23 Things You Need To Know About The ’90s

As it says in the title – this was an article we wrote about the ’90s – and it happened to be one of my favourite pieces we ran in triple j magazine.

It ran in our Temper Trap issue in honour of ’90s week, which happened back in July 2012. Talking about Michael Jordan, Jonathan Taylor-Thomas, the Simpsons, Nirvana, Friends, Britpop and Trainspotting? Man, that’s right in the ol’ wheelhouse.

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23 Things You Need To Know About the 90s

23 Things You Need To Know About the 90s

It was all in honour our man Craig Schuftan’s book about ’90s culture, Entertain Us. It’s awesome. Get a copy here, why not?

Also – how’s the design work? Love it – that was the work of the ever-rad Huy Truong.

Temper Trap + triple j magazine

Spending time with the Temper Trap at SXSW in 2012 was an interesting experience in seeing into an international band on the precipice, staring at their future, not knowing what  was about to happen. After their debut, Conditions, made them stars in Australia (the launch of their single ‘Sweet Disposition’ at my favourite pub in Melbourne, the John Curtin, was one of the best shows I’ve witnessed), and saw them experience a hefty amount of success internationally, three years later they were out of the public conscious and hoping people would respond this record . This cover story interview happened across a day of SXSW (along with the photoshoot), just before the release of that second album. A side note: ‘Trembling Hands’ is terrific.

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WORDS: Jaymz Clements PHOTOS: Kane Hibberd

In amongst riots, celebrity encounters and a trip to the happiest place on earth, THE TEMPER TRAP have stayed true to themselves on album No.2 

IT’S a dreary morning in Austin,Texas.A grey sky threatens rain all the way through our photo shoot, but the Temper Trap remain in good spirits as they pull various poses and run through an array of expressions. At one point, when there’s a slight ‘family photo’ air to the shot (a Family Ties tribute cover was shouted down in the planning stages), frontman Dougy Mandagi wraps the band’s newest official member, keyboardist/ multi-instrumentalist Joseph Greer, in a big hug. For a band tearing through a bunch of massive showcase gigs in the US ahead of the release of their super-anticipated self-titled second album, the Temper Trap are pretty chilled out.

It’s not entirely surprising, though. Since their beginnings in Melbourne in 2005 (as Temper Temper), the Temper Trap have been a band who don’t seem to worry about what other people think.They’ve always stood apart from any sort of scene or trend — even as other hype-driven bands plying delicate indie rock have risen to prominence alongside and after them.

On evidence of their world-beating 2009 debut album Conditions and now The Temper Trap, released in May, you can tell that for the five of them, with music being pretty much all they do, it’s also akin to a type of spiritual fulfillment. You can hear it in the inflections in Dougy’s voice, when that climbing falsetto with its tremendous peaks and troughs sounds like a gospel all of its own, and you can see it in the lost-in-the-moment intensity with which they play later that night, as they showcase a bunch of their new songs for the South By Southwest audience.

Bassist Johnny Aherne closes his eyes and rocks back on the balls of his heels; then there’s the manic concentration of both Joseph and guitarist Lorenzo Sillitto, or the way drummer Toby Dundas’s eyes follow his bandmates’ every little movement on stage. And, of course, there’s Dougy centre stage, every bit the enigmatic frontman as he commands the crowd’s attention.

Offstage, the five of them tease each other relentlessly — just as any group of close friends would — and there’s a palpable good-natured feeling to Temper Trap proceedings. With that in mind, clearly they’re not the type of band who were going to be overly worried about writing the follow-up to an album as successful as Conditions and its lead single,‘Sweet Disposition’. Right?

Well, not so fast. It wasn’t too bad; it did, however, take them a long time, and suddenly the band were in a very difference place to the one where they’d concocted Conditions. Namely, a rehearsal space in London, where they’ve been based since 2009, with nothing to distract them. It was a shock to the system.

“Yeah, we were in there for about six months, writing every day,” Lorenzo explains.“So it’s pretty weird to go from when we were writing the first record, when all of us were still working full-time and that type of stuff, to just focusing completely on music. It was a very different way of thinking.”

Their days weren’t too onerous, though, according to Johnny.“We all lived pretty close to the studio — we all lived in Hackney — so a day would entail getting a coffee on the way to the studio for an 11am start. We’d go from 11 till 5pm, roughly, trying to write songs.”

Dougy snorts.“And by 11am, we mean 12.30… which is lunch time, time for a lunch break.” Everyone laughs.“So… 1.30.Till 4.”

Even with their truncated days, the band used their time wisely, crafting tunes without any preconceived notions or many pre-written songs; they would grow concepts from the ground up. “People would come in with an idea,” Joseph recalls,“sometimes more fully formed than others. We didn’t have a lot of songs that came straight from jams; they were usually an idea first and we’d develop that idea.”

“Yeah, from the start, people were saying, ‘Let’s try to be as creative as possible’,” Johnny adds. “So there was a guiding principal of ‘let’s build on what we’ve done, but try to make it better‘ — and that’s the challenge for anyone writing their second album.”

This challenge the band set themselves was to focus more on the keyboards they’d brought in to expand the scope of their songwriting. And from the first strains of the fuzz-synth on ‘Need Your Love’, it’s clear how much of an impact that had on the sound of The Temper Trap. As Toby explains, “I think what influenced it the most was that we bought a Nord keyboard and a synthesiser. Just having those two things around drove certain songs in a certain direction.”

Johnny nods excitedly.“I think when we used the Moog and the Nord, they’re just tools where we just tried to push ourselves creative… creee… aaayyy… tively?” He looks around, confused.“Creati…vision?” he laughs along with his bandmates.

“Creativision?” queries an amused Dougy.

“How do I say that word?” Johnny jokes. “Creatively.”

Lorenzo laughs.“Ha! ‘The Temper Trap: now in creativision.’”

THE lengthy writing period, it turns out, wasn’t actually anything to do with how long it was taking to produce the songs.The band took a while to find a producer they wanted to work with — who was actually available.

