Annabel Kean / Thursday 8th April, 2021 9:10AM
Sparked by a serendipitous Songhubs collision in 2020, Tāmaki pop / rap queens Theia (Waikato-Tainui, Ngāti Tiipaa) and Vayne (Ngāti Raukawa, Ngā Puhi, Ngāti Porou) have been riding the wave of their fiery debut collaborative single ‘CREEP’. With their Te Ika a Māui CREEP tour less than a month away, Theia and Vayne have unleashed the full noise visuals for the track, shot at Karangahape Road’s G.A.Y. by hot shot clipmaker Connor Pritchard, which we’re proud to premiere here. The pair hung up their songwriting hats for a moment to unpack the energy behind ‘CREEP’ and reflect on the Aotearoa music industry’s problem with racism and sexism. Read their full conversation below the tour details, but be sure to stop by the stomach-dropping visuals for ‘CREEP’ on your way…
Theia x Vayne Te Ika a Māui ‘CREEP’ Tour
Friday 7th May – Nivara Lounge, Hamilton
Saturday 15th May – Whammy Bar, Auckland
Friday 21st May – Moon, Wellington
Friday 28th May – Boiler Room, Whakatāne
Saturday 29th May – Smash Palace, Gisborne
Tickets available HERE via UTR
Theia: So we just made a song together, a video together, and now we’re going on tour together. What else should we do together?
Vayne: I dunno eh, seriously. A world tour!
A world tour yeah. A fashion show. Oh my gosh. But seriously how good does it feel that after one chance meeting at song hubs we’ve done so many cool things these last few months, it’s kind of been nuts.
It feels dope. I feel like everything happens for a reason. The universe aligns things on its own and I feel like ‘CREEP’ was a song that was just waiting to be made. How do you feel the song’s being received? What feeling do you get from the crowd when you perform it?
Like, I know we’re so passionate and we wrote this out of our Māoritanga and passion for wanting to fuse that into our genres. I know that we’re so into it, doing our pūkana in the studio and everything, but I didn’t quite know — I hoped it would be successful live but it’s kind of been next level. The responses from our Māori whānau and kids that come and watch are just brimming, the ihi and the wehi is pouring out of them and they don’t know what to do with the energy. And with Pākehā they’re really feeling it and it’s this whole experience. It just proves, if anyone ever is uneducated enough to think there’s no respect or hunger for our culture, there’s no way you could argue that if someone was to come along and see the response when we perform.
Yeah I’ve definitely seen a lot of the faces in the crowd, especially from Māori to Māori while I’m performing it, they look at each other like ‘wait a minute, is this real?’ and they all run up to the stage and it’s so cool. I feel like they feel that someone sees them and they see a bit of themselves up on the stage. It’s a cool feeling.
Hard out, I feel the same. The energy’s unmatched. It’s more of a spiritual thing aye? You couldn’t necessarily get that from singing in English. It’s amazing. This might be the perfect opportunity to raise something that recently popped up on Instagram about the difference between celebrating Māori culture and mocking it. Do you want to, sister, enlighten those who don’t know the difference? And some of the tikanga around that?
Recently I posted a group photo on Instagram of all of the people that were at our video shoot, sort of just to wrap things up. A celebratory photo (shout out to Connor Pritchard for doing this video), us Māori did a pūkana and some non-Māori joined in as well doing their pūkana and I got a comment from an account saying the photo gave them ‘post World Cup on a yacht’ vibes. That really annoyed me because first off, anyone with a brain can look at both situations and be able to tell which one is mocking Māori culture and which one is celebrating and paying their respects to two wahine who have created a space for them. I don’t know why you’d even compare the two.
And which one is some privileged non-Māori people on a boat with no context whatsoever, and which one is a Māori-run event in a brown space where people are encouraged to support the kaupapa and how to do it appropriately.
What do you see as one of the biggest challenges to getting mainstream media, particularly radio and TV, to play more content with Te Reo Māori?
