Q&A: Sons of Zion

One of New Zealand’s favourite live acts, Sons of Zion, are taking to the road for their ‘Coming Home’ tour. Singer Samuel Eriwata tells What’s Hot New Zealand what punters can expect, and talks about their first gig together.

Congratulations on your new hit single, ‘Come Home’ – is it a pointer to what is to come with the next album?
Absolutely. This is the first song in a series we are doing to be released together. Each song will have its own vibe, no two songs will be similar.

What can punters expect from your new live show?
We always strive to bring something new to the live scene. Expect a super-polished set and something that’s tailored to a crowd who loves to party and have a good time.

Audiences know you for the way you all seamlessly switch vocal duties and instruments on stage – how did that come about?
Over time we’ve all chopped and changed and adapted to what we think our fans would like, for example I was the original drummer of the band then started writing songs that I could sing but didn’t like playing drums at the same time. Eventually we had enough songs that I sang for us to consider getting a new drummer in (Tawhiri Littlejohn) and I would be more out the front, which at the time was pretty frightening for me.

Your 2018 album, Vantage Point, sold well and also delivered a slew of hit singles – are you a ‘singles’ band or an ‘album’ band, or is that distinction meaningless now?
Every song we write we put 100 percent of our energy into and want it to reach as many people as possible. And yes, we treat each song as if it would be the next top single on the charts.

How was the collab with Aaradhna on ‘Is That Enough’?
I grew up on Aaradhna’s music and it was just such an honour to have her with us for that song. She’s such a humble person and she killed it on the track.

Winning ‘Best Roots Artist’ at last year’s Vodafone Music Awards must have been a special night for you all?
It was an amazing night and a privilege to be a part of it with a performance of our own.

You are staunchly independent and have set up your own business and recording studio, which is becoming the way for Kiwi musicians. Any thoughts on why?
I think if you’re going to make music that is a pure reflection of your vision, the only way to do it is by yourself, and with the tools and technology readily available these days it’s much easier than it used to be. Fortunately all of us have a background of some sort in music production.

With your extensive international tours, are you more famous in some parts of the world than you are in New Zealand? You’re really big in Hawaii, aren’t you?
That’s right! Thanks to the likes of amazing New Zealand bands like Katchafire who have paved the way for other bands like us, we’ve also had the opportunity to take our music to the most beautiful locations in the world. Yes, Hawaii has really taken our music on and made us a household name. New Zealand still holds the top listenership though.

Tell us about your first gig together?
It was 2008 or 09, a 26th birthday for Olly, a good friend of ours in Ponsonby, Auckland. With our self-sourced overly powered sound system we played a half-hour set of our originals at the time in his packed lounge! Everyone was pretty boozy but I was still in church so none for me, haha. Plenty of industry people there so word got out from that point, which we have the bro to thank for.

Do you have a pre- and post-gig ritual?
It’s pretty intense before the gig, anticipation is high and there’s an element of ‘Don’t Be Shit’ going through our minds but we get together in a huddle, quickly run over the set and say a prayer to settle the nerves. After the mahi is done everyone disperses and I won’t see them for the rest of the night.

What has been your weirdest fan request or incident?
Apart from the ball grabs and random personal items being thrown on stage we don’t get too many requests. But you know you’ve made it when someone’s nana gets spear-tackled by security on stage. Hope she’s OK!

New Plymouth, August 2, The Mayfair
Christchurch, August 3, The Good Home Ferrymead
Tauranga, August 9, Totara Street
Auckland, August 10, The Powerstation
Hamilton, August 16, The Factory
Wellington, August 29, San Fran
Queenstown, August 31, Coronet Peak