I N T E R V I E W
Theia & Vayne
Interviewing someone about their art is interviewing them about their life. That can lead down some wild roads or it can end up in cul-de-sac’s talking about technique. I’ve blown plenty of interviews where I get to talk to someone inspirational and all we do is talk about form or key changes or the “scene”. Speaking with Theia and Vayne following the release of their single Creep, could have gone down that way had these two women not been the incredibly strong and brave people they are.
Theia (Waikato/Tainui) grew up in Christchurch while Vayne (Waikato/Tainui) was born and raised in Kirikiriroa. Despite common iwi, the pair did not begin working together until a chance meeting at a te reo Māori APRA Songwriting programme in the Hawkes Bay. While artists in these programmes are placed together to collaborate musically, what happened for Theia and Vayne were conversations about life. Those conversations delved into sexual predators and how their victims were treated in the music industry and in society. From a place of shared pain and parallel but never straight lines of healing, Theia and Vayne found in each other ways of expressing their story that is both unique to them and universal.
Vayne explained that once it came to the work, the writing and recording sessions were easy. The artists may not be a likely pairing on paper; Theia an ex-major label experimental pop artist with a wealth of experience and Vayne a new and grungy hip hop artist, but the collaboration was seamless.
Fortuitous timing helped as well. Vayne has only been taking music seriously the last few years and Theia is newly independent, but also the pair had come to a place within themselves where they could discuss and in the song Creep, address, the abuse. Theia explained it was great to be able to come at the subject matter from a place of strength and a few years ago, it wouldn’t have been possible for her.
Strength comes from many places, but it was the power of language and in particular the differences between English and te reo Māori that allowed a blossoming within these wāhine. Theia explained that some of the most derisive swear words in English come from slandering the female anatomy which screams of misogyny and using a woman’s body as a means to insult another. Its words like this she had no intention on wasting on the creeps she points to in the song, yet te reo Māori has kupu that holds the power, the anger, the frustration that survivors have towards abusers and that is 'pokokōhua', meaning 'I will boil your head'. The head in te ao Māori is tapu and to boil it is the ultimate insult. Theia sought guidance about using the kupu in the song and was ultimately empowered to use it to describe these creeps.
Vayne found her strength in music and from a young age, its healing properties have allowed her to not only survive, but flourish. She saw whānau not speak out for her, she saw a society continuing to ostracize and oppress her people and yet here she is telling abusers and those who stay silent to protect abusers, “go boil your head.”
Theia opens the track by using her native language, one so beautiful it belies the aggression behind her words. The translation is, “My muzzle has been loosened and I will never sit in silence again”. That is what these women want, or at least hope for – that rangatahi Māori, that wāhine Māori are not silenced. Theia strikingly puts it like this; “The modus operandi of abuse is to suppress you and to make you feel helpless and ashamed so you feel like you can’t go and get help and enables cycles of abuse and trauma to continue.”
And this is speaking out. This is not remaining silent and it is adding to the collective voice that is calling for change in our communities where sexual violence is called it for what it is and stopped.
Theia and Vayne are touring the North Island throughout May including a date at Nivara Lounge Kirikiriroa on Friday May 7. Tickets are $25 and available at undertheradar.co.nz
For support on these and other matters raised in the interview, please utilize services such as
Women’s Refuge 0800 REFUGE, Lifeline 0800 54 33 54 and http://www.rapecrisisnz.org.nz/