NewTracks New Artist: SuperFly Killa

NewTracks New Artist: SuperFly Killa

Six-member Gisborne band SuperFly Killa are a winning blend of hard case east coasties (killas) and hard working musicians (the superfly bit), who came together pretty much by chance, and have stayed together out of a shared love for the wide-ranging music styles they bring together. After nearly three years together they recently scored a minor coup in terms of breaking out of Gizzy, gaining a spot on NZ On Air‘s NewTracks compilation for November. Their single is called Hold I Down and the guys were good enough to spill some background to it for NZM.

Who’s in SuperFly Killa, where are you from and what instruments do you play?

SuperFly Killa hail from Turanganui A Kiwa, Gisborne and are:

  • Quail Peneha – Drums
  • Ben Aperahama – Bass
  • Daniel Broughton – Guitar, Vocals
  • Timothy Ovenden – Keys, Synths
  • Darren Kahukoti – Keys, Synths
  • Kevin Pewhairangi – Guitar, Vocals

What’s the background story of how the band came to be?

SuperFly Killa started in early 2019 at Studio Waipaoa in Turanganui A Kiwa, Gizzy. We each had our own histories of being involved with local bands, Djing, kapa haka, teaching music etc. Through our networks and friends, we turned up to jam together and it kicked off instantly.

“I remember walking in and hearing Ben playing a funky bass line he had recorded on his Ableton live set up and I was instantly drawn to where this could go,” Kevin says. “I had expectations that we were going to be a reggae cover band but knew straight away that it was going to be different.”

From this moment we went down the road of doing our own thing and writing our own songs. We have a multitude of various styles that influence our songs including funk, reggae, rock, hip hop, RnB, dub and dnb. We began with seven of us, with Hilton Goldsmith on the helm of percussion and vocals, but due to timing and schedules had to part ways. Now Hilton runs our desk in the live setting.

How has your music evolved from those beginnings to now?

Our music started off loud, long and fast, each of us still figuring out how to complement each other. Now we focus on the melody and each add our flare to match. The whole process of writing usually begins with a guitar, keys or bass riff and we keep adding to it until it grows to where we want it to be.

We are hugely influenced by local music and music from the ‘old days’. Being influenced by some old sounds and grooves gives us the chance to explore what could be, sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t. It’s all part of the journey.

How and when did you come up with the killer name for the new project (swidt)?

SuperFly Killa came from the lyrics of our very first song Take You Down – ‘you a SuperFly Killa, you must be crazy.’ If you are from the coast you would call each other ‘kill’ or ‘killa’. We guess it’s the evolution of cuz and bro… And SuperFly, well, it’s just that person who is swift, on to it, always looking out to opportunities etc.

Aside from this release, what’s been the big highlight to date?

We have been fortunate to play RnV last year, support the Knights of the Dub Table, UniFi and other local bands. A major highlight for us as a band was when we played the first weekend out of the August/September Lockdown in 2020. People were fizzing to get out and hear live music – that just happened to be us, and we sold out the local live venue Smash Palace (250+ through the door). This was a chance for people to hear our music and surprisingly, hear people sing our songs that we’d released earlier. We were stocked with the reception!

What makes Hold I Down stand out for you as a single?

Hold I Down is our first bilingual (Te Reo Māori and English) song. It’s quite a hard-hitting tune musically and the method in which we articulated the meaning through the use of whakatauki/whakatauaki (proverbs) is quite special to us.

What is the story behind writing Hold I Down?

Hold I Down is a song that has been written in response to the times. In particular, the changes that are occurring from the top down in relation to Māori and Aotearoa. The evolution of Aotearoa as a country in acknowledging its past to help raise Ngai Māori to where we need to be.

On the contrary, though, there is still a huge pushback against it and in response, this song Hold I Down is a message to our taiohi and tamariki mokopuna to hold steadfast to their culture, and use it to guide them through this changing world. Shine bright like a diamond.

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

The linking of whakatauki/whakatauaki to portray the overall message and the link between the bilingual lyrics. Secondly the music that is the waka for our message, and finishing the song off with a guitar solo and rock chugs!

Who did you record/produce the single with and where? 

We recorded the single at 11b Studios in Mount Maunganui with Evan Pope. It’s actually taken over a year to get it done (Covid interruptions). Our local rocker friends UniFi had recommended Dave Rhodes to mix our track, which he did, and he recommended Luke at Primal Mastering to put the cherry on top.

To be honest, for all of us, we had never been into a studio, and there were plenty of learnings on the way. Our first session with Evan was hard case because we went in, saw all Evan’s expensive toys and pretty much wasted a couple of days having a tutu on instruments we had never dreamed of playing before. Coasties for you…

What would you like listeners to take away from this song?

Hopefully, they feel empowered by the lyrics, embrace the hook and learn the guitar solo, even if it’s air guitar.

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

We discuss it as a band and decide like that. It’s been quite an easy process in this regard.

Who else is in your team?

Currently, we are all the above but are looking for those roles to be done externally. But it’s Gizzy, you gotta do what you gotta do.

Are there any other musical endeavours you’re working on that we should keep an eye out for?

Ben and Tim are demons on Deluge, producing their own dub/ techno style jams. They have hooked up with Hilton and do a live gig as Psylon. Dan is also in a cover band in Pahiatua. Kevin loves his music and ‘haka boogie’ and has a rich history that hails from Tokomaru Bay, with his nanny Ngoi Pewhairangi writing lyrics for the likes of Dalvanius Prime (Poi E) and Prince Tui Teka (E Ipo).

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

Have any previous NZOA applications not gained funding or been included on NewTracks? Got any advice for others out there? 

Yes, we’ve gone through the NewTracks process a couple of times and I think the key is to make sure that the recording is a high quality and the music is a vibe – as in, is something people would listen to.

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

Not really, we just approached it with the idea that if we get selected that’s a bonus, if not, we keep fighting another day.

Any last words?

Thank you for the opportunity to feature in NZ Musician, this feels like a million bucks. We appreciate the whakairo and stay tuned for our next single – totally in a different direction to Hold I Down, but bringing that vibe.