Simplex is a well-known name on the Adelaide hip-hop circuit, having worked with the who’s who on the local and national scene. Having recently relocated to Brisbane this year, the Terra Firma man has been working on his sophomore album, the follow up to his successful debut release, Audio Biography. Simplex chats with me about the recent move, what he’s been focusing on for this record, and his upcoming show in Adelaide supporting Joelistics and Diafrix.
Thanks for chatting with me, how have you been?
Yeah it’s been good, I’ve just moved up to Brisbane from Adelaide. I’m just starting…I wouldn’t say a ‘new’ life, but in a new location which is pretty cool.
How has the move to Brisbane treated you; no doubt the hip-hop scene there is quite different to the one we have here…
Yeah it’s good! I haven’t really gotten out and amongst it fully yet, but yeah I’ve met up with a lot of dudes up here and everyone seems to be busy and on their grind and stuff. I think it’s a bit more disjointed than Adelaide, but I think that’s because it’s a little bit bigger and a bit more spread out than Adelaide.
The Adelaide live circuit is rather cosy to say the least, how would you describe the state of local hip-hop right now? To me, it seems like you have to look for a good hip-hop joint these days.
Yeah… Adelaide’s always been real productive, you know? It’s good to see the younger dudes like Prime and Purpose and K21 and Dialect…everyone’s making moves, you know what I mean? Everyone’s doing their thing and it’s good to see. They’re the next generation after us, or a couple of generations after us and they’re all on the right path and they’re making DJ clips…
Do you think it’s becoming easier for the younger MCs and producers to get in a foot in the door?
I don’t know if it’s easier, it might be a bit harder nowadays because there are so many more dudes doing stuff. It’s hard to jump on Facebook for a minute and then get hit up by 20 people wanting for you to hear their tracks, you know? A lot of the time you just go, “Oh nah…” unless you’ve heard something or seen another show or something like that; most people don’t check for it, you know? I’ll check some links but you could spend your whole night going through people’s music; there’s still a lot of shit out there, but there’s probably a lot of good shit out there as well. There’s only limited space too, you know; the punters can’t go out to a show every weekend, when there are shows every weekend, it won’t work. They’ve got to be spaced out.
It’s probably a little bit easier at the moment with the internet to get heard nowadays, to get your stuff out, and it’s a little bit easier recording-wise, you know? Everyone can buy a sound card now and record in their bedroom, whereas before, you’d have to hire out a studio or some dude that’s been buying gear for ages, you’d go around to his house. That’s what I used to do, go around Debris’ [Hilltop Hoods] house and record until I started saving up and getting a sound card and then started building my own sort of studio, you know?
Can you tell me about what you’re working on at the moment?
In Brisbane, just a bit of production stuff so far. I’ve started writing the new album, so I’ve pretty much got 80% of the beats there, but they’ll probably change from time to time, which happened last time when I was doing various other albums. I always change beats, I’ll go, “I can make a better one or a better sound” and go with that one instead.
Are you finding that you’re travelling along similar paths with this record, as the follow up to Audio Biography, or different directions?
I think different directions, because it’s been sitting there for a while, you know? Like, some of those tracks had been there for seven years or so, ages. Now, I was able to get those tracks I’ve been working on, that have been sitting there out of my life and now I can start with a fresh head and fresh ideas; because I recorded and mixed everything myself, I learned a bunch of lessons on mixing and recording myself. Hopefully the new album continues on from there or evolves on from there. I’ve been going back to the boom bap stuff as well again, I can’t get myself out of that! So far, all the beats I’m pretty happy with… there’ll be some different stuff in there…
You’re up to play with Joelistics and Diafrix this week – looking forward to coming back home?
Yeah for sure, I’ve only been away since the start of the year, so it’s pretty fresh in my mind, Adelaide and everything. Still, it’s good to get back and catch up with mates and play to the Adelaide crowd. Pretty much, out of Australia, Adelaide’s got the best crowd.
It’s at The Gov as well, which is a great venue to be at when it’s packed out for a gig.
Exactly, I love playing The Gov. I like the outside bit, you know, for the smokers…not like HQ, where they’re outside and around the corner so they can’t see anything. So the smokers can still see there and yeah, it’s a wicked venue.
The press information I was sent implies that you had no intention of performing live this year at all; why was that and what made you change your mind?
Um, not really. Moving up to Brisbane…I’m sitting in the studio all the time, you know, and you drive yourself a little bit crazy! So it’s good to get out there and see real people again, not just on emails or Facebook or Twitter, you know?
What can the hometown crowd expect from you then, because this is going to be quite a special one off show?
It’ll be a mix of everything, I think. It’s been a bit hard to practice…because Madcap DJs for me, he’s in Adelaide still, so it’s a bit hard to practice over Skype and stuff. We’ve got to figure something out for the new material, but yeah, hopefully we’ve got some new material to bring out there.
Catch Simplex at The Gov, Thursday 5 April with Joelistics and Diafrix. Details up at www.thegov.com.au.
