Funkoars quickly established themselves as one of Australia’s most irreverent and talented hip-hop crews in the early 2000s, gathering acclaim from fans and critics alike with a singular, schizophrenic production style that matched the large, braggadocious nature of their lyrics and ear-worm hooks.
Following on from the acclaim garnered by their 2011 album, The Quickening, Funkoars quickly got back to work on issuing a new salvo, recently launching the Dawn of the Head EP at a sold-out show in Adelaide, which culminated with an epic 20-emcee cypher as its closing number.
To get the lowdown on the boys’ latest release, itself a precursor to their forthcoming fifth studio album, to be titled In Case of Emergency, we caught up with emcee Sesta, who told us about the band’s aborted made-for-TV movie and what it’s like being “the crust on the Eminem sandwich.”
Music Feeds: When you guys first assembled in 1999, was there any indication that homegrown hip-hop would one day have such a prominent place in Australia’s musical landscape?
Sesta: No way! [That] was entirely incomprehensible, but I think that’s what gave the local scene such a strong foundation. There was no promised light at the end of the tunnel that your average band would dare to dream of.
It forged an entire scene of artists who were just doing it for the love [of it], they were doing original stuff not worried about how their music was going to fit into an established market.
At the time we would be surprised if people who we didn’t actually personally know somehow heard our music, but that wasn’t what mattered, we just really enjoyed the process of making the songs.
MF: You guys have made references to groups like Gravediggaz in your music, what were some other formative influences — Australian or otherwise — on what became Funkoars?
S: As far as music, Akinyele was always held in high regard. Elsewhere, I’d have to say Centrelink was pretty influential. Hons would come to my house on check day and we’d finish a case of imported (from Melbourne) beer and a hot chicken. We passed it back and forth on a body board in a small wading pool we got from Cheap As Chips. Came up with a lot of ideas there, sort of.
MF: How did you guys react when you found out that you’d become “the crust in the eminem sandwich“?
S: Would have preferred to be the parmigiana topping on his wiener schnitzel but what are you going to do? Seriously though, we were extremely grateful just to be in the same area as an artist of that calibre. We are always shocked and stunned that there are people out there who want to buy and listen to our music, but the feedback has been awesome.
We get so deeply immersed in our own bubble when we work on a project, so when we come out of it we never know what to expect, so it has been a great sense of relief.
Watch: Funkoars – A Clockwork Purple
MF: You guys have also been rocking the ARIA charts. To what do you attribute the success of Dawn of the Head?
S: The rumours of a made-for-TV movie about our early years kinda swept the public up in a frenzy. We’re pretty happy since there’s no chance of it ever happening due to lack of interest from networks, the public, production, and the people involved.
MF: How have changes in the group and your surrounds between The Quickening and Dawn of the Head been reflected in the EP and/or the upcoming new album?
S: From a production point of view, we used less samples and focused more on playing instruments ourselves, while still processing anything we played like we would if we had sampled a record, so we didn’t sacrifice the sound that we have.
It lead to a much more enjoyable and dynamic chemistry in the studio, which I think translated well into the EP and is continuing on to the LP we are currently working on. That and being surrounded by a positive and hardworking team which allow us to focus mainly on making the music.
MF: Quote: “We like slamming beats and filthy raps so that’s pretty much what we do.” Is this still the Funkoars mission statement or have things become more calculated and planned-out since then?
S: It’s definitely a well distilled version. The Oars of old have been repeatedly put through a sieve and spat back out each time with a slightly more refined version of their nonsense. There’s a little more method to the madness behind the execution now but the creation is as chaotic as ever.
MF: At the moment you guys are working on what you’ve described as “building momentum.” In terms of the bigger picture, what’s that momentum building towards?
S: Mainly finishing our new album and working out new cool ways to interact and engage with our fans.
Things have never felt better in the Oars camp, not just at home in the studio, but the last few tours we have done it has been really cool getting to meet all the people who come to our shows, both veteran fans and a stack of people who only know us from our last album.
There always seems to be a real positive vibe at our shows, which has got us super keen to finish more music and just get back out there touring.
MF: Trials called The Quickening “the full release handy j at the end of a really fucking long and shit massage.” Keeping that in mind, how would you describe Dawn of the Head and In Case of Emergency?
S: DOTH is Kanye West thrusting motorcycle handlebars in the Bound 2 video. When it came out, there were so many wins going on you’d be forgiven for overlooking it but it’ll always be there when you’re in need.
In Case of Emergency is like an aggressive foot rub from your neighbour, you’re kinda familiar with how it’s going to go down, but the closeness of it makes everyone a bit uncomfortable.
MF: What would be your door-to-door sales pitch for the new EP?
S: Six heavy, sweat-dripping pockets of nervous energy, tightly duct-taped together, and pressed really hard onto wax. We really did whatever we wanted this time around. As usual, focusing hard on heavy, high-energy beats, technically rapping as best we can while still conveying our sense of humour and irrelevant opinion of the world. We have really been stoked at how it has been recieved.
If you were a fan of the EP, you will love the LP.
MF: You guys will soon be playing the Big Pineapple Music Festival, which has some fellow Aussie hip-hop muscle on the lineup. Can we expect a cypher like that which closed the DOTH launch?
S: We (kinda) drink a lot less on the road these days, which means people don’t avoid us nearly as much, so yes, anything’s possible. What we can guarantee is you’ll see four humans go from ice cube casual to monster mash in 30 seconds or less for the duration of our set, fun for the whole family.
Funkoars’ new EP, ‘Dawn of the Head’, is available now. See them at the Big Pineapple Music Festival this May.