There are myriad reasons for L.A.B’s rise to the top of Aotearoa’s music scene – their effortlessly pleasing reggae rock style for starters – but there’s a particularly crucial one: the band’s stern resolve to always be at their best.
So when lead singer Joel Shadbolt says that it’s the band’s duty to Australian audiences to “win them over” on their current tour of the country, you’re inclined to believe him.
The highly prolific New Zealand outfit kicked off their Australian tour in earnest in Perth last weekend, with further stops left in Sydney, Brisbane, and Melbourne. Backed by fellow Kiwis Summer Thieves (read our artist on artist interview between the two bands), they’re eager to show their Antipodean neighbours what they can do.
L.A.B arrive armed with a plethora of catchy anthems, including the ARIA Gold single “In the Air”, and as Shadbolt reveals, album six is on the way, meaning fans may be privy to some unreleased material.
While he’s Down Under, Rolling Stone AU/NZ caught up with Shadbolt to find out more about the band’s Aussie trip, as well as their plans for the future.
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L.A.B 2023 Australian Tour
Supported by Summer Thieves
Tickets available via loop.co.nz
Friday, April 21st (All Ages)
Hordern Pavilion, Sydney, NSW
Saturday, April 29th (18+)
Riverstage, Brisbane, QLD
Friday, May 5th (18+)
The Forum, Melbourne, VIC
Saturday, May 6th (18+)
The Forum, Melbourne, VIC
Rolling Stone AU/NZ: How has the Australian tour been going so far?
L.A.B: We’re one show in and it’s gone really well so far! Every part of the show is feeling and looking great, and this is the first time we’ve played in Australia with the addition of Dean, our percussion player, and it’s feeling great having him here with us.
When was the last time you toured the country? Any fond memories of that time?
Last year we were here post-COVID. Travelling was very different for us then, and we had to spend a full month in Australia. But Perth and Melbourne were both incredible shows, and were two of the best we’ve ever played.
Do you notice any big differences between Kiwi and Aussie crowds?
Yeah, Aussie fans are great. In my head, it’s our job to win them over at the shows. We certainly have been doing that (on) the past few AU tours, and it’s nice to still have that mindset when we go on stage.
Your sound is so well-suited to the Australian festival circuit. Are there any big Aussie festivals you’d love to play?
The festival circuit in Australia is so strong, we’re really just sitting here waiting for the call! Of course the big names like Splendour & Falls would be massive, but something like Groovin the Moo is something that would be really special and would take us to places we haven’t made it to yet.
And what about Australian bands – any that you all particularly love?
Personally, I’m a big fan of Thirsty Merc and Ian Moss.
Tell us about your support act – what made you choose Summer Thieves to accompany you on the tour?
The boys are making waves and have the same focus and drive as we do. We want bands on our lineups that have the fire in the belly, and Jake and the boys from Summer Thieves definitely have that.
Away from your Australian tour, have you had any especially memorable shows so far in 2023
We played a slot at Electric Avenue in Christchurch this year and that would have to be one of the best NZ festivals we have ever played. It’s the biggest festival in NZ, and this year it just had an unreal vibe.
Where in Aotearoa are you all based these days?
Brad, Stu, Ara and myself are all in the sunny Bay of Plenty, and Miharo lives down in Christchurch.
It was great of the group to perform at the Cyclone Gabrielle Relief Concert back in February. That must have been an emotional experience.
It was incredible. It was really special to see so many people in our industry band together to do something for people who were really struggling. Having the opportunity to jam with Neil Finn was certainly a career highlight.
I wanted to discuss last year’s Aotearoa Music Awards – how did it feel to make such history at the awards?
It was a real pinch yourself moment. We’re super grateful for the recognition from our peers and the industry.
When you start winning so many awards, is there a danger you begin to take it for granted? How do you ensure you remain grounded as a group?
We never take them for granted and it also isn’t a driver in what we do as a band – the awards are a bonus. It took a few years for that sort of recognition to come, and at the end of the day, we are here to make music for our fans, and anything like that is the cherry on top.
You also won Best Record at the Rolling Stone New Zealand Awards last year. Surely that was the bigger honour…
Haha, yes to have something with Rolling Stone attached to it was unreal.
So your next album is arriving this year, is that right? What can fans expect from it?
We are super excited about album six as we’ve given ourselves more time to sit on this one compared to the last. I think fans can expect an exciting eclectic album with a mix of soul, funk, roots reggae, and in true L.A.B fashion, probably some rock.
With your previous albums having performed so well, going platinum, does that add pressure to a new album? Or does it perhaps ease the pressure on the group?
Yeah, we do feel that pressure, but have to remind ourselves to make music that feels right to us, not the charts or public. When the band locks into something, something creatively that works, we know the people will like it; as soon as it feels too forced, we stop and move onto another idea. We’ve taken our time and not rushed album six and feel like we’ve got something real special.
I can’t remember the last time a band was as prolific as L.A.B. Is the plan to release an album almost every year until you’re all geriatrics?!
Yeah, we have issues haha!
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