Meeting at an APRA’s Reo Māori Songhubs, Auckland solo artists Theia and Vayne realised they had a lot in common musically, and working together soon recorded Creep, a hip hop beat-laden track straight out of the clubs. With consciously provocative lyrics and te reo challenges, it’s an important statement waiata calling hard for change. So important (and well-received) that the pair are also embarking on a joint tour under the song’s title. Theia generously talked with NZM about the inspiration behind Creep and how it came together.
I met Vayne at the APRA Reo Māori Songhubs in Waimarama at the end of 2020. We’d never met before and although I’d heard her music, she’d never heard mine. Each day on Songhubs you get paired with a different group. When it comes to co-writing sessions like this, it can be a bit daunting, because there’s no way of knowing if you’ll gel creatively or connect on a personal level. But Vayne and I just hit it off immediately.
We were discussing a lot of stuff, as you often do when you first meet someone in a session and want to find common ground, which led us on to the topic of sexual predators, and the people in our communities who protect them. We see and hear so much about this damaging behaviour – both the behaviour of the abuser and of those who sit by, say nothing, and in doing so they allow the cycle of abuse to continue.
There is a line in the song which says, “Kua wetea taku mokonaha, e kore au e noho puku, anō,” which translates as “My muzzle has been loosened, I will never sit in silence again.” This sums up where we were coming from on this waiata. It’s time to stop the cycle of abuse and stand up, speak out and call for change. It’s time to start exposing creeps.
We pretty much finished the song there and then in just a few hours. After Songhubs, myself, Vayne and Rory Noble (who produced it) met in Auckland to finish off a couple of vocals. After that, we went backwards and forwards a few times while Rory tweaked the prod. He also mixed and mastered it. He’s a legend!
There was never any question that we wanted to release the song, but we were also aware that the topic was very heavy and that the lyrics in reo Māori were pretty full-on – basically we are using the worst kinds of insults you can direct at anyone. So it wasn’t something we did lightly. At first we toned it down to use another word that is still an insult, but not quite as scathing, but Tā Tīmoti Kāretu (āe rā he is an actual sir for his services to Māori and language revitalisation) came into the session at Waimarama and he said, ‘Don’t tone it down’. He gave us the confidence to go with words that are not pretty – they’re not nice to hear, hence the ‘explicit’ tag. But they definitely convey the strong feelings and the anger we have around sexual predators and the harm they cause.
In my own personal work, as Theia, I’m a big fan of experimental sounds, and if you listen carefully to my songs you’ll hear things like glass breaking, sirens, gunshots or even a motorbike in the song 99% Angel. I was keen on bringing some of that to this track. So you’ll hear that on Creep, with sampled NZ police sirens, flames and lighters.
It was important that Creep was a blend of my sound, which is alt-pop, and Vayne’s sound, which is hip hop. Interestingly on paper they are different genres, but our sounds aren’t worlds apart. There’s a Destiny’s Child chorus, laden with harmonies and heavy bass and 808 verses with lots of autotune. Then of course, many layers of vocals to emulate a tira haka at the end.
Gunshots that lead into the chorus really draw your ear in and are a bit of a shock coming out of nowhere. It’s our battle cry. Also choosing to sample NZ Police sirens from a chase video on YouTube at the end of the track when we set fire to the metaphorical theatre. It nods to the systemic racism and prejudice that affects our communities. The fact that many fail to seek help from those supposedly entrusted to keep us safe, highlights the distrust many have in the system.
Songs normally take quite a bit longer to go from recording to release. But on Creep it happened pretty quickly, which I suppose always poses a few challenges. It means you have to work quickly to make sure everything is done to the highest of standards and that you’re not cutting corners for the sake of haste. We worked hard and fast and against the clock to get it done.
There are a lot of people to thank on this waiata. Firstly, shout out to APRA for organising the first-ever reo Māori Songhubs and shout out to Joel Little, who curated it. Rory is an amazing producer embodying our references and vision, Jeremy Tātere-McLeod is our co-writer who made sure our reo was on the money. Also my amazing team, NicNak Management. They always support me 100% of the way and get behind everything I do and I do truly owe it to them for helping get this song released.
For me the most significant thing that came out of working on this song was that I met Vayne and have forged a new friendship with someone I have so much respect for. We’ve performed the song a few times together at festivals, and the response to the live performance has been so great that we’re taking it on the road. We’ve just announced the Creep tour, which will take place over May. Both Vayne and I will play our own sets and then we’ll join each other on stage to perform Creep. We hope people come out and see us because we’d love to share this with them.
Friday, May 7, 2021 – Nivara Lounge, Hamilton
Saturday, May 15, 2021 – Whammy Bar, Auckland
Friday, May 21, 2021 – Moon, Wellington
Friday, May 28, 2021 – Boiler Room, Whakatāne
Saturday, May 29, 2021 – Smash Palace, Gisborne
Get tickets here.