Words by Jack Herz.
Milwaukee Banks are a Melbourne-based duo who specialise in melding hazy, electronic beats with unflinching and emotive hip hop and rap. The men behind the music are Adrian ‘Edo’ Rafter, who handles the production side of things, and Dylan ‘Dyl’ Thomas who focuses on the lyrics and vocals. Between the unveiling of their ‘Rose Water’ EP in 2014 and a set at Laneway Festival the next year, the two began to garner a following of people that shared an appreciation for Australian Hip Hop with a bit of an edge to it. One year later, Dyl and Edo show no signs of slowing down with the announcement of their debut album ‘Deep Into The Night’. I spoke with the duo ahead of this release to discuss their influences outside of music, being the first local hip hop act on their label and a little of what we can expect from the new album.
I’m really loving this new wave of Australian hip hop that’s been emerging in the last few years with artists such as Remi and Allday. I feel like you guys are also embracing this and taking it to new places. What inspired you most to merge hip hop with more electronic-based sounds?
I guess it happened by chance. We both have our own tastes, influences and styles that we bring to this project. But Dyl definitely envisioned something in him rapping over my electronic beats, so we just explored it and tried out a bunch of ideas. So the inspiration was just simply to get creative and write some new music. We were just messing around with new ideas.
Would you say you are more influenced by Australian Hip Hop or American (or other countries) and what are some of the artists in particular that you look up to?
To be honest a lot of things that influence are outside of music. We look at things like art, design, photography and a lot of different creative processes that influence us. With music specifically, we’re fans of Australian, UK and US rap music, but also by a larger variety of sounds than just hip hop itself. We listen to a lot of R&B and different electronic music, heaps of random stuff.
When I’m listening to ‘Faded’ I can picture being in a club with the lights off, seeing occasional flashes of strobe lights and lasers while everything moves in slow motion. Would you say your live shows encapsulate a similar vibe (with leniency to the slow-motion part), or if not how would you personally describe them?
Yeah I guess that’s pretty accurate, no lasers though, maybe we should do that… We do like it to be pretty dark and smoked out when we perform. The live show has me (Edo) on the beats and Dyl rapping, but we have live visuals all sync’d to our beats to give it more of a vibe for the audience.
How did your signing with Dot Dash/Remote Control come about and can you tell us what it’s like to be sharing a roster with some of Australia’s most renowned artists and bands?
It was pretty amazing to get signed by Remote Control/Dot Dash. It was a label we both aspired to work with, so we’re both really happy it worked out. I think we’re the first local ‘hip hop’ act they’ve signed so that is pretty awesome too.The labels got a quite diverse (but as you said) renowned list of artists and bands, but I look at all the other artists on the label and think they’re all really good at their craft, which is rad.
With your upcoming album Deep Into The Night being released in a few weeks, can you tell us a bit about what we can expect from it lyrically, sonically and conceptually?
Deep Into The Night is our first album, and I think you should expect a big step up from the EP sonically and with the song writing, but we also spent a lot more time crafting and creating a variety of sounds for this record. We didn’t really have feature vocals on the EP, it wasn’t really planned out, it was just the music we had made at the time, but on this album we have a bunch of feature vocalists that we’re excited about. KUČKA and Deja just to name drop a couple…Lyrically it continues to explore a lot of the dark and introverted themes from the EP, and there is also a lot of honesty and statements in the lyrics about how we feel on a number of issues in life.
You recently released a new song called Reincarnated which seems to have a heavy trap-rap influence. This came as a surprise to me as I hadn’t heard this style come through in any of your previous songs. Where did the idea to incorporate this element in to your music come from?
Yeah the beat for reincarnated is pretty banging. With the album as a project, we tried to make it a pretty complete piece, so you can listen start to finish and experience the highs n’ lows and chill n’ trill of it all. Reincarnated is a bit more of a trap-rap heavy jam, but if you listen carefully there is still some pretty strong messages and statements in the song. With the EP I think a lot of people thought we only make soft chill shit, but tracks on the album like Reincarnated and Gold Rush highlight we can bang the beats hard, and Dyl can spit it like the best of them.
Your ‘Rose Water’ EP featured songs with a lot of pitched-down vocals, something that has been vacant in your more recent work. Was this a passing phase or will the concept be returning on Deep Into The Night?
There are a few parts on the album where some pitch-down vocals happen, but it isn’t really as much as a thing as when we did the EP. I guess that comes back to how the EP was written and this project really started. When we wrote the EP we were just experimenting, trying out new ideas and seeing if it worked. I wouldn’t say we’re done entirely with the pitch down vocals but we showcase much broader range of sounds and styles on the album.
Milwaukee Banks are set to release their debut album ‘Deep Into The Night’ on March 18th via Dot Dash/Remote Control.