Sunday, 21 May 2017

Joelistics debut album 'Voyager' turns 6

Photo by Blank Tape Music 

It's hard to believe that 6 years ago this month, Joelistics dropped his debut album Voyager, which he tells us was a "hip-hop record that was more influenced by rock and roll, experimental, and dance music than straight up boom bap 90s". 

Voyager remains an incredibly introspective and electrifying record which shows off Joelistics' brilliance as a producer and song-writer - themes of travel, modern world paranoia and growing up are skilfully blended with his love of beat poetry, shoe-gazer electronica and folk.

Back when the album was released, standout tracks for Joelistics included 'Heart Remains' in which the "seeds" of the song came about while he was writing "little sketches of home" the morning after he had "taken acid with a friend in a house in the south of France". Also 'Days', which was actually lyrically written when he got back from his travels - he says he still likes the outro which references "random groupings of things" such as the line, "A big tub of lard knows how I feel / Jean Luc Picard knows how I feel. "

"I can hear how much I wanted to write a whole record that you could listen to beginning to end and it would be its own complete epic journey," Joelistics reflects on what it's like listening back to Voyager 6 years later. We couldn't agree more - a complete epic journey is what Voyager definitely offers up!

You can still grab your copy of Voyager on CD via our store!




From The Vault revisits and reminisces game-changing Elefant Traks releases with the artist behind it. 

Friday, 12 May 2017

Nurturing creativity with L-FRESH The LION


Photo by Clare Hawley (www.asparay.com)

As Become celebrates an incredible year since its release, we sat down with L-FRESH The LION to explore the elusive nature of creativity as he prepares for the next stage of what's to come. L-FRESH delves into his athletic approach to music strategy, how he recognises the potential of an idea for a song, and what his song-writing process looks like in its earliest stages.


Part 1 Nurturing Creativity


"You're trying to find a good balance of what works for you and what works for your brand, and for me at the moment it's been about self development, a lot of reflection, and to just live for a bit because that's where content comes from - it's how ideas are solidified and nurtured."


What have you been up to since the release of Become?

It's been really busy since then. As soon as the album got released we were peak album cycle - we were in the middle of executing plans that we had thought of six to twelve months prior.  It was heads down, let's go focus on this as a project and then how to maximise the momentum of the record. After the record came out and after the tour, my focus shifted on some of the things I had going on at the end of the year. I went to the US for a bit and that was to connect with Sikh community over there and to explore music opportunities. It was a relatively quiet start to the year in January and February I suppose from the outside looking in. It was really busy on my end in terms of just going back into strategy mode, planning for what's to come next, as well as working on a bunch of other opportunities. 

I had work with the AFL, work with Holden, I can't speak too much on it but I got my first acting gig which is cool, and then strategy around music - how do we execute things, work on new material and work on getting better as an artist. For me that has a lot to do with writing a lot, coming up with concepts, making new beats, challenging myself and putting myself in situations I hadn't been in before. I got to be a part of APRA SongHubs this year where they put together song-writers from around the world and Australia in a studio together for a couple of days and just see what you come up with. So I got to work with one of the dudes whose music played a huge impact on my life as a teenager. His name is Mike Elizondo and he spent years working with Dr Dre, made some of the biggest hits of all time in hip-hop, helped kick start Eminem's career, produced a lot of the stuff on 50 cent's first record. 

Did you have to actively seek these opportunities or did they just naturally come your way? 

A combination of both. A combination of, where do I see myself heading and where can I contribute, and how does that strengthen the brand. So yeah, very strategic about that stuff. And obviously just trying to align with things that I'm very passionate about. The other part of that is that yeah things just kind of come in as part of organic growth - people recognise what you do, what the brand stands for so they want to be a part of it. 

Starting out in this industry, did you think your profession would extend into all these different aspects or were you just thinking about producing music?

