-By Conor Graham
This morning I caught up with Milwaukee Banks to ask them some questions. The Melbourne hip-hop duo are in the midst of their Australian tour and talked us through the album writing process and what fans can expect. Milwaukee Banks are producer, Edo and lyricist Dyl Thomas.
What is Milwaukee Banks, where did it all begin?
Dyl: I suppose it sort of officially started a few years ago but we have known each other for over 10 years now. I met Edo through my girlfriend’s sister who went to Uni with Edo and she was always talking about how much we had in common and we eventually met at a party and ditched the party to go back to Edo’s house to scratch some records. We sort of hit it off there and always stayed in contact and been into similar music. Edo went off DJ-ing and I started producing and then we ended up coming round full circle and started writing together just for fun. He was sending me stuff online and I started sending it back with vocals on it and he sorta started to dig it and that’s how it was born, it wasn’t something we consciously went into.
When you’re writing your songs do you do it together or is it a case of Dyl bringing the lyrics to you Edo?
Edo: It’s a bit of a mix sometimes we get in the studio together cause we both do production, so with the early stuff it was mainly me. I think still most of the time it’s us working on our own things and then emailing each other beats and then when there is something that’s working we get together and refine it.
How has this year been so far for you guys with the release and everything?
Dyl: With the release so far, the label did a launch party for it so we did a secret show and that was really cool but now we’re just on tour and we’ve only done one show so far.
Yea so the tours just begun, I see you’re coming to Fremantle on Friday.
Dyl: Yea we put the album out and we sort of expected it to a bit of a slow burner, we didn’t expect it to grab interest straight away but I think it’s slowly getting out there now, it’s good!
With the record was it a case of, OK we need to write an album or is there stuff on there that’s been lurking in your notepads and hard drives for a while?
Edo: It’s all new stuff..
Dyl: Well! One of the songs faded..
Edo: Aw yeah
Dyl: We had that for a while and we’ve been playing it around a bit so people knew that song but the majority of the work on it was written fresh for it. I think we at one time had almost 30 tracks, not all of them got finished, we sort of went through a period where we were really focused and inspired so we wrote a lot but then cut it all back. It wasn’t rushed or anything, all on our own terms and we’re really happy with it!
Edo: The album was a project we started writing a while ago but then when we knew what we wanted it to be conceptually, I guess that’s when it started to form and we could go back and refine all that we had.
When it comes to the lyrics, Reincarnated talks about floating on top of “Pyramids” and the “Third Eye”, which is also mentioned in Gold Rush. Dyl is there something specifically you’re trying to convey or anything that inspires you when writing?
Dyl: I get asked this all the time! It’s something that’s not in every type of music. It’s not a conscious effort on my behalf to put into songs. It’s the sort of stuff I’m into. I like the out there topics and I research that sort of stuff and I’ve been into it ever since I was kid so it just found its way into my music. I like to get on the mind bending and spiritual tip sometimes but also keep the pretty crowd in every day life things. It’s not some sort of gimmicky thing, it’s stuff that I think about.
What did you both grow up listening to and do you think that has influenced you and the music you now write?
Dyl: Yeah I grew up listening to a lot of my Dad’s records. He would play old psych rock, Pink Floyd, blues, Chuck Berry and stuff and then when I got older my older brother was listening to hip-hop and punk, but I was more into rock and hip-hop. Hip-hop took over and the stuff that grabbed my attention was the more inward focused stuff like gangster shit but I couldn’t really write about gangster shit cause I wasn’t living that life but I liked the aesthetic of it. When it came to the conscious stuff I sort of gravitated towards that. Like an album that I like always coming back to is Aquemini by Outkast. That record is a big one for me cause its so layered and deep on so many levels. It’s more like a piece of art. I’ve always gravitated towards artists pushing boundaries in what they’re doing.
Edo: I listened to a lot of sample-based hip-hop and instrumental hip-hop and stuff in my later teen years. I used to DJ a lot and spin hip-hop a lot but always into electronic and dance music really. When I was starting to write beats and sending Dyl music it was kind a weird blend of that sort of stuff.
Yeah well that keeps it interesting, I always find it fascinating to see how peoples influences affect the music they’re writing.
Edo: I remember when I first moved to Melbs. The band I was most into was The Avalanches. I used to see them live a bit. It blew my mind seeing sample based stuff using synths. They could switch it up from funky dance tunes to like hip-hop style stuff.
And that’s quite a big deal at the time in Australia.
Edo: Aw god yea, huge!
So who in and around Melbourne is catching your eye at the minute?
Dyl: Just all my friends [laughs] I listen to a lot of electronic music in Melbourne.
Edo: Melbourne has just got people doing like all styles, really diverse. We played a show recently with our friends called Friendships. They’re doing harder dance stuff and just wild out there stuff and sometimes he stops the beats and does some spoken word. Those guys are quite stunning visually and sonically. Our other mates, RaRa that do really like crazy eccentric RnB, hip-hop stuff, like really unique, and has it’s own style and sound. Then there are people like Kllo that are doing electronic pop music.
Outside of music, are you guys hip hop 24/7? What do you like to do outside the music?
Edo: Dyl works, I’m not really working at the minute…I watch a lot of basketball so maybe I am hip hop 24/7! [laughs]. We do other stuff outside of Milwaukee Banks and I guess that s what keeps us passionate, interested and driven with this project. We think abut it a lot.
Dyl: Milwaukee Banks is definitely a busy project, there’s always stuff to do every night. It’s exciting but it’s good to have a project that you can focus on. I don’t get sick doing any of it. I like the break between music and the band.
So after the tour, what does the rest of the year have in store?
Edo: We got some stuff studio and writing time organised, then we might be playing some shows, yea, we’re probably gonna play some shows internationally…but we’re not able to totally talk about it yet. But yea do some writing then head overseas and do some shows.
Have you been overseas much yet at all, or has it all been Oz based?
Edo: Not at all with this project, yea, it’s gonna be wild! Super exciting news for us.
You can catch Milwaukee Banks on tour here:
May 13 : Mojos Bar – Fremantle
May 27 : The World Bar – Potts Point
May 28 : Rocket Bar & Rooftop – Adelaide
June 11 : Karove Lounge – Ballarat
Photo Credit: Milwaukee Banks