Since 1988 the Smokefreerockquest's nationwide talent competition has been a rite of passage for school-age musicians, offering substantial cash prizes and the promise of a shortcut to global (or at least local) fame. In this TV special Hugh Sundae meets the class of 2000, including Nesian Mystik, Evermore (then the youngest band ever to compete at the finals) and future members of Die! Die! Die! in Dunedin art-rockers Carriage H. True to the period, there's also plenty of squeaky nu-metal riffs and liberally-applied Dax Wax.
This episode of C4's music series Homegrown Profiles features singer/songwriter Anika Moa, who was signed to international label Atlantic Records and recording her debut album Thinking Room in New York when she was barely out of her teens. Moa talks about growing up in a musical household in Christchurch; being discovered through the annual Rockquest competition; her American experience and the decision that it wasn't a good fit for her; and her return to New Zealand and the happier experience of making her second album Stolen Hill.
This episode from a series for high school music students features Auckland hip-hop act Nesian Mystik who can speak from personal experience about music education after forming at Western Springs College and first making an impression in Rockquest's Pacifica Beats. They perform stripped down versions of their APRA Silver Scroll winner 'For the People', and 'Better than Change' (written by Dallas Tamaira of Fat Freddy's Drop) and emphasise how simple music making can be — they started out with just their voices and a Playstation One programme.
Alien Weaponry’s first single ‘Urutaa’ was released in late 2016, following their triumph at the Smokefree Rockquest and Pacifica Beats. The band won media attention for their inclusion of te reo Māori in metal music. The video sees them performing on a soundstage, interspersed with a pocket watch motif. The watch is a reference to a series of incidents between Māori and Pākehā in the early 1800s, which resulted in an attack by Māori on visiting ship The Boyd. The band used the incident as a metaphor for continuing misunderstandings "between cultures, generations and individuals".
Love Soup was a high school duo formed by singer-songwriter Bic Runga and guitarist Kelly Horgan. After coming third in the Smokefree Rockquest, they were picked up by Trevor Reekie’s Pagan Records. This video is about all that is extant from Love Soup, as they were overtaken by Runga’s burgeoning solo career. Shortly to be signed by major label Sony, her debut hit single (and APRA Silver Scroll winner) ‘Drive’ was only months away. Aged just 19, Runga already looks and sounds remarkably assured as she sings about a lost friendship, to a mystical CGI cipher.
Brothers Jon, Peter and Dann Hume were home-schooled teenagers in the Manawatu town of Feilding when they started Evermore. In 2000, they won the Smokefree Rockquest national schools music competition. Within three years, they had relocated to Sydney where they began to get airplay on the Triple J network. Their debut album Circles was a platinum hit in Australia and their song 'It's Too Late' won the NZ APRA Silver Scroll in 2005. Their follow up album Real Life went platinum in both NZ and in Australia, where 'Light Surrounding You' reached number one. They have continued to record in Australia.
Alien Weaponry shot to prominence in 2016, after becoming the first band to win both the Smokefree Rockquest and Pacifica Beats contests, with their unique brand of te reo-infused thrash metal. The band's debut single 'Urutaa' followed later that year. Released in 2018, first album Tū was streamed over a million times on Spotify in its first week of release. Signed to Austria's Napalm Records, Alien Weaponry performed at Slovenia’s Metaldays festival, plus one of the world's largest heavy metal fests — Wacken Open Air in Germany — fulfilling drummer Henry de Jong's goal of playing at Wacken before he turned 20.
Hamilton born Kimbra Lee Johnson was singing in public at age 10. At 12, she featured as a wannabe pop star on kids' TV show What Now. Two years later she came second in the Rockquest schools' music competition. After winning Juice TV's Breakthrough video award in 2007, she was signed by an Australian management company. In 2011 she sang on Gotye's global hit 'Somebody I Used to Know'. Her debut album Vows won six gongs at the 2012 NZ Music Awards. Kimbra relocated to Los Angeles for follow-up The Golden Echo. Primal Heart landed in 2018. Kimbra made her acting debut in 2019 musical Daffodils.
The origins of Die! Die! Die! go back to Dunedin's Logan Park High School, where founding members Andrew Wilson and Mikey Prain formed their first band after being inspired by local noisemakers The Dead C and HDU. Their band, Carriage H, won the 2001 Smokefree Rockquest. Wilson and Prain formed Die! Die! Die! in 2003. Since then a relentless work ethic has seen them record albums and EPs in Chicago, New York and New Zealand, and tour repeatedly around the globe, alongside occasional some extended layoffs. In 2010 they became the second act to be signed by the relaunched Flying Nun label.
Doprah formed in 2013 after vocalist Indira Force and producer Steven Marr met through the Smokefree Rockquest. Later that year, the young Christchurch-based duo dropped their first single ‘San Pedro’, sparking a flurry of blogosphere acclaim. A signing with Auckland label Arch Hill and opening slots for Lorde and Liam Finn soon followed. Their second single ‘Stranger People’, and its accompanying harajuku-styled video, premiered on SPIN magazine’s online edition.