Thundamentals Interview: ThundaCats, Thoughts & Talent

Just over a week ago, Blue Mountains Crew Thundamentals dropped the highly anticipated follow-up to their 2009 Sleeping On Your Style release with the stunning LP Foreverlution. aahh catches up with Jeswon to talk all things album related, the recent KON Design comp and what’s shooting Thudamentals latest LP in to the CD players of thousands country-wide. Strap yourself in…blast off!!

aahh: Fans of Thundamentals have been waiting since 2009 for a follow-up to the critically acclaimed Sleeping On Your Style LP release. What’s been the biggest change for you as a group since that release and how will Foreverlution build on that last album?
Jeswon: I would have to say that the biggest changes from Sleeping On Your Style to Forverlution, would be that we have all grown as artists. I feel like as an emcee I am constantly working hard to improve at what I do. I know the same goes for Tuka and Morgs as well. I feel like the quality of our raps and the beats on Foreverlution are the best they have ever been. Another big change for us is we are now a 3 piece as Tommy Fiasko who was a part of Thundamentals for our last two releases has ventured out to embark on his solo career under ‘The Silent Titan’ moniker. DJ Morgs has produced all the beats on the album this time around (with a sneaky helping hands from some musician friends!). Tommy is a brother to us and one hell of a producer. We wish him the best in all his future endeavours.

aahh: The title of the album Foreverlution is a great play on words, what was the main concept behind this title and how did you carry on this idea over to your music?
Jeswon: Thanks! We had been trying to come up with a title that would best reflect the content of Foreverlution. The album is an intriguing mix of sounds that are classic boom bap Hip Hop and more contemporary/futuristic tones. A mix of elements that will sound good to Hip Hop fans ‘Forever’ and elements that suggest an ‘Evolution’ into more contemporary bass heavy genres. I feel like the word ‘Foreverlution’ is the perfect reflection of the mix of styles that can be found on the record.

aahh: Now the covers, yes we said covers for this release come in two different versions. We hear you worked closely with Pencil Rebellion to develop strong imagery that would further emphasise this Foreverlution concept, tell us a little more about this and the character featured?
Jeswon: On all of our releases to date, our covers have been original pieces of art which we have had a big hand in developing along with the actual artists who come up with the finished piece. I would much rather see an album with a sick piece of art on the cover than just a photo of our ugly mugs for example! Our faces on the cover would definitely equate to less sales haha! The art on Foreverlution is a continuation from the art we developed on Sleeping On Your Style. The young boy who is looking off into space with his rickety looking rocket ship on SOYS has grown into a man on the cover of Foreverlution and is now decked out in a state of the art space craft.
I was into comic books growing up so to have this aesthetic associated with our releases is something I am always excited about. Pencil Rebellion hit us up with two potential covers and we liked them so much that we decided to ask our facebook fans which one they prefered, as they were so ill we literally couldn’t decide which one to run with. The response from the fans was interesting. There didn’t seem to be a clear favorite as different people liked each cover for different reasons. So, because we respect and value our fans immensely, we decided to print the album with both covers so that fans could pick the artwork that they liked the best. We are always looking at ways that we can further connect with our fans and we thought this was a great way for fans to have their opinions heard and valued. Pencil Rebellion smashed the art for Foreverlution! Very stoked to have his talents on board.

aahh: Early on this year, when promotion first started for the album the Thundamentals crew teamed up with King Of Nothing apparel, to give artists and designers around Australia the chance to design the new Thundamentals shirt. What was the reaction to this and did you find it a great way to interact with some of your fans?
Jeswon: Definitely. Forging a partnership with King Of Nothing apparel has been a fantastic development for us. They are an up and coming Bondi based clothing company who are super motivated and have a great understanding of street and youth culture. It has been great working with them on this competition. We actually found out about Pencil Rebellion who did Foreverlution’s art work via KON as he does designs for them. We have had some great entries from fans! We will be announcing the winner of the comp within the next week. The winner receives $500, a signed copy of Foreverlution and tickets to our album launch gig in the city of their choice. But most importantly, their design will be one of our featured shirts in our next line of merchandise. Everyone around Australia (and the world!) will be wearing the winner’s design! Pretty cool I reckon. Shit, if I could draw I would have entered haha!

