Friday, July 05, 2013

Grace interview, Planet, 95

Grace, photo from Planet mag, Autumn 1995

[Black Sand Shore, the sole album from Grace, has just been digitally reissued] 

Grace: The Family Way. By Erin Duncan. Planet magazine,p31, issue 16, Autumn 1995

The three Samoan brothers who make up Grace don't do acapella or sing the blues - come to think of it they don't do hiphop either. Their music is populated with smooth and heady love songs that blow apart any preconceptions of what a group of brothers should be doing musically. Erin Duncan talks to Grace about their musical aspirations, and growing up with a father who wanted nothing less than perfection.

Anthony Jason and Paul loasa, better known as Grace, were always destined for a career in music, whether they liked it or not. Their father, Jason Ioasa Snr immigrated to New Zealand from Samoa in the early 60s, determined to make a success of himself and do things ''the New Zealand way." Heavily into the stars of the day, he got together 'The Plantations", a covers band, with his wife on rhythm guitar, when first son Anthony was still a toddler. At age four Anthony began teaching himself to play the drums.

''Dad had a kit set up in the lounge, l used to muck around on it, sitting up there on a high stool and loving it!'' It just so happened that his father was having trouble auditioning drummers at the time and, disappointed with the applicants, took his son on the road - Wednesday to Sunday - almost every week.

''We went throughout the North Island constantly - Hastings, Napier, Huntly, Hamilton, Wellington and all those places. The people those provincial towns loved watching us kids in the band. The band used to make so much money, I never saw any of it though - but I used to get tips. My highest one was five dollars. I called it the 'orange note', because I didn't know what it was. I just knew that I could buy lots of lollies with it!''

Jason was next in line. Immediately, his father recognised his talent for playing bass and began to include Jason in The Plantations. Before this, he and youngest brother Paul still had to accompany their father, Anthony and the rest of the band on the road.

Anthony and Paul now resent their father shaping their future right from the very beginning. ''Music was shoved down our throats! We had a really strict father, he was determined to make sure that we were equipped - that was his keyword...'' 


''With the musical knowledge, both theory and performance; we had special teachers."

At the age of 12, Jason was sent to train in jazz and classical bass with Chuck Morgan. Later he played with as many diverse rock and jazz bands as he could, gathering experience and beginning to initiate a new style of playing.

At the age of 11 Paul was finally given permission to take up the guitar, but it only amounted to six lessons because of financial difficulty.

Perhaps it was their father's lack of formal training that made him so pushy about technical perfection.

''Definitely the reason," say both Paul and Anthony.

''It wasn't just with music, it was with education and everything else," says Paul. So if he had no music training, could he sing? ''He had a definite singing style; a Tom Jones style."

''He also had a few Elvis outfits,'' says Anthony. ''He had the works, the sideburns, medallions etc. Ask any Samoan family. They've got a picture of Elvis next to a picture of Christ in their living room. Elvis first, Jesus second."

There was also a great deal of violence within the Ioasa household, directed by their father towards their mother and the boys. Anthony finally ran away from home in 1987 because of pressure within the family home.

“I went out to stay with an uncle in Mangere - my Dad never looked there. He was a frustrated perfectionist, so insecure with himself that he couldn't handle us ever getting less than perfect school marks.

''Dad took us right away from the Samoan lifestyle when we were very young. We had a totally European outlook on life, music, dress, speech and custom. Dad always taught us to know what is right and wrong in the Samoan custom - he never instilled it in us though. He was a rebel in that respect. All my friends were white and I got along with them much better than I could with my Samoan peers - they used to hassle me about the way I spoke - I thought I spoke OK. I actually thought they (Samoans) talked funny. When I said that, it didn't go down too well.

''If we have children, we are not going to let them get caught up in the opinion that if you're Samoan, you should only have Samoan friends, talk a certain way, dress a certain way. We're New Zealanders first! Otherwise we'd feel like we have a false culture."

Did you have a clear idea of what Grace's style would be before you began? ''Definitely,'' says Anthony. ''We knew what we wanted. We knew we weren't interested in doing what the other bands were doing. We didn't want to do rap or acappella, raggamuffin or reggae. These styles just weren't us - we were surrounded by early 80s music, bands from Europe and the UK. We were just about to I hone into the acid house, pure club style dance music - lucky we didn't huh! We just want our music to be appreciated for what it is."

Grace have definite intentions towards music, provided one of their number hangs around.

"We are not a novelty," says Anthony. ''We want to be treated like a Sting CD - always being played. We're going to be around for quite a while, hopefully 10 years or more, depending on how Jason feels.''

“We had to persuade Jason for a long time to join this band," concurs Paul. Jason happens to be at work today, trying his luck in the corporate sphere. 

" I gave up on him," says Anthony. ''Jason was the one who said that he would definitely come in and join. First of all, he said yes, then he changed his mind - typical Gemini. He's the one with the best voice, he has that rich husky texture. He doesn't like starving for anything. Whereas Paul and I have been starving for success for so long that an extra few months or years isn't going to matter that much. We need money to buy a house - we need a family house again. We lost the old one when our parents split - I even lost my piano."

" I was still at AIT (Auckland Institute of Technology) doing Marketing and Advertising when Anthony started pressuring me to join a band with him," says Paul. " So I quit my course. Not too many good things (besides music) have happened to us. If we keep faith in the music we're sure everything will fall into place".

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