Hilltop Hoods’ Suffa On ‘The Great Expanse’ Tour, The ‘Side of Stage’ Initiative & The Albums That Take Him Back To His TeensWritten by Sarah Bellamy on May 23, 2019
Hilltop Hoods have announced they will be heading on a mammoth 14-country tour later this year. The tour – titled ‘The Great Expanse World Tour’ – is in support of their recent album by the same name, with the hip-hop outfit returning for their Australian leg in August/September to play five headline shows across the country.
Their latest album debuted at #1 on the ARIA Charts, making it their sixth consecutive album to do so. The Great Expanse was also the band’s sixth ARIA #1 album, giving Hilltop Hoods the accolade of most #1 albums by an Australian band. Recent singles ‘Clark Griswold’ feat. Adrian Eagle and ‘Leave Me Alone’ have gone platinum and double platinum, respectively, and their 2016 single ‘1955’ currently has over 55 million streams on Spotify.
Hilltop Hoods have also recently announced the creation of their initiative with CanTeen called ‘Side of Stage’. This project aims to offer those living with cancer and their carers free access to live shows and festivals. Some of the other artist ambassadors already onboard include Illy, Holy Holy, Montaigne, and The Vanns.
We caught up with founding member Suffa to talk about the band’s upcoming world tour, their work with the CanTeen ‘Side of Stage’ initiative, and albums that remind him of being a teenager.
Music Feeds: How did it feel, hearing that you’d broken the record for the most number one albums by an Australian band?
Suffa: We were very surprised. Our manager, it was more like a goal of his, for a long… not for a long time, I guess from when he found out that it was possible. But for us, I dunno, it didn’t really seem something that was attainable, I guess.
MF: Do you remember where you were when you found out?
S: That’s a very good question [pauses]. Yes! [laughs]. That was me being surprised at my own brain. We were in Wellington for the last Eminem show. We landed in Wellington and he [our manager] was waiting there with a couple of bottles of champagne in the airport.
MF: That’s so sweet! What was playing with Eminem like?
S: It was great! The shows were amazing, just the sheer size and volume of people, especially the MCG show, was a bit intimidating. But yeah, it was a great experience, the crowds were great!
MF: The Great Expanse World Tour will see you guys playing across 14 countries, what are your favourite things to do to unwind and relax when on tour?
S: Oh man, you know I’ve got two kids at home, my favourite thing to do is sleeeeeep [laughs]. I’ve done a lot of partying and now my favourite thing to do is just pound that mattress with some z’s. I know, it’s super exciting, right?
MF: How have your lyrics changed from the start of Hilltop Hoods in the nineties to now?
S: We were knuckleheads [laughs]. We were young, teenage lads when we started off. We were knuckleheads, we said a lot of dumb things that teenage boys tend to do. I like to think we’ve grown a lot since then and matured a lot.
MF: Do you find the content has changed over time?
S: Oh, for sure! I mean, because like, things become less important. When we first started out we were sort of, purely rhyming for the sport of it, and it was like, almost competitive and stuff like that. You go along and that stuff’s still fun to do, but it does get boring, so you find yourself sort of, trying to come up with interesting ways to approach songs, ideas and narratives and that sort of thing, I guess to keep it interesting for yourself as well.
MF: Do you have any songs or albums you used to listen to as a teenager that take you right back to being a teenager again?
S: Oh man, so many of them! Public Enemy’s Fear Of A Black Planet puts me in my bedroom of my parents’ house [laughs]. I can picture the posters on the wall and everything. There are so many albums I’ve got like that. Souls Of Mischief 93’ Til Infinity takes me to this park that we grew up near.
You know how they say smell is more attached to memory than any other sense? I feel like I’ve got that, but my strongest sense is nineties rap albums [laughs]. There’s just a plethora of them and they take me back.
MF: Yeah, I feel that way with music too, I totally get it. What made you want to start performing? Was it the same kind of things that influenced you as a teenager or things further back?
S: Yeah, I mean, when we first started out we were just sort of like, mimicking what we were hearing. Even down to like – when we were 15/16 – the subject manner and American accents and all that sort of stuff. We were just mimicking what we were hearing. We were so in love with the music that it was something we wanted to do ourselves. It spoke to us.
