Returned from an American hiatus, Spit Syndicate’s Jimmy Nice chats to Rip Nicholson about exciting times ahead after having trimmed the fat for their next album.
SPIT SYNDICATE interviewed May 16, 2016
For Street Press Australia [VIEW HERE]
“Without getting too much into the specifics, our time with Obese [Records] was up with the last album so yeah, I won’t disclose too much but I want to do the best by us moving forward. We’re still figuring out the ins and out of this deal but, for the first time in our careers we’re not contractually bound to anyone,” says Nice.
“I guess we’re at a point right now where we’re very confident with the music we’re making and the direction we want to take but being completely freed up is liberating and it’s exciting. A lot has changed since we signed our first deal.”
In 2008, the pairing of Nick Lupi and Jimmy Nice out of Sydney’s inner-west inked a record deal with Australia’s fattest indie rap label before dropping their debut album Towards The Light, which was nominated for Best Urban Release at the 2008 ARIAs. Two years on the Syndicate dropped Exile, and then Sunday Gentlemen in 2013, the latter of which they regarded as their most mature release to date. That is until the new album arrives, slated for late this year, as Lupi told triple j. “At the moment, the focus is on finalising the album which we’re pretty much done with and gearing up how we’re going to put this out,” explains Nice. “It’s all pretty much ready to go, just the last final touches. The last 20% can be 80% sometimes, you know? A lot can change in these last little flourishes.”
“We’re very confident with the music we’re making and the direction we want to take but being completely freed up is liberating and it’s exciting.”
First single Know Better, produced by Styalz Fuego and dropped this April, was developed from time spent in the US. “Nick and I set out on that trip to get some inspiration. You can get to the end of an album cycle and feel a little creatively exhausted. It’s almost like you have to go through a period of just living, not making music and going through the motions and then you have something to then write about. So, we forced ourselves into that zone and just went out and got some studio sessions out in LA and jumped headfirst into what was the next album but we had a lot of time alone there in some strange places.”
Speaking of strange places, in Know Better, Lupi name-dropped one of the greatest ever singer-songwriters in a story that became highly publicised on the home front. Long story short — after hanging out at Bob Dylan’s grandson Pablo’s home recording studio in the Hollywood Hills, the Sydney rapper, suffering a bout of the munchies, dove into Bob’s fridge, stealing leftover pizza.
While Spit Syndicate gets back to doing what they do best on their Know Better national tour this June, it’s comical to think that over in Los Angeles, Pablo and friends found it hard to believe that these two Aussies could spit. “I think they were kinda surprised that we even rhymed,” he laughed. “‘You’re from Australia and you rap, you dress like that?’ They didn’t quite believe us. As faded as we were, we kinda had something to prove so we switched into rapper mode.”
Conversation with Jimmy Nice
No I was just downstairs cooking up a storm. Having a break from rehearsal. I’m dog-sitting at the moment so I’m about to take my mum’s dog for a walk.
Know Better – new video released. Styalz Fuego did a nice treatment to the music. Are there any more teasers to come before the album drops?
Yeah, we’re still figuring out the ins and out of this deal but, for the first time in our careers we’re not contractually bound to anyone so at the moment, the focus is on finaling the album which we’re pretty much done with and gearing up how we’re going to put this out. We have a plan in our heads as when we think this album is going to come but we’d like to get another song away before the release. It’s all pretty much ready to go, just the last final touches. The last 20 per cent can be 80 per cent sometimes, you know? A lot can change in these last little flourishes.
So when you say you’re not contractually obliged, does this mean you’re four albums and done for Obese?
Without getting too much into the specifics, our time with Obese was up with the last album so yeah, Our time with Obese was up with the last album so yeah, I won’t disclose too much but I want to do the best by us moving forward. It’s a really exciting time.
That gives u more free reigns?
We’ve never been in a situation where someone else has dictated what songs we put out or how we make our albums. We’ve always had the freedom creatively to do whatever we wanted. But I guess we’re at a point right now where we’re very confident with the music we’re making and the direction we want to take but being completely freed up is liberating and it’s exciting. A lot has changed since we signed our first deal and a lot can change in a couple of years so we just want to get this one right.
Looks like you guys had fun making the video. Cool story about hangin’ out in Bob Dylan’s crib. Did anything come of the music you recorded with Pablo?
I think we always intended to get a copy of the song we made that night but considering the state everyone was in I don’t know how much they were really keen to send emails at 7am. They were lovely dudes and they had a little camp-in on a Saturday night and they were in there working, you know? Kind of like what we would be doing back here but yeah it was cool. I think they were kinda surprised that we even rhymed. ‘You’re from Australia and you rap, you dress like that?’ They didn’t quite believe us. As faded as we were we kinda had something to prove so we switched into rapper mode. But, it was fine they were very accommodating and Nick obviously felt like he was comfortable enough to go into pantries and their fridge and just made himself at home. It was a fun time and a good story came of it.
