Milwaukee Banks – Stuck In The Middle, Somewhere

Sidewinding streams of electronica and hip hop has made Milwaukee Banks a niche product. Rip Nicholson discusses mixing genres with rapper Dyl Thomas and producer Adrian “Edo” Rafter.

MILWAUKEE BANKS interviewed February 26, 2016
For Street Press Australia [READ HERE]

Images by Daniel Soderstrom.

Milwaukee Banks’ first releases — Pluto Bounce (2013) and Sweater Made Of Gold (2014) off their Rose Water EP (2014) — had the DJ/MC duo fractured from the Australian hip hop scene, considered more of an electronic act with rap. However, listening to their upcoming debut LP Deep Into The Night (due 18 March) it’s clear that the amalgam of Rafter’s diverse ATL-style trap beats and the powerful flow of Thomas’ raps is part both and somehow neither. The pair themselves figure its the listeners that will decide exactly where they lie on the genre map.

“I think you’re correct to say that we’re in a bit of a niche market because of that type of crossover that you talked about, and I suppose in Australia there aren’t too many electronic acts that would have a rapper,” agrees Rafter. “And, there aren’t too many rap acts in Australia that go so electronic — so in that sense we are stuck in the middle somewhere. I don’t actually know where, yet. I think people are going to tell us rather than us dictating where we think we fit.”

Rafter explains that outside of their hometown gigs, audiences are split, and always present a surprise to the Melbourne-based pair. “Sometimes we get shows, particularly outside of Melbourne — because we know the audience that we are going to expect at a Milwaukee Banks show here in our own city — when we go to another city we’re not entirely sure what we’re gonna get. It can be interesting,” admits Rafter. “We do see the rap fans and they all wanna talk to Dyl after a show. Like, they just wanna hear that rap. So you do get rap fans and electronica fans in their own little groups.”

“I do find that we get an equal split at a lot of shows,” Thomas interjects. “We get the people that are into their electronica music because Edo’s been doing that for so long and I’ve also been into hip hop for so long it sort of meets in the middle and I guess that’s what Milwaukee Banks is and it reflects that with the crowds we draw at our shows.”

“I don’t actually know where, yet. I think people are going to tell us rather than us dictating where we think we fit.”

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That’s not to say they can’t lean a little more towards one or the other from time to time. Deep Into The Night track Reincarnated for example show Milwaukee Banks letting the EDM aspects fall aside so their hip hop side can stretch its legs. “I’ve been around rapping for a long time and with the EP I wanted to try different things and I wanted to have something on the album that people could sink their teeth into and say, ‘this kid can spit’. I don’t want them to forget that I can rap. So it’s like a stamp in a way — but it’s still within the Banks’ framework,” proclaims Thomas. “I just wanted to go in and that was me going in. I had to dust those shoulders down, man.”

Deep Into The Night drops later this month, with lead track Faded — a noticeable departure from the sounds explored on their earlier EP — having already hit the live market. “We [were] actually playing Faded in the live set for quite a long time before it was released,” explains Rafter. “It was a much-needed lift for the set anyway so people had noticed the difference and it got a really positive response from the get-go.”

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Conversation with Milwaukee Banks

Deep Into The Night drops next month. Are you excited for its release?

EDO – We’ve had it finished for a little while so it’s been a long time coming. We are actually pretty thrilled to be finally putting it out.

I know you’ve got the Rose Water EPs out, but do you feel like expectant fathers for your first baby?

EDO – Yeah, it’s nervousness but at the same time you want people to hear the effort you put into this thing, you know. you want to know what people think of it because we’ve listened to it over and over again and you think, ‘wow this is going to go out into the wide world.’ People are actually going to hear this shit. So there is mixed emotion.

First single Faded has long been in the market… How was this absorbed when you shopped it live in December?

EDO – Yeah man, we’ve actually been playing Faded in the live set for quite a long time before it was released so a lot of people have heard it and it’s quite a different sound to what we put out on the EP so it was a much-needed lift for the set anyway so people had noticed the difference and it got a really positive response from the get-go and it’s been awesome. We worked a few of the new tunes into the recent sets which go over very nicely

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Dyl, you had called it a “dark insight into over drinking and it taking you to a place somewhere between euphoria and depression.” – can you elaborate on what you meant by this?

DYL – Totally. You know when you’re caught in a cycle and ‘cause you’re on the inside looking out, you’re not noticing what’s really going on around you and the effects, good or bad, of what it’s having until you actually do you can mistake what you’re feeling for something positive when really it’s having a negative effect on the world around you and to your immediate friends and stuff like that. So when you get out of it and step back and have a look it can sometimes be a negative thing that’s actually happened but from the inside-out it’s looked at totally differently.

Does it feel like you guys are in niche market – as far as your sound?

