Stella Rose Bennett, who records as BENEE, grew up in Auckland, New Zealand on a steady diet of downer Soundcloud rap, James Blake breakup hymns, and artists who valued experimentation like Bjork, Groove Armada, and Radiohead, which her parents exposed her to at an early age. It was this boundaryless existence that planted the seeds for the songs she now makes, and set her up for a career in music, even if she didn’t know it at the time.
One day, on a whim, Bennett put some Gnarls Barkley and Amy Winehouse covers she’d sung directly into GarageBand up on Soundcloud. “I was like, why not?” she says. “I was listening to a bunch [of stuff] on Soundcloud, and I didn’t know, but lots of A&Rs search through there, and that’s how I got in contact with my producer Josh Fountain.”
Soon, Bennett was in the studio with Fountain, working on original songs. “I remember that first session,” she says. “I was like, what if I hate what I make? We made a bunch of songs that didn’t work out, but then we had one weekend—a school holiday—where I made ‘Tough Guy’ and another song called ‘Wishful Thinking.’ It paid off because we got something out of it, but it’s always weird opening up to someone you’re not yet comfortable with.” It turned out, though, that those early sessions broke the seal on Bennett’s uncertainty about baring her soul in the booth. “Now I’ve found this way to vent,” she says. “It’s like therapy. I write a song and I actually feel really good when I write a song. Now I need it all the time.”
Last year, Bennett released two BENEE EPs. FIRE ON MARZZ and STELLA & STEVE each delivered a string of instinctive, hyper connective hits that brought a rush of fans to her door. With 2.1 billion streams across all platforms, Supalonely is certified Platinum in eight countries including the US. In Australia, Supalonely, Glitter and Soaked are all Double Platinum records and Evil Spider and Find An Island are Gold – an impressive feat also matched in her home country.
Additionally, she was named Apple Up Next Artist July 2020, nominated for MTV VMA “Push Best New Artist” 2020, MTV EMA “Best Push” Artist 2020, E! People’s Choice Awards New Artist of 2020, and nominated for New Zealand’s 2020 Aotearoa Music Awards in the Single of the Year, Best Solo Artist, and Best Pop Artist categories. Her single “Glitter” won Stella and fellow songwriters Josh Fountain and Djeisan Suskov the APRA Silver Scroll in October. In 2019, she took home four trophies at the New Zealand Music Awards: Single of the Year (“Soaked”), Best Solo Artist, Best Pop Artist, and Breakthrough Artist of the Year. All of which set the stage for what would become her debut studio album, Hey u x, which is out November 13th. In a move that will now feel alien to her international audience, Bennett was able to perform two sold out shows at Auckland’s Spark Arena in mid-October—potentially the biggest shows happening anywhere in the entire world at that moment. The second of these, the last show of her sold-out national tour, was also live streamed to those in countries with less success than New Zealand in slowing the spread of COVID-19.
Hey u x is a fascinating album that exists in two opposing eras of modern society: the (relatively) carefree pre-pandemic era, and the post COVID world, where lockdowns and intense isolation are now a regular part of life. Each of the songs on the album offer up a discrete universe of heartbreak, loneliness, and personal growth, shot back to the listener as quiet communiques. “I’m writing music for one human listening to the music,” Bennett says. “I want them to feel as connected as they can to my mind. Like a message that you send to a friend.”
Bennett’s uncanny ability to straddle the line between deeply personal, often idiosyncratic songwriting and pop hits with broad appeal is on display on Hey u x singles like “Snail,” an intricately minimal track that she describes as her “lockdown song.” “I was at my parents’ place [during lockdown], and I wasn’t leaving the house at all,” she says. “There were a crazy amount of snails, and I was just fascinated by them. I turned it into a story about a snail and a human and what happens when the snail wonders why the human isn’t coming outside.” It’s a testament to her writing ability that she’s able to draw such melancholy loneliness from an interaction with a slimy creature with evocative lines like “As I wake, down goes day/Out comes night, look alive/And I'll meet you in the park/The moon will light up my path/Everything's passing by I ride to you on my bike/While everyone is asleep/Meet at the top of your street.”