aahh: Across the whole album there seems to be such a diverse range of music beats and instrument wise, how do you guys as a three-piece make such a full and rich sound?
Jeswon: Growing up in the Blue Mountains, there isn’t that much for young people to do. The weather is pretty bleak and consequently kids spend a lot of time in doors coming up with their own entertainment. This has been a blessing for Thundamentals, as a lot of our friends we grew up with became really good (as in world-class) musicians. Morgs will come up with rough versions of beats and when we decide we are going to write a song to the beat, we will invariably shift the beat along to a friend who we would like to contribute to the song. If the beat needs some horns we send it to one friend, if the beat needs a guitar section we send it to another friend. Morgs will also play live instrumentation on some beats but if we feel like the song would benefit by having a professional musician on it then we don’t hesitate to hit someone up. Although there are only three of us in Thundamentals, there is an extended network of musician friends who we call upon to make a Thundas album. We are definitely in a lucky position.

aahh: Busy With It, an amazing track that raises questions of spirituality vs technology, the importance of the environment and whether BP should really be fucking up the world like it has been. Do you find hip hop is the perfect medium to raise questions like this and engage an audience?
Jeswon: Yeah for sure. Hip Hop is the perfect medium for raising questions and expressing opinions. Hip Hop started as a form of protest music by Afro-American and Latino kids against the poverty and violence they were struggling against in their communities. But it was also a celebration, a way for people to go out to block parties and forget their worries for an evening. This is the fine line that Thundamentals are attempting to tread. We are trying to make music which incorporates our feelings and opinions on contentious and controversial issues, but at the same time we don’t want to bring people down. We want people to put on a Thundas album and be stimulated to think about important issues in the world but to also forget about their own worries for an hour or so.

aahh: The three of you have all had extensive musically backgrounds, was this something that brought you together way back when you first started as Thundamentals?
Jeswon: We all pretty much came together as Thundamentals because we were all in love with Hip Hop culture in its varying elements. Tommy started out graffing as a kid and eventually got his hands on a set of turntables and started Djing and delving into beat making. Morgs and Tuka were friends through skating (though I think they first became mates cause they would play Time Crisis 2 at Katoomba arcade when it still existed haha!) and Tuka was into rapping. I came into the fold a bit later on after my family moved to the mountains from Sydney and we eventually all gravitated to one another because we were all seeking the same thing : friends with similar interests who were into Hip Hop. We didn’t really start out thinking of forming Thundamentals it was just something that kind of evolved out of our love for Hip Hop.

aahh: The track Paint The Town Red is a classic party type drinking track but after listening to the next track to follow on the album How You Been? We felt like you’ve gone further than that with these themes though, looking at them from a (hate to use the word but) a more mature angle maybe?
Jeswon: Yeah, when you actually break down ‘Paint The Town Red’, it is a party/drinking song but not in the classic sense. This song isn’t really saying ‘Drinking is awesome, yeeeeeiw let’s get pissed!’ it is more saying that ‘Look, drinking is a vice that we all suffer from and for us drinking is a form of self medication (a bad one). One day I will clean up my act, but for now I am going to enjoy myself while I still can’ We are by no means advocating drinking in this song, more just recognizing binge drinking as a problem we suffer from, but not getting too hung up about it. We decided to put ‘How You Been?’ straight after ‘Paint The Town Red’ because content wise and also emotionally, they are at polar extremes. the first is kind of self-deprecating and care free while the second is probably one of the deepest tunes on the record. We wanted to flip it on the listener like ‘Yeah we know how to take the piss out of ourselves and have a good time, but at the same time our music isn’t all party and bullshit, we do actually have some real emotions and true thoughts that we want to share with you’.

aahh: Check My Fresh feat. Vida Sunshyne blew us away, such a beautiful track for a hip hop album, yep we said beautiful. I think this is the first time I’ve ever heard an Australian rap with such a perfect, was it French accent? How did you guys prepare or even approach a track like this? Guessing someone in the group spoke a bit of French on the side?
Jeswon: Cheers man! Yeah I studied French at high school for a while cause the French teacher’s daughter was smoking and I wanted to impress her so bad haha! But in regards to the track, Morgs slung us the beat and it had the french vocal samples through it and I thought to myself ‘Has anyone in Australian Hip Hop ever done a half French tune before?’ I wasn’t aware of it having been done before so I thought it was a good excuse to do something original. Special mention to Tuka for nailing a frenchified verse despite knowing no French whatsoever haha!

