Adelaide rap ruffians The Funkoars are back to school us young’ns on ‘proper hip-hop’ with their latest release The Quickening. The ‘Drunkoars’ tag has been eschewed for a harder, more mature sound on the new album, their fourth and arguably most successful and celebrated, debuting at #11 on the ARIA Charts and #1 on the Urban Charts.
When speaking with Daniel Yates (better known to Funkoars fans as DJ Reflux) I found out more about the inspiration behind their new sound, what it was like working with hip-hop heavyweight MC Large Professor, and the future of Australian urban music in a sea of David Guetta and Flo Rida dance beats.
GB: It’s been a few years since The Funkoars released their last album, when did you begin recording The Quickening?
DY: It’s been about a twelve month process. We toured The Hangover extensively and ended up doing quite a few festivals, so that kind of took our focus away from another record as such. When that started to close off we thought ‘Righteo, time to get back in the studio and make another one’, so we probably spent the best part of a year sculpting this.
GB: Was the creative process different to your previous work? Was there anything that you guys went into the studio with saying ‘right, we have to do this differently’?
DY: Yes and no, our methods have always been our methods and that’s probably the way we’ll always do them. I mean sure, we upgraded our production tools a little bit and our experience has given us a little bit more know-how in trying to get the end product, but otherwise we didn’t attack it any differently or with a different mind frame. We wanted to do the music that we were feeling at the time and the music we though was appropriate. We don’t in and sculpt anything too much, we prefer, for a lack of a better term an ‘organic’ process.
GB: I noticed, compared to your previous work there’s a definite growth and maturity about The Quickening and even a ‘social consciousness’, would you agree?
DY: Yeah I definitely agree. I mean we’ve always been branded as ‘we don’t have any depth’ and ‘all we rap about is booze’, but when people actually listen to the songs, we say a lot more than that. It may be packaged in something fun or to that effect, and you tend to be judged a lot by your first record, it may even take 10 years to work that off. You get bundled in this category and people think ‘that’s who they are’ and that is who you are forever, which isn’t the case. But I believe the new album is a lot deeper, we’ve all grown up so there’s a big difference between our first record when we were 19 years old to now where I’m 35, and things are different in our lives.
GB: What I enjoyed most about the album was that there were no dance-beats. At all! From what I’ve read about The Funkoars, the whole rap-going-dance trend is something that the group is very opinionated about.
DY: Well, yeah [laughs] I think that’s been blown out of proportion from one certain interview. We don’t really have a problem with that certain music as such, what we feel is a bit of a problem is how things get grouped. There’s only a certain amount of slots for artists. For instance, national broadcasting radio stations or music festivals will say ‘We only have four slots per hour for Australian hip-hop or urban music’ and artists who I don’t feel are necessarily representative of hip-hop are taking those places, and they’re taking them away from artists and groups who I feel are quality, and should be getting that time and airplay. So that’s why we think that if it’s pop, it’s pop. Put in the pop category and you compete with other pop artists. And when you go to a music festival that’s predominantly rock acts and they plan to put 3 or so hip-hop acts on, they’ll find the biggest names out there but they’re not always the best representation of Australian hip-hop. We don’t have a problem with the music, I mean sure, make whatever you want to make and if people like it and buy it, then sure, it’s valid. But it’s more about how it affects others and how it makes everything change. It’s obviously a new phenomenon that’s popping up in the Australian music scene.
GB: Do you think that people nowadays genuinely don’t know what proper hip-hop sounds like because of this?
DY: That’s precisely it. I mean the majority of people buying this music or going to music festivals are young people. And when you think of what I would classify as proper hip-hop, say from the early to mid-nineties, they would never have even heard of that. An 18 year old nowadays, their version of hip-hop is from 2000 onwards, or maybe even later, so they’ve only heard the recent stuff and that’s their version of what hip-hop is. There’s nothing wrong with that, that’s just the way things go. Therein lies that phenomenon in music that’s happening. It’s when people don’t know the roots of certain music. And obviously that happened with rock and other genres too.
GB: The title track (The Quickening) was produced by Large Professor who has worked with some huge names including Nas, and his work with Funkoars was his first ever Australian collaboration. How did the collaboration happen?
DY: Through our manager, Nate Flagrant, he was in contact with Large Professor’s manager and we asked if there was any chance for a collaboration, and we got a lot of good vibes back from him and his team, so we sent him a few tracks and said ‘This is where we’re at, this is the kind of music we make, can you make us up a beat?’ and he came back with a beat that he’d made for us. And we said ‘Yeah, we love this, it’s pretty up-tempo, it’s full on!’ but we worked with it and took our time with it and it turned out really well in the end. We’re very happy with it. And he’s stoked with the track too, he said that the vibe matches the beat pretty well, so he’s happy and we’re just stoked that we got to work with someone who we class as a legend in hip-hop.
GB: Melbourne-based designer Ken Taylor designed the artwork for The Quickening. It’s very in your face and different to The Hangover’s album cover. What was the inspiration behind it?
DY: Ken Taylor reached out to us, he’s a fan of ours, and we we’re like ‘Wow, you’re a fan of us?!’ just judging by the work he’s done and the artist he’s worked with. We thought that The Quickening had an 80s horror, Tarantino Grindhouse kind of feel that we wanted to run with. So he drew up a sketch and we loved it, and he did the whole artwork and we just loved it, we couldn’t be happier. To work with someone like that is another big plus for us, he’s a big name in that industry and to work with him was fantastic.
GB: You’ll be touring Australia later in the year, what can fans expect from the live shows that they may not have seen before?
DY: Well, we’re doing predominantly the new album, there’s a whole heap of new songs to be performed live. We’re upping the energy on the DJing side of things so you’ll see me getting pretty busy up there, but otherwise more of the same crazy energy we’ve always had!
The Quickening is in stores now. The Funkoars are touring The Quickening nationally, and will be performing in Adelaide on Saturday November 26 at the Thebarton Theatre. Tickets available through www.oztix.com.au