Elsewhere on the album, Bennett teams up with Gus Dapperton for “Supalonely”, a jaunty breakup track disguised as a TikTok megahit and Spotify global Top 10 moment. She wrote it while on a month-long recording trip in LA, far from New Zealand. Just before she left, she and her boyfriend broke up. Suddenly she was halfway across the world, alone. “I didn’t know anyone. I was like, I’m just not in the right place at the right time. What am I doing with myself?” she says. Though that sounds like a depressing scenario, “Supalonely” is actually a self-deprecating, tongue-in-cheek exploration of sadness—an acceptance of the emotions, paired with a wise-beyond-her-years awareness of how self-pity can amplify and warp our feelings in any given moment.
On “Plain,” Bennett enlisted Alabama rapper Flo Milli to join up with her and Lily Allen for one of the more overtly melancholy tracks on Hey u x. But, much like the rest of the record, the mood is tempered by a deep understanding of outside perception, and where Bennett fits into the world at large. The Lily Allen inclusion, especially, offers up a sort of blueprint for the everything-but-the-kitchen-sink approach of Bennett’s sound. “I think I always kind of looked up to her,” Bennett says. “She’s so boss. She says stuff that makes people go, like, ‘oh my gosh,’ and I love that. We’re all different artists, but I thought we’d all sit on the track nicely.”
And then there’s “Kool,” a blunted, distorted funk anthem of distant admiration, longing, and wish fulfillment. “I wrote Kool about some people I know who seem to be effortlessly cool,” she says. “They always seem to say the right thing.” It’s a common sentiment, but in Bennett’s capable hands there’s a slight prickliness, tinted by jealousy, but also sort of skeptical too.
Sharp eared listeners may notice a common theme across most of these songs. Though she can be funny and clever, Bennett’s writing from a place of isolation: she’s alone, looking at snails, solitary in LA writing “Supalonely,” admiring “effortlessly cool” people on “Kool,” but on “Happen to Me,” she confronts that loneliness and anxiety head-on. In an interview with Vogue Australia she said, “This song is super important to me. It’s my favorite on the album, and it’s the opening track. It’s the first song where I’ve written about anxiety. There’s a line: ‘I understand why people leave’, which is touching on suicide. The lyrics are pretty dark. Life is pretty crazy right now and I think it’s important to talk about this kind of stuff.”
While all of these songs point to Bennett’s preternatural songwriting ability, the inclusion of leftfield guests like Allen, or Grimes on the drum-n-bass influenced “Sheesh,” or Mallrat’s turn on the ethereal, glittering “Winter,” point to a superior A&R instinct and a deep understanding of artistic identity. It’s also partially why Bennett has started her own label, Olive. “I love A&R work. Even when I was first meeting record labels before signing, I was talking to them about A&R,” she says. “Finding an artist that no one knows about and helping them get discovered… using the reach I now have to a bigger audience just feels like the right thing to do. It makes me angry that there are so many artists who are so talented...everyone should know about them, and they don’t.”
In a sense, Olive is a direct extension of the world Bennett is building on Hey u x. Musical genres are to be explored and adopted, songs are constructed from otherworldly concepts, and a sense of playfulness infuses even the most melancholy moments. Like much of what Bennett has achieved thus far, it all seems so casual that it could be accidental, but there’s a deep purpose behind her music and her worldview. “I love listening to pretty much every genre that you can think of. There’s going to be some element in every one that I am obsessed with, and I somehow want to work it into a song of mine,” she says. “I love the idea that you can pull an indie guitar and pull a trap beat and there is a way to make them work together, and it’s so colorful and fun when you’re blending everything and making a new fresh soup.”
Gin Wigmore Bio
It all began a few weeks after Christmas, about 15 years ago. My dear dad had politely abandoned the electric guitar he had been bought by Santa/Mum as a “relax and unwind” gift. I, on the other hand, saw it as my opportunity to swoop in and become the family rock star…well, something like that. At the very least, I figured life looked better and attracted more boys to the yard if I walked around with a black Fender guitar in my arms. So, I quickly embarked on learning all the big hits, Oh Danny Boy and Stairway to Heaven being on high “MUST LEARN!” rotation. My dad’s “How To Play The Guitar” book from the 70’s that I had dug out from the variety of dusty music paraphernalia crammed into the piano chair seat at our family home was what you would call limited in the world of popular music circa 1999.
