Earlier this week I had a message from Emily asking me if I lived in South Auckland. When I responded I did, she asked if I would be interested in coming along to an event she was putting on in a coffee shop in Pukekohe to celebrate the release of her new single, Warenoa. This seemed like a lovely idea, which is why on a Wednesday night I found myself heading out of Auckland. When I arrived the band were setting up in a corner of the room, there were loads of chairs, as well as plenty of kai and drinks, and the feeling that this was very much a family affair with young children in attendance, and everyone laughing and joking. There was a real feeling of warmth and aroha.

Emily is an unusual performer in that she uses her voice as an additional instrument, using a device which allows her to layer harmonies and set up loops in real time. This is how she commenced tonight, setting the patterns in place for Moab, a song from her 2015 EP, Find Me

Here. This was my first time hearing her with a full band, as she was joined by Ollie O’Loughlin (drums), Callum Lee (guitar, backing vocals) and Māia Huia (bass, backing vocals), all finding their way to add nuances and touches to her sound without ever overpowering it. The bass was fluid, the drums solid, and the guitar added elements which provided drama and edge when required. Emily brings together many different styles such as soft jazz, RnB, and even a little touch of folk, but always with her wonderful vocals front and centre, with the switch between layers, harmonies and solo changing the dynamics constantly. Next we had the wonderful Arisefrom her last EP, Auaha, where there is less vocal trickery as the band provide more substantial support and Emily allows her voice to soar. This is music which is modern, clean, and full of space, and the gentle guitar solo was perfectly in keeping with the mood which was relaxed and warm. Māia is one of those players who can keep it simple and restrained, but can also shift the mood and take a song in a very different direction, with some wonderfully fluid and creative playing.

Red and Blue starts with finger clicking, and is somewhat more repetitive which allows the band to mess about a little more, really getting into the soft jazz groove. Next up we had another new one, which would allow us to contrast music written pre-child and post, as for some reason Emily does not have quite as much time as she used to. Goodnight Moon is far more relaxed, creating a very different mood again, sitting very much on the bassline, with Emily providing short harmonies here and there to give us emphasis and yet another change in approach. Of course, she ended the set with the brand-new song, Warenoa, which is a changed Te Reo version of a song she wrote some time ago, and tonight she switched between languages. This was the most upbeat number of the night, far more driven yet still very much in the jazz and dance form with her vocals clear and upfront, showing yet another side of Emily’s musical style. If that was not enough, she then provided a wonderful saxophone solo, which was warm and just so much fun. It was no wonder her proud husband, Charles (also her musical partner in {Aro}), was sat in the audience with a huge smile on his face. We ended the night with the first ever showing of the video for that song. I was so glad I made the trip here tonight, as this was wonderful fun from beginning to end.

Photo credit: Kev Rowland