From the clubs to packed festival fields, Shapeshifter's heavy soul sound has seen them achieve extraordinary things in Aotearoa and around the world over the past 20 years.
The five-piece electronic group has just announced a new tour visiting Christchurch and Auckland in the lead-up to the release of their seventh studio album.
“The reason we’re doing this tour coming up is we’ve got a brand new album to release called Rituals. We’ve got new singles and videos to come out as well so we thought 'let’s do a gig. Let’s do a tour and play in some towns' bi,g beautiful venues we haven’t played in a while,” says lead vocalist Paora Apera (also known as P.Diggs).
Their new singles, Roxxy and Ritual are just a couple of waiata to feature on the album.
“We’ve already tested them out live to see whether they work and they do," he says.
Creating the album last year took an unexpected turn due to the Covid-19 lockdown. P.Diggs says the lockdown allowed the band enough time “to want to make music and to have the fire and desire again.”
“We are very happy with the result! We've had to wait much longer to share this than we had anticipated due to the general chaos we experienced last year as a crew. So our excitement about releasing the new music is pretty high.”
The group is also made up of Sam Trevethick (guitar/synths/sampler), Dan McGruer (synths/sampler), Nick Robinson (bass/synths) and Darren Mathiassen (drums).
Trevethick says, “The essence of Shapeshifter live is that we are completely 100% un-sequenced, no laptop click track. We play off the grid using analogue and digital synthesizers."
Their first performance after the lockdown last year was in the Auckland Town Hall.
“I’m just grateful for the opportunity to be creative and to have an audience I suppose, the opportunity to communicate like that and playing live shows is a massive buzz," Trevethick says.
"I love being in the studio. There’s nothing better than coming into a session at the start of the day with nothing and then at the end of the day you’ve got a song or an idea. That’s a really special feeling,”
NZ Music Month
Trevethick says he is grateful for the establishment of New Zealand Music Month in 2001.
“NZ Music Month is a strong and healthy legacy from back when Helen Clarke and crew decided that we needed to support New Zealand music and before then it was definitely like the child that not many people paid attention to, he says.
“It’s flourished into us celebrating the country is proud of our musicians in general. It’s a great thing to acknowledge.”
Over the years Shapeshifter has performed at festivals including Glastonbury, The Big Chill, Big Day Out and Parklife. They've also had sold-out performances across Europe and multiple music awards including four EPs and five LPs. Trevethick says the band has remained successful over the years because they’ve never had to produce music they don’t like.
“We never do anything that we feel we should or that we think is trendy or the sound of now or anything. We’re just doing what we do, what we feel in that moment so we’re grateful for that," he says.
A highlight for P.Diggs was featuring in Waiata Anthems with their song In Colours orNgā Kano as part of Te Wiki o te reo Māori 2019.
“I was quite scared, to be honest. I thought 'oh my gosh this is going to be terrifying'. The prospect of singing in another language was scary but also inviting as well because it was a great project. We were so honoured to be asked.”
He worked alongside Hinewehi Mohi to learn how to sing the waiata in te reo Māori.
“Her presence is really reassuring and it made me feel really comfortable. We got to the point where we were in the studio singing it and it was really invigorating. We played the song for quite a few years now and to have that new energy to it and to be nervous again - just the nervousness of ‘oh no I might get this wrong' - those kinds of nerves are really good to have," he says.
Now when the band performs live, P.Diggs sings a bilingual version.
"It’s a beautiful way to lift the song again and we get such awesome feedback when we play it live too.”