Northland's Alien Weaponry take top music prizes at both Rockquest and Pacifica Beats

By Alexandra Newlove -
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Alien Weaponry bassist Ethan Trembath shows the style that saw the band win the Smokefree Pacifica Beats national final.
Alien Weaponry bassist Ethan Trembath shows the style that saw the band win the Smokefree Pacifica Beats national final.

It was Northland's year at the infamous Smokefree music competitions, with musicians from the region taking out top prizes at Rockquest and Pacifica Beats over the weekend.

Waipu's Alien Weaponry - comprising 14-year-old Lewis de Jong (guitar/vocals), brother Henry, 16 (drums), and Ethan Trembath, 14 (bass) - became the first band to win both competitions, the youngest band to win each of the competitions, and the only metal band to win Pacifica Beats, which focused on music unique to Aotearoa and the South Pacific.

"So there's a lot of firsts there," said dad and band manager Neil de Jong.

Meanwhile, Whangarei cousins Huia & Zaia took out the solo duo section at Pacifica Beats at Auckland's Raye Freedman Centre on Friday night, followed by Rockquest at the same venue the next night.

Alien Weaponry entered four songs across the two competitions, three of which were in Te Reo Maori. Henry and Lewis spent their early years at a Kura Kaupapa Maori immersion school.

"At Pacifica beats, in between songs they also speak mostly Maori," Neil de Jong said.

One of these songs, Ruana Te Whenua (The Trembling Earth) was a tribute to the de Jong brothers' great-great-great-grandfather, who died in the Tauranga conflicts at Gate Pa in 1864, while defending his home territory against the British.

The boys were back in Waipu yesterday having arrived home from Auckland at 3am. They said it looked as though they were going to have to head back down to appear on TV the next morning.

"It's still really hard to believe that we've placed first in both," Lewis said.

"You always get nervous, in the finals the stakes are so high and the other bands are so good."

While the bands' youth used to raise a few eyebrows when they arrived at venues, Lewis said their reputation was starting to precede them.

"We now know a lot more people who have been in and around Rockquest. This year everyone was pretty friendly with each other."

Recording an album was the band's next goal. They would receive prizes including $20,000 of New Zealand on Air recording, $13,000 in Rockshop vouchers, an Edge TV campaign and photo shoot.

Huia & Zaia took out Pacifica Beats' solo duo section winning $1000 cash. They also won The New Zealand Music Commission Best Song Award and the Smokefree Best Vocals Award.

"We gave everything we had and really showed ourselves," said Huia. "We are going to keep doing music and hopefully pursue it as a career in the future."

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