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Friends first . . . The Pills band members (from left) Fergus Armour, Ethan Downing, Seth Sinclair and Adam Devon (all 17) won the band category at the Timaru Smokefreerockquest final. PHOTO: OLIVIA ANDREASSEND

Waitaki rocks.

Not only is the district noted for its geology, but its musical talent too.

Oamaru acts cleaned up at the Timaru regional Smokefreerockquest final on Saturday night, winning both of the major categories.

Waitaki Girls’ High School pupil Aliyah O’Brien(16) won the solo/duo category, and The Pills, made up of St Kevin’s College pupils Fergus Armour (electric guitar, rhythm), Ethan Downing (electric guitar, lead), Adam Devon (bass), and Seth Sinclair (drums), won the band category.

The band was ecstatic to win – and to fly the flag for Oamaru, Fergus said.

“We were all ready proud of each other,” Aliyah added.

To perform at the regionals, competitors had to submit a video of themselves performing original music.

The top bands and individual acts were then chosen to perform their original songs live at Craighead Auditorium.

“It was really nerve-racking,” Aliyah said.

“Once I got [into] the flow of the song, I just got a rush of adrenaline and just rocked it.”

Top talent . . Waitaki Girls’ High School pupil Aliyah O’Brien believes in herself more after winning the solo/duo category at the Smokefreerockquest final.

In the past, when people complimented her music, she thought they were just being nice, she said.

As second place was awarded for her category, she felt defeated and assumed the worst.

But when she heard “Waitaki Girls’ ..” as her name was read out as the winner, she froze in disbelief.

It had taught her a valuable lesson.

“I believe in myself way more,” she said.

Seth, who also received one of two musicianship awards, had a similar feeling.

“It’s the first award I’ve ever gotten for drumming. It made me feel really good about myself,” he said.

But he could not have got there without the rest of the band, he said.

The Pills band members knew each other from school and were all in the same music class at St Kevin’s College.

They were friends first, then band mates.

“It’s really cool playing with our best friends and having fun,” Seth said.

They loved the process of coming up with something new and everyone having their own input, Ethan said.

“[It all comes] together and eventually you have this new creation or piece of art you can be proud of ,” he said.

The work was not over for the teens.

They now had to make it through another submission process, this time to be one of 30 competitors at the national final.

“I hope we all get to go to nationals together,” Aliyah said.

Ethan said The Pills had entered the regional finals to have fun.

“If we can get to the finals and win this thing, that’s the dream. We’d all love to do that.”

Smokefreerockquest founder and director Glenn Common said the potential of each new round of regional finalists was reflected in a music industry full of past participants.

“It’s fascinating for us to look back at success stories like Kimbra, Marlon Williams and Broods, where we could see the star factor right back at the regional level,” he said.

“Each event gives a new cohort of bands the opportunity to take their obsession with music and develop the organisational and stagecraft skills that will help them become another Kiwi music success.”