DYL – Niche? That’s an interesting question how do I answer that.

EDO – Yeah. I think it does feel like we are in a bit of a niche market.

You seem more electronica than strictly hip hop yet there’s a strong element of trap beats to your style – giving off a real ATL feel. So you can comfortably cruise both lanes.

EDO – I think you’re correct to say that we’re in a bit of a niche market because of that type of crossover that you talked about and I suppose in Australia there aren’t too many electronic acts that would have a rapper. And there aren’t too many rap acts in Australia that go so electronic so in that sense we are stuck in the middle somewhere. I don’t actually know where, yet. I think people are going to tell us rather than us dictating where we think we fit.

MilwaukeeBanksSpook_DSoderstrom7-642x428

Well it gives you diversity. You may not get that hardcore, boom-bap crowd every gig instead getting a strong electronic, dance contingent.And you may get access to a few dance festivals, nightclub sets where traditional hip hop acts don’t fit.

EDO – Yeah, and it is interesting sometimes we get sows, particularly outside of Melbourne because I think in Melbourne we know the audience that we are going to expect at a Milwaukee Banks show here in our own city. But, when we go to another city we’re not entirely sure what we’re gonna get. And it can be interesting. We do see the rap fans and they all wanna talk to Dyl after a show. Like, they just wanna hear that rap. So you do get rap fans and electronica fans in their own little groups. But we don’t really care who comes to our shows as long as they’re not causing any trouble.

DYL – I do find that we get an equal split at a lot of shows, you know, We get the people that are into their electronica music because Edo’s been doing that for so long and I’ve also been into hip hop for so long it sort of meets in the middle and I guess that’s what Milwaukee Banks is and it reflects that with the crowds we draw at our shows.

You both have come and gone from different group projects, how solid is Milwaukee Banks as a duo and not just another project?

DYL – I feel super comfortable. I haven’t been in a situation where i feel more comfortable writing and collaborating with someone for a long time, you know. It feels strong, man and we will see what time tells but we’re here to fight and create and collab and put our all into it, you know.

EDO – I think the whole thing came together from me sending beats to Dyl and Dyl chucking ideas on different beats and me sending him ideas and…

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You guys first hooked up in 2006 right where Edo produced for Dyl?

EDO – That’s when we first started hanging out. A few years ago when I first started sending Dyl beats and he actually started rapping on them, like, the process is so open and collaborative that that’s what keeps us ticking. i think if we had rules in how we do things maybe we would get frustrated or stale and kinda just like we’d rather do something else. So I guess it’s about keeping it fun and keeping it open.

DYL – It wasn’t like and Edo sat down and had a meeting on how to create a group, you know. We were just sort of, dabbling in each other’s music. Ebo was sending me stuff to see if it was OK and I was sending him back stuff with vocals over the top of it. And it sort of spawned out of that. We had some tracks together and thought let’s do an EP we both weren’t doing any serious music projects at the moment so it sparked from there.

Dyl, Reincarnated – dope rap jam – very cut n dry hip hop… it oddly seems a departure from your usual soundscape. Does it feel different to the usual?

DYL – Not really. I think the structure and essence of Milwaukee Banks is there. It’s all about experimentation so that’s the way I saw the song. When we were writing the album I was sort of sticking to certain boundaries and there were a few tracks – one of the things I wanted to do on the album that we didn’t do on the EP, you know I’ve been around rapping for a long time and with the EP I wanted to try different things and with this I wanted to have something on the album that people could sink their teeth into and say,’this kid can spit.’ I don’t want them to forget that I can’t rap so it’s like a stamp in a way but it’s still within the Banks’ framework and has undertones of singing in it but there’s other songs on the album that are similar to that vibe but I just wanted to go in and that was me going-in, you know. 

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Like a heat check.

That’s it, I had to dust those shoulders down, man.

2015 you both performed hard-out at St. Jerome’s Laneway Festival and Golden Plains, but this working on this album has seen you locked down since are you looking forward to getting this bad boy out and play it live?

EDO – We’re sorta still planning when we’re gonna go on tour next for the album, it is gonna happen eventually we’re just not really sure what the plans are yet. We’re not really in that loop just yet. It’s funny from the outside, yeah I can see how people would think we haven’t done much since we played a bunch of festivals and didn’t release any new music for a little while but we have been working hard at crafting the album for months and then signing to a label for the album was like a different and new process for us and we weren’t really sure what was gonna happen next and how it was gonna work. It took longer than we had anticipated. But we are anxiously awaiting putting the album out and planning to get back out there. It’s interesting in that time that we sat back and started working on the album there has been a lot different things happening in hip hop and electronica so it’s been interesting to sit back and watch rather than being out there, doing stuff. Were ready to get back out in the mix.

MBanks
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