aahh: Tell us a little about what it’s like working with Vida Sunshyne. We have heard her on heap of albums lately and everything she does is amazing, she seems to be one talented lady?
Jeswon: Yeah working with Vida was great. We have been fans of each others music for quite a while and when this beat popped up I immediately thought of her for the chorus. I don’t think she actually speaks any French really but she pulled the accent off well. We showed it to a native French speaker and they reckon they couldn’t notice a dodgy accent or anything. Vida is a very talented artist and someone I always keep an eye out for with whatever she is doing.

aahh: Ray Mann of The Ray Mann Three chips in on the track Burn It Down. How did you hook up with Ray? We hear he is based in Berlin is that correct?
Jeswon: We hooked up with Ray Mann originally because we did a track with him on ‘Sleeping On Your Style’ called ‘My Lady’. We had seen him playing all over Sydney as part of The Ray Mann Three and were keen to have him bless a track with his soulful voice. He actually hit us up to do a remix of one of his tunes but after we made Burn It Down, he felt that it had grown beyond a remix into a Thundas song that he was featuring on so he gave us the go ahead to include it on Foreverlution. Thanks Ray! I’m not sure if he is in Berlin now. It wouldn’t surprise me. I hear Berlin is an awesome city.

aahh: Wanna Be has this vibe that seems like this one enjoyable track to write and record. Do you guys try to cut lose a bit in the studio or is it a bit more of a concentrated effort?
Jeswon: ‘Wanna Be’ was an enjoyable track to write and record. It was one of the first songs we recorded vocals for and I think it encapsulates the excitement of starting the whole recording process. We are pretty focused on doing the best job we possibly can in the studio, because we want to be happy with the final result and also, studio time aint cheap so you don’t wanna be in there fucking around. Not to say that we wouldn’t have a little something something towards the end of each days session, but our attitude throughout was pretty professional surprisingly. If I am too pissed or smoked out or whatever when I record then I am not critical enough with my performance. I might think a take is awesome because I am a little faded. I prefer to have my wits about me.

aahh: Dimension 3 and the heavy heavy Thunda Cats feat. Dysphemic are tracks that really emphasise the futuristic/evolutionary theme. Are you guys fans of a bit of the Sci Fi action?
Jeswon: Yeah I dig all fiction. sci-fi or otherwise. ‘Dimension 3’ was actually based on the character on the front cover of ‘Foreverlution’ so thats where the inspiration for that song came from.

aahh: Plans for a national tour? We hope to see you with this new album in Adelaide sometime soon?
Jeswon: Yeah we are locking in a national tour as we speak and I am hoping that Adelaide will be on it. We are definitely playing Saturday 24 September at The Thebarton Theatre as part of Drapht’s Party, Party, Party Tour. So will hopefully catch you Thunda Cats there!

aahh: Fianl comments and thoughts?
Jeswon: Yeah I just want to thank everyone who has picked up Foreverlution already and shown us love for it, good lookin out!

Upcoming Tour Dates
Big Boi (Outkast) w/ Full Live Band + Thelophious London
Fri 26 Aug @ The Tivoli, Brisbane QLD
Sat 27 Aug @ Enmore Theatre, Sydney NSW
Fri 2 Sep @ The Palace Theatre, Melbourne VIC
Head over to Niche Productions Website for Ticketing details.

Drapht’s Party Party Party Tour w/ Muph & Plutonic + Layla and Dazastah:
Wed 14 Sep @ Station Hotel, Jindabyne NSW
Thu 15 Sep @ Penrith Panthers, Penrith NSW
Fri 16 Sep @ Enmore Theatre, Sydney NSW (All Ages)
Wed 21 Sep @ Bluestone, Ballarat VIC
Thu 22 Sep @ Chelsea Heights Hotel, Chelsea Heights VIC
Fri 23 Sep @ Palace Theatre, Melbourne VIC
Sat 24 Sep @ Thebarton Theatre, Adelaide SA (All Ages)
Sun 25 Sep @ Mildura Settlers Tavern, VIC
Thu 6 oct @ October Players Mandurah, WA
Fri 7 Oct @ Metro City, Perth WA
Sun 9 Oct @ Prince of Wales, Bunbury WA
Wed 12 Oct @ Armidale Uni, Armidale NSW
Thu 13 Oct @ Coff’s Ex-Sericeman’s Club, Coff’s Harbour NSW
Fri 14 Oct @ Yamba Bowling Club, Yamba NSW
Sun 16 Oct @ Sugarland Tavern, Bundaberg QLD
Head to Drapht’s website for all ticketing info!

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