LEAO [NOA RECORDS]
Upon listening to this record you’d think a bunch of Flying Nun artists secretly set up camp in Samoa and created their trademark jangle pop. This is not the case, however. With this record, Auckland musician David Feauai-Afaese has singlehandedly propelled modern Samoan music into a space I never thought possible. With the help of Noa Records, they’re changing the perception of what the sound of Polynesian music is. Below we discuss a bunch of the central ideas that helped create this landmark record.
Larsen: Gunna be doing a space activation at Aotea Square. We’ve been dealing with Matthew Crawley. A bunch of our whanau playing and the Le’ao stuff. We’re also collaborating with Aroha Jakecivic. She’s playing meditate stuff. Like a Katanga
Keegan: Is that something you want to continue to do?
Larsen: Yeah, we’re trying to incorporate tikanga where possible. Just feed in that kappa
Keegan: Ya think many people are doing that?
Larsen: It seems like it’s picked up
David: Just chilling. I feel like last year was a massive year in terms of growth
It was interesting in terms around when the record came out and having massive recognition of who I am after a year of feeling distant to myself and my community
Keegan: Is that your Samoan community?
David: I guess it does start from that place but reconnecting with that was what helped me find recognition within myself after spending that year, navigating different spaces and not feeling myself or being present. Through conversations in Pasifika spaces I’m finally coming to terms with who I am as a Samoan living in Auckland
Keegan: What do you think created that space?
David: In all honesty, too much thinking.
Keegan: Do you think Fa’a had a large thing to do with it?
David: A lot of those themes do tie in to who I was last year. What I was sort of learning about connection between people and how to respond to learnings. I feel like I spent a lot of the first portion of last year in my own head thinking a lot .
Keegan: That can be dangerous spending that amount of time in your head
Yeah, exactly! It was definitely period of creation. Creating these new realisations for myself but they can also be dangerous if you get too caught up in it. I feel being in pasifika space or mainly in a music space or a kava space it’s allowed that opportunity to talanoa with people.
Larsen: It’s the talanoa that grounds it. Rather than having a conversation with yourself you’re having that conversation with others.
David: Half the time you have conversations with yourself but then doing the opposite you’ve got to worry about not trying to get caught up in small talk.
Keegan: I think the lesson there is don’t come to K Road too much
David: You know Paul aka Ghost (local k road rough sleeper)? At the start of last year I found him so interesting. His embodiment of this character like heaps of characters and this was around the time I was trying to pinpoint where characters come from, mainly within myself. Towards the end of the year, I got to a point where I was like, “dude what are you up to?”.
insert band jam practise
Keegan: What’s the approach been to the creation of the record?
Dave: Before getting in to any of the jams like we had today we spent a lot of time building that trust and comfortability through lunch, kava and talanoa so that we want to create with each other By having that dialogue you’re more open to each other?
Larsen: You’re already there with each other so it’s easier. There are certain people that I Gell with very well so when you step in to a music space with them. It’s almost telepathic. The whole musical conversation is fluid
O: These are the first people I’ve ever jammed with.
Keegan: Is there a reason why you felt that way?
O: I didn’t play too much guitar or bass last year. I guess I was just scared I couldn’t learn the songs. Nothing against them it was more me being hard on myself. I just need to show up and do the mahi
Larsen: That’s where the thinking become a buffer. The thoughts can get in the way
Keegan: And you’d played previously in bands?
O: It’s been years, I was 14 or 15, I was in a duo and then this chick broke my heart and I never really recovered [jokingly]. I’m better now
Keegan: You guys have mentioned kava, is this a theme within the band?
Larsen: David has invited me into that. It’s helped with exploring the term Noa as a pan pacific thing. When these things have come up, going to kava sessions have expanded on my whole understanding of Noa from a Te Ao Maori perspective and then to also hear how that translates throughout the pacific
David: Early on last year I got invited to a kava circle they have at Auckland Uni. That was an awesome space cos I finally got to hear conversation from a different variety of pacific tutors & lecturers about pacific stuff. The idea that we’re drinking this kava to come in to equilibrium with each other. So we can truly speak to each other. That presence that’s shared. I think that’s something I should carry outside of kava.
Keegan: So how does a Maori, a Niuean & a Samoan come to translate all this knowledge into post-punk?
Larsen: That’s all Dave’s handy work. We’re helping to interpret that live. He composed it all. We support him where we can. It’s all Dave.
Keegan: Will you continue on this vein?
David: The idea of incorporating Fa’a samoa into the project stems from a conversation I had going to pick this guys tape up. I hadn’t seen Larsen for a while, I’d just cut my hair so was on a new path of growth and Larsen spoke about trying to incorporate aspect of Maori culture in to his music and that got me thinking how could I do that with my Samoan heritage and meditating on that. I had to balance what it means to be fa’a Samoa but be true to myself. I came across another term fa’aaloalo and this multiplicity that gets channeled through us. I found that really beautiful and the different aspects that come in to being the authentic self.
I grew up on a lot of rock and post punk. So once I started one track I’d chuck some Samoan lyrics on it then I’d go to these Kava sessions and show them the lyrics
K: If you were given the opportunity to go to a kava circle in Samoa how do you think they’d take it. Do you think fa’a Samoa would stop them accepting it
David: I probably wouldn’t’ be able to go to kava circle. It’s not a social thing like in Tonga.
One thing to keep in mind is that our interpretation of fa’a Samoa is very different to that of our family back home in Samoa. If I was to go back to Samoa with this conversation of Leao a lot of topics of upbringing, knowledge and space would come up. Right now, I’d be pretty comfortable cos I know my truth within that space and that’s all that matter. One thing that pops up now would be having traditional back lash towards it but at the same time a lot of us that live outside of Samoa, thirds and fourth generation we’ve never really lived traditional Fa’a Samoan lifestyle. It’s important to remember that
Keegan: So in February at Aotea Square, you play as a three piece?
Larsen: Right now, just us three.
Also as this three-piece we also play as Sanguine. I can’t remember how that name came up
O: We were out walking and I asked him if he had heard the word Sanguine? and he said that he had just got an email that had the word Sanguine in it.
Larsen: It’s that colour red, the colour of blood and also means to find the humour in dark things
Keegan: shit my name should be Sanguine
Larsen: There’s also the Schofield Strange stuff and original material too
Keegan: So it’s going to be the classic NZ thing where everyone plays on each others stuff.
What’s the sonic inspiration for this record?
David: This was the first project I’ve written a brief for and at the time I was really inspired by two people Ariel Pink and Martin Newell aka Cleaners from Venus. I was inspired by how both their albums were lo-fi but also so prolific.