LAB sweeps the Aotearoa Music Awards and aims for a Grammy

LAB frontman Joel Shadbolt took a leap of faith this week and quit his day job to focus on the band’s future.

He tendered his resignation as a guitar teacher on Tuesday and the year ahead, he says, will be “110% LAB”.

LAB members (left to right): Stu Kora (guitar, keyboards, backing vocals), Brad Kora (drums, backing vocals), Joel Shadbolt (guitar, vocals), Miharo Gregory (keyboards, backing vocals) and Ara Adams-Tamatea (bass ).

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LAB members (left to right): Stu Kora (guitar, keyboards, backing vocals), Brad Kora (drums, backing vocals), Joel Shadbolt (guitar, vocals), Miharo Gregory (keyboards, backing vocals) and Ara Adams-Tamatea (bass ).

Shadbolt and keyboardist Miharo Gregory are talking from an Auckland hotel room less than an hour after learning they dominated with four Tūi at the Aotearoa Music Awards. It’s a result, Shadbolt says, that is “quite humbling.”

There was no big public ceremony this year, but the announcement came with enough pomp and circumstance that Shadbolt laughed, “we thought we were going to die because it looked like a bomb had gone off” .

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The five members of the popular roots outfit were greeted with a confetti-filled reveal during an interview with Jesse Mulligan on current affairs show The Project. The wins for Best Group, Album of the Year, Single of the Year and Best Roots Artist are the same four that the band Tūi the Bay of Plenty won in 2021.

It may be familiar territory for musicians, but they always go high, says Shadbolt.

“It’s such an honor to be recognized by the industry,” he says.

It was in 2020 that LAB met with enormous success in New Zealand, with the single In the Air. The band members, which also include Kora brothers Brad and Stuart and Ara Adams-Tamatea of ​​Katchafire fame, hail mostly from small towns across the country. Coming from places like Whakatāne, Bay of Plenty and Wellington makes recognition in the “big smoke” all the more special, says Shadbolt.

“We’ve worked hard for the past five years and these are all the fruits of those years,” he says.

“And that makes us want to work harder, to be honest.”

LAB is looking forward to trying to break into the international market in 2023.

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LAB is looking forward to trying to break into the international market in 2023.

Now, however, these small-town musicians are gearing up to take on the international market. Starting, Gregory says, by entering the 2021 LAB V album for Grammy consideration.

“Worth it I think,” he says, adding that there are around 25 submissions for best reggae album.

“If anything comes of that, it’s crazy recognition. We’re about to do a tour of the United States, which would fit nicely with that,” adds Shadbolt.

Grammy dreams aside, LAB are set to tour Australia in April and take on the United States in May and Europe later in the year.

It’s exciting, but also quite terrifying, says Gregory.

“You are no longer a big fish in a small pond. … You are a tadpole,” he laughs.

But they’ve seen other Kiwi bands show it’s possible, says Shadbolt, who draws inspiration from bands like Fat Freddys Drop.

“We would like to follow in the footsteps of a group like this. It’s taken them years to create this groundswell, but they do it every year, and it’s quite inspiring to watch.

“Beyond the experience of visiting another country, the market is huge. If you manage to break it, you are ready. It’s pretty unimaginable,” says Gregory.

LAB frontman Joel Shadbolt says the feeling of performing live in front of a large crowd is

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LAB frontman Joel Shadbolt says the feeling of playing live in front of a large crowd is “f… unreal”.

The city they are most excited for? Shadbolt has been to Las Vegas before, but he was broke at the time and thinks this visit might be different.

“You’ll be broke again at the end of the night,” laughs Gregory.

LAB found fame during a global pandemic, which Gregory says actually helped things in some way. With people locked down, the thirst for live music has increased. When New Zealand’s borders remained closed, but live music reopened, smaller venues became more important to the Kiwi band.

“When everyone was locked in their house, the hype grew…it really helped us.”

“But now things are back to how they were before the pandemic with international artists. Which is good because it keeps us hungry,” says Shadbolt.

That thirst for playing music was something that was always on the cards for the Bay of Plenty musician, having grown up in a musical family with a mum who has “the best blues collection I think anyone has”.

LAB's Joel Shadbolt has quit his day job and says 2023 will be

Provided

LAB’s Joel Shadbolt has quit his day job and says 2023 will be “110% LAB”.

“I was bought into listening to American blues soul and RnB, I don’t know a difference, man. I think I was always going to do that. It was just a matter of how and when.

As for Gregory, he wanted to play in stadiums – whether it was music or sports, it was a matter of fate and genetics.

“I was too skinny for rugby league,” he jokes.

“So I play the keyboard.”

But that feeling of playing in a stadium lives up to the hype of that childhood dream, says Shadbolt.

“I think it’s something you have to live with. We’re lucky to have experienced that as musicians on a grand scale…you step on stage…and all of a sudden you’re touched by this power of something, the synergy that happens between the band and the public,” he says.

“There’s no drug that feels this good…it’s f…unreal.”

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