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Best New Zealand Bands

New Zealand seems like an unlikely place to have an amazing indie music scene. I was shocked at how many talented bands I discovered from this tiny, obscure island. The only thing I knew about New Zealand is that they filmed The Lord of The Rings movies there and that they have those funny little kiwi birds. Many of the artists on this list have a unique, psychedelic or strange style. Because the country is tucked away in the southern hemisphere, much of the music takes from other island sounds and has Asian or African influences. Lawrence Arabia is my favorite band that I’ve found and I still think he is brilliant and has witty and hilarious lyrics with polished instrumentals. Most of you have probably heard of Unknown Mortal Orchestra and probably never knew they started in New Zealand. I hope to visit this beautiful and mysterious island country someday but until then I’ll keep listening to their amazing array of indie music.

1. Lawrence Arabia- Created in 2003 by multi-instrumentalist and composer James Milne, this project blends catchy piano pop sounds with witty and hilarious lyrics. My favorite New Zealand act, Lawrence Arabia has captivated my attention for a long time. He is a master of songwriting and a genius of song composing. He has a dark sense of humor and uses his intellect and wit in his songs to make his audience laugh and cry and feel every emotion in between.

2. Mako Road- This psychedelic reggae fusion band has a uniquely New Zealand sound. They have amazing electric guitar work and chill Island-inspired percussions that will make you feel like you’re relaxing on the beach.

3. Jonathan Bree- A producer and multi-instrumentalist, Jonathan has been a major figure in New Zealand indie music for a long time. His style is a blend of new age and baroque pop and is haunting and beautiful and just the right amount of strange.

4. Yumi Zouma- This alternative dream pop group began in 2014. They blend elements from other parts of the world to create a unique and catchy sound. A great example of what great modern dream pop music should sound like. With lots of songs, they will keep you intrigued with their complex and layered synth pop beats and smooth singing style.

5. The Ruby Suns- This indie pop group, formed in 2003, blends lo-fi surf music with indie rock to create a great New Zealand sound. With a hint of psychedelic rock, they are definitely worth a listen if you are interested in the New Zealand indie scene.

6. Princess Chelsea- With her soft, whispery voice, Chelsea Nikkel, AKA Princess Chelsea, soothes your senses with her dreamy pop sound. Taking elements from classical music, she is also considered baroque pop and uses dark humor and satire to make her lyrics very unique and interesting.

7. Connan Mockasin- Fitting in with most of the New Zealand artists on this list, Connan has the right amount of strange and creative genius. He writes songs about dolphins and weird topics and has a very isolated and quiet style, using subtle sounds and guitar licks. One of the most unique artists you’ll probably ever hear, he is considered a pioneer in blending psychedelic and indie music together.

8. Ghost Wave- This New Zealand psychedelic rock group is a mix of lo-fi jangly pop, surf rock and 60’s style psychedelic pop. They have a great sound that draws from bands like The Byrds and The Rolling Stones with a unique New Zealand twist.

9. Unknown Mortal Orchestra- This experimental psychedelic pop band was formed in Auckland, New Zealand by multi-instrumentalist Ruban Nielson. The group later moved to Portland, Oregon but I will still include them on this list as their origin is important to their unique sound and quality. They are an interesting mix of lo-fi experimental pop, with very lengthy instrumental songs that last around 15 minutes, to catchy Michael Jackson style dance songs that received a lot of radio play. One of my favorite bands and definitely one of the most unique sounds out there.

Written by Adam

By Adam

I am a musician and writer. I love discovering new indie artists and music and writing about my findings.

2 replies on “Best New Zealand Bands”

I like them all, but especially Lawrence Arabia (what a great name, from one of my all-time favorite films), Mako Road (attractive & charming fellows who also make great music) and The Ruby Suns (love their dreamy sound and beautiful harmonies that seem to channel the Beach Boys at times).

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