However, I seemed to make it work. My angst filled teenage diary was now coming alive to the simple G, C & D chords I had now mastered, and my regular bathroom series concerts (audience in attendance maxing out at 2) were in full swing. For me to show any kind of interest in something for longer than at least 6 months had my parents kissing the ground and sky, agreeing that I may truly be invested in music and this might not just be another “phase” I was going through. Putting “Recording Budget” at the top of my Christmas wish list that year, my parents/Santa came through with the goods by way of $150 to spend at the local recording depot to track two of my most current musical creations. I was 15 and the world truly was my oyster. I had 2 “hits” in my back pocket, the teenage acne was fading fast, my first underage tattoo was ill fittingly inked across my lower back and my local digs of Devonport never looked brighter. And just as life dishes up sweet cake, it humbly throws you a truck of lemons right after.
My dad got sick, real sick. He passed away not long after and my world quickly fell down around me. At 16 years old, I never understood the weight of his passing, the hole it would create in my life and the way it would shape the years to come. It was songwriting and that enchanting attraction of music that would catch my fall that year, and it did, in a big way. I wrote a song called, Hallelujah. A song that pieced together all the sentiments, all the loss, all the sadness in losing a parent. It truly was the only way I could pry open my feelings at the time to relieve the pressure valve on my heart. After a year in Argentina, a failed relationship, and a move to Australia, I was back in the swing of life.
Age 21, working 3 waitressing jobs in Sydney and saying yes to every shitty gig I could hustle, I felt like I was on top of the world again. I later signed to Island Records, ditched 2 of the waitressing jobs and began work on my first E.P. with Tony Buchen. This is when I started really tasting the musician dream. Following the somewhat underground success of Extended Play, I quickly learned that the U.S. was where I needed to be. My A&R at the label agreed and next minute I found myself making my first full length album Holy Smoke at prestigious Capitol Studios with Mike Elizondo at the helm and The Cardinals as my band. It truly was a whirlwind time in my life. I mean, I even had kittens brought to an interview with Rolling Stone one time to just “set the vibe” for the interview. Were Unicorns going to show up for breakfast with me tomorrow? Quite possibly. For a little gal from New Zealand, this all seemed like some definite pie in the sky shit, but I was blissfully taking it all in my stride at the time.
My slight obsession with a band called Shovels & Rope quickly became full blown, and I tracked down anyone associated to help me write and produce the next album. Enter, Butch Walker & Jake Sinclair. These two gents were pivotal in my career, setting the tone of a “fuck you, I got this” attitude and more importantly, a careless abandon when it came to red wine. We all got on splendidly and spent a glorious summer in Santa Monica writing and recording, Gravel & Wine. That album went on to do some great things. Not only did it swipe a few Tui Awards in NZ (very proud moment indeed!), it helped kick of the sync career I now have. Placements with Heineken, Grey’s Anatomy and Nissan began rolling in and my desire to make the USA home was getting stronger. I was heavily touring at this point, I think a mixture of escapism and a decent excuse for unwashed hair seemed a big draw at the time. In the summer of 2013 I was invited to play The Vans Warped Tour. Without a doubt, I was the most obvious fishy out of water that summer. Entering the stage with my rockabilly/western attired band, amongst a sea of death metal and punk music we were definitely a band for the parents that accompanied their young children that summer. However, it was there that I almost stumbled into my future by finding my greatest love and now husband Jason Butler. A catalyst in every sense of the word, he was the man that helped pack my bags and make the hop over the pacific to the city of Los Angeles a reality.
Ready for album number 3, Blood To Bone consumed 2015 with writing and recording. I felt a larger than usual dose of self-deprecation that year and decided the only way to quell that feeling of inadequacy was to try producing an album. So, I did. A quick surprise marriage to Jason in Hawaii rounded out 2015 and with my tanks full of love I was ready to take a break from music for a while, or at least I thought I was. Like everything in life, well, particularly with music, when I make these bold statements to myself about packing it all in, the music universe always finds an uncanny way to show me the juiciest of carrots to lure me back. I was convinced that 2016 would be a year of honing in on myself as a writer for others, hanging up my boots on being an artist for a minute. Little did I know, the “artist carrot” would be especially juicy that year. It began with Nashville. A trip down there during a hot summer is like playing out a scene from a classic romance film…think The Notebook. My friend (NOT Ryan Gosling, but wished it was) and I sat on the porch after a day’s writing, Thai food take out and homemade old fashioned in hand, reflecting on the glory of the day as the warm air whipped around us, I kept thinking all these songs we were writing would be better if I tucked them away for one of my albums. After 11 “tuck away tracks” I found myself looking at a very decent body of work. And that will be an album called Ivory, releasing March 2018. So there you have it, a bio of sorts, but rather a peek into the last 15 years of my careers’ twists and turns and how it got me to here.
