Wil Wagner has claimed many titles in recent months, pub-rock hero, “vocal force for good within the punk and wider music communities“… but now, as The Brag finds out, a Thundamentals fan.
Ahead of triple j’s annual One Night Stand this Saturday (22 April) – where some of Australia’s best live acts will ascend on Mount Isa for a massive free party – Wagner chats to his lineup comrade Jeswon, of Thundamentals.
Read the full transcript below:
Wil Wagner: You have been doing this for about a decade, how have you seen the Australian hip hop scene change over that time? To an outsider it seems to have grown from a niche to a huge and important part of the Australian music landscape, has that been what you guys have experienced?
Jeswon: Absolutely, there has been a massive change in the scene. When we started out it was impossible to fathom that Hip Hop in Australia could grow into the thriving industry that it is today. It used to really be a clandestine movement supported largely by the participants within the culture. There was little to no air play for Hip Hop artists with the exception of specialist community radio shows. And the thought of Hip Hop artists being invited to perform at music festivals was laughable. We never would have predicted that Australian Hip Hop would go on to be regarded as a respected genre within the wider Australian music landscape. There is such a wide diversity of artists, sounds and stories now within the scene, we just feel blessed to be able to contribute our voice to the conversation.
Wil: I love the visual aesthetic of Everyone We Know and all the singles you have released lately! Who did you work with to make the art and what inspired it?
Jeswon: Ayyyyyyyye! Thank you!! For every single one of our releases we have worked with our friend Benjamin Funnell of April77 Creative. The concept behind ‘Everyone We Know’ is that each of the 15 songs on the album are inspired by different people within our lives. When we approached Ben with the concept behind the album the only guideline we gave him was that we wanted each individual song to have its own standalone visual representation. He took those guidelines and just ran with it. What we got back was a fantastical, psychedelic motley crew of sci-fi characters which represented the music perfectly! We were so stoked with Ben’s art that we decided to put on an art exhibition / listening party tour across the country prior to the album’s release so we could showcase his art in gallery spaces. Of course we’re biased, but I reckon he killed it!
Wil: I’m always intrigued as to how people write songs, especially with a group like Thundamentals where there isn’t one main writer. How does one of your songs come about?
Jeswon: For us, a song can come about in a variety of different ways. Usually, the two producers in the band (DJ Morgs and Pon Cho) will slang myself and Tuka a beat and we will just vibe on it until inspiration hits us. Sometimes one of us will already have a hook idea or melody in our head which we record acapella and we then build a beat around that recording. Sometimes we will all just vibe out together in the studio and come up with a song from scratch or sometimes myself or Tuka will be working away on concepts on our own and we bring them to everyone else once we feel like we have something that might be interesting. Sometimes we write a song in a couple of hours and sometimes we can be labouring over a song for half a year! I think the beautiful thing about being in a band where there are multiple songwriters is that everyone has their own approach and tastes and quite often someone will bring an idea on a beat that you might not particularly be vibing on, and it challenges you to find something within yourself that you would never have explored if it was just you working on solo music.
Wil: And, excuse the obvious question, but who’s Sally? And it seems like the Australian hip hop scene is thriving, what up and comers should we be keeping an ear out for this year?
Jeswon: Sally is loosely based on an amalgamation of someone we know in real life and Elaine Benes from Seinfeld! The more I speak to people about the song the more I get the impression that a lot of people have at least one friend who can’t dance to save their life but still boogie with reckless abandon. The fact they don’t care that they can’t dance is what makes them so god damn awesome! I guess that’s the moral of the song: dance like nobody is watching, because true coolness comes from not caring about looking cool at all haha!
There is a gang of incredible new talent coming through the scene at the moment. I feel like artists such as Gil Bates, Turquoise Prince, Anfa Rose, I AM D, Milwaukee Banks, B Wise, Nookie, Mallrat, Manu Crook$, Triple One, Tasman Keith and Cult Shotta are definitely ones to keep your eyes on. But I could honestly have listed so many more young artists I think have a big future ahead of them. The scene is really vibrant and diverse at the moment and I’m excited to see it evolve even further.
For the full triple j One Night Stand setlist times, maps and info head to the official site here.
If you can’t make it to the Isa you can listen to all the action on triple j. Tune in to from 4pm Sat 22 April.