Drift Away is still on top of the NZ Singles Chart.' />

The international success of Sons of Zion's latest album was "absolutely unexpected" according to Rotorua-raised vocalist Rio Panapa.

Vantage Point held the ninth spot on the Billboard Reggae Albums charts last week following its release on May 11.

"We weren't aiming for that, we didn't even know that there was a possibility it could get on there. I actually don't know how!" Panapa told the Rotorua Daily Post.

From left, Matt Sadgrove, Ross Nansen, Rio Panapa, Caleb Haapu, Joel Latimer, Samuel Eriwata of Sons of Zion. Photo/Supplied
From left, Matt Sadgrove, Ross Nansen, Rio Panapa, Caleb Haapu, Joel Latimer, Samuel Eriwata of Sons of Zion. Photo/Supplied

He said the Billboard chart standings had taught the rock, dub, R'n'B, and reggae band more about its overseas fanbase.

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"Spotify, Google Music, and Apple Music have really opened up the international gates for Kiwi artists because streaming, it's just the way of the future ... That's what I'd put it down to. Streaming."

Panapa said each album released by the band built on the one before.

"If we didn't do the things we did before, this album would not have been as successful as it has been ... I'm not too sure if it's the best, but yes it's the latest rung in the ladder."

TimeOut presents the Music Month Sessions, with thanks to New Zealand on Air. Sons of Zion speak about the Kiwi music that shaped their lives.

The six-piece band's latest single Drift Away is still in the top spot in the NZ Singles Chart after its release 10 weeks ago.

Fellow member Caleb Haapu is also from Rotorua.

The group is yet to announce its New Zealand tour dates, which will follow its tour of Australia this month and a trip through the Pacific Coast of the United States in July supporting fellow Kiwi reggae group Katchafire.

"We will be playing in New Zealand at the end of August and start of September. We are just sorting out which way around the country we want to go, but that should be confirmed in the next week or two," Panapa said.

He said the band saw the members of Katchafire as mentors.

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"One of our first gigs actually was with Katchafire in 2007 in Raglan. For some reason, they just gave us the opportunity to open for them for their New Year's show which was huge for us. They didn't really have to do that, we were just 17-year-old kids at that stage so we've been working together pretty much ever since then.

"For the last four summers we've toured together from around Boxing Day to January 7 up and down the country, and now we are friends outside of music as well. We spent time together just hanging out with each other's families, it's become more than just a work thing."

Panapa was first introduced to music at Lakes City Church where his parents played in the church band.

He began to take music seriously at Kaitao Intermediate through music teacher Carol Smyth.

Panapa is still in touch with Smyth, and comes back to Rotorua often to see friends and family.

"Honestly I spend so much time in Rotorua. Mum and Dad still live there, and all of my family, my siblings besides one in Tauranga. I come down twice a month for a few days at a time."