From meeting in the high school music room in year 7 to rocking the stage at a state competition, local band Shakamoto is helping revive the Illawarra’s youth music scene.
The psych rock band made up of teenagers Orlando Bards, Hamish Kettley, Callum Finlay and Aiden Knight were first united at Keira High School due to their incredible music talent in 2019 before officially becoming a band in 2021.
“We were all able to play music in year 7 compared to the rest of the people in our class, so we were all told ‘go play in the music room at lunch, see who you meet’ and we met each other,” Orlando said.
“I believe it was Aiden or Hamish who first had the idea to say let’s start a band and we’ve been jamming ever since then.”
They meet up most weeks in a family garage to practice and create songs, which they said could take anywhere from hours to months to complete.
And although they said they’re all inspired by other Australian bands like The Lazy Eyes and King Gizzard & The Lizard Wizard, their individual tastes help make them unique.
“Everyone’s little own inspirations bring something to the mix,” Hamish said.
And recognition for their talent and hard work is paying off, with Shakamoto taking home gold at this year’s YouthRock competition.
“We did it last year and we ended up getting the encouragement award. We came back this year determined to win and we got it,” Hamish said.
“There were eight bands, two from each semi-final night Wednesday through to Saturday and then all eight bands met and played on the Sunday,” Callum said.
“Actually three of the eight bands were from the Illawarra, which was really really exciting and it was good for the Wollongong music scene, it really boosts it.”
But despite the rising talent and success of the region’s younger generation of bands, there are still barriers when it comes to booking performances.
“Most of the venues around Wollongong are over 18, there’s very few where all bands can play,” Aiden said.
Through working with Wollongong Youth Services, the band have been able to utilise an all ages space and make industry connections.
And Youth Development Worker Shannon Kennedy said that the benefit has gone both ways, as Shakamoto has been integral to helping the service build up its popularity and inspire other artists.
“They were right at the centre of the revival post-COVID, so I’m really happy to see them going well.”
“Beyond their ability and skills as musicians which is very high, I’m impressed more about their inclusivity and their willingness to bring people along with them,” Shannon added.
“They’re not pulling up the ladder behind them, they’re really encouraging more people to come along with them.”
Wollongong Youth Services has become a hub for up and coming musicians and young people just wanting to have a go.
They offer affordable rehearsal space, performance opportunities, classes and instruments so that people have access to whatever they need to achieve their goals.
“If any young people come to us with an idea, we’ll do our best to make it happen,” Shannon said. “We believe in the abilities and the imagination of young people.”
They provide just as much guidance for behind the scenes as they do for those on the stage by including young people in real-life negotiations with talent and marketing agencies as well as supporting them to put on their own shows in their entirety.
“You never know what aspect of it they’re actually going to like so they might be in a band but it turns out what they really like doing is managing people or putting on events or they’re really into sound and lighting so we like to provide all the options for them,” Shannon said.
And ultimately, no matter the role, it’s about giving young people the skills and confidence to navigate a intimidating industry.
“We want it to be a platform or a springboard for them to go do other things,” Shannon said.
For Shakamoto’s future goals, they’d love to help put Wollongong on the map, but are happy as long as they can keep doing what they love.
“I say for me it’s definitely just hoping that we can keep doing it, not overly worried about being the biggest band in the world or anything but if we get to keep doing it and having fun,” Aiden said.
“I think that’s what we do it for, we do it for enjoyment,” Callum added . “We enjoy playing with each other, playing gigs together and just spending time with each other.”
To stay up to date on Shakamoto’s upcoming gigs check out the band’s instagram.
Wollongong Youth Services programs available on the Wollongong Council website.