MC Pressure, one third of Australia’s most successful, and arguably most significant, hip hop group, the Hilltop Hoods, is getting ready for what looks to be the most challenging project of their career. Whilst the decision to tour and perform with orchestras around Australia may seem like a recent inspiration, Pressure says the decision was “six to seven years in the making.” This is on the back of their new release “Drinking From the Sun, Walking Under Stars Restrung” which encapsulates an orchestral reworking of two of their albums, plus a few additional tracks.
Bringing strings to the Hilltops’ compositions clearly delivers an additional emotional layer to the music. Pressure notes the orchestral reworking adds “drama, power and mood” to their work, allowing listeners to experience one of Australia’s most popular acts in a different light. Rather, than merely palming off responsibility for the arrangements to composer Jamie Messenger and conductor Hamish McKeich, the group were heavily involved in setting out guidelines for the arrangements for each track, clearly influencing the end result.
However, composing music in a studio with an orchestra is one thing and, as Pressure explains, the process of playing with a different orchestra in each city presents a new challenge. To begin with the band is starting a general pre-rehearsal, seven weeks ahead. Then, when they tour, each show is basically a three day process with rehearsals with each orchestra. Pressure points out that compared to a standard show there are so many variables when playing with orchestras, for instance syncing the pitch of the DJ backing tracks to that of the instruments in the orchestras.
One new track which has received a lot of airplay on Triple J and subsequent attention is the acclaimed “Higher”, which Pressure says explores “living life at an unsustainable tempo” and the need some “down time.” One can’t help but think about whether this relates to the stress of the various projects the trio are working on, from general touring, to working with orchestras, to managing label Golden Era and of all things, getting involved with craft beer. Having honed their craft since their younger years in the late 90s, the group’s lyrical themes have understandably changed. Pressure muses he’s no longer an “angry sixteen year old getting drunk and angry at the cops.” As a father in his 30s, he seems more pragmatic and contemplative and it reflects in the music, “hip hop is so personal, as you grow, the music changes with you.”
Having achieved an unprecedented level of success for an Australian hip hop act, the Hilltop Hoods have taken an interest in other emerging acts with their label Golden Era Records. However, Pressure is quick to emphasise this is not so much about giving back, but actually providing a “home base” for the artists they like, noting, “all the people on the label are friends… it’s like a family, a project of love.”
On a lighter front, as a self-confessed “craft beer fan” Pressure says the band has enjoyed additional projects like the new Golden Era Beer they’ve created in collaboration with local brewing sensation Pirate Life. He jokes, irrespective of how many ARIAS or accolades the band receives, his father seems more enthused about their involvement in craft brewing.
The boys will be heading back home with their Restrung Tour in April and we can’t wait to experience the amazingness!
Hilltop Hoods Restrung Tour with Adelaide Symphony Orchestra and Adelaide Chamber Singers & Maverick Sabre
When: Saturday 16 April
Where: Adelaide Entertainment Centre
Get tickets here.