Pip Brown, better known as Ladyhawke is a one-woman synth-pop act hailing from Masterton, New Zealand. She is a multi-award winning and truly global singer, writer, producer and front woman of one of New Zealand’s most well-known musical exports. Her self-titled debut in 2008 peaked at No. 16 on the U.K. album charts and No. 1 in Australia and New Zealand’s album charts. She won Australia’s ARIA music awards for Best Breakthrough album and Best Breakthrough Single. Brown also took home six New Zealand music awards and was nominated for The Brits’ much coveted Best International Artist award.
Her first album’s joyous, ’80s-electrified breakout singles, “Paris Is Burning” and “My Delirium,” made an impact Stateside as well, sound-tracking Ugly Betty, CSI: Miami, Top Gear, and other shows. (An avid gamer who devotes one tour suitcase to her PlayStation and its paraphernalia, Brown credits early videogames for “sparking my love of electronic music.”) “My Delirium” likewise vaulted up New Zealand’s and Australia’s Top 10 singles chart (it was also certified platinum in the latter country) and hit No. 33 in the U.K. Three years later, Ladyhawke’s more aurally angular follow-up, Anxiety, yielded the stand-out, synch-friendly single, “Blue Eyes.” Like its predecessor, the album charted in the U.K.’s Top 40 and in Australia’s and New Zealand’s Top 20, respectively.
In 2016 Pip Brown released 'Wild Things' truly independently to critical acclaim from the likes of NME and The Independent On Sunday and synch success all over the world with Honda (US) , Optus (AUS) and closer to home with the famous Air NZ Safety Video creative team using the track 'The River.'
2021 will bring the release of the 4th iteration from Ladyhawke and with it a bright and colourful start to a new era.
As a vocalist, MC and truth-teller, the consistent evolution of Ladi6 has firmly cemented her as New Zealand’s undisputed Queen of Hip-hop/Soul and R&B.
Taking shape in different forms over the years, Ladi6 today is the group project of vocalist Ladi and a trio of accomplished Kiwi producers; her husband Parks, drummer Julien Dyne and keyboardist Brandon Haru - three of New Zealand’s most innovative creators, renowned for pushing the boundaries of electronic soul music.
Born and raised in Christchurch, it was a year-long family move to Tanzania that awoke Ladi’s songwriting and calling to perform. This led to the formation of her first group, the all-female Sheelahroc meaning “Women Are The Strength”, created with the aim to serve as an example for women in the traditionally male dominated world of Hip-Hop. Short-lived but truly incandescent, the group were pioneers in NZ music, with up to 8 members - all of different nationalities - at their peak.
Following a move to Auckland, Ladi’s musical collaboration with Parks evolved further, with the rise of their group Verse Two - a hip-hop/soul band that achieved national success, sold out tours and supported international acts The Roots, De La Soul and 50cent. With a new direction calling, a desire to explore more experimental production and storytelling, the now-household name that is LADI6 began taking shape. The band released Time Is Not Much, the debut album co-produced by Mu (Fat Freddy’s Drop), which introduced a series of future soul classics to the NZ vernacular, hit a Top 5 chart position and led to them being picked up by leading London indie BBE. Their follow-up LP, The Liberation Of… was released in 2010, co-produced with Blumentopf’s Sebastian Weiss, bringing to life the platinum selling single and certified NZ classic "Like Water". In 2013, Ladi and Parks decamped to Detroit’s Studio A, where they collaborated with Detroit Hip-Hop royalty, Waajeed, who joined Executive Producer Parks at the helm on LP, Automatic, with lead single "Ikarus" confirming beyond doubt, the versatility of Ladi6 and their un-willingness to rest on what could otherwise be considered rather impressive laurels.
Maintaining standards that demand they push their creativity led to the birth of 2015’s Alpha Sessions; re-imagining the studio in a live context, and then fully improvising the performance without any kind of sonic safety net. For Ladi6 it has become a vital component in the songwriting process, clearly transporting them to their creative boundaries and beyond, which is evident on 2017’s Royal Blue 3000 EP with disruptive delights like "Guru", and "Royal Blue".
