New Zealand’s newest band on the reggae scene, Lost Tribe Aotearoa, definitely gained some fans in the Nexus office after their O-Week performance on the Village Green. We had a yarn with Ben about their sound, where they came from, and where they’re going from here.
Nexus: So while you’re a Raglan-based band, you guys actually come from all over NZ! How did the band come to be?
Ben: Well, two of us of are first cousins, and we have been playing music for, I don’t even know, about twenty-five years maybe? And we always played covers and made up our own things. Then we decided last year in December 2017 - just over a year ago - let’s do it properly, so we got some people together and just started the band. Before that we did gigs here and there, but nothing flash.
Nexus: You guys were an absolute hit when you played on campus for our O-Week last month! Any plans to head back to the Tron for another gig soon?
B: Well, we do live just down the road, so we’d be quite happy to really!
Nexus: So now you’ve played at the University of Waikato, you’ve obviously reached the peak of New Zealand performance opportunities. Where to from here?
B: Probably Vic uni...nah hahah! Probably try and hit the festival circuit, that’s the main aim now is to get onto that summer circuit, hit Homegrown and Rhythm and Vines - but we’ve got to build our profile before then. We’re recording our first album this month and next month, so we’ve got all the songs, got about thirteen songs. We’ve recorded four of them, got an EP with four tracks. Now we’re on thirteen, hopefully it goes off.
Nexus: A name is definitely a defining part of a band. How’d you guys come up with yours?
B: My cousin literally came up with it. We were called, because we’re from Lake Taupo and we lived on the lake, we used to be called The Lakeside Boys, which sounded a bit, just no. And then when we had our first gig in December 2017, it was like ‘and we’ll be called Lost Tribe Aotearoa.’ So we’ve sort of had discussions around what it actually means after the fact, but it’s sort of like the coming together of everyone. So it turns out we’re all actually mostly family, but didn’t actually know; other than our bassist, he’s from Rarotonga. But the rest are all from our same iwi in Taupo, so we’ve come from all different corners of the country and come together as one. And it’s up to the audience I suppose to figure out what they take from it, but it can also mean bringing people in who don’t actually associate with any group or tribe or anything like that, they can come join us.
Nexus: What’s been the highlight of your career to date?
B: Oh, playing with Sons of Zion was pretty cool, at the end of last year in Hamilton. That was in front of 600 people, so pretty good. Although we did meet Ed Sheeran, so that’s probably the biggest one. So we met him, that was a pretty big highlight, but that was at the start. So we were at the recording studio and they go ‘oh, can we borrow your studio for an hour?’ ‘no,’ ‘ but it’s for someone very famous,’ ‘well who is he?’ ‘well he’s ginger,’ ‘well we can meet him and then he can use our studio for an hour, thank you.’ So that was ‘ello I’m Ed,’ ‘ahh! Oh my gosh!’ Everyone else doesn’t really like him but I love him, so I was just like bring it in man! He may be one of the most famous people in the world, and he’s a midget. Very orange, highlighter orange. Not ginger orange, like actual orange. Although we played Soundsplash this year, rubbing shoulders with Katchafire and Tiki Taane, it was mean. It’s pretty hard to interact because they’re your idols aye, ‘oh my gosh, Katchafire!’ but our drummer’s been around all those fellas, so they actually come up to him, it’s actually pretty cool. So now we’ve just got to get in the group of friends, not quite there yet.
Nexus: Who are your biggest sound inspirations, both kiwis and overseas?
B: Oh, a lot! A bit of everything really. I would like to say Katchafire, because they’re awesome. We sort of take stuff from every genre, every band really. We kind of go into blues-y, heavy metal-ish, not that heavy but some songs are. And we sort of just amalgamate it all into one, so there’s no singular inspiration, I suppose. Probably name Bob Marley.
Nexus: Irie is a smashing beat. With over 140,000 streams on Spotify, it seems we aren’t the only ones to think so. Can you tell us a bit about that tune?
B: And 500,000 plays on Youtube! That’s actually the first song we wrote. We wrote a few songs before the band actually started, but then when the band got together, we played our gig and then Cornerstone Roots from Raglan asked us to play with them on Boxing Day, so it was like ‘oh fuck, we need to write some songs.’ I lived in Taupo at the time and we were playing our songs, and then our little cousin, who wasn’t in the band, was like ‘I’ll come up for a sing,’ and literally played the start of that song, just randomly, and then he started singing Irie. And I was like ‘you’re in the band,’ literally like that. This is two weeks out from a major gig, and so me and him sat down by the lake and wrote heaps of songs, and that’s how I restarted, just off the cuff. And then, yeah, it just happened. It won a radio competition - we entered it, we’d literally recorded it, and the cousin randomly entered it into Mai FM Big Break Competition, and we won it, which was like, ‘oh shit!’ so a rap station, all hip hop and R&B and that, and we put ours in. We were the first entry, and we came first. It was playing quite a lot on there, so that was pretty good, good having mainstream radio. That’s kind of the key really.
Nexus: Your latest track, Stick Together, seems particularly apt considering all the tragic circumstances our country is going through right now. What was the intention or the process of creating that tune?
B: Well, it was sort of taking it back to where we’re from and our marae and stuff like that, and sort of going by the concept of not one person can make a difference, but if you all band together we can get shit done, really. But also unity and all that sort of cool stuff, so it is quite good for that. Badman is actually probably more relevant, but I don’t think we should be talking about guns right now. But the music video is obviously coming out soon, so I don’t know. But we were going, because it’s a metaphor for violence or something like that, and we could do it sort of American-ised and use their sort of examples for it, but now it’s hit home we’re thinking actually we won’t. We’ll be a bit careful with that one I think.
Nexus: What messages do you aim to share with your music?
B: Probably just like positivity, unity, and there are some, what would you call it, underlying tones of some songs that you associate with reggae. There’s a few of those, even in Irie.
Nexus: Where can new fans find your music?
B: Probably Facebook’s the best platform to go to, but Spotify and stuff, we’re all on there. And Youtube, we’ve partnered with a Youtube whiz kid, so that’s why we’re now getting hundreds of thousands of views, which is good but now all the New Zealand artists have followed us, so we were like the test case. Our distributing company was like ‘you should talk to this fella,’ okay, talked to him, we might as well try it. He takes a cut from the views, and then it went boom! 500,000 in a month; that’ll do!
Nexus: Besides some sick musical talent, do you have any noteworthy party tricks up your sleeves?
B: Oh shit, that’s a hard one. What would it be? Our bassist likes to get really drunk?
Nexus: Last question - best chips to eat Kiwi dip with?
B: Oh shit, the real deep stuff. The thick ones, the thick cut sour cream and chives. Or ready salted.