Metal’s teenage sensations stole the weekend at Bloodstock festival – and they’re only just getting started
AS FAR AS dreams go, the opportunity to create music you are passionate about while also getting to travel the world is a classic. But where most teenagers will idly dream about someday flying around the world with a band of their own, New Zealand’s Alien Weaponry worked hard to achieve just that. Releasing their debut album, Tū, right before embarking on a mammoth debut trek of Europe’s summer festival circuit, the Kiwis practically stole the whole weekend at Bloodstock in August, drawing a monstrous crowd that packed out the Sophie Stage tent. And all before two-thirds of its members turn 18.
“Henry [de Jong, drummer] was 12 when I joined the band… six years ago,” says bassist Ethan Trembath. “There have definitely been times where we’ve been excluded off bills or whatever just because of our age, or dismissed by older bands who were laughing at us a bit.”
Alien Weaponry have seemingly got the last laugh on those bands, though, with their distinctive brand of Māori metal fusion earning immense interest from the international metal press, drawing comparisons to the likes of Pantera, Prong and (most notably) Sepultura, for their usage of traditional Māori beats and instruments, as well as te reo (‘The Language’).
“It’s funny, because before all these people said we were like Sepultura, we had never really listened to them!” laughs Ethan.
The distinctive nature of their music also helped the band to gain a foothold in the fledgling New Zealand rock and metal scene, eventually developing into support slots alongside NZ chart-toppers Devilskin and US supergroup Prophets Of Rage. “Lewis [de Jong, guitarist/ vocalist] and I grew up with bands like Metallica and Rage Against The Machine,” says Henry,
“so having someone like Tom Morello pass us in the corridor and say ‘Hi’ was like, ‘Holy shit!’”
“It was an insane experience,” agrees Lewis. “We were in the green room area and this dude walks down the hall and introduces himself as James from Public Enemy [aka Hank Shocklee – a founding member of the group].”
“James talked about sticking to what you believe in and not changing for anyone else, which is also a big part of our own message,” adds Henry. “Although it’s something we’re already passionate about and believe in, it was encouraging to be reassured like that.”
SUCH ASSURANCES could easily go to other bands’ heads, but Alien Weaponry also recognise the vital
“WE’VE BEEN EXCLUDED FROM FESTIVALS BECAUSE OF OUR AGE”
importance of building relationships with their fans, something they have done from day one to such an extent that they were even able to secure funding for their debut via the crowdsourcing platform Indiegogo. “Back home we have a fan called Te Pūranga who follows us around the country,” Lewis tells us.
“He’s been from top to bottom to see us; he’s very loyal and that’s important to us. In turn, one of the things we want to do as a band is make sure we don’t disappoint, and make sure we surprise people when we do something.”
A key figure behind this mentality is Lewis and Henry’s father, Niel de Jong. A musician himself, papa de Jong served in the bands Ebony Sye and Voodoo
Love in the 90s, and fostered a love for music and history in his sons that would later prove pivotal to their music. “We’d be driving somewhere and he’d point to a specific place and say, ‘What happened there, boys?’ and then tell us the story of a battle or hikoi – a kind of march.”
Taking these lessons to heart, the brothers de Jong would later use this as the lyrical inspiration for much of what Alien Weaponry does, raising awareness for Māori history whilst also championing the culture and the issues it faces today. “One of our aims is to open people’s eyes a little more,” states Henry with conviction. “A lot of New Zealanders can be totally unaware of things that have happened in the country’s history, and are still happening to a certain degree. The language has been seriously overlooked in the education system; if you want to learn it you have to be very picky about what public school you go to, or go to a full-immersion Māori school. Having us inspire people to want to learn Māori can help more of those places become established.”
As far as legacies go, bringing international attention to an entire culture is about as admirable as you can get, not least when you’re simultaneously creating music that has an entire subculture abuzz with excitement.
The invasion has begun…
TU IS OUT NOW VIA NAPALM
Lewis, Henry and Ethan are bringingMāori metal to your ears!