Shankara NZ | Te Ahi Top 10

Written by on 2 June 2021

Taking out the top spot on this week’s Te Ahi Top 10 is Dunes, by Shankara NZ. Consisting of Brendan Evans and Elijah Wilson-Kelly, Shankara NZ creates an expansive soundscape through their exploration of different genres and sound pallets.

Dunes is a psychedelic blend of electronica with the duo taking the listener on a journey through their eclectic range of synths, melodies and percussion.

We caught up with Brendan to chat about how Dunes came together, the duos production process as well as their influences.

Check out the interview below.

Congrats on taking out the top spot on this week’s Te Ahi Top 10 with your song Dunes, can you tell us a little bit more about who you are and what you do?

Hi Sam, thanks to the listeners for voting Dunes to no.1!

My name is Brendan I’m half of Shankara NZ. The project is a collaboration between myself and my best friend Elijah. We have been producing together for roughly 10 years now. We generally play at outdoor music festivals during the summer across Aotearoa and the odd international show. As well as working on Shankara, I recently launched a solo project called Weka, focused more on genres with 4/4 as the main element, dub techno, techno, Organic House, etc. I work as an Arborist during the day collecting inspiration from nature which I channel into the music.

Dunes‘ takes the listener on a journey throughout various soundscapes and features a broad range of production elements. Can you tell me more about how you approached this track?

Dunes started with the main guitar rhythm loop and some bass sounds, a basic drumbeat and some other melodic elements. We were going for a deep, mystical ominous” type of vibe. Generally, we will mess around with a project for about 30 minutes and by that time we have usually figured out if we want to pursue the vibe. After we settled on some key main elements we started to flesh it out, recording a lot of our own percussion, flutes, guitars and melodic elements, as well as other squishy psychedelic sound design type stuff. This tune was finished relatively quickly for our standard, probably within 2 weeks of starting it.

Shankara consists of two members in Brendan Evans and Elijah Wilson-Kelly, tell me more about how you guys work together? What does a typical session look like?

A typical Shankara session will go something like… 

Eli comes over for a jam, we often have nothing particular in mind, sometimes we will have a specific type of sound we want to capture or vibe to channel. But usually, we’ll just sit down together at the computer and start jamming. Eli will usually be first on the screen, producing the begging of a baseline, drum beat or melody, often we will record some guitar very early on to set a chord progression or melody. 

Once we have about 1 minute worth of sound and Elijah is sick of me fidgeting and backseat driving we will swap seats and ill start by ruthlessly editing, deleting and changing what Elijah’s been doing. Rinse and repeat a few more times. Now we have a solid vibe and usually a very busy 1-2 minutes of music. We will start to flesh it out into song format, intro, drop, main section etc, recording live instruments, adding sounds we record out and about or while travelling.

Usually, we get up to about this section and are completely sick of it and will table it until later unless one of us is still keen to push it.

Often we will come back to the tune a week or so later with new energy, this is why our tunes often go through many different vibes or sections.

How do you guys put together a track production-wise? What software do you use?

We use Ableton Live as the main engine. We make most of our melodic synth sounds and basslines on a digital synthesizer called MASSIVE. We use a few other digital bits for other melodic sounds such as trumpets, horn sections, pianos etc. Elijah is a gifted guitarist and keys player so we record him playing the guitar and sometimes flute. We both have a passion for percussion and “real” instruments so we will record as much live stuff as we can at home. 

We also use a lot of samples that we will mess with especially for background fx and tripping bits, as well as recordings made with our portable recorder I try to bring basically anywhere I go. Shout out to Elijah’s dad for hooking that up very early in the piece.

The track is from your 2020 EP Ruins, can you tell me more about that project?

Ruins is 4 track EP we released on Shanti Planti, a worldwide downtempo/psychedelic bass label based in the UK.

We finished the project during lockdown while we were conveniently living together. The EP features a bit of everything from our deeper darker aspect we explore through bass music. It’s a varied EP with elements of dub, dubstep, downtempo, ethnic bass and experimental bass. It follows on in terms of sound from a previous release called Life on Earth we did a year or so previously.

The artist responsible for the cover is also a close friend under the name Ritual who is a frequent collaborator.

Your music features a wide array of sounds and styles. Can you talk to me about what influences your music?

We both draw from quite varied influences! In terms of electronic, we were both heavily influenced by the early days of the dubstep movement, especially the likes of Kryptic Minds, stream, youngsta, truth. As well massively influenced by Pitch Black, Salmonella Dub, Fat Freddie’s, Grouch, Kalyan Scintella, Shpongle.

We also both love a lot of world music like Buena Vesta social club, Arabic percussion, didgeridoos, taonga puoro etc.

I also draw a lot of my inspiration from the natural world, trees, birds, water, psychedelics, animals etc.

Do you have any shows planned this year?

No booking as of right now! Book us ?. Generally, during winter we are relatively quiet and working on new music but come Summer you can be sure to see use on festival lineups up and down the country! Twisted Frequency has become a bit of a staple for us these days.

There have been whispers of doing a show with Pitch Black’s Paddy Free in Christchurch so fingers crossed on that one.

What does the rest of 2021 have in store for you?

New music! We have a dub/Jungle release in the pipeline through one of our favourite labels Dubmission. 

We have a s*^t load of music just waiting to be compiled and packaged so hopefully another release before the end of the year. Also, keep an eye out for a Weka release if I can stop procrastinating ?

And of course summer festivals! Last summer was our busiest yet so hopefully, this one will be next level ??

Chur cya on the dance floor.

You can check out Dunes below.

The Te Ahi Top 10 is our weekly chart as voted by YOU, our audience! Presented live every Thursday 3 – 4pm on RDU 98.5FM. 

To vote for the Te Ahi Top 10 simply download the RDUnited app and click the like icon for a track you love when it’s played on air. The tune with the most likes each week will be crowned the winner! Simple as that.

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