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This is the Supreme Brother Sound

On the first day of the New Zealand music month of May, Gisborne five-piece, Supreme Brother Sound, launched their debut single, Motives. The soul, funk, R&B sound of the track harks back to smooth grooves of artists such as Otis Redding, and Diana Ross and The Supremes.

“I wrote this song 17 to 18 years ago,” said lead guitarist Josh Te Kahu.

“It was about my love for a guitar but I turned the guitar into the form of a relationship. The song is about being shy; the acceptance of a relationship, and coming out of being shy.”

Leaving the song on the back-burner for close to two decades was a blessing in disguise, said the band’s singer Philly Tarawa.

“Josh’s song was around for 17 years, but just now people are starting to get back into that kind of music.”

The single’s tune and beats, and the band’s name, draws on that golden age of funk/soul/R&B, but each member of Supreme Brother Sound comes from a different musical background.

Cornz Houkamau was originally a heavy metal drummer; bass guitarist Lawrence Rangi loves “anything with a groove”, while Tarawa has his roots in vintage reggae and R&B, said Te Kahu.

“So we’ve got two rock heads, an old school keyboard player and Josh’s guitar feels in the band. I tend to lean towards jazz in the vein of George Benson.”

Tarawa has always been different when it comes to music, said the band’s guitarist.

“I play bass, rhythm and lead all in the same motion. I’ve always played like that.”

As the youngest in a family of musicians, Tarawa would get kicked out of the room during practice but would go to the side of the house where he could hear them, and play his guitar. It was through this practice that he developed his own style, he said.

“I also listen to a lot of people who are different.”

Among those different people are American jazz guitarist Stanley Jordan, whose technique involves tapping his fingers on the fretboard of the guitar with both hands, and American jazz duo, Tuck & Patti.

“Everyone in Supreme Brother Sound is on their own spectrum in age groups too,” says Tarawa.

“The variety has shone through in our band. We’re quite diverse.”

After recording Motives, the band had planned to go back to the studio to record songs for an album but the lockdown put those plans on the backburner — for now.

Meanwhile, Supreme Brother Sound is a band with a shared vision. Top acts have come out of other centres, says Te Kahu.

Katchafire are from Hamilton, Kora, and LAB, from the Bay of Plenty, and Tomorrow’s People are based in Wellington. The Supreme Brother Sound brothers feel their band can make its mark as well.

“I always had this thing in me for a powerhouse band to come out of this region,” said Te Kahu.

“I want the same thing for the East Coast.”

Get down with Gisborne five-piece Supreme Brother Sound’s single, Motives, on Soundcloud at https://tinyurl.com/ybh56hx8

Motivated: Made up of Phillip Tarawa (left, with baby Kaharau-Kawakawa Tarawa), Josh Te Kahu, Guy Aupouri (third right), Lawrence Rangi, Cornz Houkamau, and joined by sound audio engineer Evan Pope (centre), Gisborne band Supreme Brother Sound has released its debut single, Motives, a song driven by a funk/soul/R&B sound.Picture supplied