“It was one of those things where we kept thinking we were ready,”Toby says.“Then we’d be having conversations with producers and stuff, they’d be like,‘Well, yeah, I like it, but I won’t be ready for a bit longer.’ So we’d be like, ‘Well, okay, so we could just sit around doing nothing for the next month… or we could just keep writing.’ It just kinda kept getting drawn out and drawn out.

“The same happened with Conditions. We thought we were ready six months before we actually did it… but it all worked out in the end.”

Dougy laughs.“I thought that was just an excuse for people to say,‘I don’t really like the songs… I don’t want to record you.’”

“Yeah,‘it’s not me, it’s you’,”Toby chuckles.“But it wasn’t the end until we got something that we — and other people — seemed to like.”

It was then that the band found themselves heading to LA to record with Tony Hoffer (M83, the Kooks). “Obviously we got delayed because we were talking to certain producers and they weren’t available,” Lorenzo says,“and we only really came to Tony late in the writing process, which was probably really good… because, I feel, it’s the perfect match. Like personally, on a personal level, from day one, he was just insane. He’s a really nice guy.”

“He knows a lot of dick jokes,”Toby adds. “So we all hit it off from there,” Joseph laughs. Lorenzo nods.“He’s also quite knowledgeable with songs and music and synths… It was a really good fit. Plus we got to go to LA, be warm and sunny and away from soggy, cold Hackney.”

Lorenzo recalls they “were in the studio six days a week pretty much…” before Dougy interjects excitedly, saying simply:“Disneyland!”

“…but we did go to Disneyland,” finishes Lorenzo.

Johnny leans back and says,“Everyone in LA we met seemed to do something else. Like a model and an actor. So everyone does more than one thing. It’s weird.”

Ahh, the good ol’ LA mattress (model-slash-actress). Lorenzo nods.“Everyone’s a slash. But yeah, we went up to the observatory and skated down the roads from the observatory, which was pretty awesome.”

“The Disneyland experience was pretty fun,” Joseph says.“But we didn’t do that much stuff besides be in the studio.”

Except hang out at the former Mr Demi Moore’s house.“Joe took a dump in Ashton Kutcher’s toilet,”Toby grins. “And,” adds a delighted Johnny,“thought he was gonna be on, what’s that show… Punk’d!”

Everyone laughs. “Joseph was nudging me when Ashton was talking to me. He’s doing like this (makes funny, excitedly eager face) and Ashton’s like (raises eyebrow quizzically). I’m like, ‘I know.’”

Toby chuckles.“That’s Joseph’s mutant power: he’s just always really cool around celebrities.”

Joseph cops it good-naturedly.“Remember when we snuck into the upstairs bedrooms, looking around?”

Wait.They rummaged through Ashton’s underpants drawer?

Johnny holds up his hands defensively. “Well… It was, like, a four-storey house. We just went exploring.”

We have nothing to do with the London ‘scene’ at all

WE’RE having lunch in a stunning Tex-Mex restaurant that straddles Austin’s Red River, looking out at a bridge that connects a stone- hewn amphitheatre on the opposite bank.

The band are in a reflective mood. With The Temper Trap, they feel they’ve constructed a record that showcases, as best as they could, who they are as a band.

“I personally think there’s more maturity to this record,” Johnny offers.“I feel like there’s a bit more depth. So I hope people, when they finish listening to the record, musically, they would sort of be drawn back to it.”

“There were moments,” Joseph says,“perhaps where I felt that personally — because you’re
in it so much every day, and no one else is hearing it — you start to second guess yourself if anything you’re doing is any good.Towards the end it came together and it was a unanimous feeling between all of us that we had it.”

“Yeah, it’s a band,”Toby emphasises.“You’re not going to agree with everything that happens in it; everyone — if they were honest — would say that.The best thing about it — the exciting thing about being in a band where you don’t necessarily at first agree with everything that’s happening — is that you learn stuff and you might get your mind changed. It might be down the track where you’re like,‘Oh, I do really like that,’ or ‘That is a good thing.’ So if we were
all solo artists doing what we want, it’d be pretty boring.

“It’s the fact that there are different opinions and stuff like that that takes us to these interesting places, I think. There’s something about that; it’s a good thing. You should just be happy about being taken to a place that you maybe wouldn’t have gotten to on your own.”

“We feel free to explore everything,” Joseph adds.“I don’t know that we’d ever become a folk band… but we’ve got the luxury to kind of do what we want.”

That, Dougy figures, is why they’re happy in their own skin.“Yeah. We’ve grown internally, I feel. It’s probably because we were never a scene-y band. We were never a part of it.”

Lorenzo laughs.“It’s probably even more heightened because we have nothing to do with the London ‘scene’ at all. So all we do is ‘us’. We’re not involved with anything else, really — we operate in isolation.”

“And that’s where we thrive,”Toby adds.

You start to second guess yourself if anything you’re doing is any good

 

STILL central to the Temper Trap’s identity is Dougy’s voice. On this second album, the frontman’s vocal chords get a pretty impressive workout, each song showcasing different elements of his range.‘Trembling Hands’, for instance, hits some impossible highs and lows.

“Yeah,Ithinkafewpeoplewereabitfreaked out at first,” Dougy says,“because stylistically there’s a bit of a change, and a lot of the first few songs that we wrote were leaning more towards the ‘new’ vocal style… so people were like,‘Whoa, man, are they all gonna be like this?’ Y’know,‘Shit. What’s gonna happen?’”

Toby nods.“They just wanted everything to go high.”

“Yeah, like,‘Sing it all in falsetto,’” Lorenzo adds. “‘If dogs can’t hear it, we’re not interested.’”

So,‘if it’s not above the human register, we’re not into it’.

“Yeah,” Dougy grins.“‘If a dolphin can’t understand the lyrics, then you’re not singing high enough.’ But, anyways, I think people hopefully will like it, and it’ll showcase our versatility…”

He trails off, then adds:“I don’t want to get pigeonholed as ‘Oh, there’s ‘Sweet Disposition’ dude, he’s sings like that’. How boring’s that? Obviously I still want to grow as a singer, and singing differently is almost like taking on different personas.”

