HILLTOP HOODS – WALKING UNDER THE STARS

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Momentum is an underrated but essential tool in the trade of life, particularly when applied to something you are passionate about.
It provides the impetus to keep moving forward, and also seems to bring with it a luck all of its own that inevitably leads to greater success.

This is personified in the current status of Australian Hip Hop supergroup the Hilltop Hoods who have not only recently completed a mammoth U.S tour and released a new album in ‘Walking Under the Stars’, but have also been nominated for a further three ARIA awards, something which DJ Debris only found out not long before our chat.

“Yeah, about an hour ago I found out we were nominated for two ARIA’s so I haven’t had a chance to knock back a scotch yet even!” he enthused at the start of our interview.

“We have been nominated for Best Group and Best Urban Album today and last week we were nominated for Best Engineer so it’s pretty exciting at the moment.”

The Hilltop Hoods have been anything but stagnant since their previous release, ‘Drinking From the Sun’ in 2012, and have used life lessons as well as personal heartache to draw inspiration for ‘Walking Under the Stars’.

And not that he expected anything to the contrary, but Debris says the fans seem to have welcomed the Hoods back after their brief interlude.

“Amazing,” is how he described the response to the new album.

“It’s been really good feedback from everyone and nothing but love really. It’s as good a response, if not better than any of our previous albums.”

“Musically it’s a lot darker album. It’s more soulful as well but a lot has happened to us over the last couple of years. Suffa’s got married, I’m engaged and Pressure’s engaged. Pressure’s had two kids since then and his third child was diagnosed with leukemia in February last year but he’s all good now, he’s in remission, but all of those things reflect on the album and affect the vibe of the album which is a good thing. There’s a lot of deep content in it but also a lot of feelgood music as well so I think we’ve covered the palate.”

Pitched as the second in a two part album cycle, Debris says that although situations and experiences may change, the essential soul of an album is in the music, a fact which in laid bare in both albums.

The cryptic message that closes the end of ‘Drinking From the Sun’ actually opens ‘Walking Under the Stars’ and provides direction for the latest offering.

“It’s basically a continuation of the last album,” Debris said.

“It was kind of a two part story and continues on from where the last one left off but by the same token it’s very different. It was meant to be a contemporary story so we didn’t want to make all the music two years ago because then it wouldn’t reflect the current times but we always had the vision of a two part album back from when we started the last one.”

The Hilltop Hoods have used part of the last two years trying to further cement their music and reputation outside of their home country, and judging from their recent venture overseas the path has been well and truly set.

“We just spent 5 weeks in North America and before that 2 weeks in Europe,” Debris said, “and it’s been crazy with the turnouts we’ve had. We’ve done a bunch of tours in Europe but this has been by far the best one yet and this is the first really comprehensive tour we’ve done of the U.S.A. We also did Canada, which we’ve done before, but again it was our strongest tour yet. We had people driving long distances to see us in regional areas like Kansas and stuff. A lot of people drove 4 or 5 hours from Idaho and all sorts of places, it was bizarre. I never thought for one minute we’d have such a strong fan base in the mid west.”

Given the quality of the Hilltop Hoods music, it is hardly surprising to see them conquer the overseas market, but given the fact that Aussie Hip Hop has a heartbeat of its own, it is perhaps a little strange that lovers of American Hip Hop embraced them so warmly.

“They seem to love Aussie Hip Hop!,” Debris exclaimed.

“I actually asked a lot of people how they found out about us and most of them said they stumbled on us on You Tube three or four years ago and have been into us ever since. We definitely weren’t localized content so it must have been a bit foreign to some of them but we were received with open arms.”

“I guess it’s just a reflection of what we have experienced in terms of content and every country around the world has a different culture and different politics and whatever going on and ours reflects Australia but not to the point where it alienates us globally. There are a lot of Aussie Hip Hop bands that make music just for their mates with a lot of things like local sporting references and stuff and that’s great too. I guess every country is different. I heard Icelandic Hip Hop the other day and I don’t even know what they were saying but it defiantly had its own sound, it was unlike anything I’d ever heard. U.K Hip Hop has its own vibe of what’s going on there and I guess Australia is no different.”

When pressed on the main differences between Aussie Hip Hop and those of other countries, and why a form of music was labeled according to its country of origin, Debris got a little more pointed.

“I was going to bring that up before but I didn’t want to be the negative one,” he laughed.

“At the end of the day it’s just music. You don’t classify rock music – it’s just rock. I guess it’s a kind of pigeon hole that we’ve been put in but I think that’s because the scene when we were starting……. I wouldn’t say alienated, but was ……. a small community, and the music scene in general was dominated by rock music mainly and it was really hard to get a foothold and at shows no – one had really heard of Australian Hip Hop at that time so I guess the prize in those communities was being put in the pigeon hole with that label on it which definately helped make us stronger, but at the end of the day good music is good music, you shouldn’t have to label it.”

One of the main things that stands the Hilltop Hoods apart from other Hip Hop artists is their acceptance from fans across all genres of music from rock to country to metal, and Debris says this is more about using old school methods rather than going with the current flow.

“We still sample our music which a lot of artists in Hip Hop steer away from these days because of the legal issues of it and the advantage of that is that we sample a lot of different genres of music from different eras and I think that in itself appeals to a lot of people because it’s something mildly familiar to them,” he said.

Another thing is the bands devotion to their music and their still infectious attitude towards their craft.

“We do it because we love it,” Debris said.

“We don’t take other factors into account at all. When we finish an album we’re like ‘fuck, I hope there’s a single on this’ and we don’t pre – empt any of our music for radio play. We do what we love and the way that we want to do it and it’s worked for us so far so why change now?’

Kris Peters

The Hilltop Hoods play at Fogerty Park on Friday, October 17 as part of their Cosby Sweater Tour. Tickets can be bought through Ticketek for $67.29. Music from 7.30 p.m

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