By Antonio Castiglia (@antoniocastig)
Spit Syndicate’s Nick Lupi and Jimmy Nice have a been a key part of the Sydney hip-hop scene for a number of years. They return from a two year hiatus with their upcoming album, One Good Shirt Had Us All Fly (out April 14th), a project which focuses on style and aesthetics as much as the music itself. We recently sat down with them to talk about the concept and how they’ve worked to create the album.
So, first major release in 2 years. How have you guys maintained a strong work ethic throughout the album making process?
Nick: We go super hard with our music stuff. We have been living and breathing music for the past 10 years of our lives. As you get older, into the later end of your 20s, you find yourself wondering, is this going to happen? Is this what I should be doing with my time?
We reached a point with this record where we were like, what else are we going to do but this? It’s more of a rhetorical question. There is another stuff we could be doing but we want to honour the project by continuing to go hard at it. That’s what it takes, that’s the work ethic.
You’ve also been branching out and doing other non-music related projects as well. Jimmy, you recently had your first solo art show. How did that come to be?
Jimmy: When you are under pressure and doing a million things at once, your productivity levels start to sky rocket. We went down this path where we had so many things operating at the same time that we decided to go extra hard with this other shit as well.
It's a bit of if I don’t go hard at it now, it feels like I’ve missed the boat. It’s that thing about turning 30, I just wanted to try things out. I’d never done art like that before so I just wanted to see how it went.
Nick: We’re in a position now where we’ve still got heaps further to go in terms of where we want to take our music and levels of success. Both of us right now are living off music and art related stuff. We’ve always had random side jobs and things that we did whilst we did music as our main thing but right now, we don’t have those side jobs. Not having those jobs whilst doing creative projects is a huge victory.
One Day Sundays (regular parties that Spit Syndicate's crew hosts across Australia) are another side thing that you guys do which is a little more orientated towards music. Have they impacted the way you’ve made your album?
Nick: One Day Sundays is certainly something that’s happened over the past few years whilst we were making this record. The events and parties we've been doing as One Day have really grown and as they’ve grown they’ve really influenced our music in a sort of way. Being at these parties every month in different cities and seeing how people react to different styles of music has definitely had an impact on how we made the album.
Jimmy: Especially in this current climate where if you’re making money off music, you’re making money off touring. You need to have that somewhere in the back of your mind when you’re creating. Then you’re testing these songs out on the road and if they’re not going to translate well live you may need to do something else. It's a key part of the process.
Are the Pull Up Parties that you've just done, where anyone can turn up to a free album listening party, a further embodiment of that? Getting that feedback on an intimate level?
Nick: We've always wanted to do something where we can interact and kick it with our fans. For example, when we finish our shows, we always stand at the merch stand until everyone leaves. That's another reason behind One Day Sundays, to bring people together and kick it with the community. When the opportunity came on our tour with Illy, we wanted to play our album to fans. We want to bring in the people who listen to our music to build vibe for the project.
Our strength and drive comes from that. When our morale isn't high during the album making process and we go to play a show, there's that moment afterwards where people come up to you and back the vibe. It's a slap in the face that reminds you why you're doing it.
Jimmy: It makes people feel they're a part of it too. Not just to link up after it comes out, but to give people an element of exclusivity.
Saying that, you guys are hitting the road a bunch in the coming month. Is travelling a key part of the creative process?
Jimmy: Basically, there’s not too much keeping us in Sydney. We can still do what we do anywhere around the world. With every new album we make, we always like to take time to reboot after the drain of the previous album cycle. That’s how we did a bunch of One Good Shirt Had Us All Fly, went over to LA in the initial phase to gather some beats and then traveled through Central America. This album wouldn’t have been what is it without those trips.
Nick: Yeah, there’s those trips you take that are a bit of reward and allow you to just chill. Then there's also the writing trips. We spent all that time in Central America and Mexico, but also in Australia. That's how we made this album, these little trips away down the South Coast. It really helped us to connect with the process.
Jimmy: For this album compared to earlier ones, we were involved in the creative process from the first kick drum. We set up studios in these houses down the South Coast and were involved in every part of production. We were backseat driving, but sill involved in the creative process. It makes it special, adds an element of character to the album.
One Good Shirt Had Us All Fly is based a lot on fashion. Has style and fashion been a strong part of your lives for a while?
Jimmy: Being fresh and being fashionable is somewhat a part of it, but it’s more about the feeling you get when you put on something that represents something bigger than you. It comes from that insecurity you may have felt from wearing the wrong type of clothes for a situation, which is universal. Having fresh clothing is like a security blanket.
The title itself actually came from this ritual we had when we were younger where we used to share items of clothing around. It was a collective effort for everyone to shine. It’s reflective of how we made this album. There’s so many moving parts, so many people who contributed to it and so many stories that we’re the face of. That’s how we came up with the shirt idea and ran with a fashion aesthetic. It became about giving people something that’s high-end. The music represents a high-end garment in the attention to detail and how it’s come together.
Nick: Fashion and clothing is a big way about figuring out who you are and where you fit in. For us, clothing and music provided us with our identity. Hip-hop allowed us to see how we wanted to make our mark on the world, with fashion being a parallel to that a lot of the time.
Is the fashion angle about upholding a certain image as rappers?
Jimmy: For us, the content is as important as the image. The common theme throughout the album is to be fly without the clothing. The whole look and aesthetic is about presenting a quality product. It’s down to the videos, down to the artwork, it’s down to the online presence, it’s down to everything you do to show it off.
We especially wanted the cover of the album, being a shirt itself, to be an item that people could wear. The track list of the album is on the label of every shirt. It’s something that represents the vibe in a physical form.
Has this all played into how you’ve gone about your merch for the album release?
Jimmy: We’ve had previous ideas of merch that have been very run of the mill. As I was saying before, we want to make everything really high-end. We had all these ties with clothing brands and designers. We wanted to collaborate and create something that could work in both worlds. Everything we’ve done in this campaign had to be a cut above what we offered previously. It’s basically clothes we want to make, songs we want to hear. If you can’t wear the clothes that you expect your fans to wear, then what are you doing.