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Interview: Erny Belle - Hōtoke Tour 2023

Interview: Erny Belle - Hōtoke Tour 2023

Samantha Cheong / Wednesday 26th July, 2023 12:24PM

Packing nerves of steel to warm the stage for Kirin J. Callinan at New Plymouth’s NIGHTLIGHT Festival with band just two weeks ago, Erny Belle aka Aimee Renata (Ngāpuhi) is priming her gothic wardrobe and rural whips for her four date Hōtoke Tour. Finalist for the 2023 Taite Music Prize and Auckland Live Best Independent Debut Award, Renata sported some vibrant neon and a thrifty harakeke-like handbag during the songwriter's chat with Samantha Cheong over a glass of wine at Tāmaki’s bustling Odettes Eatery. From talking about horror movie aspirations to David Bowie to Māori film and painting, find out what else keeps Erny Belle warm during hōtoke winter…

Erny Belle Hōtoke Tour 2023

Friday 28th July - Loons, Lyttelton w/ Hannah Everingham
Saturday 29th July - San Fran, Wellington* w/ cc(tv)
Friday 4th August - Pt Chev RSA, Auckland w/ cc(tv)
Saturday 5th August - Pt Chev RSA, Auckland w/ Charlie Guy

Tickets available HERE via UTR
*Wellington tickets via moshtix

Samantha Cheong: How’s your life been since being nominated as a finalist for both the 2023 Taite Music Prize and the Auckland Live Best Independent Debut Award for your debut album Venus Is Home?

Erny Belle: Good, nothing’s really changed. Still doing everything important to plan. It was a nice little moment to be nominated and recognised for Venus Is Home. It’s pretty crazy how fast it is to move onto the next thing. There’s still some people that are only just discovering the album which is quite nice. I’ve been busy working on new music.

In your 2022 interview with Delaney Davidson, you mentioned you wanted to “experiment with some synth-Bowie vibes”. Have you since been able to do that?

That’s so funny because I’ve been thinking about that comment that I made. In the new music that I have been working on, I don’t think it translates sonically to being inspired by David Bowie, but maybe more in a couple of songs he was in the back of my mind—the spirit of David Bowie. There’s a couple of new songs with some synths but no major genre-change.

You’ve once described your closet as akin to tangihanga (funeral wear). If your fashion was a gothic book title, what would it be?

Ooh. Bram Stoker’s Dracula. Cloaky and love a good long coat that gives me a vampiric, count energy.

Countess Belle!


What do you think Nana Venus, in which your Venus is Home is named after, would say about your next project?

I personally think that she would like the new music a bit more maybe. I think there’s a little bit of an element of sixties pop to some of the songs but they’re a bit lighter. She always liked to listen to good-time music rather than depressing music. There’s already enough things to be depressed about in life. She was very into listening to that stuff that would be uplifting so I think she’d like it [laughs].

Delaney Davidson gave an incredible acoustic live take on your song ‘Hell Hole’. Which other artist, living or dead, would you want to cover one of your songs?

Ooh! This is a really hard one. It would be someone like David Bowie or Kate Bush just because she’s got such an interesting strange voice.

I can’t believe she’s resurfaced in the charts because of Stranger Things.

Yeah, it’s crazy what film can do for music.

Maybe you could do stuff with your dad (cinematographer Fred Renata), your song on a soundtrack or whatever he’s working on.

Yeah, this is the whole world of things that I was unaware of or ignorant to before, coming into the industry, is the world of sync publishing deals on film.

What struck you about some of the artists (like Kirin J. Callinan) or your experience at the Nightlight Festival last week?

It was quite grounding to see the fact that even though Kirin and I have such different performance realms or genres, and I’m just very fresh to the world of performing and my music career in comparison to him, to see that we both shared the same nervousness before performing was quite a humbling experience.

I love that answer because it’s so real.

Yeah, it was really nice to have that moment of understanding and it doesn’t matter what level you’re on or where you’re at. You still have that same connection and it doesn’t go away. Also, talking to him about that feeling, of stage fright, and being able to have a conversation after performing, hearing his thoughts on his take on my performance was special. He’s just super out the gate in terms of watching live, it was fun.

If you were to revisit your teenage actor roots, what kind of projects or characters would you be interested in portraying and why?

Oh! Crack. Up! This is hilarious. I would wanna be like a horror icon. Like a New Zealand icon, just only do horror movies or thrillers. To this — I would wanna be like a New Zealand horror icon.

Have you seen the new Insidious movie?

Yes! I have and it was terrible. I was really disappointed by that because I loved that franchise. But really deeply disappointed by the most recent Insidious. Obsessed with Mia Goth at the moment who played Pearl. I’d actually love to make a horror movie one day set in Aotearoa.

Maybe a horror music video.

I think a little bit of the horror genre bleeds into my music every now and then [laughs].

As important as reconnecting with your Māoritanga is to you, are there any works of other Māori artists that personally resonate?

Obviously TE KAAHU’s music has been a real taonga. I actually quite prefer Māori paintings and art in a non-music form more than I do music on a day-to-day basis. I love John Miller’s photography, Ralph Hotere’s art. I prefer to go into an art gallery and look at different Māori painters, jewellers and photographers. There’s been a lot of new Māori music but it’s not necessarily in the genre that I personally connect with. Nevertheless, it’s been amazing to see all this work coming out. I wanna hear Marlon Williams do some te reo songs. Well, he’s got that ‘Arahura’ song and it’s beautiful.

Ooh! Actually, Māori filmmakers. Merata Mita had a 1988 film Mauri that was the first to be written and directed by a Māori woman and my dad worked on it. It was one of the first films that started all on the edge of Māori whakapapa in film. Aesthetic-wise, it was everything I ever envisioned or dreamed in terms of what I see for the Erny Belle project. 

On your Hōteke Tour you’ll be joined by Hannah Everingham, cc(tv) (Carla Camilleri of Recitals) and Charlie Guy...

I haven’t seen any of them live. I’m just looking forward to watching them play live and I’m a fan of their music. I’ve heard really amazing things about Hannah Everingham and cc(tv). It’s more of a distant admiration of wanting to see them live and to connect.

Hōtoke means winter in te reo Māori — what keeps your spirit warm in winter? You can't say wine.

I think I get a bit of seasonal depression. This long waiting for something, it’s like a purgatory zone when there’s not a lot of live stuff happening. Well, good friends. I’ve got a new tagine pot which I’ve been obsessed with. I love cooking food with it, that’s my life at the moment. And reading. Been getting back into reading books [laughs]. It’s such a novelty though! I love a little autobiography. Winter winter winter. Candles. I can’t say 'wine', but I’d say a bit of wine. Oh! Love a good sauna and a spa — I like going to Newmarket.

We could do our next interview in a sauna and just be very dry.

That would be amazing! Yeah, music, saunas, books, food.


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