Interview by Henessey Griffiths / C.C. / Photo credit: Evan Xiao
/ Thursday 20th May, 2021 11:05AM
Persian / New Zealand rap phenomenon CHAII embarks on her first ever nationwide tour in May and June, starting this weekend in Christchurch and Dunedin. Reaching fans on a global scale, CHAII’s energising and lyrically empowering anthems have been showcased via such high profile platforms as a campaign for FENDI, the soundtrack for Charlize Theron’s 2020 film The Old Guard, and gaming juggernauts Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater and EA Sports’ FIFA. Ahead of Friday’s drop of her new single with LA’s Party Favor ‘Oh Nah Yeah’, CHAII generously squeezed in the time to chat with online sensation in her own right Henessey Griffiths — Music Director of Dunedin’s Radio One 91FM and co-host of sex podcast Just The Tips (with Danz of Dartz)…
Friday 21st May – FLUX, Christchurch w/ Prins
Saturday 22nd May – Starters Bar, Dunedin w/ Timmy The First
Friday 28th May – Cassette Nine, Auckland w/ Haz Beats & Miloux
Friday 4th June – MOON, Wellington w/ Mikeyy
Tickets available HERE via UTR
Henessey Griffiths: Kia ora, thank you for the interview! How are things going, how are you doing?
CHAII: Going so good! It’s been really busy which I can’t complain about, it’s always a good thing to be busy. But yeah, just in the middle of making heaps of music videos, the release this Friday, the tour kicking off this Friday, it’s all exciting stuff.
So you have your new single ‘Oh Nah Yeah’ with Party Favor coming out on Friday, what is the song about?
Yes, I do! I’m very excited about it. Party Favor was actually the coolest person to work with, he’s awesome. I wrote this song pretty much about not letting fear interfere with your life or get in the way of things. There’s another aspect to it which was not saying sorry or apologising for who you are. Or like if you don’t quite fit in a box and you find yourself saying sorry and apologising a lot to be understood. Just yeah about that, and just not owing any apologies when you’re just being yourself and just existing I guess.
Totally, is that something that you find comes from a lot of personal experience? Does the track come from quite a personal place?
Oh 100%. Honestly, I catch myself saying sorry all the time. As you grow up and you get more comfortable in who you are and you stand for who you are, you’re kinda like “hey, why am I apologising for this?”
Oh absolutely. I feel like especially being a woman in the music industry, let alone producing a lot of Hip Hop and R’n’B and real grunty shit, it feels like there are times where you’ve got to prove yourself and you feel inadequate, but it’s not the case.
Yeah, and I feel like a lot of people can relate to that. I don’t know if it’s being a woman in the industry or even a cookie cutter New Zealand thing, but I feel like it could be more common than I think. That’s the beauty of putting it in a song and people can relate to it, then that’s awesome, hopefully if not they can dance to it because it’s a dancey track.
[Laughs] That’s so good. The last time you had music out would have been the Lightswitch EP in 2020, is that right?
Yeah it is, I had a single after that as well called ‘Wow (Look At Me)’, but the last project EP was Lightswitch EP.
That’s so exciting that you’re getting back into making new music, does this new track vary a bit from the Lightswitch EP or is it a new sound?
It’s definitely close to that sound. But the new EP actually has a few songs that I’m really excited about that are a bit different to what I usually do. But again, I like doing everything so it’s kind of cool to explore. You know you sit on a lot of songs and it’s nice to show that side of yourself as well and push those boundaries.
Absolutely, and I feel like it’s important as well. Because it’s your art and you can do what you want with it, and being able to explore different modes and styles is all a part of your journey to finding yourself, so why not just give everything a go?
Exactly! Definitely. We change every day and feel different ways and are inspired by different things so our music can’t really stay the same.
For sure. I feel like there’s just one big universal theme throughout all your music which is just that it makes you feel like a bad bitch. That feeling of no one can touch me and I’m invincible. Is that something that you tried to do on purpose?
