Crowded House ‘More Compelled Than Ever’ To Climb The ‘Gravity Stairs’ Humanity Has On Offer

31 May 2024 | 12:14 pm | Mary Varvaris

Neil Finn tells The Music that the possibility of Crowded House "becoming even better" thrills him most about new album 'Gravity Stairs'.

Crowded House

Crowded House (Source: Supplied)

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Gravity Stairs, the new album from Crowded House, finds the Australian/New Zealand band at their most tender, bright, psychedelic, and packed with childlike wonder.

For a record that’s been described as a metaphor for aging and becoming aware of one’s mortality, it never feels bleak or hopeless. If anything, Neil Finn and his sons Liam and Elroy, mainstay Nick Seymour and producer-turned-fulltime-band-member Mitchell Froom provide the light the world needs.

“The concrete image of the gravity stairs was actually a set of stairs that we climb – we go to the same place on holiday quite often, and it has a particularly difficult, stony staircase that all of us – possibly because we've been at the taverna for a little bit too long, find difficult to climb,” Neil Finn quips from his Melbourne hotel room just after Crowded House performed at the inaugural Global Citizen NOW event at the Palais Theatre.

“I've lugged suitcases up there a few times, and it's just getting a little bit harder every time,” Finn adds before explaining that the journey up the real-life gravity stairs leads to a stunning spot.

He explains, “The reward is this beautiful terrace at the top where we sit and make music, gaze out and feel fully blessed. The aim and the cause is just as strong as ever. But, you know, it takes a little bit more effort – it would be easier to just sink back and stay at the taverna; put it that way! The will is still strong.”

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Crowded House have just announced a tour of Australia and New Zealand and released Gravity Stairs, their eighth album, today.

A true family affair, three of the songs were born from the creative minds of Liam and Elroy Finn, and they’re all album highlights: The Howl, I Can’t Keep Up With You, and Thirsty. And it’s fair to say that with his sons in the band, Neil Finn has pulled additional ideas from the energy and innocence of youngsters, especially with lead single Oh Hi.

Inspired by children and Finn’s thoughts about “how much we need to let them learn and grow in safety and love,” the music video sees a young child with Finn’s face singing and dancing freely.

Gravity Stairs was made in partnership with producer Steven Schram (Paul KellySan Cisco), who watched on as Crowded House’s current line-up produced another set of magical songs. Decades into his career, Neil Finn’s songwriting continues to draw fans into a brand-new world, and the instrumentation is top-tier Crowded House.

Finn says, “By trying to redefine it a little bit every time, [there are] certain things that we'll do… the way I'll write and put chords together will resonate and be a little bit familiar, but the way it's dressed up – you referred to the way the band's sounding, I mean, that's the delight of this line-up, which has a little bit of the old and a little bit of new.

“Everybody is deeply connected to the whole adventure of Crowded House,” Finn adds, “My boys being born and growing up amongst it have got a deep connection to it. Mitchell, of course, was our first producer, and we are now reconnected to him.”

Mitchell Froom’s impact on the band is near indescribable. The producer and keyboardist produced the first three Crowded House albums: their 1986 self-titled debut, 1988’s Temple Of Low Men, and 1991’s Woodface. In 2021, he returned for Crowded House’s first album in eleven years, Dreamers Are Waiting and joined the band as an official member.

Finn continues, “But between us all, we're forming new textures, new elements to add to it, and that's what the exciting part is: the possibility of it [the band] becoming even better.

“Every time we play on stage, it seems there's more trust and more ability to step off the program and jam, and even last night, after we hadn't played for about six months, we were getting off the script in the way we were playing. That's the lovely thing to discover.”

Finn recalls feeling a “deeper purpose” upon performing at the Global Citizen NOW event. “They’re [Global Citizen] trying to address poverty and climate issues through the advocacy and innovation of young people, and I couldn't be more into that as a concept,” the Better Be Home Soon singer explains. “They've been around long enough now to have earned the trust of the international community.

“It was really nice to be part of that, but it also ties in nicely with the release of our first song, which is inspired by and created for these kids at these schools in Kenya and Tanzania that I've been fortunate enough to be part of the organisation [So Can They] for quite a while now as a supporter. And the song, whilst not strictly speaking, a charity single, has a lovely underpinning context.”

