Ten of the best New Zealand acts you need on your radar
25.05.2021

Ten of the best New Zealand acts you need on your radar

Words by Eli Duxson

Exploring the finer sounds from across the ditch.

New Zealand has pumped out a lot of brilliant musical acts over the years from Split Enz to Dragon to Flight of the Conchords.

With bands now really taking advantage of the Trans-Tasman bubble, we look at some bands and artists coming out of New Zealand who are killing it, and some to keep an eye out for as they continue their rise.

Read the latest features here.

Mako Road

The four-piece indie-rock group have made some big inroads since their formation in Christchurch just four years ago totalling almost half a million monthly listeners on Spotify,

Their forthcoming debut album Stranger Days is out July 30 and their supporting tour saw their three Australian shows sell out in hours. 

Their earlier singles mixed ska and reggae with alternative, melodic guitar riffs with ‘The Green Superintendent’ sure to melt your face off.

The three singles released from their new track develop on their psych-rock feel with driving basslines and some funky guitar riffs and tones.

Tickets are still available for their New Zealand shows.

The Beths

Hailing out of Auckland in 2015, indie-pop group The Beths have earnt themselves a strong following after releasing two albums, Future Me Hates Me (2018) and Jump Rope Gazers (2020).

The group has opened for indie-rock behemoths in Death Cab for Cutie, Pixies, and Weezer.

They have described their lyrics as propulsive with “sing-along choruses, four-part vocal arrangements with wry, introspective lyrics”, but it is their restlessly energetic and overdriven music that creates the perfect energy for those elated feelings we get.

Their sophomore album does not share the same consistent energy as their debut, but it does allow for Elizabeth Stokes’ self-aware lyrics to really command attention as the music becomes more melodic.

Find tickets here for upcoming shows in Australia, New Zealand, and the UK.

Benee

Arguably the most popular artist on this list is 21-year-old indie-popstar Benee who won Single of the Year, Best Solo Artist and Best Pop Artist at the New Zealand Music Awards in 2019 and 2020.

Her 2019 single ‘Supalonely’ (feat. Gus Dapperton) saw her international popularity rise following its use on Tik Tok.

She performed the track on The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon and The Ellen DeGeneres Show and released her debut album Hey u x in 2020.

Her meteoric rise in New Zealand and Australia has seen her up for her first headlining tour in North America should the COVID-19 pandemic allow her to reschedule for her millions of global fans.

Find tickets here for her upcoming New Zealand Shows.

JessB 

Hip-hop artist Jess Bourke used to play professional netball for the Central Pulse but decided to pursue a career in music after bursting onto the scene as the first female MC to feature David Dallas’ Red Bull 64 Bars.

She released her debut EP Bloom in 2018 and her second New Views in 2019 after gaining a consistent following and attracted many more with performance at the New Zealand Music Awards of ‘Set It Off’.

Since then, JessB has featured on a number of massive tracks, with one of her biggest placements coming in the form of a verse on the remix of Saweetie and Doja Cat’s Billboard chart dominating track ‘Best Friend’.

Her listeners are mostly based in Australia and New Zealand, but she has supported big international acts such as YG and Stormzy, so you can expect her steep rise in popularity to continue post-pandemic with international travel available.

Jonathan Bree

With consistent listeners in countries like Mexico, Turkey, and France, Kiwi singer-songwriter and producer Jonathan Bree has earned a “cult following” following his involvement with The Brunettes and Lil’ Chief Records.

Bree describes his musical palette as dark Disney, “known for melodic compositions where he croons about modern life and love, over string parts that slide precariously between notes and dulcitone chimes”.

Spanning across genres like indie pop, baroque pop, and new wave, Bree’s live shows contain masked band members with dancers and a deliberately cinematic backdrop for each song which have gone viral online.

At 41 years of age, he shows no signs of slowing down with his solo work releasing his fourth album After the Curtains Close in 2020.

Alien Weaponry

Revolver Magazine labelled thrash metal trio Alien Weaponry as “one of the most exciting young metal bands in the world” following their debut album in 2018.

Their blend of thrash metal with their native Māori language has earnt them a big following in New Zealand, but a three-album deal with Austrian Napalm Records and shifting management to The Rick Sales Entertainment Group, they have gained international coverage.

They are set to open for Gojira on their next tour and in January 2021, they featured on the cover of the Heavy Metal Magazine with the tagline, “Meet the Future of Metal”.

Alien Weaponry are currently performing with the New Zealand Symphony Orchestra and will head to the US later in the year for their Gojira stint and feature in Daytona’s Rockville festival.

Soaked Oats

Dunedin’s indie-rockers Soaked Oats have been described as a “southern stew of Kurt Vile, Mac DeMarco with a good shake of Kevin Morby”.

Pensive lyrics and often bottled-sunshine guitar tones complete their songs as their notably infectious and jovial stage presence also elicits. 

Trotting on the edge of surf rock and indie-pop, the four-piece has also drawn comparisons from The Velvet Underground to The Strokes.

In just four years they have more than 70,000 monthly listeners across mostly Australia and New Zealand, but after a self-funded tour to the US in 2018, you can expect their audience to expand as they verge on that beloved Mac Demarco-style.

Yumi Zouma

Yumi Zouma are an alternative pop group that formed in Christchurch in 2014 initially as a long-distance recording project between friends online.

They released EP I in the same year, which was embraced online, and two more EP’s and three full length albums later, they attract more than 500,000 monthly listeners across Australia and New Zealand, as well as maintaining a sizeable fanbase in England and America.

They also reimagined their 2020 album Truth or Consequences during the lockdown and released an alternate version.

With keys and synthesisers, they often sit within the dream pop category like The 1975 or Fleetwood Mac.

Find tickets for upcoming gigs here.

Daily J

Indie/psych band Daily J hail out of the South Island’s Blenheim and now work out of Auckland where they released their debut album Venus Ate Mars in 2020.

The group describes their unique sound as “blissful blends of warm swirling melodies, dynamic basslines and a subtle pop electronica influence”.

One of three brothers in the group, vocalist Jayden Paul, said he started listening to Kings of Leon and Arctic Monkeys when he gained his independence, which seems like a poignant starting point or his vocal style.

‘Left Me Like Summer’ is their most popular track off their debut album totalling more than 1.5 million streams on Spotify.

Aldous Harding

Lyttleton, Christchurch’s Aldous Harding is an indie folk singer song writer who featured on her mother Lorina’s album as a 13-year-old, although she had no interest in pursuing a music career of her own.

She later got back into songwriting and singing and after being spotted busking, Anika Moa asked her to open her show on that same night.

Her debut album erred on the side of gothic indie folk, but her recent albums in Party (2017) and Designer (2019) have taken a more “off-kilter” approach like Cate Le Bon and Nico.

Harding boasts a large audience in Europe and currently works out of Cardiff, Wales.

Revisit our recent interview with Aussie rock legends You Am I.