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NZ Ones To Watch: Get To Know DARTZ, MĀ x WYNONA & Soft Plastics

Garage punks DARTZ, indie rock trio Soft Plastics, and hip hop duo MĀ x WYNONA were the latest acts chosen to take part in Live Nation’s music discovery platform

Soft Plastics Live Nation NZ Ones To Watch

Soft Plastics

Lewis Ferris

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

Thunderous and humorous punks DARTZ, atmospheric indie rock trio Soft Plastics, and thrilling hip hop duo MĀ x WYNONA got to showcase their burgeoning talent at Wellington’s San Fran this week, offering yet more proof of the current vitality of the country’s music scene.

Ahead of 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.

Soft Plastics

How did it feel to be chosen for Ones To Watch? 

Very flattering! We’ve been working very hard for the past few years so it’s nice to get some recognition for that. 

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

Our producer James Goldsmith also works with DARTZ so that’s a cool little connection. We haven’t seen Mā x Wynona perform before so we’re looking forward to checking them out. 

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

Dale Kerrigan. They’re a great band. 

Are you ready for your national album tour? Is there a venue you’re particularly looking forward to playing? 

Each city provides a really different experience so we’re looking forward to all of them. Yours is a new venue in Dunedin so we’re looking forward to checking it out. Our hometown show (and final show of the tour!) at Meow on June 2nd should be really special too as we’re being joined by extra band members Charley Davenport on cello and Lochie Noble on guitars and synths. 

We obviously loved your new album at Rolling Stone AU/NZ. How did fans receive it? Were you happy with the overall reception? 

Again, we were blown away with the reception and being included in the New Zealand Top 20 albums was quite a surreal experience. We also have almost sold out of our run of vinyl so people must like it!

What themes do you like to explore in your music? 

We’ve covered a few different themes since our inception in 2020, ranging from narrative joke songs (“I Love My Wife”) to the most heartfelt of ballads (“My World/Your Girl”). The album Saturn Return sits in a pretty melancholic space but no themes are really off-limits for us. 

What genre would you consider Soft Plastics as? Does genre even matter in 2023?

Sad girl bop. 

And what’s coming up for you in the rest of the year? 

We’ll be taking stock after the nationwide tour and then we can start thinking about new material. It’d be great to do an Australian tour at some point so watch this space.


How did it feel to be chosen for Ones To Watch? 

It’s always exciting to be recognised for our music, I think we have a really interesting point of view and style and any opportunity to put that on display I’m grateful for. When people think hip hop these days, they think trap, drill, baddie music which is dope, but we’ve gone back to pay homage to 90s hip hop and how this music is still relevant, good for the soul and a great way to tell our people’s stories. 

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

DARTZ have been on the radar for a while, we’ve seen the The Band From Wellington, New Zealand LP in Flying Nun so many times ’cause the cover catches the eye really well. We’re fans of alt/indie pop too and have come across Soft Plastics a few times as well. The thing I like about both of the acts is the real solid Wellington sound they are really proud to stand behind. Which is what we are all about too, ‘cos the Welly sound is so strong, people can smell the coffee from the beginning of each song. 

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

Iac Music from West Auckland is definitely going to be big, I was introduced to him through our mutual friend. He opened for Melodownz recently and I think his music has a really unique voice. He is definitely on the come up. 

AJA is also insanely talented. Her ability to manipulate music with her voice is what we’ve been waiting for. Hearing and seeing more Indigenous musicians emerging is always an exciting thing. 

You’ve opened for some huge names recently? Who’s the coolest artist you’ve supported? 

Opening for Avantdale Bowling Club was really special for me. Tom (Scott) is a staple of Aotearoa hip hop history so it felt really significant to be a part of it. The whole band are incredible musicians so it felt like a gift to be able to just stand there in awe and watch them do their thing. 

Opening for Ice Cube and Cypress Hill was insane. It was an amazing feeling being included in the hip hop scene and even more rewarding sharing the stage with Aotearoa’s greatest hip hop artists.

Aotearoa’s hip hop scene feels like it’s having a very strong moment. What are your views on the current scene? 

