27 May 2023

Kiwi musos take flight: Kaylee Bell, L.A.B and The Veils

10:16 am on 27 May 2023
Finn Andrews, Kaylee Bell, L.A.B.

Finn Andrews, Kaylee Bell, L.A.B. Photo: Supplied

After years of pandemic cancellations, closed borders and venues closing, local artists are having their first big tours since the pandemic began and releasing new music.

Covid-19 brought the live music scene to its knees. But while the border was closed, promoter Brent Eccles said local acts had a unique opportunity to flourish.

"A lot of internationals couldn't come, so we had the playing field to ourselves for a while if you could actually tour. But there was a time there where the internationals weren't coming - we had it to ourselves, we did quite well.

And even though international acts are now flooding back, Eccles said locals were still holding their own.

Many were also taking the opportunity to tour overseas. Checkpoint spoke to three local acts who were taking their sounds overseas.

Kaylee Bell.

Kaylee Bell. Photo: Kaylee Bell / Supplied

Kaylee Bell

Rising local country pop singer Kaylee Bell was heading to Nashville after her first national headline tour concluded.

Bell's concerts have been sellouts at several venues across the country, including her hometown Waimate.

"It's been amazing to get out and [finally] play our own headline shows and to meet people," she told RNZ.

"It's kind of everything you ever wanted."

Bell said her first headline tour was also a learning experience, seeing what audiences responded to.

"This tour is very much like a blank canvas."

She said audiences really responded to country music - especially down south.

"I think this tour has taught us that there is an audience in New Zealand, and I think there always has been."

Historically, she said, there had been a lack of radio and media support for country artists, but she believed country could blow up here in the next few years.

For many, Bell would have first come to light after her stint on The Voice Australia, where she auditioned with a musical ode to her idol and Voice judge Keith Urban.

But after a time trying to crack Australia's country music scene, Bell decided it was time to head home.

Kaylee Bell and Keith Urban.

Kaylee Bell with Keith Urban. Photo: Kaylee Bell / Supplied

"I just felt like I was going around in circles a little bit over there."

Bell said she headed back to New Zealand shores to "reset and just evaluate".

It was once back in New Zealand that she found her band. But Bell said once this tour was over, two days later she would be moving to Nashville.

"I'm gonna base myself there so that I can be doing a lot more writing and releasing a lot more music, essentially." she said.

In time she hoped her band would join her.

Bell also has a new record coming out in September, which she described as "an album of joy".

"After the last few years of not being able to play, I just want songs that you go and play live and people literally want to get up on their feet and have a good time," she said.

"I just think the world needs it ... and I know I need that."

L.A.B. at the 2019 NZ Music Awards

L.A.B. Photo: RNZ / Connor Crawford


Popular New Zealand band L.A.B was winning over American audiences so much they have already been invited back.

The band, known for its eclectic blend of reggae, electronic, blues, funk and rock, was currently on tour in the United States.

Mikee Tucker, founder of Loop Recordings, told RNZ they "just wanted to test the waters with the band and see if their popularity would translate past New Zealand and Australia, and it definitely is".

He said from the band's performances so far, they had already been offered three festivals next summer.

"It's obviously been a dream of the band's and all of us personally to tour internationally, especially in a country like America," said lead singer Joel Shadbolt.

He said the reaction "has given us such a buzz", but noted they received a very different reception to when performing in New Zealand.

"It's funny playing 'In the Air' here because no one knows it."

He said they were so used to "20,000 people just losing their minds when that song drops," but they were enjoying winning their new audiences over.

"It's like we're playing the songs for the first time again, which is cool because you're seeing everybody's faces [going], 'Oh yeah, these guys are cool.'"

Alongside showcasing their well-known hits, keyboardist Miharo Gregory said the band had also experimented with playing a few new songs they were writing for their new album.

Gregory said they would be back in the studio the week after they returned from the States.

Their new album was expected out at the end of November.

The Veils performing live at the Powerstation

The Veils. Photo: Jana Te Nahu Owen

The Veils

After a four-year hiatus due to the pandemic, English/New Zealand band The Veils were back in Europe.

The band recently arrived in London and were beginning rehearsals ahead of their European tour.

Frontman Finn Andrews could not be happier.

"It's been sunny every day. It's just been really fantastic to be back," he told RNZ.

"For years I lived in London, and we'd once every couple of years come back to New Zealand and tour. But over the last four or five years, it's kind of turned around, and I've been in New Zealand. Now we're starting to venture back out into the world again."

The pandemic had a significant impact on the band's music and touring plans, but Andrews said they were lucky to be living in New Zealand through that time.

"We managed to sneak in a few tours in between lockdowns, which was not something you were able to do [in England] at all."

The Veils have also recently released a new album …And Out Of The Void Came Love. Andrews described it as "a modest double album".

He said he and producer Tom Healey chipped away at the album for four years with no idea if it would see the light of day.

Andrews said while he was making the record, he imagined playing the songs in the European venues they had played many times before. He said the cities had almost become "places of fantasy" and bringing the songs there finally would feel "pretty amazing".

"Getting to bring these songs there finally is going to feel pretty, pretty amazing, I think."

After the European tour the band will be heading back to New Zealand, but Andrews hoped they would be able to also tour North America by the end of the year.

Andrews also spoke of the band's dual identity. Despite being associated with both England and New Zealand, The Veils have often found themselves in an "in between" position.

"We were always referred to as a New Zealand band here and an English band over there."

But he said the band was often forgotten when it came to events such as New Zealand Music Month or the New Zealand Music Awards.

Andrews said while having two places to call home was nice, it could be both a blessing and a curse.

"[As] I get older ... I feel more envious of people that have one place that's really theirs."

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