Adelaide alternative rock act Terracotta Palace have been steadily building a reputation as a quality live act through 2011, and are now preparing to release their debut EP this weekend. The three-piece have been working hard on the record, entitled Medicine, since August and it reflects the past two years of the band’s efforts. Ben Jones takes some time out to chat about how the process has treated him both as a songwriter and musician, and what he and his band mates are hoping to achieve from the launch.
Hey Ben, how’ve you been?
Yeah not too bad, just working hard I suppose. It’s been very busy.
Yeah, it seems to be a busy month for a lot of people.
For sure, there’s always something going on after Christmas…
So you guys must be pretty keen for the launch?
Yeah, it seems like it’s been a long time coming; we’ve been working since about August, in terms of starting the EP to actually releasing it on the 31st, it probably isn’t that long but it seems like forever for us. We’ve been working pretty hard on it.
I think, for a band, it would seem like it takes longer. It is such an involved process.
Yeah, especially for us, because we were doing it all ourselves; all the recording was done by us and the mixing was done by us as well. The only part we got any help with was mastering and getting the actual printing done; to that point it was really taxing but rewarding at the same time as well. A lot of long hours!
I guess this whole thing would have been a massive learning experience, not just in the whole technical sense of producing an EP in general, but as a musician doing it.
Absolutely; from the start, we’ve only been together as a three-piece for about 10 months, Tom [Daly] and I had sort of jammed for about a year before that. But I’d never a song until about two years ago and from that point to getting to a point where we’re recording ourselves and that sort of thing, we’ve picked it up gradually. It’s been a massive learning experience; I don’t think it’s quite hit us properly yet.
If we can just chat a bit a bit about the content on the EP; it’s called Medicine, is there any sort of driving theme around it?
To be honest, with an EP, it is quite hard to get a theme within five songs or so. I think if there’s any sort of theme on it, Tom and I did the songwriting and I did the lyrics, it was basically revolving around our lives two years ago when we wrote it. Basically, two years ago, we were just out of college, which revolved a lot around getting drunk! There’s a song, “Waterhole”, that reflects that a fair bit. There are some darker meanings as well, but it’s all quite playful I suppose.
You’ve just spoken about where you got literal influences from; what about musically? Who do you look to?
Musically, we’re all from different backgrounds; Hef [Ryan Gerlach] and I are both classically trained and he’s got more punk influences, he loves Frenzal Rhomb and that sort of thing. Tom’s got a heavier background with Nirvana and Silverchair, that sort of thing. I didn’t really know anything but classical music until late in my teens and then I started getting into early Kings of Leon and LCD Soundsystem and probably Miike Snow, more recently. They are all sort of mixed together to become something unique, I hope.
Can you tell me a bit about the writing process? Is it more of a collaborative effort between you guys or is it mainly you writing lyrics.
I pretty am writing all the lyrics now, like I said, we’ve only been together for 10 months so nothing is really in concrete yet. All the songs on the EP were written two years ago between Tom and I, and Hef came halfway through. With the songwriting process though, we generally go off and do our own thing and come up with an idea and that idea involves writing the whole song and getting the others to play it. That has changed a bit over time; it’s much more involved, it’s way too early exactly how we do it because we change it all the time?
What was it like having the added benefit of having someone putting in work with the mixing and mastering?
In terms of the mixing itself, Hef did most of it; we were really lucky to get Hef actually. He has played drums for a couple of years and Tom played football with him and sort of poached him basically, knowing his connections! With the mixing, he had help from Chris Pitman as well; it was so handy having the opportunity to do it yourself because, number one, you do everything exactly how you want and it turns out the way you want it hopefully and it is a hell of a lot cheaper! That’s the main thing, basically!
On the live performance aspect of these songs, how have you found the reception over time?
We’ve been quite happy with our live performance and how people have received it. I mean, since our first show, which you were at actually, we feel like we’ve come along quite a bit! Our first show was a bit of a disaster I think, we hadn’t really realised what we were up for and we hadn’t really prepared for it. Since then, I think that we’re improving with every show, we’ve got a solid base of people who come to the shows, which is nice; we’re getting new people every show now and we’re only hearing good things. It’s sort of hard to say, but it seems like people are enjoying themselves and that’s the main thing.
That’s it; you guys are still so fresh on the scene as well so you’re going to have those shows which are in essence, a dress rehearsal of sorts. You’ll always be developing as live performers, no matter how long you’ve been doing shows for.
Exactly; we’ve found that we’ve gotten…not looser, but more confident. That’s the big thing, confidence. The more we enjoy it, the more it comes through, I think.
For sure; I’m sure it’s going to come across really well at the EP launch because you’ve got your own specific event and spot, you know?
Exactly, it’s going to be packed out with family and friends! We’re hoping that we can get a bit more of a following after we release it too.
The lads from ColourVision are a bit of a mixed bunch, to say the least. Having caught them performing a show at The Exeter a few months ago, I remember not being able to assign a musical label to the band. Psychedelic with an edge of vintage rock? Brit-pop fused with some synths? I couldn’t figure it out, but enjoying it, I invited two of the band’s members to have a chat about it, to see if it wasn’t just me.
