The Ioasa brothers Anthony, Jason and Paul formed Grace in 1993, but they had been playing together since they were young kids in their father’s covers band The Plantations.
He was very strict about their music lessons, making sure they were equipped with musical knowledge in both theory and performance. Paul had guitar lessons (learning flamenco), Anthony had piano lessons and Jason studied jazz and classical bass.
Anthony started out playing drums after his father set up a kit in the lounge – he was four years old. He was the first brother recruited into The Plantations.
These NZ-born Samoan brothers grew up on Auckland's North Shore listening to 1980s bands from the UK and Europe, such as the Blue Nile, Scritti Politti and The Cure. Their sound wasn't what you would expect – they were not a Polynesian R&B group or South Auckland rappers.
Anthony had been working with the Deepgrooves label in various production capacities on their first two compilations in 1991 and 1992, which led to the band signing to Deepgrooves and his producing their debut single ‘Skin To Skin’ in 1993.
grace was the most successful act on Deepgrooves in terms of gaining Radio Hits funding.
The band released two more singles in 1994, ‘Confessions’ and ‘Black Sand Shore’, and Deepgrooves put out their debut album Black Sand Shore early the following year, along with two more singles, ‘Cool World’ and ‘Desert Moon’. Grace was the most successful act on Deepgrooves in terms of gaining Radio Hits funding from NZ On Air. The funding was rewarded for achieving a significant level of airplay on commercial radio.
Following the release of their debut album in 1995, the band went on their first national tour, opening for Ruby Turner. They added ex-Chills drummer Earl Robertson to the band’s live line-up, along with Bic Runga on backing vocals.
Deepgrooves lined up showcase gigs in Australia to tie in with the release of the album there. A month before these were to happen, local music TV show Music Nation featured an item that said “Grace have now left Deepgrooves and have formed their own record label called Kokobutt and they'll be recording on that label.”
The resulting fallout led Festival, Deepgrooves’ distributor, to pull back from the Australian showcases. Although both label boss Kane Massey and the band subsequently presented a united front, insisting they weren't leaving the label and were working on their second album with Deepgrooves, the band eventually shifted to Polygram Records, where former Deepgrooves partner Mark Tierney was now working in an A&R capacity.
In late 1996, Grace briefly changed their moniker to Kaizen, which they said “is very simply, Japanese for making something bad, good.” They shifted focus from gentle pop ballads to a more straightforward three-piece rock band and played a number of live shows under this name.
The band also recorded a number of demos for a second album, embracing a sharper rock sound based around Paul’s blossoming guitar skills. They recorded a single for Polygram in 1998 at York St studios, however it remains released as they split later that year, somewhat acrimoniously, with Anthony and Jason suffering a fraternal fall out which was not resolved for some years.
Anthony produced a number of other acts on Deepgrooves – Jules Issa, Jordan Reyne, 3 The Hard Way and Greg Fleming. He was later involved in writing and producing songs for the TV-manufactured pop group TrueBliss in 1999. Jason left music to focus on his career as a merchant banker. Paul later moved to Colorado in the USA, where, whilst working as a ski instructor, he died in a car crash in 2003.
Grace were regarded as the band who would for several years, and their single album is a 1990s classic, however that potential was destined never to be fulfilled.
Black Sand Shore, 1995
Grace at the 1999 APRA Silver Scroll Awards, with George Ash, MD of Universal: Jason Ioasa, Paul Ioasa, Anthony Ioasa and George Ash
A 1995 Grace publicity shot: Anthony, Paul and Jason Ioasa
Black Sand Shore
Grace interview from Frenzy, 24 November 1994. Directed by Ross Cunningham.
Grace in 1996: Paul, Jason and Anthony Ioasa
Black Sand Shore was listed in Nick Bollinger's 2009 book 100 Essential New Zealand Albums.