How one local band is shredding the classics and amassing legions of fans worldwide.

By Lizzie Brandon.

The Jackson 5, The Corrs, The Osmonds, Kings of Leon, Sister Sledge, Bee Gees. Brother and sister acts have a fine pedigree in popular music. And now there’s another name to add to that list of sibling successes: Waiake’s very own Rumpus Machine.

Currently aged between 13 and 16, these talented young people placed third in 2023’s New Zealand Battle of the Bands in Wellington and have been wowing crowds across the North Island. Moreover, their videos have been shared across major streaming platforms, including Music Man UK, attracting more than 30 million views. Legendary drummer John Densmore of The Dorrs even shared the band’s version of “People Are Strange”. High praise indeed!

“It’s pretty cool when you think about people around the world following us and commenting regularly. We recently enjoyed a couple of million views for ‘Sultans of Swing’ on TikTok and gained 20,000 followers there!”

The band mostly covers rock classics from the 70s, 80s, and 90s by the likes of Dire Straits, Pink Floyd, Metallica, and Stevie Ray Vaughan. The teens also write their own material. “We’ve taken inspiration from these greats and learned their style in terms of songs and guitar solos. Our original songs draw on these influences, combined with our youthful sound. We use a lot of harmony in our songs. We learned a lot about that during the first Auckland lockdown!”

About eight years ago, dad, Kevin, started teaching all four children the acoustic guitar. Playing as duos quickly evolved into performances at Torbay Primary School, talent shows, and busking on the Phoenix Plaza stage. “Pre-Covid, busking proved to be a lucrative holiday pastime in the Bay of Islands,” Kevin recalls with a smile. “The kids soon cottoned onto the American tourist market and perched themselves at the end of the wharf in Russell, playing to the tourists as they poured ashore off the cruise shops. The kids had a great time playing while we restocked our supplies of fresh veges for our sailing oat and then bought fish and chips for lunch!”

Rumpus Machine‘s first “official” gig was in Phoenix Plaza in early 2021. “We thought we should play in public before entering our first Rockquest. It went really well! Then we played Rockquest and won best song for ‘Lockdown’.” Since then, the band has only gone from strength to strength, winning best song in last year’s Stand Up  Stand Out (SUSO) contest and Rockquest North Shore and playing more than 60 gigs. So far, in 2024, the band has played Soundsplash in Raglan, Whangamata Beach Hop, Music in Parks Albany, Kumeu Classic Car and Hot Rod Festival, Orewa Festival of Arts, Earth Beat in Tapora, the Kumeu Show, Rock4Reason mental health fundraiser, Summer Spectacular, and numerous pubs, including at Browns Bay Brewing Company. Most recently, the band opened for “UK metal stalwarts” Skindred at Paraoa Brewing Company in Whangaparaoa. And, very excitingly, will open for the Jordan Luck Band at Paraoa Brewing on June 8th.

The band members don’t have a specific long-term plan for Rumpus Machine – they’re still really young, remember! – but are taking success in their stride with a calm, level-headed approach. “We can feel our potential and the momentum from working hard in 2023, doing as many gigs and competitions as possible. this year, we’ve upgraded our sound system significantly to a powerful, high-quality one suitable for indoor and outdoor events. So, we’re ready for even more live performances!

“We’re working on two fronts, really. There are the covers, and then there are the original songs that we’re writing, too. The originals allow us to engage our creative sides and give us material for competitions and festivals. We record these ourselves and upload them to Spotify, Apple Music, and so on.

“Looking ahead, we’d like to move into corporate and wedding bookings and also play more festivals, getting onto bigger stages around New Zealand. Beyond that, who knows? We’re keen to see how far we can take it!”

Stay up to date with Rumpus Machine. Follow and contact the band on social media:

Spotify: Rumpus Machine

YouTube: @RumpusMachineNZ

Facebook: Rumpus Machine

Instagram: rumpusmachinenz

TikTok: @rumpusmachinenz


Published in ShoreLines magazine, April/May 2024, p.20-22