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Aro - Interview: Aro

28 Nov 2018 // An interview by LoraThompson

Lora from muzic.net.nz sat down with Nomadic local duo Aro to talk about their band dynamics and living in a van together as well as their upcoming single release Miromiro (Dec 13th) and their 2019 Nationwide tour plans.

Aro describe their music as distinctly Aotearoa/NZ pop, with a range other influences including RnB, Jazz and Kapahaka. Their upcoming release is Bilingual (Maori/English) – a mixture of the husband and wife’s cultural influences with Charles having Te Reo as his first language and Emily being of Pakeha descent.

Tell me a bit about your respective musical journeys – what made you decide to collaborate as a couple?

Emily: we met studying music, I really loved Charles' voice and style – then a couple of years later I moved to Berlin and we somehow got together as a couple just before I moved and that’s when we started writing together –

Charles: It was Emily's dream to have someone write her love letters

Emily: Well yes, but also songwriting,

Charles: Oh, that kind of writing

Emily: I’ve got a solo music career, I’ve been doing that for around 5 or 6 years too.

Charles: my background is mainly kapahaka and gospel. On top of that, going to all the family parties growing up where they played Bob Marley and stuff – I didn’t think about taking it seriously at all until a couple of years after school however, I just didn’t think it could be both a passion and a job.

I went to uni to get a bachelors because I wasn’t really aware of anyone in my family that had one, so I wanted to prove that we could.

Now here we are, and here I am.

Would you say music is both of your main jobs at the moment?

Emily: Definitely for me

Charles: It’s my main expression, so I don’t think I will ever be away from it. I’m somehow very much involved in education, and I’m a qualified teacher as well. But somehow that’s opened us up to a world of having our music as a song/story book for educational use too.

You guys are currently touring around playing at campgrounds and stuff over summer?

Yeah so we are releasing our album next year on the 15th February which will be followed by a nationwide tour – Miromiro is just the first single off that, and to warm into our big tour (which will be all the way from Whangarei to Stewart Island) we’re just touring a little bit over summer.

Tell us a bit about the line-up you are touring with – is it just the two of you?

On the album we’ve got quite a lot of people playing with us, but for the live gigs, we really wanted to make the stories the important part for the live show, which basically means stripping it back to just the two of us.

How have you found the reception on this campground tour?

We have felt that the Maori songs have been particularly well received, there’s quite a lot of a buzz around using Te Reo in music at the moment – it wasn’t intentional , we weren’t riding some kind of wave – but we have just happened to coincide with a bit more Maori visibility in mainstream media and music, the success of Alien Weaponry etc at the moment, a lot more people are wanting to learn the language and it’s becoming more and more popular.

What the Album called?

The Album is called Manu, which is the Maori term for ‘birds’– traditionally Maori would compose songs from melodies they had heard in their natural environment, so we thought what if we adopt a bit of that approach, and as well the significance of the bird in Maori culture. The album has 10 tracks and each one is the name of the respective bird (e.g. Miromiro is the Tomtit)– this is why the storytelling aspect to the songs is so important.

Miromiro is out on the 13th December – tell us a little bit a about who played on it and who played on it?

It was recorded with Vivek at Gabriel Audio in Mt Roskill, he co-produced it with us and mixed the whole album, we really enjoy working with him. Nathan Tiddy mastered it a few weeks ago so it’s finished now which is so exciting!

We had Jocee Tuck playing vibes, we have Eamon Edmundson-Wells playing upright bass, and Shane Mclean playing Taonga Puoro (traditional Maori instruments) – it was really cool the way Shane recorded, as the way we worked with him he basically improvised along to the tracks – he hadn’t heard anything prior to being in the studio apart from rough demos. So, he would just start listening to a track and get a vibe, then he would go through his box of goodies and pick out one of the traditional instruments and Vivek would just mic him up while he was playing. We really captured the moments and that was cool.

And of course, we both sung, Charles played guitar and Emily plays the piano.

Tell us about the big tour next year?

We are going right the way from Whangarei to Stewart Island – more intimate venues, like Jam Factory in Tauranga, Eggsentric in Cooks Beach, Raumati Social Club, Fairfield house in Nelson, Barrytown Hall, Sherwood in Queenstown, Stewart Islands’ South Seas Hotel, Geraldine Music Academy, Bellamy’s Gallery in Dunedin, Lyttelton Records in Christchurch, and a bunch more all over! We are also taking our friend Callum Lee who is an amazing songwriter and sound engineer.

Callum also produced Emily’s solo EP which is to be released soon as well under the name Emily Rice – so she will be opening a few of the shows as a solo act as well.

Where can people get tickets for the tour?

Under the Radar. Links will also be up on our website at aromusic.co.nz – Tickets are on sale from Thursday 29th November.

Keep an eye out on all our social media spaces too!

Who is your dream act that you would like to support or play with?

Charles: I love Warren Maxwell (trinity roots) you might even hear some of those influences on our album.

Emily: For me it would be Sting. I went to see him at a Mission Estate Winery joined with a 50-piece symphony orchestra which was amaaazing – he’s been such a massive inspiration to my songwriting over the years.

Aro are publishing a book to go along with the album, for educational purposes, as well as doing some Maori language and songwriting workshops called ‘Stories of Aotearoa in Song’ along with the album release tour, and they are really excited to present this labour of love to the country.

Charles: Making this album has been like making a waka that you really don’t know what it could do until you put it out in the sea.


About Aro

Aro consists of husband and wife Charles (Ngapuhi, Te Rarawa, Ngati Te Ata, Te Ati Awa) and Emily Looker (nee Rice). The pair share a passion for the power of language and music to tell stories and remind us of our cultural identity. The duo were finalists for the Maioha Award at the Silver Scrolls (2019) and the APRA Best Children’s Song Award for their song Korimako (2020).

Visit the muzic.net.nz Profile for Aro


He Wai
Year: 2021
Type: EP
He Manu Ano
Year: 2020
Type: EP
Year: 2019
Type: Album
Van Jams
Year: 2018
Type: EP
Year: 2017
Type: EP

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