Tag Archives: New Zealand Music

interviewed | Estère: beat maker extraordinaire

Estère is currently a Wellington girl, although born on Waiheke, with oodles of eclectic vibe and funk in her stride. As we walked into her live gig in Golden Dawn, the crowd was hanging on each word. She tapped one foot, twisted buttons and harmonised with her self-made melodies – wearing a stylish grey two piece crop-top and skirt, Estère owned the stage with style and ease. Jackson and Kim, her new percussionists, joined her and her machines, holding down rhythms following Lola, Estère’s MPC (music production controller). This girl had everything under control and looked like she was having a great time. The crowd sang along, requested encores and cheered for more. Estère has evidently collected a solid fan base, youngsters and older listeners alike. And yet she remains modest, thanking her audience for their support, and greeting fans that came to her afterwards with a generous smile.

Estère’s sound could be considered a mix of electro-pop with elements of soulful jazz. But it’s difficult to put it in a box, which she doesn’t want to be anyway, referring to her music as ‘Electric blue witchhop’. Her songs vary in feeling, tone and beat – the result of her creative, and laborious, dedication to production. Her close relationship with various electronic bits of kit, an NPC and SPD drum machine included, have helped her craft out a unique sound.

As we sat in a bustling cafe on K-road, philosophising about the different ways people learn rhythm, Estère explained “I have very strong feelings for timing…” Although not from a family of musicians, Estère reckons some of her rhythm may have come from her upbringing,

“My mum loves dancing, she doesn’t care what anyone thinks. She used to embarrass me hardcore when I was quite young coz we’d be at festivals and she’d be the only lady up the front going like this [raises her arms and moshes] and I’d be like….oh my god…”

Despite youth embarrassment, Estère is evidently grateful for her family’s enthusiasm for dancing, and the sounds her mum introduced her to, singing “Moooving on up” as she paid homage to the “amazingly deep voice” of Heather Smalls from M people and blind guitarist, José Feliciano. After the obligatory infatuation with Britney Spears and 90’s boy-bands, Estère listened to the likes of Prince and Grace Jones, both artists with a similarly impressive vocal range to herself. Although Estère doesn’t consider herself a singer first and foremost, more a beatmaker, her voice has the elasticity of a professional, effortlessly hitting lows and highs as she accompanies the hard-graft of her instrumentals,

“I head hunt samples that I think will be good for a track. It can be quite laborious. Once I have found something I like, I manipulate it in Logic, put it into my NPC and then drum it out with my fingers.”

Her description of recording random things she hears out on the streets makes me want to take my Zoom recorder for a walk after our interview. Instead, I watch a Youtube of her discussing the gendered nature of the Beats industry.  Aside from her interesting sound, and great stage presence, there are a couple of things that personally drew me to Estère. Like me, she is a student of anthropology, and also of mixed heritage. This quest to think through difference, and understand the place culture does and does not have in our being is something that Estère uses music and electronic instruments to process. She sometimes addresses life’s intimate feelings and experiences through her song-writing too. Grandmother, a slow melodic song with subtle tones, is a tribute to her Cameroonian grandmother who sadly passed away three months before they were due to meet for the first time.

“I really wanted to meet her. I’d heard a lot of stories about her, and people said we were really similar. So this song is kind of about the experience I have, and don’t have, of her at the same time.

Appeller de la terre, l’esprit de ma grandmere  – Call forth, from the Earth, the spirit of my grandmother…”

She wistfully repeats the line from her song in with a fluent French accent. Estère’s sound has travelled the length of Aotearoa, Australia, France, England, Denmark, South Korea and Southern Africa. She performed in Mozambique, South Africa and Swaziland on festival circuit in 2017, putting her feet down on African soil for the first time. She admits some prior misconceptions,

“I think I had a somewhat exoticised idea of Africa…and when I got there I thought…well, it’s just not that different from anywhere else really. People love listening to live music, they travel from other countries to come to festivals, and some of the festivals were massive! They were amazing!”

Estère plans to continue her connection across continents, in awe of West African singers such as Simphiwe Dana. Estere’s singles are diverse in sound, as you can hear in her new album soon to be released – My Design, On Others’ Lives – and include songs such as the catchy Pro Bono Techno Zone, a comment on youth infatuation with technology. Much of Estère’s songs offer a thoughtful comment on the world we live in, part of her bigger concern with trying to imagine what it would be like to live in the world as someone else. Her latest single Rent reflects on the concept of property ownership, something people are so beholden to in Aotearoa that the fact many people cannot even afford to rent, let alone own a home, is diminished in the face of the ‘Real Estate’ industry. Her music is another version of anthropology, a way of questioning what is taken for granted, and offering another experience of the world that might shift dominant perceptions.

