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NewTracks New Artist: Coldroom

NewTracks New Artist: Coldroom

The Best Worship Artist (album) Tui award is one of those categories that television coverage of the NZ Music Awards annually skips in favour of ad breaks. For those paying closer attention Auckland’s Equippers Worship church has been a regular finalist in recent years, indeed claiming the Tui in 2018. The members of Coldroom have Equippers to thank not just for their musical friendship but also for the name of their newcomer electronic pop act. Their single We’re In A Dream was featured on NZ On Air Music‘s NewTracks compilation for April.

What are your names, where are you from and what instruments do you play?

Kenan: I’m Kenan Stephenson from Auckland and I’m one-third of Coldroom, alongside David Darby from Dunedin and Ramon O’Gorman (our visual guy) from Pukekohe. I sing and play enough guitar to write songs, David plays keys and Ramon plays his MacBook Pro.

Was any high school or other music training especially important to you?

David: Our church runs a creative arts school, so after high school, I did a year-long course there, where my ear for hearing chords and melodies improved a lot. I also did a year of jazz piano at Auckland Uni, which was pretty intensive, but so so good. 

Any other projects might we know you from?

Kenan: Any worship music listeners would know us from Equippers Revolution, who we all still write and create with. 

What’s the background of how Coldroom came to be? 

Kenan: David and I spent a summer in Rome a few years ago to help with our church campus that was starting up there. We lived by the sea with an amazing family there and that’s where we first started making music together. We’ve wanted to make pop/electronic music for a while now and so we decided to actually start a project together in 2019 with our good friend Ramon.

How has your writing (or music) evolved from your beginnings in songwriting to now?

Kenan: The church we grew up in, Equippers, has a really amazing creative culture with leaders that encourage you, pull the best out of you and challenge you to grow. I think growing up in an environment like that has really set us up well and we have to credit our church for that. Worship music is quite difficult to write because it’s not about you and self-expression, it’s more about music that can relate to others, with the goal being to lift everyone’s focus to worship. Pop music is something we have always really wanted to do and so we’re learning on the go and really embracing the challenge.

How and when did you come up with the name for the new project?

Kenan: The house that we lived in by the sea in Italy was the coldest house ever and the room we stayed in was like a fridge, so we named it after that, since that was where it all began I guess… in a cold room.

This release aside, what’s been the big highlight to date?

Kenan: Our biggest highlight to date was making April’s NZOA New Tracks compilation. We only started releasing music in November, so we’re hopefully just getting started. To be honest, we’re just really really stoked that our friends have liked our music. It’s nerve-racking to put yourself out there and so we’re really stoked that people like our music.

What makes We’re In A Dream stand out as a single?

David: For me it’s our best single yet, in terms of writing, sound and production – but also it gives me sense of nostalgia and connects on an emotional level, not just surface level. 

Kenan: Tamzyn Rijns, who sings the lead on this track is a good friend of ours and is one of our favourite singers. She has a beautiful voice and I think that it helps it stand out.

What is the story behind We’re In A Dream?

Kenan: I got married in September last year and I think it’s just an honest reflection of how love can feel too good to be true at times. It feels dream-like and so I wanted to write a really happy dreamy song that reflected that.

What’s your favourite moment, musical or lyrical, of the single?

David: At the start of the first pre-chorus, ‘Too good to be true this feeling, way up in the clouds’. I just really love Tamzyn’s voice in combination with the dreamy pads, soundscape here.

Who did you work on the song with and where? 

David: Kenan and I wrote and produced it just in my bedroom. Then when we recorded, we brought Tamzyn in and set up a recording booth in the wardrobe! It was a really hot day when we recorded, so she was a real trooper dealing with the heat and our DIY setup. She killed it.

What would you like listeners to take away from the track?

Kenan: I hope people feel happy after listening to this song.

How do you work out what would make a good single?

David: We have a compilation of ideas sitting on my computer and Kenan’s phone, so we’re currently just picking the idea we’re vibing with the most in that time and then we see where that goes. If we still like it, we’ll put the finishing touches on it and release it – keeping in mind it’s early days on this project, so we’re not too fussy, we just want to put out music that we like and that we’re proud of.

Is there anyone else in your team?

Kenan: It’s just us three at the moment. We do everything ourselves and we’re really enjoying the challenge. Because we don’t have management or a label and don’t know many people in the industry, we’re super thankful for NZ On Air and NZM for the support on this song.

Can you please name three other local tunes that would fit well on a playlist alongside your song.

Choosing three songs from local artists that we really admire: Sparking My Fire by Sachi, Go With You by Baynk and Focus by Chris Bates & Luan.

Have any previous NZOA applications not been successful? Got any advice for others? 

Kenan: Yes, our first two singles missed out on the New Tracks playlists. My advice for others just starting out like us would be to just keep trying. Let the bad news of missing out fuel you to work harder and see any rejection as a challenge to learn from and improve. 

Was there any NZOA criterion you struggled with in the application? 

Kenan: No, we found the new tracks application quite straightforward which was helpful. 

Are there any musical blogs, Youtube channels or podcasts you’re super into?

David: I’m a YouTube kind of guy. Mix With The Masters is really fascinating, so much golden info from the best in the business. DAW Nation is where I go to geek out over electronic artists and get insight to some of their production techniques.

Any last words?

Thank you NZM for having us, NZ On Air for putting us on the April NewTracks compilation and a huge thank you to anyone who listens, It really does mean a lot to us to hear people like the music that we really enjoy making.

 

New Tracks is a compilation of new music from New Zealand artists which is distributed to broadcast and online platforms on the first of each month. Previously the Kiwi Hit Disc, New Tracks is one of the ways that New Zealand on Air promotes kiwi music to the industry, radio, streaming services, and media. To apply for New Tracks you must have a completed, airplay-ready song and a promotional plan.