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Thundamentals (Live) Entrance Leagues Club

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The Entrance Leagues Club

3 Bay Village Road

Bateau Bay, NSW 2261

Australia

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Thundamentals
Supported by B Wise

There’s a whole library of esoteric academic literature that claims the only way a person can experience reality is through communication – your life is a two-way conversation with the world around you, each side simultaneously changing the other. Elbow-patched tweed coats and old-man beards aside, it’s a philosophy that resonates with ARIA-nominated Sydney hip-hop outfit Thundamentals.

“As soon as you meet me, we become ‘us’,” explains MC Tuka. “It’s inherent to the human experience to seek contact and communication with other people. With that in mind, with everything we do as artists, we ask ourselves, ‘What am I contributing to the conversation?’”
So far, by all accounts, Thundamentals contribution has been damn fine. Not only did the group pick up an ARIA nomination for their last album, 2014’s So We Can Remember, that release also prompted a frenzy of touring, fostering a connection with fans that has blossomed into something truly special.

“What we’ve really become aware of over the last couple of years is people reacting to us,” says Tuka, simultaneously proud and humbled. “Having recognition from fans, people coming to shows, getting tattoos of our words on their bodies – that’s incredible. You know, you start a conversation, and they give it back and you start thinking, ‘What is it about these songs that they like?’ It makes you realize that you have to think about what you are saying, refine the conversation every time you write a song.”
That refinement bursts to life spectacularly on Everyone We Know, Thundamentals first full-length release on their own newly minted label, High Depth. Recorded at the studio of good friends Hermitude in Sydney’s inner suburbs, Everyone We Know hits new heights not only for the band, but for hip-hop in general.

“Obviously I’m biased,” laughs MC Jeswon, “but I feel like this is the best hip-hop music, production-wise, that has ever come out of this country. And I can say that, because it wasn’t me! I know that’s a big call and that it’s all subjective, but I really feel like [producers] Morgs and Poncho have taken the beat making, the music making to a crazy whole other level. As a rapper that just makes you feel so lucky – you have this quality of music to work with that makes you sound, like, well, better than you are.”
From the lush choral-jazz collision of the title track to the sublimely stuttering schitz of “Wyle Out Year” to the infectious funk of first single “Never Say Never”, it’s hard to argue with any suggestions – biased or otherwise – that Morgs and Poncho have stepped things up. Everyone We Know boasts a musicality that is rooted in hip-hop, but at the same time transcends that label, offering something for anyone who simply loves music, no genre attached.

“Looking at ourselves,” reflects Tuka, “we’re a little bit left of centre. We’ve learned to look at hip-hop as a songwriting craft as well as just straight-up bars. It’s not always about having a really technical verse – although sometimes it is – but sometimes it’s about hitting people emotionally and understanding the emotional maturity of what music can do.”

At the bottom of it all lies the fact that Thundamentals come from a small community – the Blue Mountains, a snaking, eccentric collection of villages just outside Sydney, a place where people look you in the eye and tell you what they believe – however crazy it might be – with a smile on their face. Those roots soak Tuka and Jeswon’s lyrics, flavour the group’s collaborations – Blue Mountains musicians Vanessa Caspersz and Mataya Young feature on Everyone We Know – and, most importantly, shape their understanding of what music can be.

“When we were starting up,” says Jeswon, “to have the same twenty or thirty people rock up to every show and be supportive, coming from a small community, you do really appreciate that tightknit vibe that you get. And it makes you appreciate how connected you are to other people.”
Everyone We Know is a celebration of that connection. The album is based on conversations from the band’s own lives and the experiences that everyone goes through, taking the personal and transforming it into something all-embracing.

“Everyone has somebody that used to be close to them that isn’t anymore,” says Jeswon. “Everyone has experienced pain, or they will do. Everyone has experienced love, even if it’s lost love or unrequited love. All of these ideas are universal ideas.”

And while the band stresses that those ideas flow directly from the themes of previous album So We Can Remember, they’re also aware that this time around, thanks to the success of that release, they’re talking to a much wider audience.

“A big part of this is about trying to reach people who may have never heard of us before,” explains Jeswon. “People who may have never encountered the things that we talk about.”

“Yeah,” agrees Tuka, “We’ve always been conscious about the decision to not just talk to one kind of person. And that’s a fine line, doing big broad strokes where you talk to a lot of people, but doing it authentically. It’s about being inclusive with the people you are talking to. Everyone’s welcome to listen, not just hip-hop heads.”

That wider intention and the themes that fuel Everyone We Know are perfectly matched. As Tuka and Jeswon both freely admit, the most important thing in their art has always been saying something that matters, not just making noise. Now they’re taking that message to a bigger audience, it matters more than ever.

“Generally the vibe is pretty positive and uplifting,” says Jeswon, “but there are moments where we’re challenging the listener to actually engage with some critical thinking and to challenge some perceptions that are placed on us by the media. We’re kind of asking people to take a position on things.”

The magic in that – the magic that has taken Thundamentals from the mountains to the city to the nation – lies in Tuka and Jeswon’s ability to tackle big issues without preaching. On tracks like “Blue Balloons” – a tribute to a young fan who passed away – and “Ignorance Is Bliss” – which tackles “white privilege” head on – the vocalists challenge us to think about our humanity, but never tell us exactly how we should think about it.
“I guess that our philosophy is to kind of weave in these little seeds of opinion, but not to be too overbearing,” says Jeswon. “The way it goes in Australia, people are often apathetic, and that’s kind of the Aussie way – if people feel like they’re getting a mouthful of politics then they tend to switch off, so you have to be smarter than that if you wanna talk to them.”
Tellingly, even on more laid back tracks – like the anti-dance anthem “Sally” or the old skool nostalgia of “Reebok Pumps” – Everyone We Know challenges preconceptions with the same breath that brings the good times. “We try to connect to what is there in people’s lives,” says Tuka, “the stuff that people can already draw on, and sew it together in an original way, a way that can make them think.”

Featuring, fittingly, a cast of friends – including guests Peta and the Wolves on “Think About It”, Laneous on “Heard It On The Low” and “Everyone We Know”, and Hilltop Hoods on the final cut, “21 Grams” – the scene that Everyone We Know sews together is definitely original, a host of disparate threads drawn together to create an album that reminds us that what you say is always shaped by what has been said to you.

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The Entrance Leagues Club

3 Bay Village Road

Bateau Bay, NSW 2261

Australia

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