV shows such as ‘Weeds’ and ‘Breaking Bad’.
The Black Seeds’ sixth studio album Fabric, arrived in 2017, again through the band’s own label Proville Records. The five-year gap between albums was due to a combination of touring, the band’s busy family lives, and a change in members.
Part way through the making of the new record, long-standing members Tim Jaray and Mike Fabulous departed. As Weir explained to NZ Musician in 2017, “It was for absolutely understandable reasons, but it did shake us up a bit because we were part way through. So we started again.” The band was soon joined by guitarist Ned Ngatae, who had toured with them previously, and reggae and roots bassist Francis Harawira.
“It was just such a big build-up to be honest,” said Weir. “It was way too long in between albums, and so when it came to that one, I was kind of like way too inside the process of writing and recording it ...
“There are some deep lyrics and stuff for me in there and quite personal things to overcome. And when we look at our Spotify streams, it’s going better than some of our oldest music that’s on there, so that's really encouraging.”
Fabric sold well both internationally and at home, reaching No.3 on both the US Billboard reggae album and New Zealand album charts, and No.3 on the UK and German iTunes reggae charts. NZ Musician positively described the record’s sound as “often reminiscent either of a 70s era funk record or an 80s dancehall record, while still managing to sound musically fresh and contemporary”. Fabric was supported by a nine-city release tour across New Zealand.
In 2019, a collection of remixes and unreleased songs from the album were released as a six-track EP, Refabricated: Fabrix Remixes and Rarities. The EP neatly preceded The Black Seeds’ next international tour by a month, when they played 14 dates around Europe and the UK, including mainstage spots at the leading independent festivals Boomtown Fair in Hampshire, and Beautiful Days festival in Devon.
Updated by Rosie Howells