With a catalogue that marks a woman whose only comfortable taking risks, the inspiring live show that Ladi6 brings is no exception to this rule. Taking the stage with a decade of world touring under her belt, her ability to connect and uplift her audience is where she thrives as frontwoman. Following tours across NZ, Australia and Europe with the likes of Erykah Badu, Jhene Aiko, Digable Planets and Fat Freddys Drop, it was supporting Gil Scott-Heron on his final UK and European tour prior to his passing - taking the stage before him at London’s prestigious Royal Albert Hall - that stands as a career highlight.
Signing to Australia’s Soul Has No Tempo for management, a new album and notable collaborations in the pipeline for 2021, and permanently flanked by the fierce talent of her dancers ‘THE SIXXES’, the formidable domination of Ladi6 continues.
Legendary kiwi band stellar* return with their unique blend of rock and electronica to crank out 20 years of timeless classics.
Their acclaimed live shows feature every one of those five radio hits from their debut album 1999’s Mix – gems like 'Violent', 'What You Do (Bastard)', 'Undone', 'Every Girl', and 'Part of Me'.
And then there’s chart-toppers like 'All It Takes', 'Taken' and 'Star' (all off 2001's Magic Line album), and 'For A While' (feat. Andy Lovegrove) and 'Whiplash' from their third album Something Like Stranger.
They became Sony Music NZ's highest selling Kiwi band, collecting eight NZ Music Awards along the way. All three albums charted within the top 10 of the NZ Album Chart, securing their status as a classic mainstay in the New Zealand music scene.
Since reforming in late 2017 to perform Maxine at the NZ Music Awards as a tribute to Hall of Fame inductee Sharon O’Neill, the band has toured the country, played major festival dates (alongside Billy Idol, Shihad, the feelers, Dave Dobbyn, LAB and more) and been in demand with radio and TV appearances.
In 2019, stellar* and Sony celebrated the 20th Anniversary of their chart-topping debut album Mix with a vinyl reissue of the album, and a New Zealand tour.
The band still features the same line-up that released their first single on Sony Music NZ back in 1998, 'What You Do (Bastard)' - that’s Boh Runga (vocals, guitar), Andrew Maclaren (drums, programming), Kurt Shanks (bass) and Chris van de Geer (guitar).
The Beths Bio
The Beths hail from the vibrant and deeply collaborative music community of Auckland, New Zealand. Lead vocalist and guitarist Elizabeth Stokes met guitarist Jonathan Pearce and bassist Benjamin Sinclair while they were all in bands in high school. While playing underground gigs around Auckland, they befriended drummer Tristan Deck, who joined the group in 2019. Their blend of propulsive, sing-along choruses, four-part vocal arrangements, and wry, introspective lyrics has earned them fans around the world, as well as opening slots for indie rock titans like The Breeders, Pixies, Weezer, and Death Cab for Cutie.
After putting out their first EP Warm Blood in 2016, The Beths signed to Carpark Records, who issued their 2018 debut album Future Me Hates Me. The record’s irresistible pop rock hooks drew acclaim from Rolling Stone, Pitchfork, NPR, Stereogum, the A.V. Club, and a host of other publications, many of whom listed Future Me Hates Me among their favorite LPs of 2018. The album also made the shortlist for New Zealand’s 2018 Taite Music Prize, and Stokes has twice been nominated for the Silver Scroll Award, New Zealand’s most prestigious songwriting honor. In 2019, The Beths were nominated for five Vodafone New Zealand Music Awards, winning Best Group and Best Alternative Artist.
After touring the northern hemisphere for a year and a half in 2018 and 2019, The Beths regrouped to write and record their second album, Jump Rope Gazers, a sparkling collection of songs that deepens and expands the bright talent they showed on their early releases. Bonds between the band members only grew after spending so much time on the road together, and their camaraderie shows on their new work. Recorded and produced by Pearce in his Auckland studio, Jump Rope Gazers will be released by Carpark in 2020, a year that promises to bring The Beths’ delightful music to even more new listeners.
Paige is a singer-songwriter from Auckland, who has won the world over with her honest and heartfelt songs.
In 2020 she released her EP, ALWAYS GROWING, which included the songs ‘Bloom’, ‘Yellow’, ‘Too Much To H8’ and ‘Waves’. The EP dominated the NZ Official Charts after its release, with ‘Waves’ hitting top 10 radio airplay in NZ - helping to establish Paige as one of New Zealand’s most exciting new artists. The seven-track record also earned Paige two nominations at the Aotearoa Music Awards for ‘pop artist of the year’ and ‘breakthrough artist’. The AMAs are being held in November.
