Last year was a big one for local rockers Alien Weaponry, but 2019 is going to be even bigger. They tell Chris Schulz about their major plans.
At some stage during a very hectic 2018, the three members of Alien Weaponry found themselves inside the home of Al Jourgensen, the founder of American metal veterans Ministry.
It was, the trio says, a pinch-yourself moment.
"It's really out there," says the Waipu band's frontman, Lewis de Jong, of Jourgensen's home.
"You walk in there and there's a bunch of freaky statues. He's got this room filled with taxidermied heads - goats and deer. They're all spraypainted black."
Ethan Trembath, the band's bassist, chimes in: "That's where he eats his dinner."
The trio weren't there to eat, they were invited there for a few drinks during a break from a 21-date stint as Alien Weaponry opened for Ministry across America.
It was just one highlight of many across a hectic year that saw the band and their unique mashup of te reo metal, reach much further than the confines of a shed on the Waipu farm of de Jong's parents, where the band originated eight years ago.
As well as the release of their debut album, Tu, which reached No. 5 on the New Zealand album charts, they also won best Best Rock Artist at the New Zealand Music Awards, and ripped through their best-known song, Kai Tangata, to open the event.
Their biggest achievement, though, was crossing off their one and only bucket list entry: playing Wacken, the world's biggest metal festival, in northern Germany.
"When I first joined the band," says Trembath, "we made a goal to play Wacken by the time we hit 20. It was this super optimistic, reach-for-the-stars-and-we-probably-won't-make-it goal. We did it [with two years to go]."
They didn't just play it - they nailed it. "It was probably one of our best shows," says Trembath.
Henry: "The stage manager said he'd been working there for several years, and it was the biggest crowd he'd seen, [around 10,000 people]. It was awesome."
Not bad for a band whose three members still live with their parents and has one member - Trembath - still in school. "We did not imagine this," says Henry, shaking his head. "It's pretty crazy."
It's a sign that Alien Weaponry is already achieving far more than they ever expected it would - which is why they've had to expand their ambitions for 2019.
Coming up is their biggest Australian tour, with six dates scheduled for March, followed by their biggest New Zealand tour, with another six dates in the same month.
Combined with tours across Europe and America, they're committed to six months of touring this year. Plus, they're commencing recording of their second album, with their eye on a release in early 2020.
Despite the acclaim and the accolades, the trio say they're sticking to their roots after receiving solid advice from Jourgensen amid those black taxidermied heads of his.
"He pretty much said, 'Don't pander to record labels, don't sell out. Do it yourself,'" says Henry.
His brother, Lewis, nods his head. "It's great advice. We shouldn't write songs for anyone but ourselves because if you lose touch of what you're writing about, then the fans aren't going to feel it."
He pauses, tries, and fails, to stifle a burp. "I just said something super profound and then I was just like, 'Urp.'"
Who: Waipu rockers Alien Weaponry
What: Tour dates: March 21, Totara St, Tauranga; March 22, Altitude, Hamilton; March 23, Studio, Auckland; March 28, 50 Gorillas, Dunedin; March 29, Empire, Christchurch; March 30, Wellington.
Also: Debut album Tu, out now.