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Up-And-Coming Aotearoa Artists: Lost Tribe Aotearoa

In this Rolling Stone AU/NZ series, we get to know Lost Tribe Aotearoa, an eight-member family band from Raglan that blends reggae with their native roots

Lost Tribe Aotearoa

RADAR Photography NZ

Good vibrations are at the heart of Lost Tribe Aotearoa, a mighty eight-piece family band based out of Whaingaroa/Raglan.

With their infectious reggae sound, mixed with touches of blues, ska, rock, and hip-hop, as heard on their most recent EP, Lost & Found, they aim to create music that crucially appeals to the masses.

“It feels great to be producing music that resonates with so many different people from so many different backgrounds,” as the band say. “We love to see the joy on peoples faces when we play live.”

Lost Tribe Aotearoa burst onto the scene with their debut single “Irie”, winning the 2018 Mai FM Big Break competition and reaching number seven on the NZ Charts. In 2019, they earned a nomination for Best Roots Artist alongside L.A.B and Troy Kingi at the Vodafone New Zealand Music Awards. They’ve energised audiences at festivals like Spirit Festival, Soundsplash, and also made their debut at Homegrown this year.

Looking ahead, Lost Tribe Aotearoa (LTA) just released their first te reo Māori song, “Āio”, a soulful reimagining of the aforementioned “Irie”, marking a pivotal moment as the band infuse their native language into their music.

“This is our first waiata Māori, but is definitely not the last,” they explain. “We feel this song is really going to push us to write more songs in te reo and also help our own journeys into learning our language at a deeper level.”

With their Lost & Found EP out now, and upcoming summer shows on the way, LTA answered some questions for Rolling Stone AU/NZ, which you can read below.

Rolling Stone AU/NZ: How did music influence you in your early life?

Lost Tribe Aotearoa: Growing up as Māori, we were surrounded by music – we sing in times of celebration, in time of mourning, and as a way to tell stories.  Growing up around this gave us the hunger to explore different musical avenues and also spread our message through song.

What artists influenced you growing up?

Being an eight-piece band, many different musical influences can be heard in our music. It ranges from the likes of classical music through to old school rock and roll. This would include bands like Led Zeppelin and Jimi Hendrix through to the likes of Mozart.

Another big influence for the band are reggae artists throughout history like Bob Marley. Many Indigenous cultures, both internationally and in the South Pacific, see reggae as a genre that unites people through the messages they convey and we are no different.

Local influences of late are the likes of Kora and Katchafire who have paved the way domestically and internationally for bands like us from Aotearoa. To now be playing the same stages as these bands is an honour.

How does being a family-based band influence your music?

Being a family-band gives us a sense of freedom when it comes to the songwriting, it can be either a collaborative process or come from an individual, wrapping the musical component after the lyrics are finished. Being family, it creates a judgement-free safe space to bounce ideas off each other and create the diverse sound you hear. Through this approach we have been able to explore different sounds and create music that our fans enjoy. 

Tell us about your Lost & Found EP. What themes did you explore in it?

One of the main underlying themes around this EP is the concept of the band coming together from all walks of life and a vast range of musical influences and, in turn, producing one unified sound. This you will hear resonating through the lyrics of the songs and also in the sound in each of the tracks, no one song in this EP sounds like the next.

We feel like we are really coming into our own and finding our sound. What’s great about this EP is the fact that the sound is unique to LTA and every song tells its own story about what we have each experienced in life and outlines the diversity of our sound.  

Each of the music videos in this EP represents a different message. “Lost Generation 2.0” explores our ancestral lands while “Strange Things” tackles bullying issues and using kickboxing as an outlet. “Shaka”, on the other hand, gives the viewer an insight into the energy of our live performances.

Was it extra special releasing it during NZ Music Month?

NZ Music Month is a special time for all NZ artists, and it is very special for us to release this EP during it in 2023. COVID has really affected the music industry over the last couple of years and hindered our ability to release music, so it is extra special for us being able to share what we have been working on since our last release in 2020 and showcasing our growth in sound.

With the theme being collaboration in 2023, this was really relevant because of all the different people coming together to deliver the EP, from the directors of the videos, producers of the songs, and down to the family that have supported us along the way.  

What are some career highlights so far?

One of the main highlights for us is the ability to travel the country with your whanau to places you wouldn’t otherwise see. We get a real buzz meeting people who have resonated with our music one way or another, including people who have used our music to get through difficult parts of their lives.

We have had many great experiences along our journey including playing some of the biggest festivals alongside some of the biggest bands and met some amazing people.

What kind of personality traits and values do you believe it takes to succeed in the music industry?

One value that we have stayed true to throughout our career is the ability to stick to the gameplan through thick and thin. As an up-and-coming artist, there are many hurdles you will face along the way. Sometimes you play in front of ten people, sometimes thousands, but sometimes the biggest lessons are learned in front of the smaller crowds and you use those learnings to perfect your craft for the bigger stages.

Another key value is openness and willingness to share. You must remember those who supported you from the start and be willing to pass the learnings on. We, for example, were mentored early on by fellow Raglan reggae band Cornerstone Roots and shown the ropes about the industry. We then honed our knowledge base through initiatives such as the Music Managers Forum who upskill people within the music industry looking into all of the different areas you need to focus on. We will always acknowledge these two groups among many more, and look to pass our learnings on to other bands.

How would you describe your music to a potential fan?

It’s hard to pinpoint a particular genre, but we have an underlying reggae sound that branches off in all sorts of directions including ska, blues, rock, and many more. There is something for everyone!  

Listening to Lost & Found, you can really feel the different musical influences from the band, and it feels great to be producing music that resonates with so many different people from so many different backgrounds. We love to see the joy on people’s faces when we play live, we take the audience on a journey. 

What are your goals for 2023 and beyond?

We aspire to enjoy creating music for years to come. In Aotearoa there are still a few festivals and artists we would like to share the stage with, but ultimately, we would love to bring our music to the world.