New Zealand's Chart-Busters Sol3 Mio Ready to Tackle the World

Sol3 Mio has a special affinity with the month of December. The New Zealand operatic trio’s self-titled debut album clocked-up staggering business in the lead-in to last Christmas. In just the one month, Sol3 Mio shifted more copies than any other album sold during the entirety of 2013. By year’s end, it was the year’s best-seller in NZ, outstripping even the efforts of Lorde. Considering Sol3 Mio had only dropped in November, it’s some feat.

Fast forward a year, and the album has enjoyed 16 non-consecutive weeks at No. 1, and it’s now seven-times platinum certified (105,000 units) in NZ. Only Ed Sheeran's X has sold more units in 2014. It has landed at No. 6 in Australia, and cracked the top 50 in the U.K. Sol3 Mio (pronounced Sole Mio) are represented by Saiko Management, the Auckland-based firm that also guides the career of Lorde. The U.S. and Continental Europe is in the group’s sights. If 2014 was the year the Aussies truly smashed it on the global stage, don’t bet against the Kiwis shining bright in 2015. Sol3 Mio could have a big say in all that.

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The classical-crossover trio, comprising two tenor brothers, Amitai Pati and Pene Pati, and their baritone cousin Moses Mackay, all from Samoan heritage, have enjoyed the big ride. But they’re not taking anything too seriously. “’Big’ for the three of us is an understatement at the moment,” says Pene with a laugh. “It’s shot off like a rocket this year. It’s the weirdest thing looking back to the 12 months before when literally nothing was happening. When they told us in the first week that we’d sold that amount of albums, we’d had a chuckle to ourselves. We said, ‘oh well it’s just the first week.’ After 12 weeks at No. 1, it was kind of crazy.” 

The trio initially formed as a one-off party trick. “We thought, let’s have a good laugh and drink,” recounts Pene. “When we did it, we pulled it off really well and people were saying, 'you should form a group.' Then later on the down the line, we thought we should just form this group as a fundraiser to get to Cardiff to study (at the Wales International Academy Of Voice). And then break up again." A 2012 performance on national TV ignited interest in the band, and "then it just went viral.” 

Pene reveals he and his bandmates got into choral music “because we were trying to get out of class.” Over time, “we ended up falling in love with the discipline, and the choral music style." While at university, Pene was guided toward singing opera. “At first I declined it, but there was a huge stereotype going around. People kept doubting my ability to sing opera and told me to give up. People were saying, 'Pacific Islanders are lazy.' That really drove me, and I thought, 'I’m going to prove them wrong. I’m going to have a good laugh in their face when I get it right.'”

The self-titled EP arrived Nov. 24 in the U.S. through Capitol and the full-length debut album and North American tour will come in spring 2015. A live DVD has been released Down Under, just in time for Christmas (Ladies And Gentlemen: Sol3 Mio Live In Concert is already triple-platinum certified).

“We want to spread what we set out to do in the first place,” he says of the months and years ahead. “We want to spread the art form. We’re not trying to force it on people but trying to put a different light on it.”

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While on its global march, Sol3 Mio performed New Zealand’s national anthem at Chicago’s Soldier Field for a rare rugby match between the USA Eagles and NZ’s world-champion All Blacks. “Oh man, that was insane. Being on the field and proudly waving the banner for the Kiwis and sitting in front of 60,000 people or so, it was amazing,” recalls Pene. “It was freaking cold on that field. I don’t even know if my lips were moving. I felt sorry for the boys playing, and even more sorry for the boys not playing and sitting on the bench.” For the record NZ won 74-6. Sol3Mio are hoping for many more thumping victories when they hit the road proper in the U.S. and Europe in 2015. 

Coming into a Rugby World Cup year, Sol3 Mio have their hearts set on NZ “repeating.” Or at least a strong showing from Samoa. Pene admits he still harbors a dream of playing top flight rugby. The sport’s loss is music’s gain. “When I watch the boys (play rugby), I secretly think that it could have been my life if I pursued it,” Pene says. “I could have been on the pitch watching someone else sing the anthem.” 

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