It's one of life's funny little twists that Natalia Kills and Melanie Blatt should be on a TV talent show at the bottom of the world.
Sure, on paper there are practical reasons the singers, who had never met before crossing paths on The X Factor NZ, are here. For New York-based Kills, there's her Wellington-born husband and fellow judge, singer Willy Moon.
For Blatt, this glorious Kiwi summer we're enjoying sits somewhere in the middle of what she's accustomed to in dividing her time between London and Ibiza. And of course, the All Saints singer knows us well, after her stint as a judge on the MediaWorks show in 2013.
What I did not expect, however, were two genuine X Factor freaks.
We meet over high tea at Josh Emett's Ostro in central Auckland. The pair waste no time tucking in, but first Kills schools us in the etiquette of tackling the three-tiered pyramid of dainty sweets and savouries that sits before us.
"I'm a bit of a high tea expert. You are supposed to start with the finger sandwiches. The idea is to always work your way up. So it goes very savoury, to selective savoury. And then you have very sweet."
Blatt appears more impressed with the cheese and bacon scone she's devouring than Kills' savoir faire. It's her first savoury scone, she says. It's the perfect moment for me to slip in that I'm starting the interview with an icebreaker, an X Factor pop quiz. I have a sneaking suspicion I might just catch them out.
I am wrong.
"Who won series one in the UK?" I begin. "Steve Brookstein," Blatt answers without missing a heartbeat. "I was going to say Will Young," chimes in Kills. "That was Pop Idol," says Blatt. "What did he look like?" asks Kills. "Old man, but kind of good-looking," replies Blatt. "Oh, I remember," Kills squeals with delight. "And, what about Andy the bin man?"
Andy Abrahams? The runner up in The X Factor UK series two? The rubbish collector from North London? Even I'd forgotten him.
"That's when The X Factor had taken that sympathy thing a little bit too far, in my opinion," says Kills. "Everyone likes a 'started at the bottom and rose to the top' story, but you can't go on there and say, 'My nan's in a wheelchair, I've got one eye and I'm jobless' and suddenly win."
And we're off, fiercely debating the intricacies of the reality TV talent show formula. Apart from the Will Young hiccup at the start, Kills and Blatt nailed every one of my quiz questions and I'm delighted to discover that they're genuine fans of the Simon Cowell-created franchise.
Call me a sceptic, but there has to be more to convince Kills, who has an album coming out this year and has recently written songs for Rihanna and Madonna, and Blatt, who toured with the reformed All Saints last year and who DJs regularly in Ibiza, to spend such a significant chunk of this year in New Zealand.
I'm hazarding a guess, but it can't be the money; nor the profile. I'm also ruling out talent because Lorde must have well and truly used up our quota by now.
"I came to New Zealand after Lorde had taken over the world, after Willy Moon was discovered, after a lot of New Zealand artists had broken through.
"Not just to a hyper-credible, blog stratosphere level but after they charted to unfathomable success levels," says Kills. "That was part of my intrigue to come, to see what other talent was here. I walked in expecting nothing but the best."
Meanwhile, Blatt remembers being blown away by the talent on series one, particularly the soulful voices.
"Stan [Walker] explained to me that a lot of Maori and others who come here have a gospel upbringing, singing in churches and stuff like that."
And this time around, the talent is just as strong, says Blatt, who adds contestants are spurred on by success stories like Lorde and Broods.
"It definitely must inspire kids to think anything's possible. But one of the hurdles they need to get over is just this humble thing. You know, a lot of people have it here. A lot of people in Britain are very self-deprecating, too. But here, it's next-level."
Those who watched the inaugural X Factor NZ in 2013 will know Blatt's a no-nonsense, tell-it-like-it-is kind of judge.
And she was just waiting for the call asking her back. "I'm never going to go anywhere and do anything I don't want to do," Blatt says. She is sad her teenage daughter, Lily, isn't here with her this time, but she has forged a firm friendship with co-judge Stan Walker and now with Kills and Moon.
