Their year included crowdfunding a debut album, signing to Napalm Records, playing Wacken Open Air and being chosen to support Ministry’s US tour, but there’s one thing New Zealander teenage thrash metal band Alien Weaponry are still eager to tick off their wish list – playing a massive show in neighbouring Australia. Well, that dream becomes reality in five months when the trio from Waipu play Australia’s second ever Download Festival. “It’ll be our first time playing a festival this big over in Aussie, so it’ll be really cool to see what reception we get from the audience. It’ll probably give us a pretty good idea of what we can do over there,” bassist Ethan Trembath says. “We’ve always known about Download UK and it was one of those massive festivals… it’s always been a dream to play one of the Downloads, so it’s fantastic to be playing in Australia, just over the ditch. It’s going to be awesome.”
AW developed a strong bond with their Trans-Tasman cousins following the decision to make their first international trip a string of Aussie shows in July. “We never thought that we’d rock up to a place we’d never been before and people actually know who we are,” Trembath says. Less than a year later, they will bring their unique blend of thrash and Maori language to Download, probably the continent’s biggest metal event. The success of the inaugural Melbourne 2018 Download has resulted in the addition of Sydney for 2019, the line-up is huge, and it’s filling the holes in metalheads’ collective souls after the other big platforms went bye-bye. AW will play Sydney’s Parramatta Park on March 9 and Melbourne’s Flemington Racecourse on March 11, but the mayhem won’t end there. The band doesn’t want their far-flung fans to miss out, so they are just days away from announcing additional shows. “While we’re already over in Australia we’re going to chuck in a few more shows for our Aussie fans… Perth, Canberra and Adelaide and possibly another place as well. We’ll be announcing the dates next week,” Trembath says. The venue announcements will come later, with the shows possibly being bar gigs.
The young men have grown to appreciate crowds of all sizes, especially after their 2018 European summer circuit, where they played the biggest metal festivals in the world (MetalDays, Wacken Open Air, Bloodstock). “Some of the festivals we were playing in Europe were around about 20,000 people… Those seem to be some of the best festivals, the slightly smaller ones, because the big ones like Wacken can get a bit overwhelming when you have to take a bus to get into the festival from where you’re camping. It can get pretty hectic. Alien Weaponry really enjoys playing the slightly smaller festivals and coming from New Zealand, a 20,000 people festival is not that small for us,” Trembath says.
Details are scarce for Download set times, set lengths or whether they’ll get a spot in the signing tent, but they would be more than happy to sign some merch and meet fans. Along with meeting fans of theirs, they’re also hoping to meet their idols. “We’re all really big fans of Alice In Chains, that’d be awesome. Seeing Ozzy would be pretty crazy. Just being able to meet him backstage would be amazing.” Taking inspiration from the typical European and American metal idols, they’ve also been enjoying their interactions with the various indigenous people they meet, trying to keep native tongues alive. That’s because the de Jong brothers, Henry, 18, (drums) and Lewis, 16, (lead vocals, guitar) are of Ngati Pikiāo and Ngati Raukawa (Māori tribal) descent and attended a full immersion kura kaupapa Maori (Maori language school) until they were seven years old, where singing waiata and performing haka were a daily routine. “We’ve talked to plenty of native people – aboriginal and Native Americans and it’s good to see we’ve inspired some of them to look deeper into their culture. It’s just really great to draw similarities with our cultures, with our past,” Trembath says. Henry and Lewis’ father Niel de Jong, a sound engineer who has also managed the group, was one of the reasons they got into mixing their native language and metal. “He’s definitely one of the main reasons we picked up on the Maori and metal combination,” Trembath says.
Their debut album, ‘Tū’, (short for Tūmatauenga, the Māori god of war), features several Maori songs about land confiscation, disease and deadly confrontations, like Raupatu and Urutaa. Rū Ana te Whenua, tells the story of a mighty battle in 1864 where their ancestor, Te Ahoaho, died. New Zealand and Australia certainly share a history of early displacement by British colonialists. However, with Aussies’ growing political indifference, fuelled by a revolving door of prime ministers, along with the polarising ‘change the date’ debate around January 26, will these more political songs cut through or will they fall on deaf ears? “At the end of the day, we’re still just spreading our thoughts, putting our views out there. Not all of our songs are political, but definitely some of them are quite political. We have songs more about social anxiety and our own stories. We’re not completely focused on political history and things like that, but I hope we still catch the audience’s attention with our more political stuff as well. It’s a little bit different because it’s more of a story rather than a speech.” Trembath says the band’s English language material is equally hard-hitting, with songs like Rage, Holding My Breath, Hypocrite, and PC Bro addressing everything from a schoolyard punch-up to teenage mental health issues, and the hypocrisy of teachers, the media and reality TV shows alike.
Playing their biggest Down Under shows yet will be additionally memorable for the AW guys, since they’ll also be celebrating birthdays. Ethan will be 17 on March 6 and Henry will be 19 on March 10. Lewis isn’t far behind, hitting 17 in April. Since Henry will be the only member over 18, their post-show routine will be spent with the people instead of at the pub. “We seem to, after a gig, just chill out with the audience and meet some cool people. There’s an Australian band that we know pretty well, we met them in Slovenia at MetalDays – Copia. They’re really great guys. If we ever meet cool guys like that at the gigs we tend to hang out with the bands after the show.”
Get your tickets to see Alien Weaponry at Download Festival 2019 HERE!