Aotearoa hip hop has always existed for those who seek it out. I feel like the big boom of hip hop in the early 2000s had a really long-term effect on the sound of NZ music since then. What we have now is a whole new factor of having the internet at our disposal.

Young or new artists have much more access to these tools to grow their skills and build their repertoire. Hip hop has the ability to adapt and weave new, old and current styles that caters to the storytelling which is the base of hip hop. 

What Kiwi hip hop acts did you both grow up loving? 

Scribe, Deceptikonz, Dei Hamo, Che Fu, King Kapiti – those were the guys we looked up to when we were really little. Then CD albums were growing after discovering Ladi6, Dam Native, OMC. Dam Native especially – Kaupapa Driven Rhymes Uplifted is one of my favourite Aotearoa albums ever. 

What themes do you like to explore in your songs? 

Money, love and romance, institutional racism… I like to think we just follow our gut through making the music, and the themes and topics just naturally come through in the creative process. If we ain’t speaking about the kaupapas we live by then our music isn’t going to be heard. 

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

We have our EP coming out very soon, which has been a work in progress for quite a while, as well as gigs in Welly here and there. We have a bunch of tracks and other stuff in the works, but we like to just release things when they are ready.


How did it feel to be chosen for Ones To Watch? 

Kia ora! Very cool, very surprising – more than anything we’re just stoked that OTW is coming down to check out some of the talented acts we have here in Pōneke / Wellington.

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

100% – Mā is a local fave, and Soft Plastics are fellow alumni of Wellington audio wizard James Goldsmith who recorded and mixed our latest song “Steal From the Supermarket”.

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

There’s so much underappreciated talent all across NZ – some of our favourite bands are Sure Boy & Wiri Donna from Wellington, Night Lunch from Dunedin, and this dog & CrustaceanZ from Christchurch.

With bands like The Chats and Amyl and the Sniffers and yourself, punk/pub rock is so strong in AU/NZ right now. What punk rock bands did you all bond over listening to?

Not really punk rock but I think the correct answer here is the song “Making Breakfast” by Twin Peaks, as well as classic Kiwi bands like Elemeno P, Shaun’s B’day, and Th’ Dudes. Also a band called Purple from Texas. 

Your live shows are becoming the stuff of legend in this country. Are you going to ‘calm’ things down for an industry showcase…? 

Maybe? We have spent the past week arguing over whether to play “Steal From the Supermarket”, it’s hard to judge whether it’s a vibe to have DARTZ shout at you about shoplifting while you’re munching on a catered club sandwich… 

Since you’re “the band from Wellington”, do you think Wellington genuinely has the best music scene in the country? How has it fared post-COVID? 

Definitely – it’s a special and tight music community with great walkable venues and audiences that actually turn up and care, which are the most important things for a scene I reckon. We definitely couldn’t have started DARTZ anywhere else – the support of groups like Eyegum was crucial to us getting started. 

However, it definitely has become harder in the past couple of years, the rise in rent costs more than anything else making it really hard for musicians – and venues. We were really proud to pitch in for San Fran during one of the lockdowns and help raise money to keep them afloat during COVID.

For our overseas readers, can you explain what “Hoons” means? 

OK listen. There’s been a lot of speculation about what “smashing hoons” means, a lot of DARTZ fans hitting the DMs with their theories. And the answer is a complicated beast: when we first wrote the song, it was definitely along the lines of the classic NZ “hoons” definition – still quite vague, but definitely involving aimlessly travelling at speed in cars.

Then Danz decided he wanted to write the verse lyrics about skateboarding, and to fuck things up further, by the time we released the song, “hoon” had become the local slang term for a vape. Oh and we also decided to use ride-on lawnmowers in the music video for some reason.

So if anyone can take any meaning out of that, please let us know – I’ve just been telling people that the real hoons were inside you all along, like the secret ingredient to the noodle soup in Kung Fu Panda (2008). 

“It’s not about the journey, it’s about the hoons you smash along the way” – DARTZ 

What themes do you like to explore in your songs? 


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

After many months and many, many beers, the second DARTZ album is finally FINISHED and we are currently negotiating the terms of an agreement with iTunes to get it automatically loaded onto everyone’s phone U2 style.