"Talking about social issues isn’t really as sexy as a party song or about getting trashed all the time, that kind of stuff, you know, a lot of people connect with straight away."
Since releasing their last album, The Herd have toured Australia over and worked on other projects, while in late 2012 the entire Elefant collective was invited to the Graphic Festival at Sydney Opera House to put on a performance deconstructing the literary works of Theodor Seuss Geisel, aka Dr Seuss – The Herd taking on Cat In A Hat. Label co-founder, producer and Herd musician Kenny 'Traksewt' Sabir explains how invaluable the experience was for the group, as well the entire Elefant roster. “It was certainly a great honour to be the first to put on a show like this. And to be the first rap act, too. It was also great to sit back and see the cross pollination between the Elefants working outside of their respective bands and really making it work.”
It's the cross-pollination across the roster and a social conscience that keeps the artists, (Ozi Batla, Urthboy, Unkle Ho, Toe-Fu, Traksewt, Rok Poshtya, Berzerkatron, SuLo and Jane Tyrell) from constantly churning out radio-friendly, party-loud Herd material. Sabir compares their sixth album, Future Shade, to the group's previous work, explaining how The Herd's latest album reaffirms their status standing outside of mainstream rotation. “We had a certain sound that cut through (to the mainstream) earlier on but there wasn't one track that cut through to the mainstream off this last album. And we accept that; not that we would have changed anything or cut out songs – what we have we were happy with. Talking about social issues isn't really as sexy as a party song or about getting trashed all the time, that kind of stuff, you know, a lot of people connect with straight away. Social issues, you have to be either completely engrossed in the music straight away and can understand it or are accepting of people who want to say things out of the ordinary or challenge people's views. So it's definitely going to make it a smaller market and yeah, they're the choices we make.
“For example, one of the songs we had was about child abuse – My Sister's Palace – so if you were going to have in mind of having your music played loud at parties, then these wouldn't be the topics you would be talking about, but they're topics that we feel we need to discuss.”
2011's Future Shade marks ten years since a bunch of solo artists collaborated together on the same album, thus becoming The Herd as a band. Sabir tells the story of a time in 2000 before the banding together, one involving a dodgy van, disqualification and breaking down on the way home, not far from the venue they are set to play some 14 years later at the Peak Festival.
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“Me, Ozi Batla and Toe-Fu played in a busking competition out in Thredbo in 2000. I had just bought this dodgy old van off my dad a week before. And so we're travelling down there and the van was so dodgy like, instead of five hours it took 12 hours and could only make 40 [km/h] up a hill. We got there so late that we were disqualified from the competition for missing the start of it. So we asked if we could play anyway. They said, 'Sure, do what you like.' So yeah, we played in the snow for the weekend and had some fun. And of course the van broke down on the way home.
“The people that did win – and who we actually shared a room with – were two people from the band that became Blue King Brown.” Had the three of them been allowed to compete, Sabir remarks, “it would have been a good competition. So, that's how it all started.”
Formerly The Perisher Snowy Mountains Of Music Festival, the now named Peak Festival is a massive gig involving 130 shows over four days with The Herd closing the festival, illustrating how far The Herd has trekked over the last 14 years. So, keeping the crowd warm and amped won't pose a problem for the veteran band.
“We'll have to keep everybody warm. That's one of our strengths, as a live band after having done it for such a long time. We've got the jumping around on stage pretty down pat now.”
Looking forward, Sabir hints at another album being on the cards for The Herd, albeit lightly pencilled into next year's agenda. “We've got a few things on the schedule this year: Jane Tyrell's album, which is exciting, and Astronomy Class are just about to wrap up their next release. So, yeah it takes us a while. We've gotta get these instrumental projects out of the way. Chill out and then... feel the need to get stuff written out. I think this budget is a pretty good catalyst.”