Indeed, on the album it’s almost as though he’s playing different characters in each song. “Exactly. It’s almost like an acting gig or something. And it’s kinda cool. It’s not the first time someone’s done it, but you hear that: where you get used to one particular style then you hear something else and you don’t even realise it’s the same person… and it’s fun for me. I like it.”

“I think it’s good,”Toby adds,“because when the song comes, the voice should serve the song.
If the song inspires him to sing a lower register, or a medium register, or a high register, or a combination of all three… if it serves the song, that’s the thing. It shouldn’t be,‘Oh, I’ve got to sing in falsetto or I’ve got to sing super low.’ With every other instrument it’s about what serves the song best, and the voice should be like that, too.”

With their second album full of very personal, reflective anthems like ‘Need Your Love’, ‘Trembling Hands’,‘The Sea is Calling’,‘Never Again’,‘This isn’t Happiness’ and ‘Where Do We Go From Here’, there’s a definite sense of longing and heartache to the Temper Trap of 2012. The reason is simply because, well, that’s them.

“I think the key to what we like to do is just be kinda open and honest when we write. Like, if the content’s weighty, that’s good; if that’s what we want to write about, then we should,” Johnny says.“It’s the same musically — we don’t place limits on what we write or do.”

“Yeah,” Dougy agrees.“I like all [the songs] because they’re all quite different.”

Even something as topical as ‘London’s Burning’, written about the London riots of 2011, showcases their emotional touchstones while acting as a springboard to reflect on society.

“You’re seeing the smoke from the fires and the helicopters are going around,” Joseph recalls. “I mean, Dougy’s house is 20 metres from where it was happening.”

Dougy nods.“Told the kids off. (Adopts an old lady voice) ‘Put that back. Put that back in my house. Just put it there. A little to the left. A little bit to the right.’”

WITH a huge second half of 2012 looming for the band — including the triple j One Night Stand extravaganza in Dalby, Queensland, with 360, Matt Corby and Stonefield; a seemingly endless run of shows around the world; and even supporting Coldplay around Australia — it hits them that the grace period from Conditions is over. From here on in, they’ll be judged by this second album. But they’re not worried.

“I don’t think there’s a sense of arrival,” Johnny muses.“I think we’re still looking off into the sunset — as it were — to see what we can accomplish. Musically I want to do more.”

So, as an artistic statement of them, right now, they’re convinced that this record is the ideal representation of the Temper Trap. “For sure,” says Dougy.“As much as you can ever be.”

“One of the things we’ve always said is we’re always trying to move forward; we don’t ever want to stay still,” Lorenzo offers.“That’s one of the important things. I guess after touring for so long, and seeing so much stuff, I feel like I ‘know’ a little bit more. Like, when you’re touring in Australia in a van, you live in that world, and the moment we moved out of Australia, everything changed. It’s not until you’re thrown into the belly of the beast that you find out how it all goes.”

360 + triple j magazine

One of my favourite features for triple j magazine was built around the two weekends  I spent with Melbourne artist 360 in March 2012. I say artist, rather than terms like ‘rapper’ or ‘hip-hop act’ that others might be quick to use when referring to him… but as I discovered, there’s more to him than that. I found a man not concerned with what hip-hop fans might think of his excursions into pop and dubstep, and being in the middle of platinum-selling for two weekends was a great, eye-opening experience. The resulting cover feature is below.

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WORDS: Jaymz Clements PHOTOS: Kane Hibberd

360

As his second album, Falling & Flying, goes completely and utterly mental, we spend two weeks in the hectic world of Australia’s newest platinum-selling hip-hop artist, 360

 

BEING in the eye of a storm is apparently an exceptionally eerie experience: a bastion of stillness, all clear skies and calm winds, while you’re surrounded by a ring of murderous thunderstorms. As we belt down the highway to the far reaches of Melbourne suburbia in a van with 360, his girlfriend Crystal, his hype man (and support act) Bam Bam and tour manager Tim, it certainly feels like this is it.

Around 360 — Matt Colwell to his mum — swirls the miasma of a double-platinum single in ‘Boys Like You’, its freshly platinum parent album, Falling & Flying, and a sold-out tour. They’ve combined to elicit a level of hype and fame not often seen in this country for an MC. In Melbourne’s CBD that morning, Matt and Crystal came to the realisation that they might not be able to simply wander around Matt’s hometown anymore. He was constantly stopped for photos and quick chats and was even followed around by a couple of fans. Matt’s quick to point out that he’s not complaining, though, just that it’s weird.

“I’ll never be rude to fans or anything like that,” he says,“because you’ve got to appreciate every one; it’s just that now we can’t really go anywhere without people recognising us and asking for photos and stuff. But it’s all good.”

We’re sitting backstage at the Chelsea Heights Hotel, a sprawling nightclub venue 30km south-east of the city. Spending a couple of weekends as part of the 360 circus, triple j mag gets a feel for just how far-reaching the MC’s appeal is, and suburban shows like this are an often-overlooked piece of the Australian music puzzle.The show is indeed sold out as fans from the outskirts of Melbourne clamour to witness Australian music’s newest sensation.The hotel is massive — even if it’s a bit odd to see 360 billed on the venue’s exterior with other coming attractions like ’80s pop star Belinda Carlisle.

But from the moment we pull up, it’s clear that 360 fans are a passionate bunch.The line to get into the venue is snaking into the carpark well before doors open at 8pm, while a steady stream of curious onlookers and photo-wanters pass by the backstage door. (The best is a kid who couldn’t be older than eight — he shows no shame in asking Matt for a photo. Matt happily obliges. “Shit, I never would’ve had the balls to do that when I was a kid,” he laughs.) Matt’s still not sure how to deal with it, beyond being super excited by everything that’s going on.

“Everything’s going really crazy. The album going platinum, I did not expect that. I had on my goal list to go gold, but I didn’t expect it to happen so quickly. I hoped it’d happen, but thought it’d take aaaaages. But once we got Rae [manager Rae Harvey, who also represents acts including Children Collide and the Living End] on board and the right people behind it, it just seemed to take it where it needed to go.”

