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SOJØURN - MNZ Interview: Background Noise 003: SOJØURN

07 Mar 2022 // An interview by Gaby Ivanov-Giraldo

SOJØURN have been immersing themselves in the Aotearoa live band circuit since 2018. The band have worked and played alongside local greats such as Sons of Zion, Drax Project and Mako Road. Born from the seascapes of sunny Mangawhai, surrounded by surf and festivals, they draw inspiration from surf-pop, reggae, dub, psychedelic, and funk.

Gaby from Muzic.net.nz interviewed James Finlay (Lead Guitar) for her interview series: 'Background Noise', and here's what was said:

How did you guys all meet, and decide to form the band?

The seeds of SOJØURN were sewn over the course of a few impromptu jam sessions in early 2018 - between what was basically a group of old high school connections. These jams would start out with covers of songs by Fat Freddy’s Drop, Katchafire and Fly My Pretties, and then when the material ran out we would just make stuff up. We started playing little private parties for our mates as a three-piece and we discovered that we had a knack for making a three-chord cycle ebb and flow - even if that was more by necessity, than want haha. We moved on to cafes and restaurants, then local venues like the Mangawhai Tavern and the Leigh Sawmill pretty quickly. Suddenly we had added keys, drums and saxophone to our line-up and I guess that’s when we realised that things were starting to get pretty serious.

The band clearly all have a deep, mutual respect for music. What got you all into it?

Music has just been a big part of all of our lives since day one. I have happy, hazy memories of family road trips around the country, sound tracked by a revolving stack of CD's... Hanging out at parties as a kid just in awe of the muso's. Most of us came up through high school in bands and stuff like Rockquest, took that love for music and performance and steered it towards the craft of songwriting. Songwriting can be storytelling through music; sometimes it’s more of vague expression of emotion or experience. You spend a lot of time trying to get into the heads of those artists who made your favourite records; there’s a reverse engineering aspect to it. The wider the range of stuff you listen to, the deeper the appreciation becomes.

Who have been your personal greatest influences, and why?

Bands like Fat Freddy’s Drop and The Black Seeds who’ve had such immense success here and abroad have been particularly inspiring. They’re also two groups that are really clever at drawing from a multitude of genres and world flavours and blending that into their own unique sound. The records that they have made are world class but the music transcends into something different entirely during their live shows - both amazing performance bands. But yeah, NZ music in general. We are so spoiled for talent here it’s really crazy. The new Mild Orange album has been on repeat a lot for me. It’s really beautiful writing and the songs sound so big! I guess to sort of elaborate on that last answer, it’s just a lifelong search for new sounds and inspiration. I’ll stumble upon some old funk or soul album from the seventies that just puts me flat on my back. You get to be a sponge of sorts - soaking up as much as you can. In that respect there’s influence everywhere you look.

SOJØURN released an EP on the 25th of February; a track list called Mystic Ways which has already hit many ears with high regard, and is busy entering several streaming playlists. Do you mind telling us a bit about the process, and what you wanted to achieve with this release?

We got away from the big studio environment this time around and got a bit more organic with our approach, setting up shop in our usual rehearsal space in Mangawhai for four days. It's somewhere that we're all very comfortable playing in, and it's where the vast majority of our riffs and grooves originate. It felt really good to try and capture that essence at the source, so to speak. To help us do that, we enlisted Connor Jaine, who as well as being the hugely talented bassist of Mako Road, is emerging as one of the country's finest producers/engineers. CJ is a great mate of ours and the enjoyment of working with him I think certainly spilled over into the music. Mystic Ways was really just about us trying to take a snapshot of our current sound. It's our largest body of work to date and the breadth of having six songs to work with gave us a bit more room to explore our sonic palette. The laidback nature of the sessions also meant we had a bit more time up our sleeves to experiment. We're really stoked with the sounds we managed to capture and it feels good to have put this one out there for our fans, especially in this current climate where live shows have been rare to non-existent.

While you’re not hitting stages or recording songs, what do you like to do in your spare time?

Day jobs (...unfortunately haha), surfing, skating, hanging out with family and friends.

Who have been your favourite artists that you've played with, and why?

Honestly, there are so many - we’re lucky to have made so many good friends in the industry. Leighton Fairlie is a really talented live dub artist we’ve performed with a bunch. There’s been a number of shows that we’ve put on where it’s him and SOJØURN on the same bill - often Daniel Weetman (SuLU) and Ash Edwards come in to complement the line-up and dazzle us on the decks as well. So we enjoy doing stuff with that crew, mostly because we get to watch them vibe out on the stage which is great! But yeah we’ve got a whole lot of respect and admiration for all the bands we’ve done shows with… Summer Thieves, Masaya; Dolphin Friendly… the guys from Mako Road. We’re looking forward to the return of live gigs and being able to watch some of their sets again.

What is your best road trip, or band tour memory? And what is your worst?

We played on the bill at the ‘Wingman Festival’ over on Great Barrier Island in January last year. That was a really cool setup and awesome atmosphere. We spent 3 or 4 days over there hanging out and exploring the island. A couple of us made a cameo at the Currach’s open mic night (great little Irish pub!). Probably the most relaxed preparation I’ve had leading up to a show. We always feel very blessed to be able to travel as a band and make friends along the way. That’s what it’s all about!

As for the worst; well we left our keyboard player behind in Raglan… Jokes!! But he did forget to pack his keyboard in after the show - so he did the drive from Raglan to Mangawhai twice in one day. Champion!

What are the future goals of the band, and what do we have to look forward to?

Playing those big stages is what puts the fire in our bellies. Once we get through this current surge of the pandemic I think there will be a real renaissance of live music here in NZ - so we are planning to get on the road as soon as possible and be a part of that. Hopefully, you’ll be seeing us at a festival near you soon enough. Beyond that, there’s already a backlog of songs since we finished recording Mystic Ways. The next logical progression for us would be to record a full length album so that’s ticking away in the background. Maybe a single or two first haha. Stay tuned!



SOJØURN are a 6-piece surf rock reggae band hailing from the sun & surf drenched town of Mangawhai Heads, NZ. The band have been blitzing shows across Aotearoa, bringing their surf-psych-reggae vibes since 2019. The band's first single was Follow Me is ode to good times (& good smoke)...

The highly regarded Summer Tape EP landed them in some hot hands, pricking up the ears of curators and fans alike. Still A Mess continues to be the bands #1 streaming success. The band then released Stand Up (2020) - a more dubby, fast paced number acknowledging the bands east coast roots. Stand Up was followed in quick succession by singles Saturday Sipping and How It Grows.

After a massive summer touring across NZ's North Island, including performances at Bay Dreams and shows with the likes of Mako Road, the band headed back to Mangawhai HQ (2021) and recorded the highly anticipated Mystic Ways EP. Mystic Ways marks a giant leap forward for the emerging group who have fast become an essential band on the NZ scene.

Visit the muzic.net.nz Profile for SOJØURN


Mystic Ways
Year: 2022
Type: EP

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