2nd March 2023
Interview: Amelia Kang
Photo Credit: Nas Nixx
Trailblazing singer-songwriter Theia has returned with two tracks, “Crucified By U” and “Pray 4 Me” after her hiatus to focus on her Māori project, Te Kaahu. Garnering around 15 million streams on Spotify from her hit single “Roam”, and opening for artists such as Sia and Charli XCX , the alt-pop artist has returned to us with both a powerful queer-coded anthem and an ethereal ballad, alive with female empowerment and spirit.
Hi, thanks for talking with ReVamp! How are you feeling after releasing your single?
It’s been a blast. The week of release I opened for Peaches in Auckland and then I played the main stage at Splore – a big festival here in NZ – on the Saturday night at midnight. Two of the most fun, most hectic gigs I’ve ever played. Crucified By U went off at both shows, so I’m feeling very grateful to have had such a fantastic response to everything.
So, these two songs are the first singles you have released after your side project, Te Kaahu, and there is definitely a stark contrast between both of your ventures to really showcase your dynamic nature as an artist. What inspired you to return to Theia at this moment in time?
I embarked on the TE KAAHU project right in the middle of lockdown because I was stuck at home and for the first time in years, I actually had time to dedicate to writing songs in my native tongue – te reo Māori. To be honest, I wasn’t too sure how the project would take shape or whether I’d ever perform the songs live. But it sort of took on a life of its own and before I knew it, I was releasing an album and touring it. Much of 2022 was focused around TE KAAHU and a lot of people assumed I’d given up on Theia. Not at all! Both projects are me. They just occupy very different spaces and I have the privilege of moving between the two. So it’s not a case of me being inspired to return to Theia – I’ve been working on new Theia material for a few years now. Rather I just wanted to allow TE KAAHU her own space to breathe. There’s new TE KAAHU in the works too and I have international shows booked for later this year, but for now, I’m fully pumped on the new Theia songs I’ll be rolling out throughout 2023.
The music video for Crucified By U is so striking visually and it really helps tell the story of the song. What was it like working with Nas Nixx?
Thank you! I feel like the lyrics in Crucified By U speak for themselves. But I also knew that I wanted to deliver the song with a powerful visual message too. I’d worked with Nas before on the video for my song Celebrity from the 99% Angel mixtape and we’ve been good friends ever since. So I knew that she’d hear this song and understand straight away what sort of treatment it needed. She’s so fearless with her vision and I trust her implicitly. So the moment we started throwing ideas around, I was like YES!!!! Nas will 100% nail this. And she did. She’s a dream to work with. She also took all the still imagery associated with this upcoming album, by the way.
Your song has some incredible lyrics that really convey what you said was meant to be “for anyone who’s ever been made to feel that their love is tainted and wrong, or silenced by oppressive belief systems”. Do you have a favourite lyric that may hold significance to yourself and your audience in particular?
It’s too difficult to single out one lyric. But I will say that I did think long and hard about a couple of lines, and whether I should tone them down because I knew I was pushing the limits on a very sensitive subject. But my goal wasn’t to offend anyone. Really, it’s just me speaking my truth and processing my own experiences as a young Māori person growing up in a conservative Christian family. The song speaks to the hypocrisies that exist within the confines of organised religion and some of the damage it’s caused, particularly for women, queer people and those, such as the Māori people, who were colonised and indoctrinated into Christianity. So with that being said, I feel this verse deserves a shout out:
“Stripped of our innocence, sucked of our blood, they take and they rape and they tainted our love. Vilify the whore, then you’re worshipping the lord. It’s your judgement day, you’re gonna pay. I cannot believe that you’re acting like a saviour.”
I saw your TikTok where you showed how you layered your vocals for your other track called Pray 4 Me so meticulously; what would you say is your favorite aspect of the creative process for making a song?
Yes haha! I am a big nerd when it comes to vocals and I produce all my own in the studio. So it’s definitely one of the favourite parts of the songwriting and production process for me. I can spend days if not weeks on this stuff. You’ll really hear the attention to detail in TE KAAHU because it has such stripped back production. It’s not so easy to hear it on a song like Crucified By U, but it’s still there – painstakingly so. But I love all aspects of writing songs, from the lyrics, to melodies and hooks and production. In the earlier days of my career, I wasn’t so lucky as to have the time to perfect such things. It was always – you’ve got a studio booked, now write and finish a banger in half a day. These days, I am able to take my time and work with others in the studio whom I truly rate and respect.
Can we anticipate any future projects, and if so, should we expect something different once again?
I have my hands full with Theia and TE KAAHU so I think we’ll draw the line at these two. Haha. But stand by for my debut Theia album. All going well she’ll be out this year. I also have some cool TE KAAHU stuff up my sleeve and as I mentioned above, I’m touring the TE KAAHU show overseas for the first time, which is super exciting. d above, I’m touring the TE KAAHU show overseas for the first time, which is super exciting.