Matt’s first album, 2008’s What You See Is What You Get, didn’t exactly cause shockwaves around the country, but it did, however, raise his profile in hip-hop circles. But even with that and his MC battling reputation, Matt never expected this level of scrutiny and appreciation for his second record. In fact, it wasn’t going great at all until he shook up his approach.

Matt basically took a two-year break, spending his time touring with Pez (after the pair’s ‘The Festival Song’ went gangbusters) before he decided to write another album that would be a detour from his debut.

“I started writing new shit which was going in a different direction to my first album,” Matt recalls.“People started really loving it, and it helped build up a fanbase on Facebook and shit like that. Once we did this album, it was a gradual build-up, and then when ‘Boys Like You’ came out [in October 2011] it exploded. So it’s been crazy.”

A lot of it has to do with the fact that Falling & Flying, released September 30 last year, is definitely not a hip-hop record. There’s the dubstep rave-up of ‘Killer’, the electro-bounce of ‘I’m OK’ and ‘Run Alone’, the soaring pop of ‘Hope You Don’t Mind’,‘Child’ and ‘Just Got Started’, the ironic gangsta rap of ‘Hammer Head’ and the ska/reggae tinge of ‘Boys Like You’ (featuring the vocal talents of Helen Croome, aka Gossling, who’s here with us tonight).

The diversity of Falling & Flying is a reflection of Matt’s own emerging musical tastes, assisted by producer Styalz Fuego. Matt says the pair spent about a year and a half in the studio, working on the record.“I’d get there about midday, then we’d work on the music for three or four hours, and if I was writing there as well, then I’d just write as he worked on shit with the music and [we’d] hopefully record it on the same day. We’d have long days in there, but it was good. Always fun.”

That change in Matt’s musical direction, though, was the crucial aspect.“Those two years off, I was barely listening to hip-hop at all. My first album was very hip-hop oriented, like straight-up hip-hop.

“Then I was trying to school myself on all kinds of music, not just rap. Listening to Miike Snow and the Presets and dudes like that, I was like,‘Fuck, I wanna make music like this… but rap over it.’”

The noise of Bam Bam’s show blasts in through the door as guest vocalist Jerome (Kid Zilla from Daktal) comes offstage.

“When I started the album,” Matt continues,“I was like,‘I don’t wanna make a hip-hop album, I don’t want to make a pop album.’ I just wanted to go in there with no rules. We’d start on a song and wherever that song took us, wherever we felt like it needed to go, that’s where we’d go: no rules. Not trying to make a specific sound, or anything like that, and we ended up with that. So there’s a lot of different shit on there, but it all kind of fits, weirdly.”

A WEEK later, we head back down the same highway to Southland Shopping Centre for a signing session.The reception there is insane. Surrounded by a phalanx of security guards, Matt is escorted to the open area where the signing is to take place.

As he gets closer to the Panopticon-like space filled with three levels of fans, the place erupts in a cacophony of squeals, whistling and cheers.

It’s the sort of shit that’s usually reserved for the Biebers of the world.

Matt is mobbed as he approaches the dais to say a few words of greeting and thanks to the huge crowd, and the PR manager for the shopping centre can barely believe it — 360 is getting a response on a level that, in her experience, is Black Eyed Peas territory.

It’s clear that 360 has crossed boundaries like few ever have in Australia. A lot of it is to do with the way Falling & Flying defies genres and strikes out on its own musically, but even more of it has to do with the emotional connection 360 makes with his fans.

As we chat to the crowd about 360’s appeal, their responses are usually some variation on ‘he’s honest and speaks about stuff I can relate to’. It’s his openness that inspires fans to make posters of Matt and Crystal, it’s why at least three girls come offstage crying because they’ve met him, and it’s why almost everyone who’s lined up to have their copy of Falling & Flying signed feels like they ‘know’ 360 intimately.

It’s all due to Matt’s honesty. On the album he voices tales from his past about his grandpa, his family generally, trust issues after a girlfriend cheated on him with a mate, his problems with being skinny, his worries about being a “fuck up”, having a near-death experience (a go-kart crash that left him in intensive care and then recovering in hospital for weeks — and toting that scar on his stomach), depression. This soul-baring endears him to a host of similarly afflicted fans, and he’s unrepentant for putting so much of himself out there.

“There’s maybe some songs where I think I’ve given a bit too much away, but I look up to artists who just put their soul on the line. So I really like that.”

“I reckon people really dig that when it’s something like that — especially when you’re talking about your insecurities and problems and shit like that. People relate to it and know that they’re not the only one going through that same shit. So it feels good to get it out there.”

Why he means so much to these fans is pretty clear.There’s nothing Matt won’t talk about, and that clearly inspires empathy. “Yeah, that’s it,” he agrees.“I reckon it’s always important to be honest with your music and that’s it: let it all be out there on the line.

“I’ve always been a really open and honest kind of person, and insecure at the same time. I’ve always got insecurities and shit like that, and I’m really open about that. Sometimes I might wish I wasn’t so open (laughs) but that’s my favourite shit to write: about that kind of stuff.”

It would, presumably, help an artist work through those problems.

“Definitely. Definitely,” Matt says.“It’s like therapy, you know what I mean? When I write songs like ‘Hope You Don’t Mind’ and shit like that, when I’m in a real, real dark place, when I write songs like that it makes me feel 10 times better. It’s like therapy, like speaking to a counsellor.

“Especially ’cause I’ve just got a girlfriend now that I just got with five months ago, it’s only taken until now to be able to trust someone. It’s taken ages for me to get over that — even still I have moments where… like, I get insecure and shit. But I’m getting better.”