Aside from clocking up millions of streams on her own songs, Paige has collaborated with fellow Kiwi acts Balu Brigada and JessB.
She has also toured with some of the country’s most popular bands, such as Drax Project and Six60. She has also opened for international acts like George Ezra, Ruel and Nina Nesbitt.
Expect to see Paige at many of biggest shows and festivals in over summer 2020/21, including Soundsplash, Homegrown and supporting Six60.
Foley have made a name for themselves by acting out against the standard producer-vocalist two piece model; instead writing, performing and producing everything completely collaboratively. In an industry where female vocalists are often commoditised, it’s an important distinction to make.
The pair have developed a strong point of view as commentators of millennial doubt and confusion. They have never shied from laying bare the stark challenge of navigating love and relationships in your 20s, attempting to piece together some sense around the most universal of emotions.
Honest to a fault, Foley have quickly picked up a fanbase of young like-minded listeners for their fun-loving attitude, and genuinely unbreakable friendship. Their transparency with each other and their fanbase makes for a hilarious, emotionally authentic and carefree relationship that will have you laughing and crying in the same breath.
Ahead of their debut EP, Foley’s fifth single ‘Cola’ was added across all major NZ radio stations and reached top 50 & the #1 independent song on the NZ radio charts and was the only independent song in the Pop Top 40.
Foley have graced New Zealand’s largest New Years festival Rhythm & Vines 3 times, most recently playing a main-stage slot on New Year’s Eve. The pair have also shared the stage with Two Door Cinema Club, Flight Facilities & Crooked Colours at indie fest Spring City and opened for Six60’s stadium show in Hamilton early in 2020.
Last year, Foley landed a prestigious APRA Silver Scroll Nomination for their fourth single ‘Can’t Help The Way’ which also hit #2 on the Official NZ Hot 20 charts.
The pair now have over 3 million streams and have featured across multiple global DSP playlists, including Spotify’s New Music Friday US, UK, Sweden & AU/NZ and Apple Music’s A-List playlists.
Behind the scenes, the duo have formed a relationship with producers Josh Fountain (Benee, LEISURE, MAALA) and Djeisan Suskov (Mitch James, Matthew Young, LEISURE).
Foley’s fifth single ‘Cola’ was released November 1st, 2019
Chelsea Jade Bio
Captivating, Los Angeles-based performance artist and singer songwriter, Chelsea Jade, returns to New Zealand this summer. Her critically acclaimed debut album Personal Best featured the singles 'Low Brow', 'Life of the Party', 'Ride or Cry', 'High Beam' and 'Laugh It Off'.
With a focus on literate lyricism, Chelsea Jade harnesses an art school approach through her low impact, high drama vocal performance and lateral visual sensibilities. In short, Chelsea immediately captivates.
Born in Cape Town, South Africa and raised in New Zealand, she began as a dancer and gravitated towards music early on, falling in love with the conversation between the ballet pianist and her own movement.
Eventually being caught between the high concept world of art school and a romance with the immediacy of pop music, Chelsea abandoned her studies in the middle of exams and fled to New York for a series of writing sessions with Justyn Pilbrow (The Neighbourhood).
A fan-girl encounter with producer Dre Skull in a Tokyo elevator lead Chelsea to realize that the US was the pop mecca she had been dreaming of and in late 2015, she relocated to the east-side of Los Angeles.
The multiple APRA NZ Silver Scroll Award nominee is known for delivering outstanding, relatable pop that rewards your brain and propels you towards the dance floor.
Three-piece KITA are the most exhilarating new band to arise from New Zealand’s bubbling music scene. Based in Wellington, vocalist, writer and actor Nikita 雅涵 Tu-Bryant, keyboardist Ed Zuccollo and drummer Rick Cranson meld the soaring choruses of vintage rock, touches of modern jazz, pop and soul, and warm hints of synth into a singular style.
Born in Taiwan and raised in Auckland, front-woman Nikita 雅涵 Tu-Bryant was always musical, learning violin from the age of five before rejecting the strictures of classical training in favour of the rock played to her by her biker dad. Singing and writing songs on guitar, she nearly landed a record deal aged 15 with a tune about her parents fighting over their cultural differences. Nikita had some success with her high school band, but endured private turmoil due to feeling like an outsider, with creativity her only escape. “I grew up very dissonant with my Taiwanese heritage,” Nikita says. “I wanted to be like all of my white mates. I was super-ashamed of being Asian, because both white and Asian people would tease me. I wanted to fit in. During high school, music and drama were my main social interaction with friends because of a strict upbringing enforced by my mother.”