The whole dialogue about ‘there needs to be more Māori music’ and all of that, well I think that’s bullshit because we have been making music. I mean for one we’re a musical people, but in terms of contributing to the New Zealand music scene Māori have been making music for so so so long. And it’s really good too, and across all different genres, hip hop, pop, alt, folk, traditional. The fact is we’re struggling to have our music played because the people who are in these positions of power are mostly, or probably pretty much all non-Māori and men who just for whatever reason — well I guess that’s institutionalised racism — are not able to give those opportunities to waiata reo Māori or Māori music.
I feel like if our music from our people was given the same respect and space as what non-Māori music is then I we would have number one hits on New Zealand radio on our hands. Genuinely the biggest challenge is that we’re making the music but people aren’t allowing us the space or the platform or just pushing it as they would non-Māori music. I reckon half of the issue in NZ is the racism, because if people aren’t being exposed to diversity how are their thoughts and whakaaro ever gonna change? How are they ever gonna be open to new world views?
I feel like with the music that we both make, we definitely are creating lanes for ourselves in this country, so yeah, I completely agree. And this shit’s fire. I don’t know anyone on the radio like that.
Oh my gosh I feel the same. All that kōrero around playing more wahine. Well, there’s no shortage of us making really dope music so, ya know, hello? And if you want to tick the queer box, the Māori box, the tangata whenua box, the wahine box, the urban diversity box, then play our music.
We wrote ‘CREEP’ to expose creeps, and as it happens around the time we released it a lot of stuff emerged about the music industry and the struggles female and non-binary artists face. How have you found the industry starting out? Lol.
I’ve definitely had my experiences with men and women actually.There was this one time where I messaged this guy asking for some artwork to be done and he replied ‘three pictures of your ass and I’ll do it’.
I’ve dealt with a lot of stuff like that. Like going to studios and turning up and the guys are like ‘oh you’re actually here to make music, I thought you just wanted to hook up with me’. You know, that shit ain’t fun. It’s gotten a lot better for me, but I hear a lot of stories that come from my friends and people in the community and it’s a big problem. Things actually need to be done. It’s more than just a post on Instagram. We all know what a social media activist is and it’s much more than that. It’s what you say, it’s what you do, you have to be politically active in your everyday life.
It’s so munted that we’re expected to take the lead in these situations and it’s not just a mutual respect aye. In the beginning when I started my journey I’d legit never performed before apart from kapa haka. I came into it feeling like such a lost little bubba and I wasn’t strong enough like I am now, like I’m so firmly strong and opinionated about what’s appropriate and what’s not. You have to work so hard to establish those boundaries that should be there in the first place just to try and get some basic respect and headway.
You know, I have a very hard head, just from over the years dealing with things. It’s like what Nicki Minaj says "If a woman is assertive she’s a bitch, well if that’s what being assertive makes me that’s what I am".
Hard. Good kōrero, honestly good kōrero.
What’s one of the biggest lessons that you’ve learned in the time that you’ve been making music?
I think the most important thing for me is to stand firm and know myself, and just believe that what I’m making is dope. At the beginning, even though I sort of really knew what I liked I was with a major label and all that stuff, I didn’t think I was making music that I genuinely wanted to make. So then when I left the label and went indie it was kind of transformative. I felt this freedom, with no one on my back I could just be as experimental as I wanted, as angry as I wanted. That’s pretty much the biggest lesson I’ve learned. I don’t feel like I’m compromising who I am anymore, I feel like I’m just doing it. Plus I reckon that people that don’t follow rules or copy exactly what everyone else is doing, that’s the most interesting and cool kind of art that you can make anyway cos people want refreshing and weird stuff.
Yeah I fully get you. Being able to make music is my biggest blessing, but it’s a curse a lot of the time. Like making something really amazing and then fully overanalysing it to the death. I’m really proud of you though. I’m really excited for you and what you do next.