MF: You guys have been involved with the CanTeen ‘Side of Stage’ initiative. Can you tell me a little bit about that and what made you want to become involved?
S: We initially became involved because Pressure, my off-sider, his mum had childhood leukemia, and as a result Dan [Pressure] became involved with a couple of childhood cancer-related charities including Little Heroes and CanTeen. We just thought… we were looking through our prism, I guess, seeing how many requests we get for you know, tickets for people in that situation, the families and carers not just the people that are dealing with cancer themselves, and just realised how it could help lift people up that were in that situation if they were able to make it to a festival and see their favourite band or just go to a concert and maybe go backstage and get a photo with someone.
So yeah, CanTeen’s been great. It’s just sort of, starting off, so I think it’s still finding its feet but hopefully a few years from now it’s just part of one of the services that CanTeen provides.
MF: Have you had any stories of people who have participated in the initiative?
S: Oh, for sure! We had people side-of-stage at Groovin’ The Moo. For our upcoming tour we’ll definitely be getting people along, seeing if we can organise for side-of-stage or backstage experiences. It’s been rolling along, they’ve already done a bunch of things. Obviously especially because it’s childhood cancer and teens, a lot of the music that’s going to be popular is the Katy Perrys or the Taylor Swifts, or that sort of thing that comes through. Next time something like that comes through that’s under the umbrella of CanTeen, I think will be its time to really be of value to that community.
MF: Where are you most excited to play on the Great Expanse Tour?
S: I’m not gonna lie, the hometown one’s pretty good ‘cause I can sleep in my bed [laughs]. I don’t know, they were all great for some reason, last time we did it. Rod Laver, the Sydney crowd was great, Brisbane and Perth were awesome as well. In arenas it’s sort of like… I dunno, once you’re in an arena it’s all sort of overwhelming so it’s hard to pick favourites. But definitely the hometown ones for being able to have your family and friends along.
MF: Are there any countries you’re playing that you haven’t played yet?
S: Belgium! Haven’t played Belgium before, so I think we’re doing a little shoebox 400-person room or something like that. That’ll be great! We don’t get much time there, but I’m always excited to go to a new place, hopefully see a little bit, meet the locals and whatnot.
MF: What’s the writing process like for you guys? Do think ‘we’ve gotta make an album’, and then make it, or do you slowly write the whole time, and jot down lyrics in notes on your phone and that sort of thing?
S: Yeah, all of that. I mean, we sort of tend to never stop writing, you know? I’ve got notes in my phone, I’ve got screenshots of YouTube videos of where I like samples. I’ve got literal 3,000 voice memos, plus, and I think Dan’s very the same. We always discuss how our biggest fear is people finding our phones and just like, posting our voice memos to the internet [laughs]. Hiding in a bathroom at three in the morning in your house, trying not to wake up anyone by singing a bass-line into your phone… probably would be on the higher-end of embarrassing [laughs].
But yeah, when it gets closer to a project, once we come off the road, that’s when we should really start writing and recording.
MF: What are you most looking forward to for the rest of this year?
S: I’m not going to lie to you, and it sounds bad this is the end of the tour, because I do enjoy touring and I love performing, doing the shows and traveling and everything. But we finish the whole tour in Hawaii. The last show’s in Hawaii and all our families are going to meet us there and we’re going to spend a week there afterwards and hang out. That’s where I had my honeymoon, so I’m really looking forward to going back there. The kids will have a ball as well!
Hilltop Hoods will embark on the Australian leg of ‘The Great Expanse World Tour’ this coming August and September. Tickets on sale now. See below dates and details.
Hilltop Hoods ‘The Great Expanse’ National Tour
Presale tickets available via VISA from 9am (local) Wednesday 15 May.
General public on sale at 10am (local) Monday 20 May.
Friday, 9 August – NEW SHOW
ROD LAVER ARENA, Melbourne
Saturday, 10 August – SOLD OUT
ROD LAVER ARENA, Melbourne
Saturday, 17 August
ADELAIDE ENTERTAINMENT CENTRE, Adelaide
Friday, 23 August – NEW SHOW
Saturday, 24 August – SOLD OUT
Saturday, 31 August
QUDOS BANK ARENA, Sydney
Saturday, 7 September
RAC ARENA, Perth