It was part of the long term vision for sure. From the very beginning, my passions were to create music that's going to have an impact on people in a positive way, so create movement music, and the second part of that was to make sure I was always involved in the issues that I'm passionate about at a grassroots community level. Those two are still at the centre of everything - they go hand in hand. The community stuff was really kind of broad. That can be from working at a grassroots level, working in community workshops, working with young people, or it can extend to being involved with campaigns that I'm really passionate about - working as an ambassador for All Together Now, White Ribbon, the AFL

What would you say is the main difference between release life versus non-release life? 

A very simple explanation would be, release life is the execution of plans and non-release is the development of plans. Another way to look at that is, non-release is the building up of momentum and release is executing that momentum and capitalising on it and trying to have that grow. Everyone's strategy is a bit different but you're trying to find a good balance of what works for you and what works for your brand. For me at the moment in the non-release part, it's been about self development, a lot of reflection, and working on ways to improve, trying to find the right strategies to advance and also about having breathing room to just live for a bit you know, because that's where content comes from, it's how ideas are solidified and nurtured, it's how you go deeper with ideas. It's really about all that stuff so that when you are in release mode, it's just the execution of everything you've been working on in the non-release stuff - it's like preparation and then the action.

On your point about needing to have some time to just live so that you can develop ideas, how do you nurture a space to work on those ideas?

I view everything holistically so my whole life is geared around what I do as an artist. I kind of feel like everything is preparation for being in the studio and writing stuff or being on stage and performing. On one hand I suppose that works as a positive thing cause it means I'm always focused and everything is geared towards a purpose, and in a negative sense means I don't know how to have a holiday because even holidays are viewed as having a purpose towards something. Going back to the point of viewing everything as holistic, every experience becomes a potential idea, every day has an opportunity to bring to life an idea that can become something, but it's more so a thing that sits in the back of your head as opposed to it being a thing that you're always conscious of. Instead of actively hunting for stuff, it's more so a thing of letting things happen and then having a switch that can automatically flick on when you notice there is something there to grab.

The process of creating can be quite a daunting thing because creativity is such an intangible concept that comes and goes. What are some ways that you motivate yourself during this time? What keeps you going during this creative process?

I'll definitely use goals to motivate myself and I'll constantly remind myself of why I do what I do and why it's important, and also develop the right habits so that when your motivation fails you on any given day, you rely on your habits to get you through. A really practical example is with relation to performance. So performance is a really physical thing. It takes a lot of energy, it's a work out within itself so if my motivation fails me on any given day to go to the gym or train, I'll at least remind myself, ok well make sure I eat good that day or that I'm drinking enough water or I get enough sleep and rest. My motivation might have failed me that day to actually get up and go work out but what else am I doing to contribute to that goal of being ready for being on stage?

Similarly with writing, I might not be in the studio that day or have the time to sit down and write, but what can I do to think of concepts, think of lines here and there, flow patterns, so that when I do get in the studio I'm prepared. I don't go in having not prepared for that moment. I take a very athlete inspired approach to this stuff just because I'm so inspired by sports. I think of things from the viewpoint of discipline, of preparation and execution. This is all practice and release cycle is game day. 



Part 2 Capturing Creativity


"Nowadays I'll present things quite early to people - just a small team so they can kind of see where I'm at and where things are heading. I feel pretty confident in where I'm heading and where I'm going and it's good to get some inputs particularly from the label and my band members of how to improve."


What are some characteristics of an idea that indicate to you that it has potential as a song?

Initially it's coming up with an idea and then determining whether or not there is enough in that idea to flesh out an entire song. Whether there is enough content there that a story can be told, whether it's been told before and then to consider what to avoid so you're not doubling up on what someone else has done. It then comes down to, does it have a vibe ? A lot of it is just feel. I might think a concept is great, but then when I write it out and put it over a beat and it just doesn't work, then you just discard it at that point. Working on a beat is a good example of this because you can make a beat in an hour and then come back to it a week later and if it doesn't give you anything then you kind of put it in the practice pile. Same thing with songs. I might write a verse and a chorus just to get an idea out as a test and then see what it sounds like. If it's inspiring me to keep going then I'll go for it, but if it feels like it's not at the level I want it to be at, then I'll discard it or won't prioritise it, maybe I'll come back to it later. I'll prioritise with things that are making me really excited. 

