Rotorua's Rio Panapa and his Sons of Zion band mates have headed to Los Angeles to turn a dream into a reality.

They are recording their first international album in the same space as legendary musicians Bob Marley, Alicia Keys, Tupac and the Rolling Stones.

Four members of the six-piece band, Panapa (vocals/guitar), Matt Sadgrove (bass/engineer), Sam Eriwata (vocals/percussion) and Joel Latimer (keys), have arrived in Los Angeles seeking some fresh perspective from the eclectic and artistic surroundings of Venice Beach.

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After 12 years together, lead vocalist Rio Panapa said it was the perfect time to head to the heart of the world's entertainment industry to draw inspiration for their third album, which they planned to release in time for summer.

This also means when Sons of Zion perform in the Bay of Plenty this summer, fans can guarantee they'll come with a new set and some new music.

"As a band we are always pushing ourselves to be the best artists that we can be. And coming to a place like LA has given us new inspiration and re-energised our hunger to create music," Panapa said.

Panapa told the Rotorua Daily Post today from LA he had been living at home in Rotorua for more than a year now and was loving it.

"We are just in a place with the band where I don't need to be in Auckland anymore with what we are doing. Some of the others boys are the same and we have one in Ngāruawāhia and one in New Plymouth."

He said his family was the biggest drawcard back to Rotorua.

"It is what I know and the place that I love and the place where I go to top myself up and get re-energised. Auckland doesn't do that for me, if anything it stresses me out and makes me feel hoha. In Rotorua I go walking in the Redwoods in the mornings and it's really good for my soul."

He said although Rotorua has been inspirational for his writing, being in the same place could be tedious.


"It's hard to be creative in the same environment. We came here (to LA) to be around new surroundings and put a bit of pressure on ourselves. This trip is all self-funded so there's that pressure that you're going to fly all this way and spend all that money so you have to come up with something. It's a healthy amount of pressure that drives you to work."

The band will spend the next few days at Larrabee Studios, an iconic venue that has hosted some of the biggest names in music for more than four decades.

"For the boys it has been a lifelong dream to record in a place like this, knowing that some of the biggest songs ever created were made in this same space," Panapa said.

Sons of Zion perform during the Rotorua Seafood Festival at the Village Green in February this year. Photo / File
Sons of Zion perform during the Rotorua Seafood Festival at the Village Green in February this year. Photo / File

"We can't wait to share what we come up with with our fans back home in New Zealand," he said.

Sons of Zion songwriter and bassist Matthew Sadgrove spent four years in Los Angeles early in his career and is thrilled to be back in his old stomping ground after recently producing tracks for Stan Walker and Six60.

"LA has an energy and a buzz about it that really inspires you to create and push harder than you would normally at home," Sadgrove said.


"I forgot how much I missed the feel of this city," he said.

Singer Sam Eriwata said the band's sound had evolved over the years due to a natural progression of growing up and being comfortable to make music that felt right for them in their current stage of their lives.

Sons of Zion perform at the Lakeside concert in Rotorua in February 2018. Photo / File
Sons of Zion perform at the Lakeside concert in Rotorua in February 2018. Photo / File

"Over the next week we are just focused on getting new ideas on the page and recorded. The trip so far has been really beneficial and we can't wait to get into the studio today," Eriwata said.

Sons of Zion will be back in New Zealand in time for the festival circuit, set to play at One Love, Soundsplash and Bay Dreams where they will perform their new music live for the first time.

Rotorua cameraman Mike Jonathan from Haka Boy Productions is also in LA with the band shooting and editing footage for an online documentary and behind the scenes visuals.