For over two years now Yoko-Zuna have been crafting a reputation as one of the most innovative and exciting acts in the New Zealand music scene. Their debut album, This Place Here, first showed an act not afraid to play with the conventions of the electronic and hip-hop genres. On Luminols, Yoko-Zuna are coming from a different playing field, and have delivered five killer tracks with a sound that is entirely their own.
All five tracks show a varied sound from Yoko-Zuna, and a band which have become incredibly comfortable in their own skin. Ranging from the pulsating electronic sounds of Lightning Sabres to the brooding slow-burn of Orchard St.
Recorded at Auckland’s Red Bull Studios alongside in-house engineer Ben Lawson, Luminols features guest vocals from NZ music royalty, along with some of NZ’s brightest talents. Auckland-based rapper Lukan Raisey welcomes listeners to the Luminols party with the atmospheric opener Canvas, before Shapeshifter’s P-Digsss’s trademark howl and energy punctuates lead-single Lightning Sabres. Orchard St combines delicate keys with powerful verses from Tom Scott, while One Question puts Laughton Kora front and centre with an infectious bassline and forceful drumming. Closing track Yes features rising talents Heavy and LarzRanda, and shows the band further pushing their sound into again different territories. Hi Fi Way: The Pop Chronicles did a quick Q&A with Swap Gomez about all things Yoko-Zuna.
Is it an exciting time building up to the release of the single Yes?
Yes! It’s always exciting anytime people get to hear us who haven’t before.
What is the story behind this song?
It started with a gritty bass line in Frank our keys player’s tiny room on a Korg. From there we thought up which rappers would fit the style, and LarzRanda and Heavy were a shoe in.
How was it working with Heavy and LarzRanda?
They are all really great. We’ve known them for a few years now, and it’s always cool to see them bringing new things to the table.
Is hip hop/neo soul continuing to grow in New Zealand? What’s the scene like?
Yes, the influx of new artists in the scene is really exciting to see. Everyone is doing their thing and making their own waves, which is awesome.
How would you describe your sound to the uninitiated?
We’re an unexpected mix of hip-hop, electronic and progressive music all combining. We all come from different styles and influences, and we like to make progressive and weird music that keeps surprising people.
Are there any significant influences that have shaped your music?
It’s forever changing. We all listen to really different artists and one person will listen to something the rest of us haven’t even heard of, so there are some influences on some parts of the band that the rest of us don’t even realise.
How is the new album progressing?
It’s going really great so far. We’re still writing and finalising a lot of our parts. It’s hard narrowing down more than 100 little demos and ideas! But we are getting there and it’s starting to come together nicely.
Do you feel the pressure or weight of expectation with this forthcoming album?
Only from ourselves. We’re always on the verge of topping our former selves, and we really want to do something not just that people haven’t heard before, but something that we haven’t done before either.
Does technology make that any easier?
Yes definitely. All of us have gadgets and toys that bring so much more to our music, and the gear is always evolving.
What is the biggest lesson you have learnt so far?
Not leaving things till the eleventh hour! We always fall in that trap so we are slowly trying to get better at it.
Are you looking to expand your horizons and tour overseas? Where would you focus?
We would love to head to countries like Japan, Brazil and Europe. Some of us have travelled as session musicians before to many places but going anywhere as Yoko-Zuna would be amazing no doubt.
Any plans to come tour Australia?
Definitely! We love the music scene over there, it’s crazy. Many of our favorite artists of all time are from Australia actually!
What’s the plan from here?
Finish this album off. Make some music videos. Tour the album with some shows then I guess it’ll be time to do another album!
Interview by Rob Lyon