Tom Scott and Lui Tuiasau's creative juices are flowing in their new hip-hop outfit, discovers Lydia Jenkin
Tom Scott is best known as the frontman for local hip-hop outfit Home Brew, who made a name for themselves with a soulful and gritty Tui Award-winning double-disc debut album, and a reputation for hijinks. He's one of the most perceptive and talented MCs in New Zealand, and he's also one fifth of another rising jazz-influenced hip-hop outfit: @Peace.
@Peace fell into being in 2011, after fellow MC Lui Tuiasau heard some of Scott's work, and decided to play him a few tunes of his own.
"Lui came up to a radio show I was doing on Base FM, and he played his music, and I was like 'who is this?'," Scott explains.
"It was kinda premeditated on my part," Tuiasau continues.
"Not to go on about it, but when I heard Tom's stuff, I though, man, that shit is crazy, and it inspired me to start writing again."
From there they started hanging out and writing, gathering fellow musicians Christoph El' Truento, James Hayden, Dick Dastardly and Brandon Haru to work on the beats, instrumentals and production, and next thing they knew, they had a 10-track EP ready to release.
"We never really had a master plan about creating a new musical group, but we had all these tracks and thought, 'shall we put them together in a little bundle?'," Tuiasau says.
"We did virtually no marketing around the first EP, we just put it out and word of mouth got round."
Scott didn't intend to have a second project away from Home Brew and thus the two acts are, in a way, two sides of the same musical coin.
@Peace has a more philosophical, less confrontational style, although both projects are instilled with a sense of wry humour.
Perhaps the biggest difference lies in the musicians - having Tuiasau to play against as a fellow MC and vocalist, and having three musicians who are steeped in the world of electronica, jazz and soul provides a different flavour.
"This is all I wanna do, this is my favourite kind of outlet as an artist, and we all challenge each other, which is great," explains Scott about his motivation to keep another project rolling.
"I don't think we consciously decided this was what we were going to do, but we're here now."
Of course, if it wasn't for their reasonable success - radio airplay, performance spots at festivals like Splore, sold-out gigs, and a recent nomination for the prestigious Taite Prize - things may have been different, but it appears their ruminations on community, mortality, space, motivation, and poverty, all delivered with a sly wink and a laugh, made an impact, and have their own place alongside Home Brew.
The opening track off their self-titled EP, Home, has become something of a succinct and touching anthem to the best and most frustrating bits of local life.
"When I grew up it was all about the people, it was about respecting your elders, respecting where you're from.
"I grew up in Avondale, and everyone had a mad sense of belonging, of community, they were really proud of the place they were from, they had AD [for Avondale] tattooed on their arms. But at the same time I kinda hate it when our sense of cultural identity is used to sell something, you know jandals at The Warehouse, or McDonald's. Mostly we're just trying to be honest."
Their honesty clearly fuels enough creative energy to fill multiple EPs and albums - they've just released another 10-track EP called Girl Songs, which is a sort of sideways deviation inspired by some hard relationship break-ups, and a prelude to the album which they're working on finishing.
"It's hard to write a song about something like space, among crippling depression," Scott nods.
"It'd be like 'Hey, Lui, I've written another song about how much I miss my girlfriend. Whaddya reckon? Would this suit the album?"'
Rather than trying to squash those inclinations, they decided to get the heartbreak off their chests by releasing the EP - a richly coloured collection of candid and raw hip-hop/R&B ballads which take the blame as much as they dish out any accusations.
"Yeah, we realised that we had a few of them," Tuiasau laughs, "and then thought it was a good concept, so we started directing our creativity to it."
Things have changed a bit since they wrote Girl Songs though, and Scott's now suffering the adverse problem. "I've been really uninspired because I'm in love, and I'm happy as hell. I'm too happy. My brain doesn't storm, unless everything else does. I need it to rain," he grins.
"You never know when the inspiration is gonna happen though," Tuiasau adds, "and as my basketball friends say, some days you can't get one in, some days you're on fire, but you have to turn up, otherwise you won't know."
Talking to other people, watching Ted Talks, and finding out what's going on out in the world are all good antidotes to writer's block (though Tuiasau reckons he doesn't read - but his dad teaches him things), and they recently spent time in Wellington working with vocalist/guitarist Mara TK and drummer/producer Riki Gooch. This means they've already got 10 draft tracks in the can for the album - now they just have to finish them.
"I think the album will pretty much pick up where the first EP left off. The album will be more like a movie I think, but still looking at things like finality and metaphysics, and infinity," says Scott. "There's a song called Out There, where we're talking to an alien, saying 'Of course you don't speak English, how very imperialist of me'. You know, saying, 'I wish we could've learned to understand you without language, all we can do is make a note reverberate'."
What: New EP Girl Songs
Where and when: Playing at Nectar Bar, Kingsland, Auckland, tomorrow