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New Zealand Music Month 2024 Showcase: Back To The Hillside

Posted by Lee Densem

From The Bedroom

It's that time of year again - happy New Zealand Music Month! We're showcasing a series of artists from the underground all the way up to icon staus in Tiki Taane. First up is 3 piece band Back To The Hillside. They wowed the judges so much at the inaugural BurgerFuel Battle of the Bands that they walked away with a cool $5K. We caught up with Neo Aiono-Fukushima (vocals/guitar) and Hamish Ross (bass). Mark who's currently on drums for them sat quietly and nodded a bit.

RBF: So take us back to the beginning of Back To The Hillside. When did it all start for you?

Neo: We first got together as Back To The Hillside in 2021, but I've known the bassist Hamish since high school. We did smoke free rock quest together in our high school band called Minutes To Monday. First year we got to the semifinals, the next year, not so well!

After we started Back To The Hillside, our original drummer moved to Australia so we’ve been going in and out of members. We've tried to get a four piece going with a girl called Rocielli who does the keys for a few of our live shows to get that sort of synthy sound. And also a bit of switching between Sam who’s also in Slow Rage and Mark who’s our drummer right now.

“Our music kind of follows what we listen to"

RBF: There’s a few tracks online now – kind of that indie/alternative vibe. But listening to you live you’ve got a heavier sound. Where would you say you sit?

Neo: I've just been messing around a couple of years and now we're actually getting some pretty happy with kind of music that we're trying to produce right now.

The first few songs that we released on Spotify were more indie pop indie rock, but now we're switching more into heavier territory like shoegaze, and taking the alternative route.

Hamish: Our music kind of follows what we listen to. Fortunately with me and Neo, our music tastes typically change at the same time, so always kind of writing music around the same kind of stuff we like to listen to. And what we like performing live the most!


“it sounds like you've picked something out of the mid 90s, and shoved it into today"

RBF: The first time I heard you at our Battle of the Bands, you had a Smashing Pumpkins tee on Neo, and I thought it just sounds like you've picked something out of the mid 90s, and shoved it into today by putting your own spin on it. It just worked! What were you jamming on your headphones to get to that sound?

Neo: Before we crossed over into the heavy stuff I was listening to like The Smiths, Joy Division, The Cure. All those 80s new wave, post-punk kind of stuff.

Hamish: Yeah, and after those initial more poppy/rock sounds both of our music changed to listening to bands like Smashing Pumpkins, Weezer, and a lot of 90s stuff. Neo got into more shoegaze, and now the heavier stuff is like Deftones.

"that track was all done in Neo's bedroom"

RBF: And I see you’ve been teasing your next release on your socials. That’s just about out right?

Neo: Yeah released on Friday 10th. It’s a shoegazey track called ‘I’ll Take You There’ which was all recorded in my bedroom.

Hamish: We've only got one song that we went to a producer for. That’s ‘I'm Alone’, which is written by Scott Seabright who produced it down in Pokeno. But this new track will be our third song released that was all done in Neo's bedroom, almost completely, solely produced. And everyone should know that.

“fortunately we happen to have come into some good cashflow recently”

RBF: And assume there’s more music and shows on the way too?

Hamish: For sure. We've got tonnes of songs. It's just it's kind of the bottleneck right now because Neo has to get a lot of time in order to do a lot of stuff. But fortunately, because we happen to have come into some good cashflow recently (thanks BurgerFuel!) and we've met a few nice producers around here, we might be able to get another song out pretty quickly as well. yeah.

Neo: We've just done a bunch of gigs, going to Hamilton quite a bit and playing with Frog Mouth. And we played with Flaxxies. That was a big one in Whitianga. It was crazy.

But we’ve got our next gig just around the corner. It’s on Sunday 26th of May at Big Fan. There’s Albert St, The Boondocks, and Retroville on the bill too.

Back To The Hillside's next track 'I'll Take You There' is out today (May 10) on all good streaming platforms. You can catch up with all the comings and goings on Instagram. And if you're in Auckland, make sure you round out NZ Music Month by checking them out live at Roll The Bones at Big Fan (it's an all ages gig) on 26 May.