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Live Nation and Vodafone Ones To Watch: Meet March’s Aotearoa Artists

Singer-songwriter Molly Payton, soulful crooner Lepani, and hip hop duo NO COMPLY were chosen to showcase their talent at Auckland’s BIG FAN earlier this month

Molly Payton Ones To Watch

Molly Payton at BIG FAN, Auckland

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In the latest edition of Live Nation and Vodafone New Zealand’s Ones To Watch, three new exciting, emerging local Aotearoa artists were chosen to take part in the renowned global discovery platform.

Timeless singer-songwriter Molly Payton, soulful crooner Lepani, and no-nonsense sibling hip hop duo NO COMPLY got to showcase their burgeoning talent at Auckland’s BIG FAN earlier this month, offering yet more proof of the current vitality of the country’s music scene.

Following their Ones To Watch performance, Rolling Stone AU/NZ caught up with the three artists to get to know them and their music better, which you can read below.

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Rolling Stone AU/NZ: How did it feel to be chosen for Ones To Watch

Lepani: So honoured, it was such a pleasure to be a part of this.

How did the show at Big Fan go?

Hopefully it went as well for everyone as it did for me. Being onstage with the boys after a long time was so much fun.

Were you familiar with the other artists chosen for the series? 

I had definitely heard of them before, but hadn’t had a proper listen until now. I’m a big fan of Molly and the NO COMPLY boys now!

Is there a particular favourite Kiwi artist you think should be included in Ones To Watch next? 

Hales, Osqar, and Noe are definitely my ones to watch! Sorry, I can’t pick just one.

Your music is proper DIY, is that right? Do you prefer recording and producing everything at your own home? 

Yeah, fully DIY, but credit to Simon Gooding and all the engineers out there polishing these rough bedroom producers like myself. I prefer doing it all at home, the comfort and openness to being totally creative is an advantage I like to keep.

Were you raised in a really musical household? Do you think this helped you with your future music career? 

It definitely did, but mostly in terms of finding my own sound to stand out. My whole family can perform, but I was also meant to create, and music was one of those things that I was naturally drawn to.

What themes do you like to explore in your songs? 

The music I’ve released so far has mostly revolved around the theme of love, and my personal struggle with love, not just for others but also myself. The songs in my vault, on the other hand, are about anything and everything that I’ve gone through, no matter how big or small it is.

Tell us about your excellent 2022 song, “The Morning”. What was the meaning behind it? 

I wrote that song almost two years before its release. We were finally starting to move past COVID and I was sitting on a beach with my partner watching the sun set, and I found myself appreciating the quiet moments in life I shared with her. I’ve learnt to appreciate them more, and this song is a reminder for me of these moments.

What genre do you consider your music as? Do genres even matter in 2023 anymore? 

I always tell people it’s pop, because it’s hard to explain that my music is just whatever it turns out to be. I believe genres are still important. They help give a clear idea of style and sound, but I don’t believe you should force yourself or be forced into one. When the day comes that I decide to make a country album, no one’s going to stop me.

What’s coming up for you in the rest of the year? New music? Touring? 

My new EP will be out this year, and I’m fully hoping for a tour, but will settle for a show.

Molly Payton

Rolling Stone AU/NZ: How did it feel to be chosen for Ones To Watch

Molly: Really good, I’m finishing off my debut album right now and am currently unsigned and without management so it felt like the perfect time for me to be doing it!

How did the show at Big Fan go?

It was awesome! A 20-minute set can be quite intimidating but it was actually really fun. Just playing my four favourite songs from everything I’ve released to a really friendly crowd.

Were you familiar with the other artists chosen for the series? 

I was! It’s a small world here, I loved seeing Lepani and No Comply play for the first time though. Both acts were incredibly talented and it was really cool seeing such a range of performances between the three of us.

Is there a particular favourite Kiwi artist you think should be included in Ones To Watch next? 

Rita Mae. She’s one of the best acts I’ve heard in a long time, someone you can really scream to at a gig and cry to at home. Also one of the sweetest, kindest people I’ve ever met.