I wanted to ask you about the creative juice that you made out of your trip south of the border in Mexico after your LA dalliance. You mentioned that went into Know Better. How so?
Well, Nick and I set out on that trip to get some inspiration. You can get to the end of an album cycle and feel a little creatively exhausted. It’s almost like you have to go through a period of just living, not making music and going through the motions and then you have something to then write about so forced ourselves into that zone and just went out and got some studio sessions out in L.A. and jumped headfirst into what was the next album but we had a lot of time alone there in some strange places and back in Sydney there’s not too many days out of the week where you can completely just immerse yourself in music with nick and I. There’s just a lot going on at the moment. We met a lot of people along the way and had a lot of crazy, almost near-death experiences and we just locked-in and found a real zone. We were free of any constraints, you know? And creatively, in the best spot that we’ve ever been. And, as much as it was a holiday and we were doing normal, holiday-goer things, we were still kinda in studio mode through just set-up studios in all these strange places. It was really good for us and we just brought that energy back home. And when we were in the studio with Adit, the rhymes we had written over there were done to different beats so we just stuck them into what we had at home. The whole energy and vibe of this new album really came from this trip.
You guys take big gaps between studio albums, two years from Towards The Light to Exile, three years to Sunday Gentlemen and three again from that to this, so far. The process between albums in terms of regulated down time, writing and recording phases – is there a pattern?
I think besides the fact that I felt that after Sunday Gentlemen we needed to rejuvenate ourselves creatively. I think the One Day project took a lot of time up and I would consider that project as much as it was a One Day album, that’s a Spit Syndicate album, that’s a Joyride album, that’s a Horrorshow album in itself. That’ whole wave or Mainline run was a good year and a half in itself so I see that as almost like a fourth album. But, yeah we always say when we finish albums that it’s gonna be years between albums and we’re gonna be quicker. It’s kinda the first time that we had esrta songs. So whatever we put on this record we would already have six to eight songs for the next one so I would like to say that our fifth studio album could come in 2017, could come in 2018. But there’s no real um, no real rule to it we just like to do a little living in between I guess. So we have have enough to talk about. I would blame Mainline for the extended break.
On an old track Amazing you wrote about how amazing the live show part of your job is, among other aspects. I was recently speaking with Urthboy who likened that moment for a rapper to completely let the ego loose and get completely indulgence. Australian hip hop artists are nicely humble in their successes, is the stage that moment for Spit Syndicate to let it out and celebrate where your talent has taken you?
As much as we write in our music it’s completely true and genuine to who we are as people on and off stage. I think, when you’re up there and in the spotlight you take on a slightly different persona and there’s an element of performance that’s entertaining and you can let go like that. I feel like I kinda take on that zone when I’m recording the music. I could be completely different when I walk outside the booth to when I’m actually recording it. I ask Nick this all the time, when people ask us the question all the time whether we prefer the energy of performing or being in the studio and writing and I think they are two very similar things. You just use the energy that you have and add it to what you’ve already got. But different people perform differently on stage and I think we definitely take on different form when we are up there. But I like performing live as much as I like performing in the studio because you’re still going off the same energy. They both translate.
Speaking of spreading talent and showing off, I hear Nick has been trying his hand at DJing at One Day events. How is that coming along and could we add that to the live gig repertoire?
Are you gonna say am I gonna start DJing? The answer is probably no. A lot has changed in terms of everyone’s roles with the whole One Day Sundays movement and I guess it’s a natural progression when we’re putting on these parties. Nick’s wanted to dabble in that for a while. I think the extent of my deep angle will be left to some after hours kick-on DJing. That’s probably about it. Everyone’s very hands-on with the whole thing. Nick does a lot of the admin for One Day and everyone helps out in their own way. I don’t think there’s going to be Spit Syndicate DJing or any DJ battle between Nick and I. I am always gonna stick to rhyming but yeah he’s doing his thing, it’s good.
Touring in June with a live band. Is that going to present a difference in the way you go about a set?
It is. We’ve played with a live band before and we’ve done different acoustic shows in the past. Really we just wanted to refresh everything and given that this is going to be a new set with new album songs and they’re going to be played in more intimate venues we just thought we wanted to go in and re-jig how we do the whole thing so we’ve gone back to old songs and picked a bunch of joints that we’ve never really played live and now we have the capabilities to flesh out intros and it really opens up a lot of possibilities to transition between songs. We want to make it a real live experience as opposed to just ten songs in a row so we’re really trying to… for lack of a better word, trying to take people on a journey throughout that hour or whatever it is. And, it’s been really good for us because certain songs that wouldn’t usually put in a set have been given new life and also new songs that we will be having on this album have also been brought into the fold and it’s gonna be a bit of a listening session and there also might be an acoustic element to some of the set and we’re really excited and I think it’s going to be Spit Syndicate like people have never seen, you know.