South Auckland heavy metallers Shepherds Reign formed in 2013 as a trio of Oliver Leupolu (guitar and production), drummer Shaymen Rameka and Filiva’a James on keys and vocals. In November 2015 after an intense few months of recording from Rameka’s house in Mt Wellington, ‘EP Part 1’ was released on Soundcloud.
“We were mainly making an EP to get some stuff out there to help us complete our band,” Leupolu explains. “We did four songs and recorded them, then I mixed it while I was doing an audio course last year at MAINZ… It was a learning process with a steep learning curve. It’s tricky getting it to a point where we’re all happy with it. We haven’t released it properly yet. We plan on finishing a full album with a full band, then releasing an album properly. So it’s kind of like a pre-EP I guess.”
It falls to James to explain how they came up with their band name.
“I was thinking of how a shepherd has his sheep, and then I kind of put it like that with our band. We’re all shepherds and we’ve got our own fans that follow us. Shepherds Reign… just a group of shepherds I guess.”
Following the release of ‘EP Part 1’, Shepherds Reign gained two new members in bass player Jesse Reeves and guitarist Gideon Voon.
“I’m still at MAINZ and that’s how I met Fili,” Voon recalls. Filiva’a approached me and was like, ‘Hey, I like your guitar playing, are you keen to audition for this band?’ I was surprised because it was a metal band and he was the singer. I never imagined him singing before… [At MAINZ] he was just the amazing keys player.”
“We started smashing it from January onwards, just playing hard-out gigs and getting tight as. Trying to fit everyone’s parts in and get everyone’s niche sound going through just to create this collective band sound,” adds Reeves.
With influences ranging from Gojira, Avenged Sevenfold, Dream Theater and our own Heavy Metal Ninja Richie Allen, the guys believe that it doesn’t have to be heavy to be inspiring.
“I’ve always been inspired by real virtuosic musicians. Virtuosic players are what grab my attention. Doesn’t really matter about the genre to me,” says Rameka.
“All of us are into a pretty wide range of music. I’ll listen to anything from death metal to classical,” adds Reeves.
Songwriting is a team effort. An idea is pitched and everyone chips in. However lyrics can prove a challenge.
“I write the best when I’m emotionally down, so it’s always true what I sing about,” explains James. “Family suicide or just broken up with someone. That always kicks your arse, so to start writing about it is the best thing I can do… It’s not only me that can sing it. Anyone can listen to the song and be like, ‘I love this song, it’s on my buzz right now.’”
Shepherds Reign are a tight unit and share many of the same goals – to release and market a full album on all platforms, tour and play music festivals here and around the world.
“I reckon it’s hard to find a band that has the kind of brotherhood that we have. We all look out for each other and have a good time,” states James.
“When people listen to our music they know that we’re doing it for the pure love of writing music and performing. Doing it for absolute passion instead of just trying to go for money,” emphasises Reeves. “We’ve got our whole hearts in playing and performing for others.”