After a five-year break between albums, the Sons of Zion are back and more "fearless" than ever.

The Kiwi band has found massive success at home and abroad as a reggae group, but returning to the New Zealand music scene, they're keen to break out of those boxes.

That's where their new album Vantage Point comes in. It's their first album in five years and the band's Matt Sadgrove says it's "quite different", to say the least.

"We've grown a lot as people and matured in a bunch of different ways so the music is representative of that - the subject matter and all that is just a little bit older, more mature. We call it fearless."

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"Sasha Fearless", bandmate Caleb Haapu jokes, riffing on the name of Beyonce's alter-ego.

TimeOut presents the Music Month Sessions, with thanks to New Zealand on Air. Sons of Zion perform 'Drift Away'.

What they're doing does take a good amount of courage; their new direction is one which will see them step outside the genre that made them. Coming up as a reggae band in New Zealand put a distinctive stamp on the band and, for a long time, they felt pressured to stick to that.

"We got popular just playing reggae," says band member Samuel Eriwata. "But later on in the years, we started to think, 'Oh, let's mix it up a little bit, let's start making other stuff we like and see what the response is from the fans - it doesn't have to be reggae, just good music."

The resulting album still has the summery, reggae hits fans know and love, but it also incorporates everything from R&B slow jams to pop tunes reminiscent of Ed Sheeran and Justin Bieber.

So what changed to get them to that point?

TimeOut presents the Music Month Sessions, with thanks to New Zealand on Air. Sons of Zion perform Che Fu's 'Fade Away'.

The short answer, according to Sadgrove: "We got old!" The long answer includes a changing band line-up, expanding families, touring and, the biggest change of all, after a decade hustling in the music industry, the Sons finally reached a point where they were able to quit their day jobs and focus on music.

"That's probably the major change in the last five years - we were struggling to find the balance of music and working and home and life so we just decided, well let's give music a full-time go," says Sadgrove.

"We're all in and I think that shows in our music and the way we've created since then as well."

That particular change has been a long time coming. The boys recall having gigs where they'd have to start a show without certain members, who would then join part way through the set once their flight landed. They worked long hours and never took holidays, reserving all their annual leave for when they needed to take time off for music.

Now, they own and operate a music studio in Auckland's Grey Lynn where they do work for other musicians, and between that and their own music, they've been able to make things work.

It's that struggle which has contributed to the album's name, artwork, and overall vibe.
"It's called Vantage Point because it's about us trying to climb to the top and break down barriers. The title track is about us trying to break out of the boxes we've been put in and the artwork is representative of that as well," says Sadgrove.

"It's basically about our struggle to allow our voices to be heard in different ways without being told, 'Oh, you're supposed to be a reggae band'. It's about the grind - but also the party vibes, the love songs."

Joel Latimer adds: "Every track kind of feels like its own groove and melody and the way it moves - it's a really eclectic collection of vibes, but we feel all those vibes are still Sons of Zion."

LOWDOWN:
Who: Sons of Zion
What: New album Vantage Point
When: Out tomorrow

TIMEOUT ENTERTAINMENT PRESENTS THE MUSIC MONTH SESSIONS:

Sons of Zion gave the exclusive performances above for TimeOut Entertainment's Music Month sessions, made with support from New Zealand on Air.

They are one of five Kiwi acts we invited to celebrate NZ Music Month, by recording a cover of their favourite Kiwi song - as well as one of their own hits.

NZ Music Month Sessions: October performs a cover of Blend by Aldous Harding.

You can catch up on industrial pop artist October's performances here, and in the clip above - and keep an eye out for more performances from JessB, Teeks and Openside, which we'll roll out each Thursday throughout Music Month.