Two Tauranga musicians took out the top spots in the country as best band and best solo artist at this year's Smokefreerockquest at Auckland last night.

Mount Maunganui band Joe's Van were crowned the top band in New Zealand and singer songwriter Ben Mollison was named the top solo act.

The Mount Maunganui College band members are Cormac Seymour (lead guitar) Rory Priest (drums) and Jake Nicholas (vocals, bass).

After seven years of the Smokefreerockquest experience, Jake said they had 'liquidised' their music over the years with a sound they now describe as 'alternative surf'.

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Joe's Van won $10,000 in Rockshop vouchers, a $10,000 NZ On Air recording, video and promo package; a 'Decent Exposure' campaign on Edge TV, a photo shoot with Thievery Studio, and a branding package from Imaginary Friends.

The judges said the band showed the benefits of being together for so long.

"They had progressed since last year, they were very professional and got good engagement from the crowd," said Damien Daniels.

"They are a powerful three piece that made their Mount-inspired funk rock performance look effortless."

Singer songwriter Ben Mollison won best solo artist at this year's Smokefreerockquest. Photo/supplied/ Alex Hargreaves
Singer songwriter Ben Mollison won best solo artist at this year's Smokefreerockquest. Photo/supplied/ Alex Hargreaves

Ben, a Year 12 student at Bethlehem College, put his win down to his engagement with the audience and said music will always be an important part of his life.

Ben won $3000 in Rockshop vouchers, a $10,000 NZ On Air recording, video and promo package, a 'Decent Exposure' campaign on Edge TV, a photo shoot with Thievery Studio, and a branding package from Imaginary Friends. He also won the APRA Lyric Award, with a prize of $500.

The judges commented on the maturity of Ben's lyrics, and his guitar playing skills.

"We were most moved by him - he's the complete package, a story teller who has written great songs and delivered them with real ability," said Hamish Jackson.

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The full list of awards made on Friday night was:
1st band: Joe's Van, Mt Maunganui College, Tauranga
2nd band: Alien Weaponry, Bream Bay College and Otamatea High School, Northland
3rd band: El Jay Hall, Cambridge High School.
1st solo: Ben Mollison, Bethlehem College, Tauranga
2nd solo: Joseph Balfe, Waitaki Boys' High School
3rd solo: Solomon the Crook, St Peter's School, Cambridge