Elaborating on the tiny changes we can collectively make when looking at the world makes us feel hopeless, Finn encourages getting involved in your local community and believes that support is “incredibly valuable”.

He adds, “We are so overwhelmed with the news cycle, and there is an overwhelming feeling that it's too big for any of us. What can we do about all of this tragedy unfolding in Gaza? Some of it is unsolvable for an individual, but what is possible for an individual is to look around you and into your own community or choose to follow a development somewhere that makes concrete progress. I think it's incredibly valuable.”

Refusing to put himself on any pedestal or moral high ground, Finn admits that he’s been “as lazy as anyone at various times, and self-absorbed”, but he – like many observing a divided world – is more conscious of that now, and the way that music can translate across political divides and different perspectives.

Finn adds, “It's a unifying experience. You know, the fact that so many great artists are trying to sue Donald Trump for using their music is amusing, but it's also proof that even MAGA supporters connect with good songs. So, it's possibly a way to soften the edges of that political debate… I don't know, I’m being facetious, really; I would be pretty appalled if they were using my songs [laughs].”

Themes of love and connection are all over Gravity Stairs. Creating the album felt “natural”, with the band attracted to several ideas when Gravity Stairs was both half-finished and complete.

“It was that way with Liam's contributions to the album The Howl and I Can't Keep Up With You,” the latter of which Neil wrote with his son. “They just drew my ear and our attention, collectively and with Elroy, too.”

Elroy also brought demos to the band, one of which is called Thirsty. At first, it was an instrumental piece that ended up making it on the album with Neil’s vocals on it.

“It was a beautiful instrumental, and it's still a beautiful instrumental, but I was compelled to try and put a vocal on; it deserved to be a full song,” Finn says. Elroy approved, and the father and son wrote the lyrics together.

Thirsty is yet another example of what Finn brought up – the delight of Crowded House becoming intergenerational, extending their reach to new listeners, and redefining themselves as a band. Liam and Elroy haven’t just entered the band as juniors but as fully participating members.

Finn’s journey in music hasn’t exactly been straightforward, with the singer-songwriter and musician writing some of the biggest hits of the 1980s with Split Enz before forming Crowded House.

He then released music with his brother Tim in the Finn Brothers, and then there’s his most recent life-changing event, joining Fleetwood Mac’s touring line-up from October 2018 to November 2019. For his contributions to music, Radiohead’s Ed O’Brien described Finn as the “most prolific writer of great songs”.

“I've been restless in that regard because I was looking for new thrills, but all of those creative relationships have taught me something, and I’ve been able to fulfil some little nerve that needed to be scratched,” Finn shares.

“I'm really grateful for them, and I think they add up to something over a long period of time that is hard to put your finger on but gives you more art to draw on and more pathways to explore.”

He continues, “Every path you choose ends up leading to some other set of doorways that you can go through – whether they're upstairs, as Gravity Stairs describes, or down little tunnels. It's good to explore as long as you can.

“I'm really grateful for the various opportunities I've had; I think they've rounded me off as a musician, and I have never actually enjoyed singing as much as I have. In all of those situations, I’ve been singing, and I think it's kept my voice in good shape.”

In addition to enjoying singing more than ever, Finn is loving music itself more than he ever has. “It sometimes feels like it's getting harder to navigate, but it's always still a mystery,” he says, adding that he feels “more compelled than ever” as a songwriter.

“The little successes you have in your own space, sometimes only on your own, with little demos that you make, and you listen to and think, ‘Oh, there's something really good here.’ And I'm the only one in the world that knows about it. It's a really nice feeling, the discovery of a new song.”

Gravity Stairs is out now via BMG. You can catch Crowded House on tour this November and December – tickets are available here.


Gravity Stairs Tour - Australian and New Zealand Dates

Saturday 9 November – WELLINGTON – TSB ARENA

Tuesday 12 November – DUNEDIN – TOWN HALL





Saturday 23 November – AUCKLAND – SPARK ARENA






Tuesday 10 December – MELBOURNE – ROD LAVER ARENA