I’ve had dudes saying that they want to take a fuckin’ box cutter to my face and leave a permanent scar because I’m selling out hip-hop…

THE drive to that signing, though, is where we glimpse the more tumultuous and emotional aspects that have become a part of Matt’s life. In the week since we were last hanging out, he and Crystal have gotten engaged. But Crystal isn’t with us on this sojourn. After moving to Melbourne earlier in the week, she’s had to fly back to her hometown of Brisbane because one of her close friends has attempted suicide. Sadly, this is the third friend of hers who has tried to take their own life, and Matt’s distress at the situation and what it has done to Crystal is palpable. His hat is pulled down low over his sunglasses, and his voice cracks as he talks about how Crystal couldn’t sleep and had been completely “fucked up” by it.

He decides that the signing will be good for him, and leaves his sunglasses on all through the session.

Later that night, he posts a passionate video on YouTube, imploring anybody with problems and thoughts of suicide to talk to somebody, anybody. It’s clearly from the heart (he’s on the verge of choking up a couple of times) and it gets a huge response.

It’s another layer in the 360 story that makes it so compelling. The Chelsea Heights show has made clear the pair are besotted with each other; they barely leave each other’s side. With their relationship so transparent (their Twitter feeds are a constant fascination for fans), Matt’s also had to deal with the level of attention heaped on Crystal. It’s not just all about him now.

“It’s probably extra hard on her, ’cause I’ve sort of gotten used to the people, the being in the spotlight and shit like that, so I guess it’s really hard on her… but she’s handling it really well. I mean, at times it gets to her and shit like that, which it’s going to… At times it can still get to me as well, but it’s all good. Like, people talk shit, but she knows that when they say something negative to her, they’re just trying to fuckin’ piss us off. She just ignores it. So she’s really good at it.”

It’s still bizarre that people are asking for photos with the girlfriend of a musician, though.“Yeah! Matt laughs.“She feels a bit weird when people ask her for photos and shit; she doesn’t understand. She’ll just be like,‘Er, okay.’ It’s strange. It’s really weird.”

The discussion moves on to the volatile world of haters and hip-hop. Matt knew going into this that the more hardcore among the pockets of internet citizens who squeal ridiculously about ‘selling out’ might have some thoughts on his new record.

“Yeah, when I started making this album I was fighting a lot of demons in my head, ’cause I was making dance songs and shit, and I’m thinking,‘Fuuuuck, hip-hop heads are gonna hate this,’” he laughs.“But at the end of the day I’ve just got to do what I wanna do and listen to myself, make the music I love doing.”

But that doesn’t stop it from happening.

“Yeah, [it’s there] for any successful artist. I’ve had dudes saying that they want to take a fuckin’ box cutter to my face and leave a permanent scar because I’m selling out hip-hop… and I ‘don’t know what real hip-hop is’ and that shit. If you don’t like what I’m doing, don’t fuckin’ listen. When you mature, you realise: who cares? If people want to make music, let ’em make that music.”

Matt has made a habit of retweeting the more vicious vitriol sent his way. It gives it a new context and demonstrates just how messed up it is.

“Exactly. I mean, anyone that’s content with their own life and happy with what they’re doing doesn’t go out of their way to try to bring someone down like that. So you’ve got to try and feel for them… There must be something wrong in his life to make him go out of his way to want to stab me and shit. Like, he must have some serious problems, so I wish him all the best.”

THE Chelsea Heights show is going off.There are crowd surfers galore, and seemingly every member of the crowd knows every word to every song. As is the case at the shopping centre signing the week after, the impact he’s having is eye-opening.

360’s success is an indication that hip-hop in Australia is evolving, something that was inevitable as audiences expected more from artists.

“Yeah, I guess I think that’s what I’m trying to do, trying to branch out and do different shit, rather than stick to the same hip-hop formula,” Matt says.“Trying to bring in other elements of music. Up-and-comers are doing that, and I think that the people making hip-hop nowadays are a lot better songwriters than back in the day, and I think that’s why it’s starting to get a lot more popular. The next five years, there’s gonna be some dudes doing some totally different shit and, yeah, it’s gonna be pretty big.”

For a former apprentice carpenter who jacked that in to try his hand at hip-hop full time, 360’s not doing too badly.

“There was a time when it was a bit scary ’cause I didn’t have a career to fall back on, shit like that,” Matt smiles.“But it’s all worked out for the best now.”

triple j magazine Annual

Working on the first ‘Annual’ triple j magazine was fun. Working with triple j we came up with four distinct  sections – the A-Z of 2012, the J Award Winners and nominees (with commissioned illustrations of the winners), Summer’s best bands and What’s Up With 2013. Being the first issue of a special edition concept, it had its challenges: namely, figuring out what 2012 was defined by in the A-Z, and what 2013 would hold, but it came out great. The perfect binding, and extra-weight matte cover were the cherries on top.

triple j magazine Annual

See. Looks pretty cool, right?
Here’s a selection of my work.

AlabamaShakes-web

ALABAMA SHAKES 

ALABAMA Shakes lead all comers this year in the ‘whoa, where did they come from’ stakes. The quartet from Athens, Alabama, might have set South By Southwest alight in March with their beguiling old-timey fusion of r’n’b, blues and soul, but debut album Boys & Girls — and especially ubiquitous lead single ‘Hold On‘ — proved there was songwriting weight behind the hype.

“It’s very surreal,” frontwoman Brittany Howard laughs. “Walking out onstage and people cheering you just because you walked out… That’s just somethin’ else.”

It certainly helped that Brittany possess one of the most distinctive voices in music today: seemingly soaked in whiskey and imbued with a soulful growl reminiscent of Marvin Gaye or Bruce Springsteen — with the emotion and power of Etta James thrown in for good measure. Boys & Girls, though, is the culmination of the band figuring out their ‘ideal’ sound after Brittany pulled the band together three years ago.

We have musicians here in Athens, but it’s rare to find someone who is like, ‘I want to write any kind of music,’” Brittany explains.

“I remember writing ‘Be Mine’, and it just happened. This kind of music came out, and it was like, ‘That’s it. That’s cool. That’s what we should do,’ because it felt right, you know. We could finally agree on something we all liked.”

