Common Kings – Interview With Ivan ‘Uncle Lui’ Kirimaua.
Pacific-born, California-raised roots superstars Common Kings announce their return to New Zealand for five concert dates this May, in support of their long-awaited debut LP Lost in Paradise.
Common Kings last visited New Zealand shores as One Love festival headliners in early 2016, and previously as special guests to Justin Timberlake in 2014. Since then, their relentless schedule has seen the band join Meghan Trainor on her Untouchable Tour, followed by their own sell-out headline American tour.
WORDS BY WAL REID
Released in late 2015, Common Kings’ EP Hits & Mrs saw the band spend 20 weeks on the Billboard Reggae Charts peaking at no. 2. The EP also saw the band named Best International Pacific Artist at New Zealand’s Pacific Music Awards in 2016. The release of Lost in Paradise on February 25 saw Common Kings spent the past seven weeks on the Billboard Reggae Charts, with the song currently taking the no. 1 spot.
Wal caught up with bassist, Ivan ‘Uncle Lui’ Kirimaua recently to get the story on the new album and their Tour next month here in Aotearoa.
Wal: Tell me about the new album Lost in Paradise?
Ivan: “Finally, we feel like we’ve accomplished something in our lives for whatever reason out here in the States as far as the industry goes, nobody looks at you unless you have a body of work and the only body of work they’ll pay attention to is a full-length album.
“We’ve been around gigging for about five years or so, nobody cares until you have an album on that respect we feel we’ve accomplished something like amazing so we feel very happy with ourselves at the moment.”
Wal: What does the new album mean to you personally?
Ivan: “I think the album represents Common Kings at the fullest and how we are. We knocked out his entire album that was more a true reflection on ‘who we are’ and ‘where we’ve been’. Everything is very organic, just the way it came together.
“Not everyone knows it, but we already had a different album prepared and ready to churn in and we just so happened to have a writing session with one of most prolific songwriters on the planet – Poo Bear.” (writer/producer Jason Boyd)
Wal: Wait – So, you’re telling me you had an album but that changed?
Ivan: “It just literally grew into this relationship. We had him and his entire team, to where we found ourselves literally three days later in Hawaii, having a writing session. We ended up staying in Hawaii for two to three extra days, that he insisted on having, and it transpired into him wanting to oversee it, to make sure it was done right.”
Wal: How would you describe the new album?
Ivan: A really good way to describe it would be its ‘crossing the great pacific and coming here,’ there’s definitely a lot of influences of ‘who we are’, ‘where we came from’, and who ‘our parents were’ and the struggles they had.
“What we experience here on a daily level, also the influence of the music that we have here as well. I think we’re going to have some vinyl done or printed, not sure when though. I think it’s really great blend, each song tells a story within itself that people can relate to.”
Wal: How come we didn’t see any Common Kings songs on the Disney Moana film soundtrack?
Ivan: “You know what? during that time, we heard it was going but we were so focused on our album because like I said, “If you don’t have a body of work here, nobody counts you as a real artist.
“We were so focused on getting that album out that we never shifted our focus on trying to get one of the songs placed on that, even though I feel we have songs that could’ve done really well – like Wade in Your Water especially. We didn’t pursue it as hard as we should’ve.”
Wal: Since you’ve been on the scene, have you noticed a shift with Polynesian music or artists getting more airplay in the States?
Ivan: “Hawaii’s very well represented – in California, the Bay area – Josh “Wawa” from Hawaii, there’s Deach, there’s a lot of up and coming artist – in fact, one of New Zealand’s own is out here with us as well, Sammy J – Sammy is one of our brothers, we have the same label same management, we see each other a lot.”
Wal: Do you guys have family in New Zealand?
Ivan: “Actually, we do. We do have family there. We see them when we come down. We actually see them a lot, most of them reside in Auckland.”
Ivan: “We pretty much stuck to ourselves on this one. We didn’t want to go out and try to get features right away, we wanted to get out there and stand on our two legs first. We don’t know, for the second album, were already working on that, you might see a couple of features here and there, but we’re not sure.”
Wal: Who do you look up to musically, who are your heroes?
Ivan: There’s our brothers The Regiment Horns. When knew them we came out we went on tour with Justin Timberlake and we’ve had the honour of having them on our album, Lost in Paradise.
“They’re a group of musicians and also just basic human beings that we appreciate and respect. There’s Meghan Trainor, who we started working with before she became so huge, she’s like our real sister, an amazing, incredible song writer, and then obviously Poo Bear – he was just a blessing. He’s like family to us, he makes it out to our shows when he’s in LA.”
Wal: I see you guys are also including Whangarei on the Tour here. They do love their Reggae, strange choice of venue?
Ivan: “I don’t believe we’ve performed there yet, in Whangarei. Our very first national tour here in the US was with the boys from Hamilton, our brothers Katchafire – that was our very first national tour, they took us out with them, then we did another tour in Australia shortly after that. We have nothing but love for all the Maori and Polynesian artists that come out of Aotearoa.”
By Wal Reid
Hear more from Wal on the NZ Entertainment Podcast
May 10 – The Foundry,Christchurch
May 11 – San Fran, Wellington
May 13 – Powerstation, Auckland