At what point do you bring other people into the idea process?

Nowadays I'll present things quite early to people - just a small team so they can kind of see where I'm at and where things are heading. I feel pretty confident in where I'm heading and where I'm going and it's good to get some inputs particularly from the label and my band members of how to improve. I tend to work with producers. I'm working with Michael McGylnn again who produced the first two records. We'll work on stuff together and both have our inputs and then we'll play for our inner circles and kind of catch a vibe. Or we'll come back to it later when we want to flesh stuff out a bit more. 

Generally speaking, you can know what your potential single will be immediately. If you create something, send it out as a first draft and it has quite a level of excitement around it, you can tell it's gonna be something. Other songs take time to develop that level of excitement. 

So you'd say that going into this process, it's important to have a certain level of self confidence?

Yeah a level of confidence about who you are and what you're doing. I don't take anything personally, ever, when it comes to critique and that. I'm happy to send most stuff at an early stage to people and be like what do you think and not to take things personally. People might say 'I don't know about that delivery, I don't know about that tone, maybe the lyric isn't strong enough' and I'll be ok, I'll put my head down and get better at it. If you start to take it personally then yeah you're not giving yourself the best chance to improve and to shine. I've learnt very early in my career to not take things personally.

Tell me more about how you're approaching the beats side of things again?

Yeah I didn't do it on Become. I made a lot of the beats for One.  I felt like on Become I needed to focus a lot more on where I was going lyrically, I didn't want to have to put all the energy on what I didn't consider to be my strength, but I learnt a lot through that process and watching other producers do their thing. Now I'm back to making beats again which is so exciting for me because I have a bit of a direction of where I want to go. I know what my style and sound is a lot more now then prior to Become which is really exciting. I'll take skeletons to people that I want to work with then let them build on top of that, or when I'm working with producers I'll have a lot of input on the beat.

What's the process like from idea to song?

Most songs for me will start with a concept - it might be a working title or a bunch of words or lyrics, and I'll pen them down and then I'll sit on them for a while before I can fully flesh out what it looks and feels like in my head. I just wait for that moment of ah, got it. Sometimes that can be a day, a week, a month, a year even. I'll have a stack of concepts and a stack of lines and I'll constantly go back to them. With concepts, I'll wait til I have the right beat.  So I'll either work on beats or work with the producer and when we've created something I'll go back on a concept that I've been thinking about and then write it out. Every now and then a beat will spark something brand new and we'll just jam and I'll come up with a new concept and lyrics on the spot. Very rarely will I have verses finished without a beat. I'll have parts of verses and choruses but I'll wait til I have the music as well and then marry them together. 

How do you organise all those ideas knowing that they all could have potential?

It's just about being patient and trusting in yourself. I know my processes, I know what works and what doesn't. The way that I have my ideas organised, I'll trust in that and then I'll just chip away at them when I'm thinking about that concept. The case might be that I'll come up with a concept and I realise that I don't have enough knowledge to fully tackle it yet and I'll do some research and go chip away at it again and so some more research. Other times it's just knowing subconsciously that you've got a stack of concepts that's there ready to go and then something happens in your life that contributes to a concept and you chip  away at it, waiting for the right moment to flesh it out. 

Do you feel like your writing processes have changed over the albums?

They have definitely changed. At the start I used to just sit and force myself to write something from start to finish. Now I know it's not always like that. I'll go a lot more with feel. I trust a lot more in my ability to jam flow patterns, rhythms, melodies and then I'll marry them up with words. When I learn new processes, I get really excited about implementing them, so yeah it's definitely changed since the very first record, even the mix-tapes and EPs I was doing before the first record. It goes back to trusting in what I have to say, in my intuition, and just being patient.

