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Shapeshifter transforms D&B with heavy soul infusion

New Zealand group performs at The Longhorn on April 17 and at the WSSF free stage on April 18



Canada gets Shapeshifter, but not the U.S.

Vocalist P. Digsss of the New Zealand drum-and-bass quintet says they are thrilled to be in Canada for the first time, but frustrated after visa problems kept them from performing for America electronic music fans later this month.

"We're really upset about it. We've been trying to get the visas for the last six months. It has been so difficult," he says.

Shapeshifter plays the World Ski and Snowboard Festival twice, on the free stage in Skier's Plaza on Friday, April 18 at 4 p.m., and the evening before, Thursday, April 17, at The Longhorn.

Their sound gets held up as ground-breaking electronic music because it combines D&B with heavy soul and powerful singing, Digsss's area of expertise. Nick Robinson, Sam Trevethick, Devin Abrams, and Darren Mathiassen round out the group.

In Toronto following a lightning-fast European tour, Digsss says their London, Edinburgh, Amsterdam, Brighton and Prague gigs were quite varied.

"Some were really big crowds and some tiny. Prague was awesome. We've played there a couple of times now, it's always a welcoming crowd. The fan base is slowly growing, it can always be better," he laughs.

"Back-to-back-to-back we did Edinburgh, Brighton and London. All very different. Edinburgh was the classic tiny stage with people right in our face, nice and crammed. People were really up for it. London was a solid 2,500 people, it's a regal venue. After that many gigs in a few days you get your footing. You remember your song, you get rid of the jetlag. It was a corker!"

The four-date Canadian visit is also four days in a row. A bit brutal, you'd think, but Digsss is grateful for the pace after taking years to build up their playlist and profile. He offers some on-the-road tips, mainly extolling the virtues of sleep.

He says: "Luckily, we've been going for a while and we're used to it. We're 15 years deep and we're trained like athletes now! After years of touring we've sussed out how to make travelling a lot easier on ourselves. We get a bus with a big TV, a basic cooker, and you park the bus right outside the venue and we'll be sleeping or winding down straight away.

"Four days in a row is fine, but five in a row might be pushing it."

The Whistler performances are partly in support of Shapeshifter's last album Delta, and to test new songs. This new album is mix of everything not just D&B, Digsss says.

"We're working on a new EP, more upbeat, and we've been in the studio for the past three months," says Digsss.

"Some of the music we've found to be so inspiring that we've had to play it live and drop it on people in this tour. We're lucky, in the years we're played new music as well as the stuff we've already recorded. Our fans have always acknowledged and liked that... it's a nice test to see whether or not you're on the right track.

"If you can get them hearing your music without hearing it pre-recorded, that's a good thing. The last thing for you to want is for it to sound like karaoke."

A snowboarder with skateboarding tendencies, Digsss has long wanted to come to Whistler.

"I lived in Queenstown in New Zealand for quite a few years, and a lot of my friends are professional boarders and compete. They were always going back and forth to Whistler and Blackcomb and they told me I've got to come over," he says.

"It's funny that we're going there for music and not for snowboarding."

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