Shapeshifter still in good shape

20:46, Jul 25 2013
PERIPATETIC PRODUCERS: Shapeshifter recorded their new album in Woodville, Wellington and Berlin.

One of the newest and biggest success stories in British music this year has been Rudimental. It combines drum and bass with electronica, touches of soul and funk and guest singers.

But anyone who has discovered Kiwi band Shapeshifter since its inception 14 years ago will be thinking that Rudimental sound remarkably similar to our homegrown product.

"They probably haven't heard all of our stuff," says Shapeshifter's Wellington-based co-founder Devin Abrams, who is well aware of Rudimental. "But they are definitely crossing the genres like we do. It's definitely very similar."

The other similarity is wide appeal. Shapeshifter's new album, Delta, is No 3 in the charts this week and has been in the top 10 since its release seven weeks ago.

The band's national tour has seen several venues sold out, including Wellington Town Hall tomorrow night.

Shapeshifter pride themselves on being one of the first drum and bass bands in the world to play instruments live to produce its sound rather than relying solely on electronics. But Abrams says the band went into creating Delta with the aim of a more electronic sound, rather than the live feel of previous studio album The System is a Vampire in 2009.


"We wanted to be experimental and the only rule we made was that it didn't matter what tempo or genre it was. It is very different. I think there are only three drum and bass tracks on there, which is way less than what we normally put on an album."

Shapeshifter's first album was recorded in Christchurch, the second in Melbourne, the third in Kaikoura and Vampire in Northern Australia.

Abrams laughs when listing the contrasting locations for where Delta was recorded: Woodville, Wellington and Berlin. He says the place can make a difference to the music. "Berlin inspired us in many ways. A lot of the album was written there and the experiences we had there – something really resonated with us as a band about the Germans and Berlin."

The band was in Europe for six months after signing with high-profile drum and bass label Hospital Records. Abrams says at first the plan was to tour rather than write and record.

In a very fickle music industry, Shapeshifter's longevity is impressive. "Integral to a band's longevity is that you respect each other and love each other as people. That means you always have the best intentions."

Then there's its continued popularity, here and abroad. Abrams says it puts them in some odd positions. For one, the band is big in the Czech Republic. "But New Zealand has the most fanatical fan base. I think we are a bit like New Zealand's Grateful Dead. We never quite had that big hit, never really had a huge amount of commercial radio airplay or success, but [we have] this live following that is absurd in some ways."

The Dominion Post