Your sound has such a timeless songwriting quality to it. What singer-songwriters did you listen to growing up?

Bob Dylan, Joni Mitchell, Leonard Cohen, and Neil Young were a few that I grew up listening to through my parents. They’ve definitely shaped the way I write.

Do you think moving to London at such a crucial age was helpful for your music career? 

Of course. I’m always aware of how lucky I was to have that opportunity and to meet the people I did at that age. Coming back to New Zealand, I’ve really noticed that there are so many artists that are equally if not more deserving of the opportunities I’ve had thus far but haven’t had them because of how hard it is to break out of the New Zealand scene internationally.

Are you still based in London? How often do you get back to New Zealand for events like Ones To Watch

I split my time pretty evenly nowadays. The plan right now is to go back to the UK in June because it would be nice to release the album when I’m there. The last few years have definitely taught me to have an open mind about these things though, I’m very lucky to have people I love and a career that I enjoy that I can do in either place. I will say that I enjoy writing and recording in New Zealand more than in the UK though.

Take us inside your songwriting process – are you a quick writer? Do you prefer writing alone?  

When I was younger I used to write a song everyday and wouldn’t revisit them at all after the first go at it. You can hear that in (2020 EP) Mess a bit, everything is so raw and really reflects that age and the drama of being 16. Now I try to be a bit more thoughtful and deliberate with how I write, partly because there are things I’ve wished I could change about earlier songs but also because I’m dealing with heavy subject matter in this album and it’s my debut and I want to do it justice.

I think co-writing is a wonderful tool when done right. I know that lyrics and vocal melody are the things that come most naturally to me so if I’m co-writing I try to write with people whose strengths are more in the realm of production, percussion etc. There are so many amazing musicians around me nowadays that it would be silly not to utilise them.

A lot of singer-songwriters often consider themselves to be writers first, musicians second – would you say the same for yourself? 

Technically I’m a musician first, I’d been playing the piano and guitar for a long time before I started to sing or write songs. Despite that I am a writer at heart. It’ll always be the the thing that comes most naturally to me.


How did it feel to be chosen for Ones To Watch

Fynn: Obviously stoked to be recognised as emerging artists and to be sharing a stage with some really talented people. Smaller, more intimate industry crowds are definitely not my forte and take me right out of my comfort zone so I was nervous, but a challenge is always good.

Ethan:  I can’t believe I’m in f**king Rolling Stone right now.

How did the show at Big Fan go?

Fynn: Honestly I don’t really know. I was so nervous I kind of just started speaking and then next minute I was jumping off stage but the feedback after was really good so we must have been doing something right. I think the trick to those shows is to really get weird when engaging with your audience – if we are going to feel uncomfortable, then everyone is. Especially when you put a high energy duo group on a small stage. But people got into it and we had a good time.

Ethan: Big Fan is a beautiful venue! It was fun, but industry gigs can be strange sometimes so it was fun to address the awkwardness of it all. I felt pretty anxious about following up Molly and Lepani (they were crazy good), but I transcended this anxiousness by sitting down with the crowd to chant an ‘Aum’.

Were you familiar with the other artists chosen for the series? 

Fynn: I had heard of Lepani but had never heard his music and I was blown away. Great pipes, great banter, and honestly just such a humble guy. Mans catalogue of unreleased music was sounding crazy. As for Molly, I knew who she was and had heard her music and she was just as good as I knew she was if not better. I’m incredibly excited for both of them and we are already talking about potential collaborations wink wink.

Ethan: I hadn’t. I can be really average at keeping up with new music. They both blew us away! Would love to work with them both.

Is there a particular favourite Kiwi artist you think should be included in Ones To Watch next? 

Fynn: Have you guys heard of Lorde? She’s pretty underground but she would be sick.


Where did the name ‘NO COMPLY’ come from?

