Shapeshifters and global drifters: New Zealand’s finest head to Parkwood

Shapeshifter have carved a name for themselves by creating a stadium-sized sound that simply cannot be pigeonholed. It’s electronica, but with layers of drum and bass, heavy soul, jazz and funk, pummeling guitar-driven jams and shapeshifting spice. The New Zealand five-piece – one of the most popular bands in that country – draw massive audiences at home and recently took out Best Group and Best Electronica Album at the NZ Music Awards. With three past releases going platinum plus sold-out shows across Europe aaaaaaand a new album under their belt, Shapeshifter are as much at home in a club as they are at a festival and they pride themselves by playing ‘off the grid’ using analogue and digital synths.

Twelve years of performing live and six albums recorded in a studio means Shapeshifter can totally own the title of being New Zealand’s premiere live electronic outfit. And this month, they’re bringing those transcendental electronic vibes to Parkwood Tavern. Nick Robinson had a chat to Blank Gold Coast editor Samantha Morris about the upcoming show and their sixth studio album Star.

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After playing together for twelve years and with band members living in places as diverse as Kingscliff, Berlin, Melbourne and Queensland, you’d think Shapeshifter may have changed over the years. Not just musically, but as people but Nick Robinson says not so much,

“I think we are mostly the same,” he told Blank Gold Coast. “We still travel together and play music.”

If anything we probably as a band feel a bit more comfortable in our own skin. We all enjoy what we do immensely and luckily we’re still able to do so as a living.”

“Shapeshifter has quite a few home towns,” Nick said.

While absolutely owning that electronica space in New Zealand, maybe it’s that global travel and gyspsy-like idea of geography that has led Shapeshifter to connect with fans the world-over.

“We’ve always traveled a lot and we’ve based our selves in certain places and in the process gained ownership of a whole bunch of places,” says Nick.

The other obvious reason for Shapeshifter’s growing fanbase is, without a doubt, their ability to combine their love of electronica with a live rock show. Nick says a solid synth through a big PA is a wonderful thing. I’m sure most fans would agree.

“We basically just play like a rock band,” Nick said. “A bass, a lead and chords and drums. And vocals. So I guess we just drag the big ol’ synths up on stage and just jam and see what happens.”

And what happens is award-winning music. Shapeshifter have won two NZ Music Awards and three previous releases have gone platinum. I wonder if that means the pressure is on to continue to create popular music every time. Is there an expectation or some anxiety about how a song will “perform”?

“No,” Nick said.

“I think we always go into an album as a piece of art, and not being popular is a real possibility so we just get used to that fact and just do it for the love of doing it.”

“Writing songs together and the fun that comes with it is enough.”

To have people come to shows to listen to certain songs or hearing stories of people loving our sounds is just mind blowing.”

Gold Coast audiences will get a chance to see Shapeshifter in person when they play Parkwood Tavern in April. Australian audiences are some of the first in the world to hear the band’s new material – from latest album Stars – performed live.

“We love coming back,” he said, of the Gold Coast. “We recorded and wrote System Is A Vampire in Kingscliff just down the road and we love and respect the area.”

“We can’t wait to jam out some of the ol’ classics from back in the Kingy days, as well as a few off the new album as well,” Nick said.

“See ya there.”

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Shapeshifter is PDigsss (vocals), Sam Trevethick (guitar/synths/sampler), Dan McGruer, Nick Robinson (bass/synths/MPC) and Darren Mathiassen (drums) and you can catch them at Parkwood Tavern on 5 April.

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