The mighty Shapeshifter on new music and the power of dance and resilience
New Zealand’s premiere live electronic act, SHAPESHIFTER, have under their belt a slew of albums and EPs and a resume that includes playing some of the world’s biggest festivals. Icons on the international festival circuit, they’ve cemented themselves as a formidable and prolific force on the electronic scene, both in New Zealand and in the rest of the world.
Having spent some time overseas recently working on another new EP, and fresh off another festival run, Shapeshifter are now set to return to Australia for what are sure to be two electrifying shows in Sydney and Melbourne. They’re showing zero signs of slowing down, and with 20 years in the game, they’re proof that innovating and evolving are key elements of standing the test of time – but so is being damn good at what you do.
Before they head across the ditch to play at some of the country’s most loved venues, we caught up with the band to talk new music, the power of innovation and all about a very special new video they released recently which shows the power of resilience in their home of Christchurch. Check it all out below!
You’re heading back to Australia very soon, and you’ve got some new music to play for your fans here, including a new track co-written in London with Brad Ellis. How was it bringing such a legendary talent into a Shapeshifter writing session and what did you take away from that process?
We’ve been friends with the Nextmen for quite sometime now. Brad saw that we were in London at the same time and reached out to us. We had a 3 day window so managed to squeeze out a few tunes at Brads home studio. Was a super fun experience sharing ideas and a few new studio tricks.
This is taken from a forthcoming new EP you’ve been working on, can you tell us a bit about the new record?
Oh its still early in the fold at the moment but we have spent most of this year working out ideas both in the studio and live on stage. Feels good nearly there then we’ll spill the gosh.
How important is it to you to remain innovative and ensure new Shapeshifter material lives up to the band’s name by never sounding the same while still keeping with the core Shapeshifter elements?
Our main importance is to just write music and songs that we like and enjoy playing and would like to hear at a festival. We enjoy a lot of different music from many genres and relish the inspiration but when it comes time to work on Shapeshifter its obvious to us which tunes will make the cut and become players in the set.
You’ve played festivals all over the world and become festival favourites for many – how will your new material slot into what is famously such a thrilling set?
We rotate songs around often to keep the set fresh yet still familiar. That way we keep the excitement for songs that we have played over and over through the years and tours.
The video for ‘Oculus’ takes a different angle to look at the aftermath of recent earthquakes and instead chooses to spotlight the city’s fighting spirit and celebrate its resilience – what was the decision behind wanting to portray this in this video and how special is it to you on a personal level to be able to show your city in a way you decide, rather than what might be captured on the news?
To us, Christchurch is the place of our genesis, and the hardship, pain and frustration of the quake and subsequent outcomes are things that are very tempting to shout about. That city has been through a lot. Instead we wanted to bring attention in a positive way…while paying respect to what’s happened there. The video is about the balance of chaos/destruction and new energy/rebirth and love. Just fuckin dance! I mean dance is a beautiful thing. There is so much to be celebrated in Christchurch too.
You recently teamed up with dancers from the Identity Dance Crew for the new video. What’s the connection between the dance crew and Shapeshifter and how important was it to team up with these guys for such a special video?
Sam was involved with a touring Dance production last year based on Tiki Taane’s music called “Tiki Taane Mahuta”. On that tour he befriended Taniora Motutere (founder of IDCO) who was performing also. Sam discussed the idea for ‘Oculus’ with Taniora, who interpreted it into the dance you see in the video. He cast the dancers (co ID founder Josh Cesan and Leilani Demarco) who slayed the dance… we were so happy with the outcome. The dance world is a whole new thing for us and we had no idea just how much talent we have in this part of the world.
This celebration of your home and your heritage comes through in every aspect of Shapeshifter, from your music to your shows and now to your videos. Why is it such a priority for you to make sure every show is a celebration for people? Do you want to encourage people to escape and celebrate even just for a few moments while watching you performing (and dancing of course)?
Our environment has shaped us in so many ways our identity our culture. Its very important to us to acknowledge this and to give back our community and to share with the greater world. Its empowering to share and we one hundred percent encourage people to celebrate and escape through dance and and of course our music.
You’ve been an integral part of not just the NZ festival circuit but the world’s as well – what as this taught you over the years that you’re still able to bring into Shapeshifter today?
Pack light when traveling. Makes touring less stressful which equates to happier Shifters on tour and in the studio.
What does the future hold for Shapeshifter after these shows?
Knuckling down finishing off music that we started earlier on in the year and summer festival season is around the bend.
Shapeshifter‘s Tour Dates:
Interview by Emma Jones