Fynn: We grew up surrounded by skate culture. I grew up with an anger problem and a disregard for authority. I dropped the anger problem but still definitely believe in creating your own path and sticking to your intuition despite what others might tell you. A no comply is a skate move, but for us it’s also about putting a middle finger up to anyone that tells us different when it comes to our art and identity. I’m not allowed to do that? Say that? Release that? NO COMPLY said suck a dick about it.

Ethan: Skating has been a huge part of my life! It’s what introduced a lot of us to hip hop. We used to get kicked out or chased out of spots by angry security so the name for me is both a homage to skating and a refusal to obey the status quo.

Is it easy or difficult to work so closely with your brother?! 

Fynn: Easier than levelling up your sneak or smithing in Skyrim (if you know you know). We really didn’t used to get along but have been best friends for a hot minute now. We really value and appreciate each others musical influences which are mostly the same anyway. We have a strong bond and a great work flow and take constructive criticism.

Ethan: Very well. We just get so pumped on hearing each other’s beats and verses. I don’t really have anything negative to say at all. Honestly all we do is push each other to do better and build off of each other. Dream team for real.

How much does your musical taste vary? Do you mostly like the same artists? 

Fynn: We were fortunate enough to grow up in a house filled with a wide range of music. A very wide range. We love just about everything you could think of and the cool thing is we are not afraid to jump out of the typical hip hop/rap box and explore other genres and let me them influence our tracks. We love a lot of the same artists but are constantly showing each other new ones. From Radiohead to Kendrick Lamar, Vivaldi to Chaos In The CBD, slowthai to Slipknot. There really isn’t a genre of music we won’t listen to.

Ethan: What he said x

Are you both multi-instrumentalists? Who’s stronger on which instrument? 

Fynn: We are. I don’t know if one is really better than the other in any field to be honest. Love the guitar, bass, keys and drums. Little bit of DJ’ing here and there in my spare time and obviously producing is a big thing for us. If someone wants to give me saxophone lessons holla at your boy.

Ethan: We both try and play everything! I just started drumming which is lots of fun. I snapped my glasses in half, stomping on the kick drum.

What do you think of the current Auckland hip hop scene? Is it stronger than it’s ever been? 

Fynn: The scene is honestly popping. Not just Auckland but New Zealand. Constantly inspired by Kiwis. It’s actually insane how many talented rappers we have here. I don’t think I would say it’s better or worse, it’s just constantly evolving and being noticed more with the rise in popularity. I could go on listing people that paved the way and that are killing it on the scene now but instead I’ll just say get involved while you can. I’m lucky enough to call a few of them my friends now and I can tell you they are world class.

Who’s your favourite Kiwi hip hop artist of all time? 

Fynn: For me it would have to be Tom Scott. Amazing lyricist, writer and story teller. He literally doesn’t miss. Not to mention the fact he can cater to any sonic. The man is a wizard. Rhys Rich, Eno x Dirty, Church & AP and, Wax Mustang are strong runner-ups.

Ethan: How dare you make us choose! Here are some favs though – Mara TK, The Mint Chicks, Unknown Mortal Orchestra, Avantdale Bowling Club, BENEE, Rhys Rich, CHEFMOB.

What genre do you consider your music as? Do genres even matter in 2023 anymore? 

Fynn: I don’t think they matter anymore. People always ask us this question and I don’t know how to answer it. When they press us I say alternative hip hop but honestly they don’t fucking matter. We have a hyperpop song and a house track on our upcoming EP alongside a cheesy, feel-good tune that sounds like it was ripped from a Cadbury chocolate commercial. I don’t like to think we fit in one box.

Ethan: Genres most definitely don’t matter. Humans are obsessed with categories. Why must we try and categorise everything!?! We like to put out whatever we feel at the time.

What’s coming up for you in the rest of the year? New music? Touring? 

Fynn: A couple of new singles dropping and a MASSIVE EP that we are stoked on. Apart from that we are negotiating a few things. Shows, more writing, collabs. It’s going to be (and already is) a huge year for us.

Ethan: We are having a baby.