Catalyst hangs out with Hilltop Hoods

Interview by Sophie Heizer | @yrlocaljourno

In the years since Hilltop Hoods released their first album in 1997, the group has accomplished a hell of a lot, not the least of which was the release of the rad new ‘restrung’ album they dropped this year on the 29th of February. ‘Drinking From The Sun, Walking Under Stars Restrung’ is the second album the boys from Hilltop Hoods have produced in collaboration with the Adelaide Symphony Orchestra. The first was ‘The Hard Road: Restrung’, which they released in 2007. Eight years later, they’re taking things so much bigger, also collaborating with the 20-piece Adelaide Chamber Singers Choir on the album, and announcing their most ambitious domestic tour to date, which will see them performing in five capital cities accompanied by state orchestras and choirs conducted by New Zealander Hamish McKeich, and special guest from the UK Maverick Sabre.

Before the tour kicked off in Sydney on April 2, MC Suffa (also known as ‘Matt’) spared 20 minutes of his busy pre-tour schedule to shoot the shit with me about their new album, the impending tour, and small town beginnings.

“It must be validating to consistently be taking home number ones.”

“Yeah, every time we come back with something, there is a bit of trepidation, but the response has definitely been great.”

“What is it that pushes you guys to try new things?”

“I mean, there is an element there of, because we can,” he laughs, “but it’s also because we like to try and go big on things, go over the top, and we’ve always done that with everything that we do. When we dropped ‘I Love It’ we dropped 3 film clips for it. When we did a music DVD we did a zombie apocalypse film. We try to not do ‘rinse and repeat’, the same thing over and over again.”

 “You guys must be getting excited about the tour. Doing shows takes a lot of logistical planning when there’s only three of you, so how do you think the extra people are going to change the touring experience for you?”

“It’s the on-stage thing that’s the most terrifying,” says Matt. “We’re trying to make our set failsafe. Fire extinguishers everywhere. We’ve had 14 more exits installed,” he quips, “we’ve just been trying to make it so that it’s sort of ‘set-and-forget’, and we’re not really worried about the orchestra, they’re all super professional, super talented people who’re just ready to crush it.”

“Has anyone been snobby about the music in the way that they think orchestra is a ‘pure’ form of music and hip hop is not?”

“There hasn’t been anyone with like, a monocle come up to us and tap us with their bow and tell us off,” he jokes, “there’s been a few people I’ve felt that kind of energy from, but the majority of people we work with, particularly the ASO, were into it and were interested in it. It’s easy to forget some of the orchestras can go 100 plus people and at any given time be working on a number of different projects, so they literally have a sign up sheet in their break rooms. So, Hilltop Hoods was one of those options. A lot of people in that room are in that room because they chose to be.”

 “I want to talk about ‘1955’ for a minute. I’m from a really small town as well, and so are a lot of the people I know. You’ve said that you like the small town feel, you like that it’s stuck back a few decades, and you like the simplicity and the community vibe. I think that’s so interesting, because it’s a very different experience than most people I know have had, and to what I’ve had. We usually refer to leaving our town as ‘escaping’ or ‘getting out’.”

“We’ve been afforded the opportunity to travel a lot, and outside of music as well. I’ve been to 40-50 odd countries. So I guess I don’t have that wanderlust bugging me out, which a lot of small town kids do,” says Matt, after he’s finished laughing at me, “I think when you’re a small town kid, it can go either way. If you don’t travel early you can end up an adult who’s a bit scared of the world. Or you can be small minded about your opinions because you haven’t had the chance to see different ideas and cultures. Or you can be the one who’s like ‘get me the fuck out of here’. I was neither of those things. And even today, I’m like ‘you know what, this is really quiet’, but I don’t go ‘aw, that sucks’, I go ‘this isn’t Syria, this is pretty good’.”

Despite our very different experience growing up in small towns (apart from the classic weekend pass-time of recreational drinking, which it seems is pretty universal), it’s safe to say that the Hilltop Hoods humble beginnings have only enriched their music, which continues to break the mold in a really interesting and genuine way.

The album is out now, and the trio is coming to town on April 23rd, so get around it!

Catalyst has been the student publication of RMIT University since 1944. We may be older than your parents but we’re still going strong!

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