With her sensitivity, intelligence and humble charm, combined with infectious bounce-y dances moves, it is likely Estère will be loved wherever she performs. Catch her opening for her teenage heroine, Grace Jones in Christchurch on March 2nd, 2018 (tickets available here). And download her upcoming EP out in April 2018 – until then download all her currently released singles here.



heard | Getting to know Ezra Vine

We recently found out that Kiwi singer/songwriter Ezra Vine signed a global record deal with Parlaphone Records UK (yup, that’s a pretty big deal considering their roster has been home to the likes of The Beatles, Coldplay, Radiohead, Pink Floyd, Blur, and Gorillaz!) and realised we didn’t know too much about him.

So we set out to find out 5 things:

1. Ezra Vine’s real name is Joseph Farris.

2. He also goes by the moniker Les Enfants.

3. He’s a pretty good iPhone-ographer (is that a word?) and takes some amazing black and whites of life on the road and in-studio.  Check out his Instagram feed, here.

4. He burst onto our music scene last year with his infectious pop hit, “Celeste” (as heard on TV One).

5. He recorded that single, along with others in a small bedroom in late 2012, armed only with one microphone, a macbook pro and any instrument he could lay his hands on.  (The result, from what we hear, was pretty awesome – “a collision of immediate lyricism, haunting falsetto, and counter-melodies, woven through folk sensibilities”)

Check out the official video for Celeste below:

What people have said about his music:

“…A polished, amazing, critically and commercially deep record and sound”.

 “Somehow floating above the showmanship of 2013 …”, akin to “Of Monsters & Men with some dashes of Edward Sharp and Fun”, “There is something special about getting transported back to a specific musical memory in one’s own life.”  

(source: UnderTheRadar.co.nz)

1DP | Day 89 of 100 Days, 100 Individuals

For as long as I can remember, The Feelers have always been one of my favourite New Zealand bands.  Their first two albums, Supersystem (1998) and Communicate (2001), was what I spent my first ever (hard-earned) paycheck on and ever since, I’ve been hooked.   And I’m not the only one… with endless sold-out tours and five successful albums to their name; The Feelers are without a doubt, a part of New Zealand Rock Royalty.

This year, frontman James Reid is taking a break to work on his solo project titled ‘Saint’. With work on the album nearly complete, we’re on the edge of our seats waiting for a little sampler.  We talk to him on Day 89 of our 100 Day Project.

What’s your biggest fear?

I have a few but don’t really dwell on them, but thanks for asking. Living in a box, mentally and physically or in a body that has given up yet my mind is still alert. It would be like a living prison. Or being the guy that had to maintain the brain jar experiment. The brain jar janitor. What a lonely boring job. That is if you weren’t allowed to interfere with the synaptic processes. Then think of all the experiments you could do. Sorry what was the question again?

What’s your purpose in life?

To bring as much joy and happiness to peoples lives and be the best father I can be.

What are you passionate about?

I am passionate about plenty of things, fishing, music, art, knowledge and generally events and occasions that provide rewarding memories.

What gets you out of bed in the morning?

If I had it my way I wouldn’t go to bed, that’s probably why I don’t sleep that much, there’s too much to do. Or maybe it’s a cat sitting on your chest. A child laughing or crying. An early flight. A song idea from a dream.

Everyone has a dirty little secret, what’s yours?

If I were to tell then it’s no longer a secret. That’s one of the problems in life; no one can keep a secret. So then you have this other question “who can you confide in?” Do you have to make people sign confidentiality agreements before you start a conversation? So many times you have an idea and chat to someone about it, and next thing you know they’re claiming credit for it or doing it themselves. I know I should talk less and act more. Action not re-action. See ranting on. Next question…

 If today was your last day on earth, what would you do?

Skype the world, massive conference call to family and friends. Party, lots of hugs. Kiss random strangers, But most importantly wonder why it was my last day on earth. What had I done? Was it everyone’s last day or just mine? Who decided it would be the last day for me? So many questions.

What is your happy place?

In the studio recording, fly fishing in some beautiful location, Playing live to an audience that is getting right into it and everyone is fully connected, lost in the music and the moment and nothing else matters. AND… Somewhere that will explain why it was my last day on earth. It’s still got me confused.

What will you be doing for the rest of 2013?

Releasing my new Project. SAINT, which is a solo record for now, but with the view to expanding it to more guest artists. In all sorts of different art forms. Touring and planning for next year I guess. I have to look past today. Plan big dreams for the future, it gives you hope. But you have to live in the moment also. Or as a wise man said, if you spend your time with one foot in yesterday and one foot in tomorrow you’ll be pissing on today. Excuse the language but you get the idea. Deal with your regret and shame and move on. So that sounds like a busy few months ahead.

heard | Tiki Taane & Jayson Norris announce Acoustic Tour

Local legends Tiki Taane and Jayson Norris have teamed up for a nationwide acoustic tour.

Playing shows in Tauranga, Hamilton, Kaitaia, Auckland, Wellington and Christchurch, the prolific pair will be joined by special guest Jess Harlen; a New Zealand born, Boston based soul singer who Rolling Stone magazine recently dubbed as “an artist to watch”.

