We don’t quite know what’s going on on the other side of the ‘ditch’ right now, but New Zealand is fast gaining a reputation as a breeding ground for hot new pop talent. In recent years, we’ve been captivated by the likes of Ladyhawke, Brooke Fraser, Kids Of 88, Dane Rumble and Gin Wigmore… Even Australian Idol wasn’t safe from the talent of Aotearoa’s Stan Walker.
Now we’ve opened the gate to another hot new cross-Tasman star. 20 year old Zowie is primed to take the pop world by storm with her debut Australian single ‘Bite Back’ and with high profile support coming from the likes of Perez Hilton and Mark Ronson, she has every chance of success.
We plonked down for a natter with Zowie and asked her what the devil is going on in New Zealand with all these new artists.
“I don’t know – something in the water perhaps,” she laughs. “I was asked this a couple of days ago, actually. I don’t know what it is. It’s really cool though and we’re all a tight knit group.”
The musical story for Zowie started when she was quite young. But surprisingly it wasn’t in front of a microphone that she felt the most comfortable.
“I studied drumming at music school. When I was there I started getting into groups where I was using my vocals a bit more… More yelping and screeching in punk type bands,” she recalls. “Then I accidentally created this character called ‘Bionic Pixie’. I don’t really remember what happened. I think I was mad about something and I just started to write some tracks on a music program.
“People started to really like it and I then won a grant to play at the APRA Song Summit here in Sydney. I put on my first Bionic Pixie show in early 2008, but over time I realized that I’d really want her to evolve into another character,” she said.
We ask if she then purposefully tried to kill ‘Bionic Pixie’ off.
“Well no, because Zowie is still a bionic pixie, but now she’s a stronger kind of person and just evolved. Just different. The songs have got better and it felt like the right time to move on, but she’s still a bionic pixie,” she enthuses, speaking about herself in the third person. It doesn’t go unnoticed.
“Sometimes it’s confusing for people, but you’re doing well,” she encourages with a laugh.
It was during her days as a ‘Bionic Pixie’ that Zowie first raised a few record company type eyebrows. Gracing the stage at the 2009 Big Day Out in Wellington, she was blissfully unaware of just who might be watching her set.
“We were the first band on at about 10:30 in the morning and I was whinging that no-one was going to be there, but still excited, obviously. But then we got on stage and the whole field was packed out. Obviously everyone goes to the first stage when you’re the first band playing, but in the crowd were heaps of representatives from Universal and Sony and all those labels.
“Over that year I started chatting to publishers and labels. Sony just felt right for me and the people understood what I wanted to do and were happy to do my thing as well. Then in January 2010 they signed me in Australia,” she beams.
Her debut Australian single is the super-infectious ‘Bite Back’ – a delicious grinding electro pop masterpiece with a feisty get-outta-my-way swagger. It’s a topic of great excitement for Zowie.
“I wrote ‘Bite Back’ in the middle of last year and over the few months just started working more on the production side of things. I wrote it with a guy called Timmy Anderson. He’s in a band called ‘I’m A Robot’ over there and we just clicked straight away. The song happened super quick and it just felt really right because it never came across as being forced.
“The song’s just about standing up for yourself, I suppose, and just doing what you want to do. But as I started writing it more, it started to encapsulate a number of themes in one, which I like because I like people to relate to it,” she says.
And Zowie should know a thing or two about standing up for herself – she’s trained in the art of karate. But she warns us that it’s someone else we should be looking over our shoulder for.
“My mum,” she warns us. “She’s amazing at it. She could kick my arse. Something in the water.”
It pays to be in Zowie’s corner. Which is precisely where celebrity blogger Perez Hilton safely sits, after discovering her New Zealand-only single ‘Broken Machine’ last year. He featured the track on his website – a brilliant boost to Zowie’s global profile.
“I had heard that he really liked ‘Broken Machine’,” she says. “I check his site all the time to get a bit of goss. So I went online at about three in the morning and the headline was there. I just froze and kept staring at it. I messaged my manager straight away saying ‘oh my god, oh my god’. Then he continued the support with ‘Bite Back’ as well. So yeah, Perez has been really supportive and I’m very flattered.”
With ‘Bite Back’ already at digital retail in Australia, the focus for Zowie is now on her debut album, which is currently in its final stages of completion.
“I’m finishing it off at the moment,” she says. “I’m just going backwards and forwards with little production tests here and there and mixes are coming back. So it’s very close and it looks like a release mid to late this year, so I can’t wait.”
But despite widespread reports at other media, Zowie assures us that so far the album remains untitled.
“I don’t have a title. People have been saying to me, ‘so tell me more about your album called blah-de-blah’. There have been all these names made up and some funny rumours. I’ve got a long list, but the names that people have been saying are definitely not on there,” she says.
Which begs the question, “what names have people been coming up with?”
“There was ‘Broken Lyricas’. About three different people asked me about that one. And then there was another ‘Broken’ something. I guess they’re getting confused with ‘Broken Machine’, but I don’t know. I wouldn’t call it ‘Broken Lyricas’ that’s for sure.”
So cross ‘Broken Lyricas’ off the album title list, but mark in your diary that there will be another single (possibly two) to drop before the LP.
“We’re kind of looking into that at the moment,” she says. “Just jotting down lots of different treatment ideas for videos for different tracks and seeing what feels right. But I think there’s something special coming out soon for Australia. I can’t divulge. But I will soon,” she teases.
We enquire whether or not this would have something to do with a video. She responds cheekily with a succinct, “Possibly…”
So add Zowie to the long list of stars whose careers have mushroomed from the land of the long white cloud in recent years. But this young lady has something a little extra. Fun, intelligent and flirty, she possesses razor-edge style, hot looks, kick-ass tunes and a glaringly bright future. Of course, with a background in bionics and karate, we daren’t for a moment think anything different.
Zowie’s debut Australian single ‘Bite Back’ is available digitally now.
Her debut album is set for release “mid to late this year”.
Zowie supports Architecture In Helsinki’s forthcoming shows in Perth, Melbourne and Brisbane. Click HERE for dates.