Home Music Music Features

Up-And-Coming Aotearoa Artists: Soft Bait

In this Rolling Stone AU/NZ series, we get to know Soft Bait, a post-punk band looking to impress in 2023 and beyond

Soft Bait


Auckland’s post-punk upstarts Soft Bait certainly have ambition. “There’s something in it for everyone – you could play it at a birthday party or at a funeral,” the band’s vocalist Joshua Hunter says of their sound.

Considering very few people would even play a post-punk band actually named The Birthday Party at a birthday party, it’s a big claim. But watching Soft Bait strut their stuff live for the first time at Whammy Bar last year, the energy in the room was palpably high, a ripple of excitement noticeable.

Post-punk bands have hardly been a rarity in the first few years of the 2020s, but the underground room that night was packed out with people eager to see another fledging genre band.

There had to be a reason, a mouth of word attraction, and there was. Soft Bait’s debut album, Plot Points, made before they’d even played a show together, contained formidable gothic-tinged post-punk; there were songs composed of doubt and dread, abrasive anthems concerned with power and consumerism.

The four-piece – Hunter alongside Ezra Simons (bass), Patrick Hickley (guitar), and Cameron Mackintosh (drums) – sounded like they had played together for a long time, rather than having several members who’d been inactive in bands for a few years. And in Hunter, they had the darkly brooding leading man necessary to pull off their foreboding style (his intimate knowledge of punk and rock music, as he discusses below, undoubtedly helped to inform Soft Bait’s sound).

Just under a year after that Whammy Bar show, Soft Bait are hitting the road for a national tour, having had ample time to live with their debut album’s songs for a while longer, and presumably also now armed with some new material. Beginning in Auckland on Friday, August 11th, the band will head to Hamilton, Christchurch, and Dunedin throughout the rest of August (see full dates below).

Ahead of the tour, Hunter answered some questions about Soft Bait for Rolling Stone AU/NZ, which you can read below.

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

Soft Bait: I remember family car trips when my mum would go through the CD collection and hold council with me and my brother on what we were going to sing. She introduced me from a very young age to Lou Reed, Violent Femmes , The Pogues, and The Chemical Brothers, and would talk us through what the songs where about.

It made a big impression on me – I find myself still now seeking out songs that tell a story in a quirky way and instrumentally can swing back and forth between styles. For as long as I can remember, I just wanted to learn to play something and be in a band.

What artists influenced you growing up?

There’s so much of a mixed bag it’s hard to name only a few. As a teenager, Mike Patton of Mr. Bungle was a big one, with his endless list of side projects that introduced me to other artists that he collaborated with such as The Melvins and Battles.

I was struck by how an artist could tackle so many different styles and do it well. We would hang out after jamming and just go through the list of his side projects and film soundtracks asking each other, “Have you heard this one?” Yeah, but have you heard this one?” It was a lot of fun.

Also, garage/punk was a big influence – artists like Link Wray, The Cramps, and The Mummies with the sleazy guitar tone and swamp stomp drum beats. With the visual art and attitude that went along with the music, that just set a mood I was completely obsessed with.

Were you happy with the reaction to your debut album last year?

Very happy. We weren’t expecting anything from it, we were just happy to have something Soft Bait out there and are very thankful for the positive response. It’s crazy people saying their favourite riffs and singing along to the lyrics. We hadn’t played live as a group until after the album was done and were caught off guard after the first show when people would come up and comment on the energy and how we all gelled so well together.

What themes did you explore in Plot Points? (Josh has answered this about the SONG Plot Points not the album btw)

“Plot Points” (the title track) is about a friendship where one person has grown for the better and the other has stayed the same. One just has to put up with the other friend’s inability to learn, move forward, and keeps repeating the same behaviour. Kind of each time, it plays out like a script.

Have you had any particularly memorable shows since releasing the album?

We played a show for Flying Nun at the end of last year, which was an honour. Three out of four of us grew up in Dunedin, so it was nice playing for the label that started in the same place that we’re from.

What are some other career highlights so far?

Just being able to play again – three of us hadn’t been part of a group for a few years. It’s really refreshing coming back after a break and makes you not take it for granted, especially when you have something special. After every show, we have a chat about how it went for everyone. Everyone’s got a grin and we’re always stoked. I feel like that’s a highlight each time.

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

Success is a weird one, whether you think it’s money, fame or luck. I think just doing what you love, getting to create what you want, to create and build a positive community around you. Being able to look back and be like, “Yeah, that was shit loads of fun,” would be enough.

How would you describe your music to a potential fan?

Post-punk mix of ruckus, high energy fun with some more gothic slow-paced moody moments. There’s something in it for everyone – you could play it at a birthday party or at a funeral.

What are your goals for 2023 and beyond?

We are doing a New Zealand tour in August that we are looking forward to. Hopefully (we) get to do more festivals around the place this summer. Also, to start the process of writing and recording a second album after being a band for a while now, which we are very excited about.

Soft Bait 2023 New Zealand Tour

Tickets available via undertheradar.co.nz

Friday, August 11th*
Whammy Bar, Auckland

Saturday, August 12th*
Last Place, Hamilton

Friday, August 25th**
Darkroom, Christchurch

Saturday, August 26th^
Dive, Dunedin

*with K M T P & The Sour
**with Model Home & S.E.I.S.M.I.C
^with Dale Kerrigan & HŌHĀ