FUNKOARS – Life’s Not Serious

AS DANIEL ‘DJ REFLUX’ YATES EXPLAINS TO RIP NICHOLSON, FUNKOARS’ NEW ALBUM MARKS A NEW AGE FOR THE ADELAIDE FOUR-PIECE RAP ACT. THEY HAVE NOW BECOME THE FUNKOARS 4.0 WITH HAIRCUTS AND REAL JOBS TO DO IN HIP-HOP.

DJ REFLUX interviewed @ 18.00 AEST – Monday 12th August, 2011
For Street Press Australia & Rip2Shredz Press

Words by RIP NICHOLSON

With plenty of drinks consumed over endless rounds of live shows for The Funkoars, It’s been three years since the success of The Hangover has sobered them up. Despite hits to their health, they’ve collected their talents into an even deadlier, angst ridden, epic sound.

DJ Reflux, producers Sesta and Trials and MC Hons have always driven the scourge of society into their witty repertoire and, while their early releases labelled the Adelaide outfit as drunken style rappers, after The Hangover the fast life has taken it’s toll, with Trials suffering from ill health. On their fourth LP The Quickening, they’ve curbed their habits with longevity in mind.

“Too much getting pissed I think, but it’s serious now, Trials has lost a great deal of weight and it’s all down to good eating. His liver couldn’t handle it anymore,” admits Yates before adding, “it’s not like we don’t drink; we still have fun.

“It’s Funkoars 4.0 – it’s what’s expected of us and I don’t think it’s going to shock any fans, but it is more polished and a lot more effort going into the sonic sound and our lyrics and conscious effort gone into it. But saying that we haven’t over-thunk it, we’ve kept it Funkoars, which always was a chemistry-based thing – we like boom-bap hip hop. We have big drums and we like that sound that we’ve always been into and we’ve kept the boom-bap and the album is what we wanted to make, with no compromise.”

Championing their vestige for Boom Bap rap – and ensuring it is maintained in their signature sound – Funkoars managed to get on side one of the original Harlem, New York producers in Large Professor from the Main Source movement to helm the outcome of their title track.

“He’s a legend in our minds and this is the hip hop that we grew up on and most of our crew at Golden Era. That’s the hip hop that made us. We’re not trying to do new-age stuff; whilst it’s still fresh, we’re remaining true to our integrity. We’re blessed that we got it to go down. We had a wish-list of producers we’d love to work with, two of which were Premo’s beats and Large Professor. He tailor-made us beats; it’s dope, fast, uptempo and we took our time on that one and really wanted to make that one chime. It came out great in the end.”

Through their album catalogue, Funkoars have always rapped of what follows in the wake of debauched drunken binges. They have never carried the weight of the world in their lyrics, so they don’t expect anyone to have ever taken anything they say too seriously.

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“We were always the pissheads or class clowns so therefore we rap about booze. The majority will say it’s about booze and has no depth. They’re not actually listening to the lyrics; it’s quite a lot said in there but they’re skipping over it because that’s the pocket you’ve been placed in. It’s almost an album of lag time before everyone catches up, as such. So if we were to do a full-on serious album we’d still be classed as such-and-such and I think that’s what Phrase has got on his hands. He’s gone from Clockwork to Babylon and it’s such an incredible change of sound with much more depth to it but he still gets classed with the old one, as such. It takes a little time for that, but that is our thing – we don’t take everything so serious. And life isn’t so serious.”

They’ve seemingly now come to the apex of their over indulgent partying and in the growth of their records, it shows. “It’s kind of a living, breathing organism i guess as a group. We’ve all gotten a bit older and have separate lives. [2006 album] Greatest Hits was us hanging out, getting drunk and recording an album. Hangover was a little more organised and this one was far more organised. So a serious effort went into planning this one, and obviously we’re maturing, but with The Hangover going as well as it did we started a two year touring schedule. Beats were getting thrown around for two years but the majority of the album was done in the last twelve months. On this album we had close to 35 tracks that we’ve culled down over the last nine months. So we have a lot of spare, decent tracks, unfinished that didn’t quite fit the kinda sound we were shooting for.”

Lead producer Trials is one the busiest in the game, supplying so many beats for our top talent. But Funkoars’ sound has always remained separated from the crates of beats Trials churns out, while others can hold a certain stink for particular rappers.