Aw man, that’s so nice to hear and honestly that stuff makes me feel emotional, like it’s so cool. That’s definitely the feeling I would love people to gain from it you know. It’s not something that I do and consciously feel like that it’s something people would feel that way. But when I hear that, and I’ve heard it quite a few times which is so cool to hear, you know feel badass and go forth fearless and take risks. I’m all about that stuff and putting yourself out there and trying new things. It’s awesome to hear people like yourself feel like a badass bitch!
It’s so empowering and it makes you feel like you’re unstoppable, it gives me a very big M.I.A. type of feeling.
Aw that’s such a compliment! [laughs]
And you have a tour coming up which is so exciting! How are you feeling about going on tour?
I’m so excited. It’s our first club tour, we did a mini one in Australia this is our first proper one. But it’s still a mini tour. I’m super excited about it, we’re doing four cities, kicking it off in Christchurch this Friday and then Dunedin on Saturday, Auckland the week after and Wellington the week after.
Hell yeah, have you ever played in any of those cities before?
Yes we actually did Dunedin at the same venue, we played with Timmy The First and we were opening for Savage. At Christchurch we’re playing the same venue that we played for the Electric Avenue afterparty which is cool. So we’ve got venues that we’ve been to already and played out which is awesome and will bring back memories, which is comforting.
That’s sick, you’ve got such a repertoire behind you, I mean you played Electric Ave, the Aotearoa Music Awards, and you’ve been playing in Australia, what do you think is next?
Aw thank you, that’s so nice. I would love us to keep doing more shows, and we’re looking at potentially going to Australia soon for some shows. I guess it was put on hold onto going anywhere massively internationally like America and The UK, all that stuff that we were supposed to go to. But I feel like we’re gonna be badass by the time we go so the live shows will be even better. I feel like the next step for us to keep touring, keep playing New Zealand shows and then see how the world goes really.
Especially while the rest of the world is in lockdown at least you can still appreciate what we’ve got here and explore it a bit more.
Oh yeah, every show we play I think about that. Every time we play we’ve all got the biggest smiles on our faces. It’s always been that way but it’s more so now than ever. Like, “Oh my God, we get to do this? This is cool.” [laughs].
That’s so important and it’s so nice to hear that not only are people in the audience having a good time seeing live musicians, but also the musicians themselves are having a good time.
Oh yeah and it goes in a circle. You see the audience having fun and you’re having fun, they have more fun which makes you have more fun. I think everyone’s just very grateful of being able to do shows and go to shows.
It’s so lovely right, and also it’s New Zealand Music Month as you are well aware, how have you been celebrating?
Yay! Oh man, I love New Zealand Music Month. I’m always listening to a lot of New Zealand music and a lot of my artist friends, so just celebrating each other and supporting each other. Kicking off the tour and putting up new songs was my way of celebrating.
Gorgeous! Is there anyone in particular that you’ve been really diggin’ lately?
Oh man, there’s so many people but off the top of my head but I’ve got to say Mikey Dam. He’s amazing. I just went to his show recently and it was insane, one of the best things I’ve seen.
Fuck yeah that would’ve been sick. With your new EP, when can we expect it to come out?
Soon, very soon. August, I’m just gonna say it so it happens, August.
Oh shit! You’ve got such a busy week coming up with the single and the tour, are you feeling overwhelmed at all?
I feel like every time I’m just like, this is more than last time, like this is the most it can ever get and then the next time it gets four times that. This time I was definitely like yup, making music videos and putting out music and preparing for the tour and doing this all at the same time was definitely hard work and pushed to the maximum, but it’s super fun and I’ve got a team around me, and we’re all enjoying the process which is cool. Every time it’s slowly picking up, it’s not like we’re suddenly in the deep end, we’ve gone through this before but it’s just a step up.
It’s nice to keep pushing yourself and trying out new things, setting yourself different goals and challenges and then when you reach the end of it you can think “man, I actually did that”.
Definitely. I like pushing myself to breaking points, which is just where I will crack. So far, it’s been all good. You notice that you need to balance some things around that time so you have energy to go into it, and you just learn to navigate around it and push you to your limits which I love doing.
I’m so excited to hear the new single coming out, but why do you think people should give a shit about it?
I think they should give a shit because I’m actually really happy with this record. Really stoked with the song and I feel like I’m vibing with it, so hopefully people can vibe with it too and also give a shit.