The band wrote Boys & Girls over three years (“each song has a place in our lives, and each song is a reflection of that,” Brittany says) and recorded when they had the money and the time across an entire year in the “cheapest little studio we could find in Nashville”. That it has since gone around the world doesn’t mean the band are changing their approach to life.

“I don’t think so,” Brittany laughs. “We seem pretty normal. We don’t ask for much and we’re nice to people. I don’t ever plan on changing that formula; it seems to work.”

And that voice? According to Brittany, it comes down to simple hard work.

“Well, I’m just not scared to sing,” she says matter-of-factly.

“I don’t think I was born naturally a singer. I wanted to be in a band, and when I first started singing, I was terrible.

“I remember sitting in front of my stereo system singing the same songs over and over again, just because I liked them and [I was] being super nerdy. I’d sit there and sing along to ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’ over and over again. You know, I was really young and I thought it was the most beautiful thing I’d ever heard. That’s what made me better at singing. It’s a true statement that a voice is an instrument and you can exercise and get better at it.”

Japandroids-web

JAPANDROIDS 

FEW bands can boast as whirlwind a 2012 as Vancouver duo Brian King and David Prowse, the gentlemen behind critical darlings Japandroids. The blogosphere was a-swoon with anticipation for their second album, Celebration Rock, and when it was actually released in June it elicited instant ‘best/most important album of 2012’ buzz from beardy critics everywhere. The band themselves quietly toured relentlessly and built a big fanbase on the back of their frenetic live show and no-frills, party-time rock’n’roll.

Drummer Dave (yep, he shares a name with the actor who played Darth Vader in the original Star Wars trilogy) is adamant that the pair had no idea what was in store for them in 2012, but it’s starting “to feel a bit more normal: we’ve lived out of a van for a long time before [now]”.

“The biggest thing is being able to play all these new songs to people and really see how the new record has taken off in a different way to [2009 debut] Post-Nothing,” Dave says.

“Playing live is the reason I play in a band, y’know? It’s a pretty special thing to play your songs to people and have them sing along and take part in this ‘thing’ together. It’s a pretty amazing feeling.”

It wasn’t always so easy, though. Japandroids admit that when Post-Nothing suddenly blew up in late 2009 (thanks to assorted blogs and websites), they were essentially broken up after years of struggling to reach an audience. That success meant they were able to “do this thing” and tour Post-Nothing — and people were actually coming to shows.

But, as Dave explains, it also meant they if they couldn’t write a second album they were happy with, and that would enable them to tour again, they probably wouldn’t continue the band. “Before we even started thinking about another album, we said, ‘If we were gonna put out another record, it better be better than Post-Nothing, and if it’s not, then we’re just not going to release a record.’ There’s no point.”

So, as it turns out, the inspiration for Celebration Rock was primarily to write songs that Japandroids can simply keep playing live and not get sick of. “Yeah,” Dave laughs, “we thought, ‘If we’re gonna write some new songs, we’re most likely gonna have to play them a couple of hundred times live, so we better make sure we like these songs’.

With the arms-in-the-air riffs and grandiose hooks scattered across eight songs, there’s no shortage of good times on Celebration Rock. And then there are their go-to themes of wide open highways, heaven and hell, youthful excess and partying.

“Ha! Yeah. All the good stuff. I think people respond to that aspect, too. Our music is definitely music people like to have a good time to… People put on our records when they want to have fun and let loose.”

jeff

JEFF THE BROTHERHOOD 

SITTING in a north London park during their European tour, brothers Jake and Jamin Orrall are looking very much the worse for wear. Jamin is recovering from an asthma attack that saw them cancel their show last night in Bristol, but the Nashville duo’s performance this evening in Islington will be testament to the recuperative powers of rock’n’roll. JEFF the Brotherhood may be a long way from home, but they don’t leave a shred of energy unspent.

Their 2012 record Hypnotic Nights (named for “a daiquiri drink in New Orleans”) and lead single ‘Sixpack’ have seen the pair’s profile rise astronomically. The album is the band’s second release since they inked a distribution deal with Warner in 2011 for their DIY indie label Infinity Cat. After going it alone for so long (Hypnotic Nights is their seventh record — and they’re still in their early 20s), the pair seem ambivalent about the attention. “Yeah,” Jamin shrugs. “It’s cool.”

The Orralls co-produced Hypnotic Nights with the Black Keys’ Dan Auerbach, the first time the brothers have had a producer. It seems to have been a situation that was more hands-off than anyone anticipated.

“Yeah, we recorded it in about a week,” Jake says.

“It was more just he was hanging out while we recorded it,” Jamin laughs. “He helped us when we needed help. It definitely sounds better, though.”

Perhaps Dan could have helped instill in Jake a love of lyric-writing. Seems the more hirsute Orrall hates penning the words to layer over the top of JEFF the Brotherhood’s tremendous slabs of punky blues-rawk.

“I hate it,” he chuckles darkly. “I hate writing lyrics so much. We had some really good cuts on that last record that didn’t make it because the lyrics sucked too much.”

Jamin shakes his head in friendly disagreement. “But that’s what we get to finish for the next record! It’s like extra stuff.”

They play it similarly cool when talk turns to the ace video clip for ‘Sixpack‘.

“That’s just a river 50 miles from our place that we go to all the time and what the song’s about,” Jake explains.

Jamin grins. “It was like, ‘Let’s bring beer and video cameras,’ and [we] made a music video.”

It all seems part of JEFF the Brotherhood’s philosophy: don’t over-think anything and just enjoy the ride.

“We’ve been touring for seven years now, but it’s still fun,” Jake shrugs. “It’s still better than working at a fuckin’ grocery store like I was before we started doing this.”

Ball-Park-Music-web

BALL PARK MUSIC 

NO LONGER just ‘rising stars’, in 2012 Ball Park Music cemented themselves in our collective consciousness with second album Museum. This much more mature yet still sparkling indie-pop effort came hot on the heels of the Brisbane five-piece’s 2011 debut, Happiness and Surrounding Suburbs. The short turnaround between records was a result of a burning desire to keep writing and being, well, able to, and frontman Sam Cromack figures the decision didn’t weigh too heavily on the band.

