Written by Patrick Sims.
Thundamentals are an Australian hip-hop group, originating from just outside Sydney. The members of the band are Morgs (Morgan Jones), Jeswon (Jesse Ferris), Tuka (Brendan Tuckerman), and Poncho (Kevin Kerr).
The new album from the Thundamentals titled ‘Everyone We Know’ was released on the 10th February. I interviewed Tuka from the band following the release; check out what he had to say below.
Have any of you had formal music education?
Tuka: No, I haven’t actually. The three of us were best friends before we started making music, so we just learnt together and about 5 years deep we took on one of our best friends who is an extremely talented trumpet player and he’s had some formal training.
When did you first get into music?
Tuka: Basically, it was really organic, we live about 2 hours out of Sydney, which is the biggest city in Australia, it’s on the top of this mountain, it’s pretty isolated and for some reason hip hop was produced out of it, it wasn’t just us, heaps of different crews were doing their thing and we had a small venue up there that held like 200 people and we’d throw parties which would sell out. It was different when we moved out into the city. But it pretty much came out of a mutual love for hip hop music and so much so that we decided to start creating it ourselves.
Do you thinking growing up in Sydney instead of say London or New York has had an affect on your music?
Tuka: I think the isolation can definitely help foster a cool scene and not being susceptible to falling into trends and fads. It was really weird, there was a group called the ‘Hilltop Hoods’ in Australia who blew up at the same time as when we started doing it. I don’t know if that had anything to do with it but the isolation and because it snows up there it’s pretty cold so there’s nothing else to do other than being in door’s all the time and I think that definitely helped with writing songs and being inside and just jamming out music.
How does synaesthesia come into writing songs?
Tuka: When I hear a chord progression I can feel and see a colour and I associate a mood to the colour and then I know, kind of, what the song’s about. I know what the mood is.
What’s different now making this album compared to the last ones?
Tuka: Well, this is my 9th record I’m putting out. So, you definitely take something from every album. I reckon the most you learn are your mistakes. It sucks that I made the mistakes in the past but it’s also really good that I have made them already so I won’t do them again.
What is the recording process like?
Tuka: Yeah, basically our writing process is super fluid in this band, we’ve got producers who literally just make hundreds of beats and once we gravitate towards a beat me and the other guy will basically just start the song on our own. We’ll have probably six songs each going and then we’ll swap. He’ll give me his bunch of songs he’s been working on and I’ll give him mine and we just go back and forth until everything’s kind of cohesive. And same with the beats. Once we know what the song is about we record a demo and we give them the vocals and they’ll work around it. At the end we all go in on the whole song together but to get a song started it’s usually thrown around.
Who would you say are your biggest influences for this album?
Tuka: This record in particular, Everyone We Know, it’s 15 tracks long and basically every song is about a person in my life or there’s another song writer, so a person in his life. The influences really go straight towards the people that we’re surrounded by.
How did you come up with the concept that is was going to be about different people in your life?
Tuka: Basically, 2016 was a really rough year for everyone in the band. There were really tough things that went down in everyone’s personal life, like the band was cool but independently all of us were going through all this really weird life shit. All of a sudden me and the other’s were writing songs to particular people naturally and those type of songs just kept on coming up. Jeswon was talking to old friends that he’d had fallings out with and I was talking about ex-girlfriends. We were talking to them and about them and after we had about 5 or 6 songs it was like yeah, let’s just keep talking to different people our lives and it grew into Everyone We Know. And then as we were working, we were referencing our old records, just listening to them just seeing how we could of perhaps improved some techniques but as I went back and listened to them all again, I was like hang on we can make this a two part body of work. So the last album is called, So We Can Remember and if you put both album’s together you can listen to them front to back and it turns into So We Can Remember Everyone We Know. So We Can Remember was a concept album about where we came from because it took us about three records before anyone cared who the band was, so the third album was a kind of a tribute for, I know it’s a cliché, but for not working for the man and doing your own thing just because you like what you’re doing. The album was so we could remember that. And then when we thought about it more with Everyone We Know, without all these people we couldn’t have produced So We Can Remember so this one is a dedication to the wider community and people who support us.
Some music we have already heard from the album like ‘Wolves’ and ‘Ignorance Is Bliss’ have already done quite well. The songs sound like classic hip-hop with an adoption of the more ‘in fashion’ trilly drums – can we expect different sounds on the album?
Tuka: The record is super conceptual so when we were thinking about everyone we know we were thinking about adversity and diversity and how interconnected everything really is. It’s like humans have a really complex social aspect about us and so it was important for us to have a spectrum of different sound palettes and different emotions running through the whole thing to represent how diverse society and community can be. We really had a lot of fun with experimenting and pushing different genres into all the different songs. One of the most challenging things was trying to figure out the track list which makes it sound like the same band.
The artwork for the new single ‘Wolves’ really stands out, what’s the inspiration behind them?
Tuka: Wolves is basically about the lockout laws in Sydney at the moment which make it pretty much illegal to buy alcohol after 10 and a lot of venues lock you out after one o’clock so the nightlife really suffered in Sydney. Hundreds of venues have closed down because of lack of business and so what’s been happening is that in Sydney there’s a lot of Warehouse parties and a lot of house parties where people are playing music. So, Wolves seems like a rough track but it’s actually about friendship, solidarity and bringing people together. On the artwork, the three wolves at the front, are basically just people kicking on really late and partying but also as musicians we make all our money in the night-time, we don’t work 9-5 during the day, we perform a lot and that’s our main bread and butter I guess and so it’s just kind of making a comment that not everyone is a square and conservative and sometimes other people have to make music in the entertainment industry after dark, something that the government doesn’t really understand. It’s about wolves in the middle of the city, in the middle of the night trying to have a good time basically.
What are your plans for 2017?
Tuka: We’re doing this huge regional tour in Australia called ‘Groovin the Moo’ which is massive. Then we’ll do a national tour here and then we’re going to gear up a Europe and UK tour early next year. Hopefully it will be later this year but I doubt it, probably next year, but we’re really excited about it. We toured Europe in and a little bit of the UK in 2015, it was an incredible experience and we definitely want to come back.
If you were a cocktail what would it be?
Tuka: Café Patron, yeah, I like café patron, it’s tequila with juice and coffee. It’s dope.
‘Everyone We Know’ is the fourth album from the Thundamentals, released Friday 10th February. In it the Australian band push their hip-hop sound by blending it with other genres, giving the first track Everyone We Know and R&B feel whilst lead single Never Say Never has a pop-funk vibe. The beats are even more fresh and addictive than previous albums, making it very hard to find a song you won’t like on this album.
Listen to Never Say Never below: