|October 12, 2011 | SOUND||Posted by lisa|
Steeped in political snarl and social awareness, Sydney soul/hip-hop band The Herd aren’t afraid to ruffle a few feathers in the chookhouse. Having been on the road for over ten years, the eight-piece band are a lynchpin of the Aussie hip-hop community; nay, the entire Australian musical landscape.
With their new album, Future Shade, in tow, The Herd show no signs of stopping or slowing down. We chat to Shannon Kennedy (aka Ozi Batla) about the ethos and execution of an act like The Herd.
Tell us about your latest record.
Future Shade is our most fully realized album of the five we have put out. It’s very layered, so you’ll hear new things with repeat listens, and musically, it’s really detailed. Lyrically, we’ve touched on some more personal themes than we have in the past, but we’ve still kept the political edge. There’s some really beautiful, touching songs and some danceable tracks, just like most Herd albums. It’s an album that reflects where we are in our lives.
Do you worry at all about your more ‘political’ material? Many people shy away from expressing political views in music so as not to attract controversy.
We don’t really see the point of making music unless we are true to our beliefs and express something that has some meaning. I’m not dissing anyone for just making music that feels good or makes you want to dance or whatever, but we’ve always had another layer to what we do. In my opinion, we are too sensitive about expressing ourselves in Australia; if go somewhere like Europe, people are more comfortable arguing and having different opinions. Just because you disagree with someone, it doesn’t mean you are fighting – that’s a distinction many people don’t make.
Is it difficult to maintain such a big line-up on stage and on tour?
The logistics are obviously more complex, but we’ve been doing this for a long time, so everything goes pretty smoothly – usually! It’s like going on the road with a lot of good friends; we are a ready-made party wherever we go, we are our own entourage. On stage, if it’s a bit tight, we have to keep an eye out so we don’t run into each other, but it still happens every now and then.
How did John Schumann of Redgum respond to your cover of I Was Only Nineteen?
John was really good about the cover – one of his kids was a fan of the band. He hadn’t really heard of us at that stage and I think he was a bit wary about our version initially, because it’s such an important song. But once he heard it and met us, he saw that it could bring the song to a new generation, gave us his blessing and sang on the album version of the track. It was a great honour for us and we catch up with the Schumanns whenever we are in Adelaide.
How important is “commercial” success?
A lot of people think the music industry is glamorous and their favourite bands are rich – but that is rarely the case. It’s extremely hard to be a full-time artist in Australia, almost impossible for most people. So if you want to make a living from your vocation, you need some commercial success. Sometimes that is at odds with what you truly want to do, so for a lot of musicians, there’s a choice to be made: try to make a living from your music, which may involve compromising, or get another job and play for the love of it.
What’s your take on the present and future of the Aussie music industry, especially Aussie hip-hop?
The independent music industry is trying to figure out how to deliver the same quality of albums, video clips and live shows with less money, because no-one is buying music. So merchandise has become much more important and touring is crucial. The hip- hop scene is really healthy, and there are heaps of quality artists coming through. In some ways, it’s going to be easier for them because the older generation built the foundations, but it will be harder as well, because there’s so much competition now.
Watch The Herd in action on the following dates:
Saturday October 22 – The Foreshore, Newcastle- Fat as Butter Festival
Friday November 25- Sunday November 27 – Queenscliff – Queenscliff Music Festival
Thursday December 29- Friday December 30 – Phillip Island- Pyramid Rock Festival
Saturday December 31 – Weston Park, Yarralumla – Mission to Launch Festival
Words: Lisa Dib