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.
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".
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 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.
Like kids in a candy store, The Electric Confectionaires know no boundaries when it comes to making music. The Auckland four-piece stamped their mark while students at Takapuna Grammar, winning the 2005 secondary schools Rockquest competition with their eclectic all-sorts mix of rock, garage, blues and jazz. They became known as 'the band to watch' and their 2007 debut album Sweet Tooth, delivered on expectations with winning Beach-Boy-quality harmonies and bubblegum hooks.
Love Soup was a brief prelude to the rise of Bic Runga. She formed the duo with Kelly Horgan as a seventh former at Cashmere High School in Christchurch. They placed third in the 1993 Smokefree Rockquest and won a recording contract with Trevor Reekie’s Pagan Records. Runga then signed with Sony. One of her Love Soup songs ‘Drive’ was re-recorded for her debut Sony release and went on to win the 1996 APRA Silver Scroll (and the other Pagan recordings were released as part of the Drive EP). Kelly Horgan later played in Auckland band Heavy Jones Trio.
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.
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.