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.
International chart-topper Kimbra Johnson did a lot of musical growing up in public. Twelve months after featuring on kids' TV show What Now?, and two years before her first Rockquest success, this NZ Music Commission piece offers a tantalising glimpse of her as a remarkably unselfconscious 12-year-old — working with schools' music mentor Chris Diprose at her Hamilton intermediate. She's already very comfortable with the recording process and considerably more advanced in her music making than some off-camera classmates, who provide an unseen Greek chorus.
A decade before joining Gotye at the top spot of the American singles chart, future pop star Kimbra Lee Johnson was an effervescent 11-year-old, investigating the mechanics of making a hit recording. This is one of a series of segments she presented for TVNZ kids show What Now?. After meeting up with producers Rikki Morris and Stephen Small, she's ready to record her song 'Smile'. The venue is Morris' Devonport studio; the duo have an arrangement all set to go, so Kimbra can lay down her vocal.
Buckle up as we blast from the past Russ le Roq, gameshow host Paul Henry, tweenaged Kimbra and catwalk model Rach. Paul Casserly primes the collection: "pig out on these pre-fame Kiwis, gaze upon their fresh faces and remember the good times, before they were famous, before they became household names, movie stars, action figures and flavours of ice-cream."
The second single from Kimbra's debut album Vows is a plea to a disconnected and emotionally unavailable male character to abandon the dark side and embrace the world. Against a dazzling, infinite white background Kimbra and her crew are a riot of colour as they attempt to win over this would-be object of her attentions with song, dance, colour, tambourines and confetti. Australian director Guy Franklin's video was shot in Melbourne and features a cameo appearance from the young girls who appeared in Kimbra's previous video 'Settle Down'.
Kimbra's second single, the jazz inflected 'Simply on my Lips', was recorded when the future pop star was 16 and still at school. The starkly simple black and white video was directed and animated by Joel Kefali (later one half of award-winning video team Special Problems). It placed Kimbra with her guitar in the corner of a room, whose walls became a canvas for Kefali's line drawings. The result won the Best Breakthrough category at the 2007 Juice TV awards. Within months, Kimbra had signed an international management contract and relocated to Melbourne.
What Now? is a long-running entertainment show for primary school-aged children. Filmed before a live studio audience on weekend mornings, What Now? is a New Zealand TV institution; it was the first TV show to have live phone-ins. The series is known for its challenges that sometimes result in participants being 'gunged'. A roll-call of presenters includes Steve Parr, Danny Watson, Simon Barnett, Jason Gunn, Michelle A'Court, Tamati Coffey, Antonia Prebble, and more. 'Get out of your Lazy Bed' by Matt Bianco is the theme song memorable to generations of Kiwi kids.
Elam-trained Campbell Hooper and partner Joel Kefali have been staking a claim as NZ's music video-makers par excellence, since pooling their talents in 2007 under the moniker Special Problems. The duo have crafted distinctive promos for Kimbra, Gin Wigmore and Brooke Fraser, plus award-winners for The Naked and Famous. Their design house also makes commercials and short films (eg Tribeca-selected 43,000 Feet).
Joel Kefali has made music videos for everyone from Lorde to Katy Perry, and scored a run of awards in the process. Kefali began directing music videos during a seven year partnership with Campbell Hooper, under the moniker Special Problems. Beginning in 2007 the duo created distinctive videos for The Mint Chicks, Kimbra, Gin Wigmore and The Naked and Famous, before expanding into shorts and commercials — including an eye-opening HP advert featuring American singer Alicia Keys. Kefali's video for Lorde's first single 'Royals' has been watched online more than 680 million times.
David Stubbs is co-creator of Emmy-winning web series Reservoir Hill, and three seasons of Girl vs Boy. After starting his screen career as an editor at the National Film Unit, Stubbs began directing an eclectic range of commercials, music videos, documentaries and dramas — including Moa Award-winner Belief and musical Daffodils. In 2009 he set up company KHF Media, with actor turned director Thomas Robins.