“Yeah, we were never really certain as to whether that was the right idea or not, but we were like, ‘Fuck it, we may as well do another album; we’ve got the songs, why not? If we disappear for two or three years, people might just forget who Ball Park Music are.’ Then you’ve got to start from scratch again.”

There’s something else, too. “That aside, Christ, we’re musicians! We love recording and playing. I don’t see why it should be seen as a chore to go and make another album.”

Museum was made surprisingly quickly, across only “probably 15 days in the actual studio,” says Sam, but it seems anything but rushed. This is a band who’ve grown, both musically and lyrically. Indeed, the title plays on the idea that the band are putting themselves and their artistic ideals on display.

“The first record was a culmination of years of playing live; this record is the five members of Ball Park Music doing a lot more of what they want to do. We wanted to showcase more of our musical interests, show that not every song has to be 150 BPM and have jangly guitars.

“Lyrically there’s plenty of love-and-misery kind of stuff… that’s what I write about. I definitely wanted to take a step away from being perceived as a fucking moron who just swore a lot and had clumsy opinions. That was a real goal: I wanted to express my actual lyrical interests a bit more, to still feel cheeky and playful like we had been, but to be more poetic, more descriptive and more imaginative. Really relate how I felt in a more abstract and interesting way.”

With a national tour wrapping in December, festival dates over summer (they also scored the coveted support for Weezer) and a new album for fans to sing along to, the Ball Park Music mission statement is simple. “We’ll be on the road, meeting new people, hopefully making new fans,” Sam says. “Our philosophy has always been to play to as many people as we can and do the best job we can at all times.”

2013: A Preview

Game on

What we’ll be playing next year

2012 delivered a ridiculous raft of blockbusters: Borderlands 2, Halo 4, Mass Effect 3, Diablo III, Max Payne 3, Assassin’s Creed 3, Journey, Darksiders II,  and Call Of Duty: Black Ops II. With gaming now challenging film and TV for narrative and storytelling in some instances, our thumbs are already wriggling in anticipation of 2013. Check these out:

Grand Theft Auto V

Probably about only the most anticipated game of all time. The GTA series has been one of the biggest game franchises ever, and GTA V, which sees the action return to San Andreas (the mock California/Nevada state from GTA: San Andreas) and now split between three playable protagonists, will be unbelievably huge. How huge? Well, the franchise has sold over 100 million games, and the two teaser trailers that were released before the end of the year were dissected and discussed to the point of absurdity. Either way, the first GTA game since 2008 will cause all kinds of disruptions to the lives of lovers of open-world gaming mayhem.

The Last of Us

Naughty Dog, the team that brought the pretty awesome Uncharted series to life, will be delivering this great-looking new post-apocalyptic adventure-thriller in 2013. The story follows two characters working their way across a United States where a fungal disease wiped out ‘normal‘ humans, mutated others and given rise to kinda-zombies. The trailer from E3 showcases some freakin‘ brutal and harrowing gameplay on top of some startling environments. And now we can’t wait to play it.

South Park: The Stick of  Truth

From the trailer alone, it seems that South Park: The Stick of Truth could conceivably be the most disturbing yet funniest game of 2013. It combines the gameplay elements of an action/adventure and a fantasy role-playing game with all the homage/mocking pop culture references South Park have always managed to pull off to perfection. The best part is that it’s an RPG, so you’re basically joining the South Park gang. Well, that and the combo of Game of Thrones, Lord of the Rings and Harry Potter et al Cartman and pals are riffing on. Which is awesome.

SimCity 2013 

Since The Sims took off in such a big way over the last decade, it’s been a long time between drinks for the original pillar of the Sims franchise, SimCity. The world-building game that launched a million city-planning careers in the mid-‘90s is back for the first time in eight years, and it looks a million bucks. Weirdly hyper-realistic, the super-impressive CGI makes it looks like you’re going to be dictating events in a fantastical tiny Lego-meets-the-Smurfs-meets-Wallace-and-Gromit-claymation world.

Tomb Raider 

Just like Superman, Batman and Spiderman before her, much-loved uber-babe Lara Croft is up for a reboot. And you know they’re serious, ‘cause she’s wearing pants (not her famous short shorts). This is ‘young‘ Lara Croft, and it means she’s not quite the overall badarse we know, which is going to make the game all the more challenging and fun, no doubt.

Other cool stuff being released next year: BioShock Infinite, Professor Layton and Super Civilisation ‘A’, a project titled ‘Destiny’ by Bungie  (the peeps behind Halo), Gears Of War: Judgment, anything to do with Skyrim, Crysis 3 and, of course, Half-Life 3.

Travel

2013: A Preview.

Where to go

Travel experts give us the inside track on the places you should go before everybody else does

WORDS: Jaymz Clements

FOR travel junkies out there, life can be a constant search for the next ultimate experience, the next gem that no one but you and a few others know about. There’s a certain cachet to being among the first to enjoy a slice of the planet that hasn’t already been trampled by the touristy hordes. But there’s also something to be said to getting the most out of places that don’t get as much attention as they perhaps deserve. So we’re here to help guide you through some of the travel gems of 2013!

Hvar, Croatia

Just off the south-eastern coast of Croatia, Hvar is an island with glorious weather and the feeling that you’re in a pocket of the world untouched by the rigours of normal life. Travel writer Adam Baidawi explains Hvar’s appeal as “the Mediterranean as it ought to be (read: less pasty Poms)”.

It’s just far enough away from the well-worn tourist paths through the Mediterranean and eastern Europe that it’s still value for money, and it’s not over-populated with the cheap-booze-and-party types you’ll find in certain Spanish or Greek islands.

As you can get there without too much difficulty from the regional capital Split, Adam contends you’ll end up spending your days trying to decide “between sand dune buggys, beach lazing and reassuringly cheap booze”. Sounds great, right? Right.

Reykjavik, Iceland

The peculiar land of Björk and Sigur Rós is one of the hottest tips for travel in 2013. Travel blogging couple Amy Howard and Kieron Turner say that Iceland’s best bits are the “friendly people, incredible landscapes from volcanoes to glaciers and a legendary nightlife that just has to be experienced”.