"We have little pool parties," says Kills. "We've become best of friends. I feel like Mel is the boss; Stan is the truth. He's a man of the people. He's like, 'Man, I'm going to tell it to you like we're family.' "Stan has often described me as a non-cruel Cruella de Vil."
"I think that's more the styling," chips in Blatt.
"I'm really honest, though," Kills replies.
"Mean?" I ask. There's a long pause. "The show is a reflection of what the industry is like, so I'm very honest and I'm not afraid to take that honesty to very firm levels to get the best out of people," she says.
"And Willy, he's tough to crack. And if you've cracked him, you're not good, you're great."
So, there's no spousal rivalry; no back-stage bitching - or at least that Kills and Blatt are happy to reveal. Although Blatt admits to being disappointed at having been given the "overs" (contestants aged over 25) to mentor, while Kills has the boys, Moon the groups and Walker the girls.
Kills insists Blatt's wrong to be disappointed, saying there are two contestants in the overs who are particularly good. "Steve Brookstein or Andy-the-bin-man good?" I ask.
"No, we're talking Robin Thicke or Ryan Tedder good," she says. "The fact that you have those two in your category has made us all a little worried."
"Yeah," says Blatt, who has clearly already warmed to her category. "The one thing definitely turned it around for me was when I met them for the first time. It was nice to be in a room full of mature artists, rather than crazy teenagers." A reference to groups like Moorehouse and Gap5, which she mentored last time.
They can't tell us much about where the judges' retreats are or who their guest judges, but Kills says it has been a hard decision because she has so many connections in the music business.
"What about Madonna?" I suggest. "Yeah, I might just text her," she says, laughing.
We're nearing the end of our chat and Kills and Blatt have made a decent dent in their sweets and savouries. I don't want to be a killjoy and end on a prickly note, but I need to know how much of what we see is scripted. How often are those producers in their ears?
"We have, 'introduce the next act' in our ear', and that's it," says Blatt.
"We don't get told what to do, we don't have notes," says Kills. "That's been difficult for me because I thought it was going to be easy. I thought we would be told what to say, I thought it would be a little bit more like acting. But it's not. Not one moment of it."
"And if the producers told me what to do, I wouldn't be doing it. None of us would, we're not those kind of people," says Blatt.
I have no reason to disbelieve the straight-talking singer. But she was the member of the All Saints who declared they'd never sing together again, before they reformed - albeit briefly - to tour with the Backstreet Boys.
Of course, a girl can change her mind, but one final notion still niggles when it comes to a show like this: is reality TV really the best way to make it big here? We've heard from 2013 winner, Jackie Thomas, and runner-up Benny Tipene seems to be doing pretty well in the local charts. But isn't The X Factor more about making compelling television than finding the next Lorde?
This is the third, and final, time I am wrong. It is possible to make it this way, apparently, but only if you really want it, and have the goods.
"A platform is a platform is a platform," says Blatt. "You know, I'm the biggest X Factor fan, but I was very militant before, in that, if you were a singer, you didn't do anything else.
"But it's such a contradiction in terms - being in the music business and loving music. They don't really work together. But The X Factor is a great TV show. It will give you exposure.
"It's then up to the artist what you do with it, and the record company that follows it up.
"A lot of people at home, who don't have a detailed knowledge of how the music industry works, probably don't understand how difficult it is to get a manager or to get someone to do a free photo shoot so you can start a Twitter or Instagram account, or make a cheap video," adds Kills.
"Especially when you're not from Auckland, or New York, or London, but from a small village singing to your mum with a guitar in the living room or to your friends in a garage on Friday night after school. How are they going to find a manager to give them the exposure they deserve? I think The X Factor is an incredible opportunity to kick start a dream, even just for a moment," Kills says.
"Or it could do everyone a favour and put you off so you don't even bother," concludes Blatt, with a wicked twinkle in her eye that lets you know the "boss", as Kills calls her, is back. So is what's sure to be one of the most talked-about locally made television series of 2015.
The X Factor NZ starts on TV3 tonight. It will air Sundays at 7pm and Mondays and Tuesdays at 7:30pm for four weeks, before live shows start. It will be streamed live on TV3.co.nz