“Sometimes you’ll get a beat from Trials and it just stink of Vents; big double bass lines and stomping drums – that’s Vents. I can hear his rhyme style all over this. But I don’t think he makes beats to suit anyone specifically.” Yates also admits to passing on ‘Jimmy Recard’ for Funkoars’ previous records. “A lot of people come to us saying they have an ‘Oars beat and we’ll pass on a lot. We passed on a lot of Drapht’s beats. I remember we passed on the ‘Jimmy Recard’ beat and we thought ‘we can’t put anything on this.’”

The Golden Era crew have always held firm their love of classic horror, and The Quickening is shaping up to be a solid grindhouse hip hop album. With Sesta’s audio snippet ‘The Undeniable Third Shooter’ and the cover art, Yates hints at more to come on the visual side of the LP but leaves the true meaning of the album’s title as an inside joke. “The Quickening being an ’80s horror film, we’ve made a grindhouse-style trailer to follow and with the artwork from Ken Taylor. That’s where we went with it,” he suggests, dancing around the real reason for the title. “Without revealing the in-joke it’s kinda like that next step up from The Hangover.”

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Conversation with DJ Reflux

Three years since The Hangover, did it take that long to make it the total package that it is today, or is just that hard to get you all together for the time it takes to build an album?

It was, it’s kind of a living, breathing organism i guess as a group. We’ve all gotten a bit older, and have separate lives. i think the last one was a bit, you know, Greatest Hits was us hanging out and getting drunk and recording an album. Hangover was a little more organised and this one was far more organised. So a serious effort went into planning this one, and obviously we’re maturing but with The Hangover going as well as it did we started touring a lot of festivals and did a two year touring schedule of getting that album out there and the last year has been, this album. Beats were getting and and thrown around two years but the majority of the album was done in the last 12 months.

Your fourth album The Quickening is, as you’ve stated an even deadlier, angst ridden, epic sound  and something of a mature approach to the usual debauchery of Funkoars. Does this mean you’ve all cut your hair and got real jobs? because to me, it’s exactly what I’d expect from a new Funkoars record.

I’m glad you say that, I feel it is as well. it’s Funkoars 2.0 or 3.0 or 4.0 – it’s what’s expected of us and I don’t think it’s going to shock any fans but it is more polished and a lot more effort going into the sonic sound and our lyrics and conscious effort gone into it but saying that we haven’t over thunk it, we’ve kept it Funkoars which always was a chemistry-based thing we like boom-bap hip hop we have big drums and we like that sound that we’ve always been into and we’ve gone a bit bluesy in spots but we’ve kept the boom-bap and it’s the album we wanted to make, with no compromise.

On the title track – how did you guys get a hold of Large Professor – You couldn’t get more golden era hip hop than that!

He’s a legend in our minds and this is the hip hop that we grew up on, and most of our crew at Golden Era are influenced by – that’s the hip hop that made us. we’re not trying to do new-age  flashy stuff, whilst it’s still fresh it still we’re remaining true to our integrity. We’re blessed that we got it to go down. We had Nate on our side, once we hooked up with Nate, OK let’s have a wish-list of production. Premo beats, and Large Professor was on that list.

He tailor-made us beats, it’s dope, fast, uptempo and we took our time on that one and really wanted to make that one chime. It came out great in the end.

A lot of people come to us saying they have an ‘Oars beat- and we’ll pass on a lot, people think they know what an Oars beat is. And Trials makes a lot of beats, and we passed on a lot of Drapht’s beats – i remember we passed on the Jimmy Recard beat and we thought ‘we can’t put anything on this.’ It’s a sound that is hard to quantify until we have it in front of us, on this album we had close to 35 tracks that we’ve culled down over the last 9 months. So we have a lot of spare, decent tracks, unfinished and didn’t quite fit the kinda sound we were shooting for.

I spoke with Drapht last week, and he said the beats he gets from Trials are unlike what he lays down for The Funkoars and that he couldn’t rap over Funkoars beats – do you guys feel that opposed to any outside work Trials does, the sound is always different to the Funkoars signature?

