Jazz graduates open for Red Hot Chili Peppers

Tunes of I, a band made up entirely of jazz graduates from NZSM, opened for Red Hot Chili Peppers at Spark Arena in March. We asked band member Conway Jeune a few questions about the experience.

Tunes of I band
Tunes of I, from left to right: Luther Hunt, Conway Jeune, Makura Tomoana, Bryn van Vliet, Kaito Walley and Jules Blewman.

You just opened for Red Hot Chilli Peppers!!!! How did that happen, and how was the experience?

Our agent at Eccles Entertainment was approached by the Chili's agent. It turns out that their agent liked us so we were put forward to the band and from that Anthony Kiedis hand picked us for the Saturday night show. Honestly, if we had even been put forward to the band and they had listened to 30 seconds of our music, that would be enough haha... peak reached! But the fact that we got to share the stage with those legends and an audience of 12,000 people was unreal! A crazy opportunity that we'll never forget.

Give us a brief history of Tunes of I

We all met at jazz school but the beginning of the band was between myself, Mudz Chadwick (original drummer), Louis Gray (original bass player) and Bryn van Vliet (saxophone). Then over a few years and a couple line up changes we now have myself, Makura Tomoana (bass), Luther Hunt (drums), Jules Blewman (guitar), Bryn van Vliet (saxophone) and Kaito Walley (trombone).

You all studied jazz at NZSM – did you study together at the same time, and what led to you forming the band?

Myself, Bryn and Kaito were in the same year at jazz school. We played in combos together throughout most of our time at the NZSM. Makura was a year above us. Jules was a year below us and Luther was a year below him. I think when myself, Mudz, Louis and Bryn formed the band we were using it as a means to play other music that wasn't specifically jazz. NZSM was great for practicing and getting your chops up on your instrument, as well as meeting heaps of awesome people. But Tunes was a nice escape from shredding in the practice rooms.

It’s interesting to note how many jazz graduates go on to be really successful playing other styles of music – why do you think this is?

I think it's because of the melting pot of influences and people that go through the NZSM. Almost everyone that comes through the school is serious and wants to do something with their music, so the passion is there, the dedication is there and the good people are there too.

Does it make a difference to have a jazz background in terms of how you make music together/ approach being in a band? How?

It definitely does! It means that we can easily explain and grasp onto each others ideas and differing forms of expression. But that being said it's also quite hard to get out of the "jazz school"mind frame too and sometimes it forces you to over think too much as well. It's amazing, but also sometimes tricky to turn off.

In 10 words or less, how would you describe the music of Tunes of I?

Dub rock with a sprinkle of funk and soul.

What are some of the other highlights for the band from the last little while?

We did our first international tour (2 times) last year! Getting over to Auzzy had been a big goal of ours for a long time and we got to head over there the first time to support our mates Ocean Alley on their album release tour. It was an amazing opportunity for us where we got to play to 1500-3000 every show. While we were on that tour we were seen by 123 Agency who Ocean Alley are signed to and they got us on board and bought us back over for our own headline Auzzy tour 2 months later. Yeah, it was pretty crazy to hit our own tour over there after such a short amount of time but there's a real scene for our sound over there, so that was super exciting for us.

What’s next for the band?

Next for Tunes is Cuba Dupa this weekend. We're playing on the Swan Stage at 4.45pm on Saturday and then at the start of April we're going on tour with Ocean Alley for two shows at the Powerstation in Auckland and two shows at the Hunter Lounge in Wellys. We're also currently working on our next album, so a lot of writing, mahi and love going into that. Keep a look out for some fresh things coming your way soon!