Smokefreerockquest is officially in full swing! New Zealand’s music competition for youth has been really busy with regionals and finals, all the way from north to south. The weather’s getting colder, but the competition is just heating up.  We checked in with one of the finalists so far; Sarah Saunders from Wairarapa band, Halafaxa.


Name: Halafaxa
Won: 1st place in the Band category
Region: Wairarapa
Members: Sarah Saunders (vocals), Sebastian Vallance (bass), Frank Dickson (guitar) and Luka Francis-Murray (drums)


How would you describe your musical style?
I wouldn’t say we fit under a particular genre, but I guess we are essentially an alternative/indie rock band. But we have influences from pop and funk too, so it’s quite a broad sound.


Who are your musical influences or role models?

We all have very different role models as individuals, and I wouldn’t say all of them translate into our sound. When we started the band a few years ago, we basically were just a Nirvana and Red Hot Chili Peppers cover band, so maybe there’s a bit of influence from them. We’ve tried to break free from that a bit, though, and really work on developing a unique sound. That’s important to us. Musically and performance-wise, I take inspiration from all kinds of people, but at the moment I’m super into female artists like Bjork, FKA Twigs and Patti Smith, and my absolute favourite is Grimes. Very cool. Lyrically, I can get inspired by anything, like a poem, or a dream I’ve had. So it comes from all sorts of places.


What’s your favourite song to listen to at the moment?

I’m having a Neil Young moment right now; Harvest is so good. I also really like Eb & Sparrow’s whole album. I’ve been listening to Grimes a lot; I love her stuff so much. That’s my winter music. As a band, we’ve been listening to last year’s Rockquest bands, like Joe’s Van and Headchef. We really like them.


Why did you enter Smokefreerockquest?

We really love Rockquest just because it’s so much fun. It’s always so good just getting to hear other bands and artists, and playing to a crowd. There’s so much talent around. But otherwise, it’s just important for us to get our music out there and gain performance experience. We entered last year too, and we worked from that feedback and came back for another go.


Any advice for anyone wishing to enter Smokefreerockquest?

Just give it a go. Like I said, it’s so much fun. I think it’s amazing that there’s something like Rockquest, where young people can share their music and perform for free. People should take advantage of that for sure. I think you can really develop your confidence and craft through Rockquest.

Keep up to date with Halafaxa’s progress on their Facebook page, and all the Smokefreerockquest goss here!