From left, Henry de Jong (drums), Lewis de Jong (guitar/vocals) and Ethan Trembath (bass) are Alien Weaponry. (Courtesy Maryanne Bilham)

Metal trio Alien Weaponry makes music in Maori

New Zealand teens incorporate their culture into their sound

In their hometown of Waipu, New Zealand, guitarist-vocalist Lewis de Jong and his drumming brother Henry found it ordinary to speak both English and their native tongue, Maori. When the siblings (with bassist Ethan Trembath) formed the galloping metal combo Alien Weaponry in 2010, it made sense to keep their lyrics bilingual on tribal-thumping tunes such as “Urutaa,” “Raupatu” and “Ru Ana te Whenua,” which reference tragic events in Maori history. Onstage, they often incorporate their culture’s fierce traditional haka dance, which complements the music perfectly. “Growing up speaking Maori has been totally unique, because it’s a language that gives you a completely different outlook on things,” says Lewis, 17, whose parents accompany him on tour, with dad running sound and mom overseeing the merch booth.

They say that in Australia, everything in nature will kill you. But in New Zealand only one species: the tiny katipo spider. Yeah, that’s pretty much it. But katipos are super-rare, and I don’t think I’ve ever even seen one. Apparently, they live in the sand dunes, so I was always told to be careful when I was playing in the dunes, because the katipo would come get me. But I’ve been pretty lucky. I haven’t actually seen anything dangerous, and I’ve been to Australia. And there really are things over there that can permanently mess you up.

How did heavy metal gradually take over your life? I would say it started with Stevie Ray Vaughn. When I was a kid, I used to watch his concert videos, over and over again on repeat, and I wanted to be exactly like him when I grew up. But I basically have a lot of different influences outside of metal, because I always keep an open mind about what I listen to. I mean, I was seriously into Pink Floyd — still am. And I was really into reggae music, like Bob Marley, and lately I’ve been into this New Zealand reggae band called Catch a Fire, and I’m into the drum and bass scene, as well.

It’s pretty amazing. All your friends are still in high school, and you guys are out trotting the globe. It’s strange. Sometimes when we go home and catch up with people, we haven’t seen them in months because we’ve been so busy. And it definitely changes you as a person, because you’re in a new place every day, talking to new people every day. So the people you’re on the road with — your bandmates and the crew — you’ve got to get along with ‘em, or it ain’t gonna work But it’s true that I’ve definitely done a lot of things. Probably a lot more than most 25-year-olds.


Alien Weaponry

Where: Bottom of the Hill, 1233 17th St., S.F.

When: 7:30 p.m. Tuesday, May 28

Tickets: $15

Contact: (415) 626-4455,

Pop Music

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