Fellow travel blogger Lauren Burvill concurs. Iceland is “the coolest place in the world right now, literally and figuratively,” she argues. “Go to Instagram yourself senseless swimming in the Blue Lagoon. Stay for a midnight pub crawl in Reykjavik and (if you can time it right) the best music festival you’ll attend all year: Iceland Airwaves.”

Amy and Kieron agree. “Iceland is cool, it’s hip and you might even be lucky enough to see the phenomenon that is the Northern Lights.”

Also check out the freewheeling Aldrei Fór Ég Suður (I Never Went South) music festival that we profiled in our October/November Discovery issue. And, of course, Game of Thrones film their wintery scenes there! In 2012 they were up around Lake Mývatn, while in 2011 it was at the Vatnajökull glacier.

Palau 

It’s a little-known fact that parts of Micronesia aren’t, in fact, microscopic. A lot of it is, however, quite beyond lovely. The island Republic of Palau is a travel gem, situated on the far edge of Micronesia, all by its lonesome in the Philippine sea.

As travel blogger Lauren Burvill explains, Palau is the real deal when it comes to getting away from it all. “The fact that the Micronesian island put a bunch of Americans through rough times on the reality show Survivor just makes me like Palau even more. For a true island holiday free of touristy crap, Palau is the stuff of mermaid wet-dreams.”

She’s right. Think of a chain of stunning limestone islands, with reefs aplenty you can dive and snorkel to your heart’s content (check the Second World War naval wrecks). Wander the untouched beaches and even go swimming in Jellyfish Lake (they’re non toxin-y jellyfish).

Songdo, South Korea

One of the most ambitious — and as yet, completely unknown — cities in the world also happens to be its newest. Created from the ground up only a decade ago on reclaimed land 60km out of Seoul, Songdo isn’t ‘finished‘ yet, but that doesn’t matter, according to Kate Schneider, travel editor of news.com.au.

“The world’s newest city is not to be missed,” she says. “Songdo is aiming to become the new Las Vegas, replicating landmarks such the Venice canals and New York’s Central Park. Of course, it will also create its own skyscrapers, including the planned 151-floor Incheon Tower.”

Songdo is a ‘future city’ that’s sustainable and completely interconnected via video tech, and even though it won’t be done till 2015, Kate says “there’s still plenty for tourists to see”.

Tricomalee, Sri Lanka 

Sure, Lonely Planet may have just labelled Sri Lanka travel destination numero uno for 2013, but we’re about specifics. In particular, the north-east. Beat the rush and head towards Trincomalee and the empty, exquisite beaches just north of one of the best spots for diving and snorkelling you’re likely to find (it also won’t cost you the earth). It’s not all beaches, either. Scattered around that north eastern district are an abundance of fascinating plantlife and wildlife, cultural and heritage sites (Trincomalee’s natural harbour is a sight in itself) and tremendous local food.

Sri Lanka is not a destination for fainthearted, however. The country’s history — a long civil war and the tsunami of 2006 — means you ought to be sensitive to your surroundings and mindful of your actions.

From Buenos Aires, Argentina, to Isla del Sol, Bolivia… 

Here’s a quick 2013 trip tip that will have everybody you know jealous of your exploits. Start at Buenos Aires, which Australian Traveller’s Quentin Long calls an “awesomely cool city with great suburbs and loads to do. South America’s hippest city it’s worth a visit just for the bars and cafes.” Then work your way up through Argentina (try to see Igazu Falls on the border with Brazil if you can), Paraguay, jump over to Peru and then into Bolivia to check out Isla del Sol on Lake Titicaca in Bolivia. This way you can check out the delights of South America, and end up basically in one of the nicest spots in the world. Isla del Sol will cleanse your soul as you check out the Rock of the Puma and an alleged fountain of youth — plus it’s the mythological birthplace of the sun god. Trust us with this one, just do it.

Samsung - flexible phones

2013: A Preview

Tech: Gadgets ahoy

Some sweet tech stuff to look forward to 

Flexible, waterproof phones (and TVs)

Sure the iPhone 5S or Samsung Galaxy S IV would be cool, but how about waterproof phones that bend and twist? Thanks to nano technology. next time your phone goes for an embarrassing toilet-dive, it could be coated in a microscopic waterproof layer… And thanks to OLED (organic light emitting diode) technology, we could be able to bend the phones every-which-way, simulating wringing them of the water. Awesome. Combine that with the increased presence of Near Field Communication (enabling you to pay for things with your phone) and our lives will be even more tied to these devices.

Terminator glasses

Augmented reality is definitely headed our way, as Google are working on glasses that could overlay info onto what you’re seeing, and mobile phone developers are incorporating it into mobile operating systems. You’d point your phone’s camera at something, and it will be able to relay info about it back to you. Cool, right? We should also see these using new memristor chips — computer chips that ‘learn‘ — that will enable machines to think. And GIVE RISE TO THE TERMINATOR.

Smarter cars 

Beyond cars that can reverse park themselves will be the widening of the range of cars that will be able to sense their environment, whether it be the distance to the car in front of you or how much space there is to the sides of the road. Proper cruise control! It’s almost Transformers! There’s also MIT’s tiny ‘foldable’ electric ‘CityCar’ that takes up a third of a car space. It’s super green, and super affordable (just don’t bank on driving it to a festival: no room for the couch, or esky). And don’t forget the now mass-produced electric car, the Tesla. With petrol prices so high, this is a bit handy, dontcha think?

New consoles + 3D TV 

We might  have the Xbox One or Playstation 4 in 2013: we can hope, right? Games publishers have started developing titles for the next generation of consoles, but games technology will be a tricky one to predict over the next five years. Will we even want a closed-tech one-stop-shop console when we could be running everything through a phone or tablet? Who knows. But combined with 3D OLED TVs, all that 3D printing we’ll be doing soon and integrated online streaming, it’s going to be great fun finding out.