With the recent influx of local bands recording music, as well as local musicians starting to achieve big on the national stage, it’s becoming apparent that there is a wealth of talent in Northland that is going largely untapped.

However Fritter, a new compilation CD of Northland music put together by the Arts Promotion Trust, seeks to bring more of that music to the fore and put Northland music well and truly on the map.

Featuring local artists like Seminaked, A Days Pay, Spazmatron and Tempist Fujit, alongside established acts who have Northland ties like Minuit and Paul McLaney, Fritter is a veritable feast of Northland sounds that should appeal to every listener.

But even though the explosion of original music in the area may seem quite sudden, what you probably don’t realise is that the idea of a compilation CD has actually been in the works for the past 12 months.

“Last year we’d been talking to a few different local musicians who were working on original music, and they’d come to us and said there needs to be more support for original music around town,” says Jenny Barrett, the Arts Promotion Trust representative responsible for the compilation. “We decided to have a public meeting for musicians, so on the 25th May [2006] we held it and got a really good crowd, which was great.”

“We sat around and talked about the obstacles, things that had been done in the past, ideas about what we could do to support original music, and someone mentioned that a compilation CD had been done in the past. Our role in the meeting was really just to facilitate things and let the musicians themselves put the ideas forward, so [the idea] sort of stems from the musicians rather than us.”

With several local businesses willing to help, Barrett moved ahead with the album and invited local artists to submit their work for consideration. A huge number of submissions began pouring in (“way more than we could fit onto the CD!” Barrett laughs), creating a need for a selection committee to organise the tracks into a workable compilation.

The committee – comprising Barrett, Brendan White, Damien Houston and Simon McMillan – began listening through the tracks and carefully chose which ones would end up on the disc.

“It was probably the hardest part of the whole process,” Barrett says, a touch regretfully. “It was really fun, because we had all these CDs from these musicians we’d never heard of just appearing from nowhere and we were getting all these really cool tracks … so we had to pick and choose, but also keep in mind the overall context of all the tracks and how they’d fit together.”

Looking at things like the quality of the recording, the musicianship and the song structure, as well as how the song would fit into the album as a whole, the submissions were eventually whittled down to a 22 track disc that Barrett now feels is as good as anything on the market.

“It’s better than I imagined it would be,” Barrett says enthusiastically. “Just the quality of the songs that were sent in – it’s really exciting to think that there is so much going on up here.”

“Every time I listen to it, I find more that I like – it kind of depends what mood I’m in, and I find that if I haven’t heard it for a while I start to miss it.”

Andy Henderson, guitarist for rock band Say No More, says that his group were more than happy to get in behind the venture.

“I think it’s important for us, because we’re starting out,” he explains. “But promoting any original bands, especially in the North here where we’re sort of left out, is definitely good.”

“Building a strong original music scene in Whangarei means artists and organisations getting involved, and we feel that this disc is a massive step in the right direction where that’s concerned.”

Of course, a typically Northland CD needed a typically Northland name.

“We were just sort of throwing around ideas for a name, and we wanted something Northland,” Barrett reminisces. “We were talking about seafood and stuff, and then we thought ‘fritter’; sort of a mish mash of different things.”

And describing Fritter in 10 words or less?

Barrett hesitates momentarily before answering: “It’s the greatest Northland album in the world – this year!”