For almost a decade, the residents and guests of Broadbeach, Gold Coast have been harboring a well-kept secret: a trio of all-singing, all-dancing, all-harmonising entertainers, who take the floor of a restaurant every Sunday to sing genre-spanning covers ranging from Motown classics through to current pop hits.
That was, until earlier this year, when the trio, now known as The Koi Boys, made their charismatic first appearance on The Voice Australia. And with that, much to the joy of audiences in Australia and New Zealand, the GC’s best-kept secret, was out.
Performing the doo-wop classic “Sh-Boom (Life Could Be a Dream),” The Koi Boys’ energetic audition prompted all four judges to spin around and the audience to jump to their feet. “That was so much fun! Your harmonies were in perfect pitch, you had dance moves… This is super-cool!” exclaimed Delta Goodrem. “You guys melted my face off,” said Joel Madden. “That was the best vocal audition we’ve had tonight,” gushed Jessie J, who eventually became the group’s mentor.
The Koi Boys are Danny Faifai, Kevin Keepa and Ngahere “Nuz” Ngatai: three passionate and highly experienced musicians hailing from New Zealand and based on the Gold Coast. They were the first trio to ever audition on The Voice Australia, and were a hit among fans, both locally and across the Tasman. Knocked out before the finals, the band’s eviction caused outrage on social media, had Jessie J fielding interviews surrounding her decision to send them home, but certainly put the trio on the map as clear crowd favourites.
Originally set-up as a casual covers gig-cum-jam-session, the trio has been crooning, dancing and entertaining as a collective, at the same venue, for over eight years. Their “Sunday Session” show at Koi Dining and Lounge Bar is must-see for those visiting the Gold Coast, and has become so popular that it sells out weeks in advance. “We all came from separate groups,” says Danny, who met Kevin busking on the street in New Zealand over 25 years ago. After they both relocated to Queensland, they met Nuz when he auditioned for the group in 2008. “But it wasn’t until we all came together that the magic really worked – you know, when you find that spark? It took off from there. We didn’t even have a name until just before we were auditioned for The Voice.” A quick peruse of YouTube and you’ll see the recorded performances, clips and fan iPhone uploads that led to The Koi Boys being scouted by the talent show’s producers and holding an invite to audition. One of the videos, a prohibition-era cover of Meghan Trainor’s “All About That Bass”, has racked up over a million views.
The group’s debut album, Meant To Be, sees The Koi Boys bottle the energy, character, enthusiasm and genre-spanning talent that has earned them their passionate fan base and notoriety as one of the most entertaining live vocal trios in the country. It ticks off Motown, funk, RnB, pop and more. There’s a surprising cabaret-style cover of The Weeknd’s “The Hills”, a smooth, Latin rendition of “Hotline Bling” by Drake and of course, “Sh-Boom (Life Could Be a Dream).”
If anything, Meant To Be is a showcase of the group’s sheer musical diversity and hard-to-box sound.
The album also sees the trio’s first foray into songwriting, with three originals appearing on the record. Working with producer Robert Conley (Tina Arena, Brian McFadden, The Delta Riggs, Darren Hayes*) The Koi Boys made a decision to each take on a song individually, and come together to collaborate at the end. The result is “Yes”, a sweet love song about the beauty of marriage written by Kevin; “Angels Have to Fly”, a stunning reggae track written by Nuz after his cousin died from epilepsy and “Meant To Be (Waiata’s Song)”, a heartstring-pulling ballad written by Danny for his wife. “We wanted the songs to be relatable, to connect with our audience – because that really is what we’re here to do,” says Kevin of the three tracks.
Meant To Be is a menagerie of songs with one ambition: to entertain, because that is the one the truth that lives at the heart of The Koi Boys. “We perform and have performed just about every genre. The reason we do this is to please, or at least try to please everyone in our audience,” says Danny. “The show has been about connection and entertainment. That hasn’t changed. Our album has very much been made with the same idea. We want to please the old people, the young people, the middle-aged people, the depressed people, the happy people, the people in love, the lonely people–everyone. To do this, we’ve gotten very comfortable singing all genres of music.”