The Recliners performing at the Theatre Royal Smokefreerockquest finals on Friday. Photo: Dan Kendrick

Leaning into glory


Seven piece progressive-rock band The Recliners from Nayland College took first place at this year’s Nelson Smokefreerockquest at the Theatre Royal on Friday night.
Vocalist Harry Stocker says the band in its current line-up has several veterans of Smokefreerockquest.

“We felt fairly confident at the start of tonight, but everyone else was really, really good,” he said. “We possibly stood out with our four-part vocal harmonies and the two guitars also harmonizing over each other.”

Harry had the crowd with him for the band’s first song ‘Coming Home’, which he says is about returning to New Zealand after living in Egypt where his parents were teaching.

The rest of the line up is Isaac Stewart (bass), Tino Monopoli (drums), Ben Kirby (keyboard), Ben Dowdle (vocals), Reese Milton (guitar) and Luke Wilkes (guitar).

Second place in the band category went to Waimea College hard rock band ‘Blind Eye’, with members Jack Rollinson (guitar), Jake Lyth (drums), Rebecca Findlay (bass) Oscar Pahl (guitar) and Bailey Bartholomew Katene (vocals). Blind Eye also won the ZM People’s Choice voted by text on the night.

These two acts win musical gear from associate sponsors NZ Rockshops, and join solo-duo winners, Brooklyn Scott from Garin College (first) and Chloe Vitale from Marlborough Girls’ College (second) in the opportunity to gain selection for the national final in September.

Smokefreerockquest founder and director Glenn Common says there are more bands than ever before reaching the high standard required from national finalists.

“This means that real dedication is required to achieve the ‘stand out quality’ that the judges will be looking for,” he said. “They have to capture 15 minutes of their original material on video for selection as national finalists.

“It’s a process that demands creativity and musical ability, being able to work together as a group and having good organisational skills. What separates them out is perseverance – industry success seldom happens overnight.”

And Common encouraged those who didn’t make it through to stick with their music.

“Some bands and soloists will no doubt go on to success in the Kiwi music industry like SFRQ alumnae Kimbra, Marlon Williams and Shapeshifter, but for most of the young musicians SFRQ is about the experience of performing live on stage in a professional set up, meeting others who share their passion for music, and getting constructive and impartial feedback from more experienced musicians who are our judges and mentors.”

The full list of awards for Nelson is:
Band 1: The Recliners, Nayland College
Band 2: Blind Eye, Waimea College
Band 3: Equinox, Nelson College for Girls
Solo/Duo 1: Brooklyn Scott, Garin College
Solo/Duo 2: Chloe Vitale, Marlborough Girls’ College
Smokefree Tangata Beats Award: Odd Socks, Nelson College for Girls
ZM People’s Choice: Blind Eye, Waimea College
Smokefree Best Vocals: Ngawai Tia from Solasta, Nelson College For Girls
MAINZ Musicianship: Eva Fowler (guitar) Verbatim, Waimea College
Best Song: Acoustic Knot, Waimea College
Fatboy Style Award: Scarface and the Codfish, Nelson College & Waimea College
APRA Lyric Writers’ Award: Theo Feint, Golden Bay High School for ‘Heartbeat’
The Nelson Youth Council crowd engagement award: Scarface and the Codfish, Nelson College & Waimea College

The top regional bands and solo/duos submit footage for selection as finalists to play off at the Smokefreerockquest national final on Saturday September 22 at the Dorothy Winstone Centre in Auckland, preceded by the Smokefree Tangata Beats national final on Friday September 21

The live events run from May 5 until July 6, and most regions will also be filmed for the hugely popular SFRQ webisodes (, fronted this year by NZ’s ‘First Bloke’ Clarke Gayford.