4 May 2024

NZ Music Month Live in Studio: Phoebe Rings

From Music 101, 2:06 pm on 4 May 2024
Local band Phoebe Rings, live in the RNZ studio

Local band Phoebe Rings, live in the RNZ studio Photo: RNZ / Marika Khabazi

Auckland dream-pop band Phoebe Rings kicks off NZ Music Month with a live session in our Auckland studio.

This audio is not downloadable due to copyright restrictions.


1. Phoebe Rings - 'Mandarin Tree'
2. Taeko Onuki - 'Tokai'
3. Phoebe Rings - 아스라이 (Aseurai)

Engineered and mixed by Andre Upston

Vocalist Crystal Choi tells Charlotte Ryan that she sings in Korean, sometimes Japanese but usually English with Phoebe Rings.

"When I tend to write melodies it comes in Korean which is my mother tongue … For me personally, writing a song in Korean is a little bit more comfortable because I grew up reading Korean books so my literature brain I think works in Korean."

'Mandarin Tree' - the first song performed - was written by drummer and vocalist Alex Freer. 

During lockdown, the sight of a tree got him thinking about Auckland's housing crisis.

"[The tree] was overhanging a footpath in the Kingsland area and we'd just been given our notice to leave our house and it was really annoying. Walking past houses that were maybe empty... seeing a fruit tree in someone's garden gave a small sense of optimism in a housing crisis, I guess you could say."

The second song performed is a 1980s track sung by Taeko Ohnuki and produced by Ryuichi Sakamoto, Choi says.

"The arrangement of the songs is so great on this album called Sunshower. And yeah, this is the favourite song from the album - 'Tokai'."

"It's basically about this person who is going out to town to have very superficial conversations with people and is enjoying the city life but really she is putting it on and just wants to return. the last verse that she keeps repeating is, Let's kind of stop this fake thing and go home'."

'Aseurai' - the final song performed - takes its name from the Korean word for 'dimly or faintly', Choi says. 

"I had written everything except for the lyrics and then it took me a while to really finish it ... When I was writing it, my grandma was still alive. But when I decided to put lyrics to it, she had passed away.

"I have been away from her for a very long time because I came to New Zealand in 2000. So I thought about all the happy memories that we've had and all the happy memories she would have had even before I was born. It just made me write the song ... [It's about me] kind of faintly wishing for my love to be sent to her."

Phoebe Rings are:
Crystal Choi - vocals, keyboard
Simeon Kavanagh-Vincent - guitar, keyboard, backing vocals
Kat Tomacruz - bass, backing vocals
Alex Freer - drums, backing vocals