Shepherds Reign members Filiva'a James (Ngāti Hāmoa), Oliver Leupolu (Ngāti Hāmoa), Shaymen Rameka (Ngāi te Rangi, Te Arawa), Gideon Voon (Ngāti Hainamana), Joseph Oti-George (Ngāpuhi),
South Auckland metal band Shepherds Reign continues to be called a Samoan band despite it having Māori and Chinese band members. The video for their new single, Le Manu, performed in the Samoan language, has only reinforced the misconception.
Online metal critic "Poss the Boss" proclaimed after hearing Le Manu, "Behold the power of Samoan/Polymetal!"
YouTube user Erma Cardenas after seeing the music video says, “Samoan Island Metal.”
Such sentiments are typical of the new fanbase that the band have created. Heavy Metal is a music genre often associated with Pākehā demographics despite having a large dedicated Polynesian following. Many of these new fans hail from countries that are unfamiliar with the wide range of Polynesian cultures, and often mistake one Pacific ethnicity for another.
The band is also being compared to Waipu based heavy metal trio Alien Weaponry. Fans have called for a collaboration between the two bands, while detractors have accused the band of plagiarising Alien Weaponry’s’ style. The reality is, totally different.
Ngāpuhi bass player Joseph Oti-George says “I actually competed against Alien Weaponry in Tangata Beats, our band came second.
“The year after, we won. They had left school and weren’t competing.”
Oti-George did not see them as an inspiration, but rather as a fellow competitor.
Lead singer and keyboard player Filiva’a James expressed his respect for Alien Weaponry, “They’ve been around for a while, and they started very early.”
The hairstyle of Samoan band members Filiva’a James and Oliver Leupolu have prompted comparisons to the demigod Maui, who sported the same haircut in the Disney film “Moana”.
Shepherds Reign band members starting from the left - Oliver Leupolu (Ngāti Hāmoa), Shaymen Rameka (Ngāi te Rangi, Te Arawa), Filiva'a James (Ngāti Hāmoa), Gideon Voon (Ngāti Hainamana), Joseph Oti-George (Ngāpuhi),
While Alien Weaponry is the product of a father teaching his sons to play metal style music, and bringing one of their friends along for the ride, Shepherds Reigns’ story is dramatically different.
Chinese guitar player Gideon Voon explains how he joined the band, “I grew up in South Auckland as well as a teenager. I met Fili at music school, at MAINZ. Then he introduced me to all these other dudes.”
Filiva’a James had previously formed the band with Leupolu and Rameka, so Voon was recruited as another guitar player.
James and Voon grew up playing in Christian church bands, and went on to study music formally whereas Alien Weaponry started playing in their farmhouse, and after winning a national competition, started touring Europe.
James explains why they chose to perform songs from a wide range of genres.
“It’s good to make our own version of songs we listen to, or just random songs to show our diversity.”
The band isn’t angry at the misconceptions though as they have always acknowledged the diverse whakapapa of the band. Filiva'a James wrote to Te Ao:
“We always knew one day people will realise the Maori brothers in our band.”
Le Manu has gone viral on YouTube. Since its premiere on December 27th 2019, the music video has been viewed over 328,000 times in less than a fortnight.
The track is due for release on Spotify and ITunes in the next week.