These days it’s not uncommon to hear rock bands cite a hip hop influence. Sometimes it just means they’ve listened to stacks of Wu-Tang and bought baggier jeans, but occasionally a band manages to successfully integrate specific hip hop qualities into its own material.
“We kind of got obsessed with this idea of making a fully-fledged hip hop record – like a rock’n’roll band’s version of a hip hop record,” says The Delta Riggs’ frontman Elliott Hammond. The record in question is the band’s recently completed second LP Dipz Zebazios and, if the first single ‘Supersonic Casualties’ is anything to go by, they’ve come good on this ambition. The Brisbane/Sydney/Melbourne four-piece has never shied away from voluptuous grooves or soulful melodies, but ‘Supersonic Casualties’ places those traits smack-bang in the centre.
“The stuff we were listening to, like Jurassic 5 and early N.E.R.D, we were like, ‘Man, these vocals are just pumped, they’re so loud in the mix.’ So we were just like, ‘Fuck it, if that’s the record we’re trying to do we should do what these guys did and beef it up a bit.’”
Hammond also names Fugees, De La Soul and Beastie Boys as key influences. The Delta Riggs produced Dipz Zebazios themselves and, in order to authentically reference these artists, they were required to expand their production abilities.
“I met Dave [Atkins] from the Resin Dogs through my time with Wolfmother,” Hammond says. “He’s got a studio with a whole library of vinyl – just walls and walls of vinyl. We went there for a weekend and we just started pulling out records and listening to different vinyls and making samples.
“We were using these old techniques we learned from Dave, because he’s a proper wizard. He’s cut from that cloth, whereas we are fundamentally a rock’n’roll band. A lot of stuff on the new record is sampled but it’s actually been recorded by us and put onto a seven-inch vinyl and then sampled.”
The Delta Riggs’ debut record Hex.Lover.Killer featured a groggy take on British Invasion R&B, which attracted nationwide interest and made the Australian Music Prize long list. Still, Hammond and co. weren’t apprehensive about jumping into new territory with this album.
“We didn’t want to wait another eight months until the album cycle wore itself out. We definitely were like, ‘If we’re going to go back in the studio we can’t just be bringing out another version of Hex.Lover.Killer.’”
Even though the band was immediately inspired to make the stylistic shift, visiting the original home of hip hop last October greatly strengthened the embrace.
“We were probably halfway through [the album] when we got to New York,” Hammond explains. “When we got there it really hit home that this was a space where [hip hop] was actually originating from. The streets are fucking gritty; it’s got a real punk rock vibe to it. I tie in hip hop and punk rock to be pretty close, as far as coming from the bottom and having that community message and speaking your mind. New York definitely inspired us to step that up a little bit.
“Hip hop has changed so much to [become] what we now know as hip hop,” he adds. “In its foundations, it wasn’t about talking about how much money you have or how many cars are in your garage. It was about helping each other out and being positive and solving problems. We were like, ‘What happened to that ethos?’ We were trying to capture what we thought was a little bit of a forgotten past of where hip hop came from.”