The Smokefreerockquest final 2016 is fast approaching, and as always it’s worth getting excited for. The high school band stage is a key one in any successful artist’s trajectory, and you need to go so that you can legitimately say that you knew them from way back. The proof is in the pudding, for here are ten of our favourite Smokefreerockquest alumni that have become Kiwi music icons!

#10. The Datsuns: From Cambridge to the NME, The Datsuns were New Zealand’s stake in the global garage rock trend. Thanks to Smokefreerockquest, New Zealand got the much cooler Datsuns, while Australia had to settle for The Vines.

#9. Julia Deans has been a bit of a chameleon in the New Zealand music scene. She lead the seminal Fur Patrol before playing with John Toogood in The Adults.

I was a pretty nerdy kinda kid,” she said. “And then I did the whole ‘Rockquest thing, ’cos when I was about 14 or 15 my mum came home from a garage sale with a guitar that she’d picked up for $10. In 1991 I entered SFRQ as part of The Far Side from Burnside High School and we won best original song at the National Finals for my song, Tower.”

#8. Bang! Bang! Eche! brought their dance-punk energy in 2006 and turned venues here and overseas sticky with sweat.

#7. Anna Coddington has been a staple of indie music in recent years. She’ll be worth checking out at Rhythm & Vines this New Year’s.

Smokefreerockquest really pushed us to practice hard and we went from not really knowing what we were doing at all, to winning the thing two years later! It was an awesome experience.”

#6. Brooke Fraser has been an icon in this country for so long that it’s hard to believe she even needed humble beginnings, but she was there and we haven’t looked back since.

Creativity is an essential part of being human and something that should be acknowledged and encouraged in an emerging generation, not stamped out, and Smokefreerockquest has proved itself a champion of the potential simmering away in our nation, committed to giving young people a platform for creative expression.”

#5. When Somebody That I Used to Know exploded in 2012 it seemed like New Zealand had birthed its first truly internationally recognised artist, but yes, Kimbra too started with Smokefreerockquest.

“It was the perfect kind of encouragement to push me to keep at it,” she said of the competition.

#4. It wouldn’t at all be a surprise to learn Masterton’s Ladyhawke was also a performer at SFRQ. She’s churned out great music with a knack of wearing her influence on her sleeve, translating it into something always worth revisiting.

#3. It was in high school when I first saw Die! Die! Die!, so to me they’ve always embodied that SFRQ spirit; energetic and consistently determined to put on the best show you’ve ever seen.

#2. Boasting such a famous class of rock musicians, it’s easy to forget that SFRQ has birthed important players in other genres too. Nesian Mystik performed in 2000, treating the audience then to the smooth jams we’ve all come to know by now.

#1. Bic Runga is the number one favourite among SFRQ alumni, with good reason. She’s been the unrivalled queen of emotive ballads. Put it this way: Sway featured on American Pie and made the film classy! Not an easy feat by any means.

In retrospect, the Smokefreerockquest held me in good stead for when I entered the adult world of professional music,” she said.

TEARAWAY be at the Smokefreerockquest 2016 National Final at the Ray Freedman Centre – will you? Look out for our reporter Breann and photographer Max – come and say hi and get your picture taken for our SFRQ wrap-up!