That’s true, he does. Vents too, sometimes you’ll get a beat from Trials and it just stink of Vents – big double bass lines and stomping drums, that’s Vents. i can hear his rhyme style all over this. I don’t think he makes beats to suit anyone specifically, but he makes a lot and he’s a very prolific producer and he’ll group them together so when Vents says he digs a beat, Trials will offer up the rest in that group that hold that similar interest. Then he’ll work with Vents, or Drapht to sculpt the album, you know what i mean? So it’s quite clever and prolific is one of his traits, he gets to pick and choose with his beats. Also we have Fester who has made 6 beats (over 5 Trials beats) and all he ever makes is Oars tracks. He doesn’t do any production for anybody else.

You guys have always been hip hop’s class clowns, does it make it hard to make a track with any serious message to it? because no-one wants the weight of the world from The Funkoars?

There’s an uptake time and delay time. We were always the pissheads or class clowns so therefore we rap about booze. Therefore the majority will say it’s about booze and has no depth. They’re not actually listening to the lyrics, it’s  quite a lot said in there but they’re skipping over it because that’s the pocket you’ve been placed in. And it’s almost an album of lag time before everyone catches up, as such. So if we were to do a full-on serious album we’d still be classed as such-and-such and I think that’s what Phrase has got on his hands. He’s gone from Clockwork to Babylon and it’s such an incredible change of sound with much more depth to it but he still gets classed with the old one, as such. It takes a little time for that, but that is our thing we don’t take everything so seriously and life isn’t so serious. that generally expressed who we are.

Whereas someone like Vents holds the weight of the world in every rap record, is that why you brought him on ‘The Assassination’ because nothing you guys say is taken seriously?

Nah, not at all. We bring Vents on ‘cuz he can rap his arse off and we’ve always done a track with him. Sometimes he might bring something out that we won’t say but it’s not like we bring him on because we need a political track.

Give us the story behind the name of the album The Quickening.

The Quickening can be the next step. Without revealing the in-joke it’s kinda like that next step up from The Hangover.

When I heard The Undeniable Third Shooter I thought, shit that’s a grindhouse-type ad then I labelled The Funkoars as the Robert Rodriguez of Australian hip hop.

We have got a Grindhouse-style trailer, that’s what it’s about – with the artwork from Ken Taylor and The Quickening being an 80’s horror film. So that’s where we went with it, and we wanted to do a little video which might pop up next week, in a Grindhouse trailer style. And it may give us an edge on this album so that’s where we wanna go – it’s all Fester as well. We recorded all of that ourselves and he could easily do voice over work.

As read in your press release for this album, what is the preoccupation with Vincent D’Onofrio?

When you’re sitting around trying to name a track and there’s the four of you from Funkoars sitting around you tend to multiply our stupidity goes into the exponential – let’s call it Vincent D’Onofrio – Fester has an unhealthy obsession with him, he likes D’Onofrio, so i can’t give much insight to that title, but when it was mentioned it was hard to bat it down. When it hits the radio it will be hilarious to hear ‘Being Vincent D’Onofrio.’

What’s on the touring plans?

Every weekend till the end of November. Doing a few festivals as well. We have a big one planned in Melbourne and Adelaide. We’re looking forward to getting out our new set, new album, it’s exciting for us and we’re keen to get it back out on the road. I think we’ve got D’Onofrio masks now.

Trials has got a pretty bad back – he had a bad back injury late last year. He had a broken foot which kept him off the touring as well, stomach issues – Drapht has had stomach issues as well. The whole Aussie hip hop scene is in need of medical attention. Too much getting pissed i think.

It’s serious now, Trials has lost a great deal of weight – and it’s all down to good eating, taking his dog for a run on the beach any more, his liver couldn’t handle it anymore. It’s not like we don’t drink, we still have fun.

I think we rap what we do and what we are and out music is a reflection of what we are. The Hangover was done after a tour with Bliss n Eso and the Winnie Coopers and that was a hell of a tour. It was our first 35 stop tour around the country and we partied our arses off. And that was The Hangover, a lot of the circumstances from that was on that album. Now this album was a lot of the last nine months of different lives. We’ve all got homes and lives, it’s different kettle of fish now and the album reflects that – it still has a lot of us on there, and it’s a reflection of what we’re doing.

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