Moving to Wellington to study jazz at New Zealand School of Music, she became disheartened by the attitudes and musical elitism of the students there, and in between writing her own folk compositions and performing at open mic nights, realised that she “wanted to tell stories that connected people through music”. It was then that she formed the band Nikita the Spooky and A Circus of Men, writing her first song in Mandarin, dedicated to a departed relative. “The biggest push to my realising a neglect of my cultural heritage was when my great uncle passed away,” she says. “I hadn't seen him in 10 years, and though I was sad, I felt like I had no ‘right to grieve’ for him as I technically didn’t know him anymore. It was apparent that I needed to bridge this gap, otherwise I would forever feel this space between me and where I have come from.”
Nikita the Spooky and A Circus of Men recorded and self-released an EP and the album ‘Big Sur’, while Nikita also appeared in various theatre productions, one of which, ‘Tide Waits For No Man’, she wrote over the course of four years and staged in Wellington, composing for and performing in the play. Further theatrical commitments found her on tour in Japan, Vermont and New York, and travelling around New Zealand high schools, performing works from Asian playwrights with other Asian actors.
After meeting keyboardist and writer Ed Zuccollo, Nikita realised there was the creative spark for a new band. As the pair clicked musically, they began to tour the country as KITA with various drummers, before Rick Cranson expressed his desire to join the band on a more permanent basis.
Ed Zuccollo is a synth master whose intuitive playing has appeared on a plethora of records. Cutting his teeth as a keys player for bands such as The Black Seeds (with whom he toured Europe), Trinity Roots, Rhian Sheehan, Troy Kingi, OPIUO and Hollie Smith, Zuccollo has also performed many solo shows to a rapt audience with a classic Minimoog synth, and regularly includes Rhodes keyboards and Hammond organs in his musical repertoire. Jazz piano is also part of his skill set, taking him to Thailand International Jazz Fest and Monterey Jazz Festival among other iconic events. Through the mid 2000s, Zuccollo could be found DJing drum & bass in clubs, and more recently he has begun to produce bass-heavy electronic material under the name Zuke. He helps bring a warm electronic edge of modernity to KITA.
Rick Cranson has worked on an extensive range of musical projects, from solo material to NZ psychedelic rock band Little Bushman and jazz group The Woods. A music graduate of Massey University, he has applied his rhythmic abilities to plenty of session work and has toured across Australia and New Zealand with many live acts.
Together, the three members of KITA generate a beguiling sound formed of their many experiences and influences. On their forthcoming EP ‘Try To Find A Way’, Nikita’s expressive voice moves from melodious and mellow verses to a powerful tone on the title track, while Ed’s thrumming synth and Rhodes keys create a lush counterpoint. The soulful ‘Breathe’ moves with a lava flow of Moog bass, mellifluous vocals reminiscent of Little Dragon or Hiatus Kaiyote, and Rick’s tumble of ride cymbals, while the contemplative acoustic guitar and unexpected melodic shifts of ‘Heartbeat’ show another side of the band. ‘Foggy Town’ has the air of classic late 70s rock, its melancholy funk and reverb-drenched vox leading into the most epic of choruses. KITA are currently working on their debut album with Grammy-winning producer Tommaso Colliva (Muse, Razorlight).
Maya ft. Sweet Mix Kids Bio
Maya Vice has a unique heritage of African-American, Austrian and Czechoslovakian descent. Melbourne born, her journey began care of her musician father who taught her blues, soul, jazz - all that he learned through having a lengthy career in New York.
With a strong start improvising blues in bars with her father's band at age 12, Maya then signed and recorded her first EP ‘Future Soul’. Following the release of 'Future Soul', Maya then toured LA and New York, landing herself offers from around the globe and a year of writing and recording with producers all through Europe and America.
Maya Vice creates honest soul music with the essences of jazz, blues and hip hop. Bass lines that make you move and vocal layers that bring a groove. This harmonic songstress has soul, ya'll! Maya Vice is collaborating with some of Melbourne, New Zealand & the UK's finest upcoming musicians and producers.
2021 sees Maya signing to One Love and Your Favourite Team to create her next EP, and touring New Zealand performing her track "Get Serious" with Aotearoa's DJ/Producer duo Sweet Mix Kids.