Tuesday, 25 April 2017

How to pack for Groovin The Moo with L-FRESH


How To gives you an insider look into how our artists do something (it could be anything!) as they share some tips and tricks along the way. Everyone does things differently and we can all learn from each other to find the best methods for our craft...

We caught up with L-FRESH The LION on the eve of his string of Groovin The Moo shows to check out his essentials when it comes to packing for a 3 week festival tour and to also learn more about what he is most excited for.


Catch L-FRESH on the following dates on the Moolin Rouge stage (12:00pm and 12:30pm - check the Groovin Website for all set times):

Friday 28th April - Adelaide Showground, Wayville, SA
Saturday 29th April - Maitland Showground, Maitland, NSW
Sunday 30th April - Murray Sports Complex, Townsville, QLD
Saturday 6th May - Prince of Wales Showground, Bendigo, NSW 
Sunday 7th May - University of Canberra, Canberra, ACT
Saturday 13th May - Hay Park, Bunbury, WA

Artists that L-FRESH is keen to check out include: Loyle Carner, Tash Sultana, Thundamentals, B Wise, Coda Conduct, Manu Crooks, Morgan Bain, and Ziggy. Who's on your list...?

Thursday, 20 April 2017

Record Store Day: A rare red 7" of The Herd's 77%


Photo by Jen Ng

You gotta get your hands on this! To mark the exclusive release of The Herd's 77% on 7 " red vinyl for Record Store Day (Saturday April 22nd!), we caught up with some of the key players involved with the record and its release...


Shannon Kennedy (Ozi Batla), the songwriter behind 77%, takes us back 15 years to learn more about what inspired the song. Dale Harrison (Rok Poshtya), bass in The Herd and the champion behind the vinyl release and its design, shares his thoughts into why this track had to be revived for 2017. Jayteehazard gives us an insight into how he tackled the classic for the B side remix. 

RECORD STORE DAY LAUNCH

We'll be officially launching the 7" at The Record Store, Darlinghurst, where our resident DJ and Herd member DGGZ will be playing a set of local vinyl from 12-1pm. More details of the event here.


You can also pick up this rare beauty in: 

Melbourne - Union Heights and Northside Records
Adelaide - clinic116

*Keep an eye out at our online store next week - there may be some available there ;)

Shannon Kennedy... 

What was happening in Australia at the time that inspired 77%?

I wrote 77% in response to the Howard government's Tampa Affair. There was growing division about Australia's response to the arrival of asylum seekers by boat, growing xenophobia as a result of the rise of Pauline Hanson and the federal government's hardline stance on refugees. It made me ashamed to call myself Australian.


Due to the politically changed nature of the song, did you have any concerns for its release ? 

I had no concerns about how the song would be received, I didn't write it to be popular. It was a cry of anguish from the heart. I wanted to make it a gut-punch of a song, I wanted to make listeners uncomfortable. I think we were all surprised when triple j picked up the song, and even more surprised when they chose to play the uncensored album cut. People were more politically engaged back then, and triple j was much more adventurous than it is now.

How do you feel the relationship between politics and music has changed over the past 15 years? 

Political music has taken a backseat over the past 15 years, for a couple of reasons. People have gradually disengaged from political awareness, even though they are probably getting screwed more than ever. The other thing that has happened, it is much harder to make money from music, so putting out a political song becomes a luxury musicians don't think they can afford. There have been some notable exceptions (A.B. Original). The other thing that deters people from expressing political opinion - not just in music, but overall - is the instant backlash they can expect online. If you don't really know what you're talking about aside from a couple of slogans, you're gonna get slammed.

15 years later, how does this song make you feel given the current refugee crisis today? 