Renowned as much for his powerful live performances as he is for his anthems, don’t miss your chance to see multi-platinum, award winning artist Tiki Taane playing a stripped back set. You’ll be treated to everything from his beautiful love ballad ‘Always On My Mind’ to new material off his forthcoming acoustic album, set for release later this year.

Back in New Zealand for the first time in two years following a relentless touring schedule in the UK, Jayson Norris has made a name for himself both at home and abroad.  Now a man in demand, the fruits of his labour are paying off. His unique sound, which sees him combine richearthy vocals with a blend of soul, roots and rock, has seen Jayson share the stage with and support artists such as Andrea Bocelli, INXS, Sneaky Sound System, Blue King Brown, The Black Seeds, Katchafire, Six60 and Dave Dobbyn.

He’s also been trotting the globe performing at festivals including Mosaic (Singapore), Lovebox (UK) and of course Homegrown in 2011 – the last time he performed in New Zealand – and is a member of multi-platinum collaboration Fly My Pretties.


Tickets are available now from Dash, so don’t miss your chance to see some of NZ’s best performing at a venue near you.

Tiki Taane / Jayson Norris Acoustic tour
w special guest Jess Harlen

April 11th — Imbibe – Tauranga
April 12th – Diggers Back Bar – Hamilton
April 13th – Collards – Kaitaia
April 18th – Juice Bar – Auckland
April 19th – Bodega – Wellington
April 20th – Dux Live – Christchurch

interviewed | Iva Lamkum: Taking it to the Next Level

Like the legendary Black Eagle of Asia, Wellington based Chinese Samoan songstress/guitarist IVA LAMKUM, has risen through her own dark clouds and emerged with a critically acclaimed debut solo album.  A storybook collection of half a decade of day-to-day experiences, Black Eagle consists of a series of deeply personal, yet universally relatable mediations on family, hard-work, internal conflict, the loved and the loveless.  We spoke to the Neo-Soul songstress as she tours the country with Black Eagle.  Here’s what she has to say:

The critics absolutely love you, here in New Zealand and abroad.  How does that feel?
It’s overwhelming. I’m blessed to have the support and love from Kiwis and abroad. It means a lot.

Speaking of critics, MTV Iggy named you as one of their Top 13 Global Divas.  They even compared you to the late Amy Winehouse.  How do you feel about that?  What do you think of the other 12 Global Divas?
I never thought my music would be picked up on the other side of the world. I wasn’t familiar with the other Global Divas except Yukimi from Little Dragon, because I’m familiar with their music.  Its strange but awesome and to be compared to a legend who’s left a legacy behind for changing the mainstream music scene, has definitely open doors for musicians like myself who have been writing music for a while. But I don’t think anyone will be or ever be Amy Winehouse.

You’ve just released your debut solo album, it’s been a while coming.  What was the process like?  Why has it taken so long?
The process was draining. Hard work, committing to long hours just finishing one song but it was also a learning process for me personally because I grew to learn about my craft as well as the Industry. It has taken so long because a lot of things were happening at the same time while trying to find our own way to invest in the ‘Black Eagle’ Record.

The press release says your album is a storybook collection of half a decade of day-to-day experiences, tell me more about that.
Some of the songs like Bankrupt Visa talks about struggling to find a real job to make money but trying to make music at the same time. I wrote Blue Moscow about someone who I would’ve given up everything to be with him but Daggers was concluding my negative expressions for that same person who turned out to be a mistake, crushed my heart for months and I ended up too weak to make music so took some time-off from recording for a bit.

What’s your favourite song, or the one that holds the most meaning for you on the album?  Why?
I like all of them but possibly Black Eagle because it is the one song that helps me every time I make a mistake. I end up picking up the pieces and move forward. It is a simple but an emotional song, especially when I sing it to people.

It’s been said that your music has almost worked as therapy sessions, helping you through what you’ve gone through in the past four years.  How does that work?
I never really opened up about my feelings to my close friends or my family. I like to write my emotions on paper, it’s more secretive and I don’t feel like anyone judges me for it. So when I get it out of my system, I burn it and then I start writing the song in a metaphor poem.

Where will you be touring next?  Where will you be over Summer?
I will be touring NZ in September and doing shows and Festivals in Singapore, Korea, Rarotonga and Melbourne for the next 2-3 months.

NZ Fashion Week has just come to an end so I  have to ask you, how would you describe your personal style…. both musically and fashionably?
Musically I transcend musical genres soul, funk, rock and a hybrid of more and I guess Fashionably Edgy Board Room Pin-up haha.

If you had to describe your music to someone, how would you do so?
Future-Soul, Indie Rock.

What inspires Iva Lamkum?
Everything and Anything.

Any last words?
If you can dream it, you can do it.

*WIN* – we have a double pass see Iva live in Auckland this Thursday, 13 September:  http://bit.ly/O6GAkq – for more info.  Winners announced at midday on Thursday.