Arjuna Oakes & Serebii - Final Days

New Zealand's Arjuna Oakes and Serebii, a.k.a. Callum Mower release their Final Days EP.

Oakes and Mower, met while playing sold out shows together, but they knew then that it was just the beginning of something bigger. They were serving as hired guns in a popular surf rock band, touring their native Aotearoa New Zealand in mid-size venues, tearing it up, helping others realize their musical vision. That was great, but the friendship forged between the two of them in the process was the real bounty: “We got on like a house on fire,” says Mower. “And we’d end up sticking together through festivals or hanging out at parties.”

“Just like a brother,” Oakes jumps in.

Back in their base of Wellington, Oakes and Mower kept hanging out and playing together—except this time they were making music more like what was calling to them personally. When Oakes was working on his solo work—jazzy chill-hop with an alt-rock twist—he would call on Mower to pop in to help with some of his velvet-y production skills. And when Mower needed a killer voice or a compositional tweak on something he was working on—often psych-infused grooves—he had Oakes on speed-dial. It wasn’t long before they realized that they should be working together in earnest.

Something like if Portishead collaborated with Flying Lotus, 2021’s First Nights EP was an introduction to the duo as a singular act, and “Even When You’re Gone,” a funky chiller Oakes wrote while going through a tough breakup, quickly found its way onto endless streaming playlists looking to harness the vibe. The EP sounds like a million bucks, but was in fact largely recorded over several months in Mower’s bedroom, “with just an SM57 [mic] and no gear whatsoever,” laughs Oakes. “It’s quite nice recording over a longer period of time,” says Oakes, “because you can really mold the songs the way that you want to.”

They soon decided to keep the momentum going, creating a second EP, Final Days, designed to be “a sister record” for First Nights. This new one was put together in much the same way as the first: songwriting duties were shared between the two, with Oakes handling most of the singing and all of the keys and synths, and Mower leading the production duties and playing almost all the guitar and bass parts. (A few friends also helped with drums/percussion and trumpet parts.) By and large, it was recorded in Mower’s bedroom, his cat crawling on their shoulders throughout.

You can feel the push and pull of each personality on certain tracks, swirling together in a collage of various talents and sensibilities. On “Flavour,” a club-ready track that Oakes brought in, Mower’s Chic-ish guitar licks shimmy into the mix, and on “Tired Faces,” a track that Mower brought in, Oakes’ Thom Yorke–reminiscent pipes turn the song into a pure vapor—more a gas hovering in the landscape than a file on a computer. “We both grew up in thick, thick nature,” notes Mower. “I’m forever searching for ways to recreate what nature does.”

Like First Nights, Final Days was also similarly inspired by a form of grief. Rather than a breakup, Oakes was dealing with the impending loss of a beloved grandparent this time around, and was trying to process the experience through music. “I was losing my granddad to cancer, and I knew it was coming,” he explains. “So it’s a kind of a thing of letting go of people you love.”