We are on the brink of another war based on false pretences. We continue to deny that we owe the refugees of the world anything, despite blindly following the US into each and every act of aggression that destabilises the world and creates more refugees. We are still a selfish, cruel and mediocre country that tries to act tough and important on the world stage but then refuses to accept our responsibility for dealing with the fallout from fucking up the world.



Dale Harrison...

Why was 77% chosen for Record Store Day and why 7"?


I've been trying to get more 7"'s out as I really love the format. It's relatively inexpensive, fairly quick to produce and are great for something like this where you just want to commemorate a particular point in time. It's now 16 years since the lyrics were written - it was originally an Ozi Batla solo track that he self-produced immediately after the Tampa incident in August 2001. It eventually became a Herd song and we wrote the track around a cheeky rip of the Eric B. & Rakim track Paid In Full in 2002, and the song eventually came out in 2003.

It was also never released on vinyl so it made sense to do it as a Record Store Day release but minus the cynical reissue-everything-that-was-ever-released mentality that has characterised the last few years of RSD releases. Apart from that it's just so depressing that it's a song that is even more relevant than ever before - it should really have been consigned to the deep dark shameful past of the Howard era, but the effects of the Tampa are still felt today, both in terms of policy and the effect it has on people's lives.

Tell us about the Jayteehazard collab for the B side? 

We just love Jayteehazard, and his remix game is so strong we thought he would do a great job of bringing the song into a more modern palette. In the end he opted for a bit of a throwback golden era-type sound—so he pretty much did the opposite of what we expected. But it's still dope. We also got Dan Elleson (Koolism) to mix the track again from the original stems, so the original is a lot thicker and creamier than the version that was released on the CD.


How did you approach the vinyl art design? 

I just worked on the whole concept of info-graphically representing 77%. The song itself is so much more than a blasé statistic but when you put it down on paper it becomes so much more real. The front cover has the actual breakdown of 100 people - 77 of whom, when surveyed, agreed with the Howard Government's actions on board the MV Tampa. I also used only a few colours (red, black and white) to represent the deeply divisive aspect of this whole affair. Plus I didn't want to make it too linked to a historical moment in time - the song has resonated along the years and is still as relevant now as ever before. 

Jayteehazard...

How did you approach this remix ? 


I usually start off a remix feeling super excited about having all these awesome different parts to work with, and also with a rough idea of how I think I’m going to approach it. However that nearly always all goes out the window pretty quick and I feel that dread of having that (totally made up) pressure of a remix compared to the original. In most cases I like to focus in on whatever element about the original song I like the most and build around that - the chorus of 77% is an all time classic so I started building around that. 

I then started thinking it just makes much more sense to keep the entire song intact lyrically and just flip the tone/vibe of the song to something a little more dark. The original has such a strong message over such a funky positive vibes beat - I gave the remix an ominous vibe just so it would be something completely different to the original. Also the fact that it is quite sad that the message from 77% is still relevant today, I think the vibe of this remix reflects that.

Why did you decide to keep all the original lyrics ?

I was given all the stems from the original session and composed a new beat under Batla’s acapella. It can be a little daunting to be asked to remix such a classic song so long after it has been released and already left a significant mark on the scene. I wanted to make sure I did it justice and figured it best not to attempt to skew the song too much or try and force it into another genre or anything. I also think context is everything. For example if I had just used the chorus it would have totally changed the intent of the entire song and I wouldn't have felt right about that.

Back to where it began...

Thursday, 2 February 2017

Before You Heard: Urthboy 'Crushing Hard'

Before You Heard takes you exclusively up close and personal with an artist, to learn more about what the song was like before you heard it.

We caught up with Urthboy to get an insight into 'Crushing Hard', his first release since 
The Past Beats Inside Me Like A Second Heartbeat.

Here you can hear him talking about the connection between 'Crushing Hard' and 'Wade In The Water' (from his lastest album) and his thoughts on how people are reacting to the song differently to how he first imagined.

 

Grab your copy of 'Crushing Hard' and tickets for the Crushing Hard tour via his website.