Okay so I know we’ve got tour coming up in May, holla everyone, but what else are you working on and what are you most excited about for 2021?
Definitely the tour man, I’m so excited. I’ve got a couple of tracks dropping this year, I’m working on a project, I’ve got some videos I’m working on. 2021 for me is definitely a collaboration type of year. My last EP that I made was real independent, I sort of just did all the songs on my own. I only had one collab on there, but all I’ve really been doing this year is just meeting new people… I think it was the Songhubs that did it for me, I came out of Songhubs just really wanting to work with more people. That’s what I’m excited about, can’t wait.
That’s cool, that’s so dope. Yeah you’ve been on fire with the collabs, I’ve been loving it. I’m so pumped. And I can’t wait for everyone to see… um it’s probably like top secret, but the video and the treatments that you’re working on. You told me yesterday you’ve been working on it since last year. Top secret, but excited about it, it sounds amazing.
So I don’t wanna say too much, but I will say that it’s got a really cool feature in the song, everyone knows who she is and she’s been rapping for a long time. The video’s gonna be done by women, it’s a director duo from Auckland, they’re really dope. If I could say anything without giving it away I’d just say… every woman’s utopia. Have you got new music too? What does it sound like?
Oh yuss. I do, I’ve been stacking up my demos, pushing even more into weirdo territory, it’s been cool. That’s for Theia, then obviously I’ve got my reo Māori side project called TE KAAHU which is like very different music, but more about my influence from my nanny and stuff. I’ve got music from both projects on the way which will be really fun and I’m super excited to get the visuals done for them and I feel like this will definitely be my most um… contentious work yet.
For real. Mood.
Okay, quick fire questions. First one, classic, iconic. Tupac, Biggie or Dr. Dre?
Ohhh. I’m sorry but, Tupac. And I’m really sorry to everyone who’s a fan of Biggie but — Tupac. Causing a bit of controversy here.
Rihanna, Keri Hilson or Destiny’s Child?
Destiny’s Child, no brainer.
Okay, love. Next one: Gucci, Yeezy or Off-White by Virgil?
I thought so. Love it, love it. Final one: Fenty, Huda Beauty or Milk?
Fenti. Easy. Okay, what’s your dream collab?
Oh shivers. You sister. I’m kidding, we’ve already done it. Okay okay. So I suppose Ri Ri is my girl and I’ve just always adored her, that would be really really sick. But also one of my fave artists ever that I just can’t get enough of is Britney Spears. So maybe I’m just gonna go for Britney.
That would actually sound dope. Like that could be done and really sound good. I’m gonna email her team and see what I can do okay.
I’m picturing something that’s sort of like ‘Toxic’ maybe, or like ‘Womanizer’, I think that kind of vibe would be really sexy.
Maybe when she gets out of her conservatorship. Pray for Britney man.
Free Britney bitch!
If you could have dinner with anyone in the world dead or alive who would it be?
Aww okay I’m just gonna say my kuia. I miss her so much. I know I could pick anyone but the love I have for her, I just want my kuia back and have dinner with her because she died before I released my first song and I wish I could tell her about everything that has happened because she always had my back more than literally anyone. So yeah, I want my kui kui back.
Aw. Much love sis. What is your favourite empowering song?
Okay I’m tied. The things that came immediately to mind is ‘Birthday Cake’ — Rihanna, and then I reckon just to go back to our queen Britney, I think probably ‘Womanizer’ was pretty next level. Like for the time it was actually pretty nuts. I’m gonna go for Britney and then Ri Ri. Any wahine pretty much that owns her sexuality, her strength, her anger, is just next level for me I just love that. I think that all women no matter how demure are screaming on the inside, we’re all like ‘eff the system’. Far out you’ve got such beautiful questions.
I’m gonna answer my own question. For me it was ‘Can’t Hold Us Down’, Christina and Lil Kim. Or ‘Lady Marmalade’.
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