“Nobody can!” exclaims bass player Jose Maucho, who sits opposite me with the band’s lead singer, Michael Pietrafesa.
“We had difficulties.” Pietrafesa admits. “I mean, in the last year and a half, the style has changed ridiculously. When we first started, we sounded like a Pink Floyd/Powderfinger cross, but now that’s totally changed.”
The five-piece who, under original band name Centurion, have been playing venues about town for the past year or so, have undergone an evolution which has extended past their change of name. Their story of how they got together is a prime example of the lessons the band learned from the onset.
“Oh, it’s a good story.” Pietrafesa begins. “Dave [Zammit], the guitarist, met this bloke at The Ed Castle one night…he was a bit of a nutcase. He goes ‘We should jam’, so Dave got me, because he and the other guy played guitar, to come along and I did a bit of singing. This guy then found Joe [Maucho], and it turned out that the guy was arrogant and difficult to work with. So we flicked him off and took over the band. Everyone came from different backgrounds and we all ended up together. ”
Maucho is much more open about the negative vibe this musician brought to the band.
“We had the practices at my house originally and they all rocked up and this guy was the biggest wanker of all time. Now though, to be honest, we have our tiffs, but the way we talk, it’s like we’ve known each other since our high school days.”
Now that the guys have worked out their dynamic for the better, it’s all been about finding and crafting their creative vision as both musicians and live performers. When you’ve got five musicians, each with different tastes and input, composing music and lyrics is always going to be an interesting period.
“Everyone has had a crack at some stage,” says Pietrafesa. “At the end of the day, we try to reduce the amount of music we were creating and tried to collaborate a bit more. Now, Joe and Rhys [Overall] are the main composers and the arranging gets done as collaboration.”
“When we jam, it sometimes pisses me off when spend like, two months on the same song.” Maucho admits. “The way I do it, I’ll have a song and try to have the vocals ready, so everyone has something to do. I feel bad when we’re at practice and I’ve got the bass and guitar ready, but I don’t know what the singer’s doing! Somehow, it works.”
Their experience as live performers is still growing, as the band is more than willing to admit. At the same time though, both Maucho and Pietrafesa don’t really see ColourVision as the sort of band to become reliant on any sort outrageous stage presence.
“I think crowd interaction is our weakest point,” Maucho begins. “When we rehearse, we rehearse like motherfuckers. We’re just jamming together to get it really tight; we’ll play the same riffs until it drives us nuts. I think that’s why we’re relying more on lighting; we thought, ‘Fuck what everyone else thinks’. We’re just having fun. You look at bands like Tame Impala and Kasabian, they don’t need to do a hell of a lot onstage.”
“Our music’s not overly energetic,” Pietrafesa adds. “So it’s not like we can jump around or anything like that.”
When asked how it’s been, forging the band’s name on the local circuit, both guys admit that it was hard at first to book shows and get decent correspondence happening with some venues, but now, they’ve established some great relationships with venues about the place.
“When we started off, it was difficult to get shows.” Pietrafesa reveals. “As it’s gone on, we’ve gotten some really good relationships with some venues. I mean, these guys [The Exeter] are fantastic and The Grace Emily is really good. There is the opportunity out there, but you’ve really got to find it.”
It’s at this moment where Pietrafesa and Maucho’s point is proven, as Dan Crannitch, Exeter bartender/front man of fellow Adelaide band Leader Cheetah, offers them a gig in for early November.
“Him and the people and The Grace are the nicest.” Maucho says, turning back to me. “At the end of the day, it’s like The Grace and here value the music just a bit over the money, you know?”
Money and competition seems to be a main issue plaguing a lot of young and new bands at the moment, and these guys admit that being a part of such a small circuit, as is Adelaide’s, has brought some issues.
“I think there’s a good culture [in Melbourne, Sydney], where band’s try to help each other,” Maucho says. “Whereas here, I have to admit, some bands are real pricks to each other. I guess that’s because you’re fighting for either this place, The Grace or The Ed – everybody’s really trying to dog each other for it.”
Pietrafesa agrees. “Adelaide doesn’t have a lot of variety. When it comes to recording and stuff, you’ve only got a handful of studios and a lot of the guys end up recording in the same studios with the same sound techs. If you want to find a sound that’s unique, you’ve got to travel interstate to find it because there’s a lot more out there.”
Having just finished their demo and with plans to do shows interstate next year, I get the impression that ColourVision have high hopes not only for themselves, but in the idea the Adelaide can have their turn in churning out some great and long-lasting acts.
“At the end of the day, you don’t see many Adelaide bands breaking out into the Australian scene at all.” Pietrafesa says. “Someone’s got to start the revolution, someone’s got to run it, you know?”
I’m keeping an eye out, in any case.
Check out ColourVision’s SoundCloud Page here:
*Photo credit: Dave Bradley 2011*