Bret McKenzie and Jemaine Clement, the names that make up the legendary comedy music duo Flight of the Conchords, have reached an unbelievable level of fame and creative freedom as actors,
Following the two-season run of the hilarious HBO sitcom that bore their band's name, both became solo comedy stars. Clement, the tall, baritone half of the duo, scored prime roles in films like Rio, Men in Black 3 and The BFG and turned a comedy short he made in New Zealand about the secret lives of vampires into a critically acclaimed movie, What We Do in the Shadows.
McKenzie, the shorter one with the higher voice range, has done some acting in movies, most notably as various elves in Peter Jackson's retelling of J.R.R. Tolkien's Middle-earth sagas, The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit. McKenzie has also focused his talent on writing, including screenplays for the upcoming fantasy film
Trying to cram a concert tour into two very busy careers sounds like schedule suicide but McKenzie says that performing live is more like a vacation for them.
"We both really enjoy playing live and it's funny actually how Jemaine became so busy with film and TV, so it takes a bit of coordination now, but we've managed to line everything up this summer and wanted to do some live shows, and it ended up being a full American tour," McKenzie says in between bites of a cookie as his tour bus pulled out of their latest show in Houston. "It's become bigger than we expected and it's really fun."
McKenzie and Clement rejoined forces at the beginning of the summer for their first Flight of the Conchords tour since 2013 when they headlined the first Oddball Comedy and Curiosity Festival with comedian Dave Chappelle. They will return to Dallas-Fort Worth on Wednesday for a show with comedian Demetri Martin at Verizon Theatre.
McKenzie says he and Clement started working on some new songs and just wanted to fit some more live shows into their work and travel schedules at smaller venues. The shows they put together eventually became their latest American tour.
"Playing live is what really attracts me because so much is on screens and on our phones and I'm really interested in bringing people together," he says. "It's becoming less and less common and it's such a great thing."
Their road trip also gives them a chance to test out new songs that hopefully will be recorded for a new album.
"It's kind of road testing, I guess," McKenzie says. "Some of the songs we're doing, we try new bits out on different nights and there's nothing like having a live audience to test whether something's funny or not."
The comedy duo's music has a distinct acoustic folk sound but they often play with new genres as canvases for their comedy. For example, take the soulful sound of "Business Time," in which Clement promises his special lady an evening of restrained
"We do a lot of genres, and now doing something we haven't done is what attracts us to it," McKenzie says. "We're trying this jazz song and it's a challenge because we can't play jazz. Now that we've written like 50 comedy songs, sometimes we have to watch ourselves when we're coming up with new ideas that they aren't genres we've already done."
McKenzie says the songs are created either from a funny idea that lends itself to a particular genre of music or just a curious need to try a new musical style.
"We do a country and western song like an old Johnny Cash western tale," McKenzie says. "The style plays into the song itself. Some of our ideas would work on their own. You could change the genre and the song would still work."
McKenzie says that he and Clement are in a very fortunate position as artists. They have a huge fanbase who provide great support to their artistic endeavors and give them a lot of freedom to do pretty much anything they want, and all of their projects are related in surprising ways.
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"It's a luxury that we get to play live as well as work on screen projects," McKenzie says. "Not many people get to do that. Each feeds into a different part of your mind and I think it's healthy because playing live can really inform what you do for TV and film. I think it's a really helpful experience to have when you're working in TV and film."
McKenzie says he also feels lucky that he and Clement play so well together on stage after all these years.
"We've been touring on and off for 20 years," McKenzie says. "It's kind of amazing because we're both very relaxed on stage with each other and that's pretty unusual. It's just a cool thing."
Flight of the Conchords will perform with special guest Demetri Martin at 8 p.m. Wednesday, Oct. 26, at the Verizon Theater (1001 Performance Place, Grand Prairie). Tickets are $39.50 to $59.50 at verizontheatre.com.