This week Tone Deaf put Melbourne’s Milwaukee Banks at the forefront of their 16 Up-And-Coming Aussie Bands Who Deserve To Be Huge list, and after giving their tunes a spin it’s not hard to see why. Following the success of their acclaimed debut EP Rose Water and a score of collaborations and remixes, producer Edo and wordsmith Dyl Thomas have continued to venture into new musical territory with their genre-crossing style of futuristic hip-hop, creating spaced-out combinations of minimalist electronica, R’n’B, and rap. This month we caught up with Edo and Dyl to chat about their new musical ventures, influences and what’s coming up in what has already been a huge year for the Melbourne duo.
It’s recently been announced that later in the year you’ll be heading back to Brisbane’s Fortitude Valley for BIGSOUND 2015. What are you most looking forward to during your time there this time?
We’re really excited to be heading back. We’re probably most looking forward to playing live there again, playing some new songs off the album and see how people react to them. A bunch of friends from Melbourne are heading up this year so it should be a lot of fun!
Will you be trying to network, set up collaborations or get along to any of the sessions while you’re there?
Yeah last year we went to a few sessions and they were really great. Edo went and saw the people from Triple J speak about the station, and checked out the panel talk on the future of Australian Hip Hop which was interesting, and we actually met Anthony Fantano which was crazy.
We know you’ve been working on your debut album! What’s been your inspiration in crafting this album, will there be a particular theme running through it?
Edo: We’ve actually finished the album now! I guess the album idea came about because when we made the EP, we didn’t actually know if we were even going to release it, it was just some friends making music together. So doing the album gave us a chance to push our ideas and develop MB as a creative project even further. I’m not sure there is a particular theme throughout it; I’ll leave that to listeners to decide.
Dyl: For me, the inspiration has come from working with Edo and also my life, and changes that have happened since MB started out. Life seems to throw all different types of obstacles and amazing experiences at you when you least expect it. I have tried to channel all of the past experiences into the writing of this album. I’m super excited to show my close friends and family what we have created together and the reason we have been hiding away with our heads down working hard. If people enjoy it then that’s just a bonus for me.
Have you been collaborating with others for this album? And when will it be released, are you planning something for the launch?
Yeah there are several collaborations on the album. A bunch of vocal features which are really exciting, as well as some beat/music collaborations with our friend Cameron Chapman. Cam and Dyl have worked together previously, and it’s been really great to work with him on some of the beats for the album. The entire MB project is quite a collaborative process so it’s been cool working on some stuff with him. We also collab with people outside of just musicians, like Jason Lee who is a creative artist/motion graphics designer who does all our artwork and the visuals for our live show, and we’re working on a really cool video idea with Andrew Diprose at the moment.
For the launch of the album we’re working on a few different things but we’ll definitely be playing shows around Australia!
You’ve been touted as ‘the creators of some of the most exciting hip hop in the country’. Are you feeling the pressure to keep up the momentum you’ve been gaining?
I don’t think we’re feeling any pressure. It’s great if people think we’re creating something exciting, I’m glad people have listened to it and hopefully liked our songs. But at the end of the day what keeps this thing going is both of us being excited about the music we’re making, pushing new ideas and feeling good about what we’re writing. We’re really happy with the new material we’ve written.
Where did your interest in music start? In terms of your genre-crossing style, who would you say your biggest influences have been?
Edo: My interest in music started in my teens. I’m into a lot of different electronic music, heaps of different styles. I think there are a lot of musical influences, but also a lot of non music influences. Musically I listen to less hip hop these days but a lot of electronic artists. A lot of pretty chill stuff and R&B styled stuff. I get inspired by different creative mediums, contemporary artists and photographers, I also get into video/film art and animators, and I think a starting point for me for writing new beats can often be thinking about the emotional connection or taking inspiration from something like a short film or piece of art and thinking about it in its sound form. I am also really into science fiction and sci-fi films, but I really like the sort of stuff that is set with lots of reference to reality, but then messes with certain elements so that your reality ends up a bit twisted. I try and translate that into the synth parts and different elements of my beats. Start with something that people can hear and know what it is, i.e a vocal sample or a drum sound, but then you layer or add effects to it, to warp its aural reality for the listener. My hope is that these elements combined lead the listener to somewhere different in their mind when they hear MB beats.
Dyl: One of my biggest influences would be my Dad, who plays guitar and always had records on when I was a child. Also my older brother, who got me into hip-hop at a young age, once I heard Wu-Tang, there was no looking back, it struck a realness and rawness with me that I find hard to describe, but I was so drawn to it that I had no choice but to do it myself, it just felt natural. In terms of genres, I’m all over the place, I love most types of music, I’m not too into being held down by one thing, I hate to be pigeon holed, I’m an open minded person and I try to stay that way.
Do you try to pay homage to your influences, or do you try to completely blaze your own trail?
I think with the MB production we always work hard to do something fresh, something original. Early on we probably had some nods to some of the early influences, but now we have started going down our own path. I think now as well we find it really easy to write together, its fun and we don’t try to stick to a style, we just like to experiment and create sounds that maybe others don’t explore.
Who would be your dream artist (past or present) to work with if you had the chance?
There are so many, it’s really hard to choose – Some would be: J Dilla, Hudson Mohawk, Rick Rubin and the Avalanches.
Edo you’ve been DJing and playing music around Melbourne for almost 15 years now. It’s not just your music that has evolved since you started, the scene around electronic music and hip hop has shifted too. In your experience, how has it changed and what has that meant for you and your music over the years?
Yeah wow, it’s been a long time… the music has changed and evolved, and scenes come and go at a more rapid rate than they used to. I guess the growth of everything in the digital and internet era has shifted a lot of scenes and sped the pace up for artists to try new stuff.
In terms of my music I guess it has just opened me up to different techniques, different technology like software and ideas that I might have otherwise not known. Technology has really enabled anyone to try djing or music production, but the technology is just an enabler, another tool to use, you still need to create or get creative with the technology to write something that people can connect to. It’s a really exciting time for the electronic music scene in Australia, it really seems like anything is possible.
Up to this point in your musical careers what has been the biggest highlight for you guys?
Finishing the album and playing Golden Plains Music Festival earlier this year.
What are the best and worst things about Aussie music at the moment?
Best thing is that there are independent artists from Australia doing their own thing and killing it around the world. It’s an exciting time.
On the flip side, it would be great if it were easier to travel and break into different markets around the world for Australian independent artists.
Coming from day jobs that almost couldn’t be further from creating electronic beats and rapping (Dyl is a graphic designer and Edo is a business analyst and former corporate librarian), how do you balance your everyday commitments with creating music and having the opportunity to play around Australia?
Haha yeah it’s pretty funny. Edo’s work world is very separate to my music world, but Dyl still has a creative role in his day job. We are both really busy in our downtime, but we love it so we keep doing it. Playing shows around Australia is a really amazing opportunity; we’re both really thankful that we get those chances to play so we make it work with work.
Is there a piece of advice that you’ve picked up over the years that has always stuck with you? What’s one thing you know now that you wish you knew sooner?
Edo: One thing that was a heap of advice that I wish I did years before I actually did it was attend Jen Cloher’s I Manage My Music course. It’s a one day workshop that spells out how to release and plan your music, and give insights into different areas of the music biz. A lot of people seem to think somebody (like a manager or agent) will magically just sign you and then do all the work for you these days when it comes to the music industry. But what I have found is, the more you know about release planning and PR and marketing and distribution etc, the better equipped you are to not only release your own music, but also make smarter decisions when it comes to getting involved with a manager or record label.
Dyl: Trust yourself and believe in what you’re doing.