Why Their Golden Era Will End In A Pool Full Of Models

22 February 2016 | 2:32 pm | Brynn Davies

"We took this dive and all along we've been going, 'So far, so good. So far, so good'. But then, we're at the end of it now..."

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It's easy to forget that the three men in our office chatting in earnest about the cuteness of puppy dogs are hip hop royalty. Matt Lambert (Suffa), Daniel Smith (MC Pressure) and Barry Francis (DJ Debris) are some of the funniest, happiest Aussie blokes to ever shoot the breeze into The Music's recorder, and it's almost exhausting keeping up with the banter around the table to bring the conversation back to their latest drop Drinking From The Sun, Walking Under Stars: Restrung. "A lot of people on our socials have been nagging for us to restrung… restring things… We say 'restrung' like it's a word, but it's a word we came up with and we use it like it's a word," muddles Lambert with a grin. "It's going to be in the Oxford dictionary soon," Smith jumps in. "But it's not a word," laughs Lambert. We looked it up. It is a word; they've just found a new context to use it in. And these veterans have earned the right to use it any way they like.

"The way people connect with Kanye, you know, it’s so unrelatable to the average person: “Tell PETA my mink is dragging on the floor”.

Hilltop Hoods have created something akin to mythology around their latest works, with their last two albums interlinked by subtle clues and lyrical references that begins with a sample in The Thirst Pt 3 from Drinking From The Sun (2012): "They were recording enough music for two albums — that was premeditated." That second album was Walking Under Stars, and songs from both have been combined for their second 'restrung' extravaganza, which was recorded over three days with the 32-piece Adelaide Symphony Orchestra, plus the 20-piece Adelaide Chamber Singers Choir.

"Firstly, it's not classical music — it's an orchestra playing hip hop, there is a vast difference," clarifies Smith. Lambert enthuses, "It's the same songs but just amplified, the orchestra adds… adds," losing his sentence, with Smith finishing "Adds grandeur," with a flourish. "Grandeur, yeah! What a word…" agrees Lambert. "It lends itself to the sensibility of more melancholy tracks like Through The Dark. Heightens the emotion." He's not kidding — if you shed a tear over the track in question back in 2013 then be prepared to unashamedly sob when you hear the restrung version… which we may or may not have done in the office when listening to the album last week. "Sorry about that. The new version is much more depressing," says Smith, who wrote the song for his son Liam during his six-month chemotherapy treatment.

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The Hoods have always written transparent lyrics — listening to their discography is like watching a series of home movies on the trials and tribulations of their home lives. “I think personal stories are relatable to everyone. Like, the way people connect with Kanye, you know, it’s so unrelatable to the average person: “Tell PETA my mink is dragging on the floor”. But it’s such a good story and it’s so interesting. That’s what it’s all about; sharing a bit of your story and having people take bits and pieces from it that they relate to, and then the bits that they don’t relate to themselves is… is something outside of… um…” Lambert makes some weird hand movements to elaborate his point, and leans into the recorder to explain that “I got these hand movements showing up. I mean it just looks like a globe inside of a cube…” Very philosophical. 

"Man, I forgot you were in that car accident until I listened to The Thirst again."

Their five-date tour — complete with a 50-piece orchestra and choir — kicks off in April, and they're pretty nervous. "It's kinda tight, we get a rehearsal with [the orchestra] on the day, and the choir the night before," says Lambert. "You wouldn't wanna get on the stage cold and just do that for the first time and hope that it all works out… that's a lotta hoping!" contemplates Smith. "That's a pretty big thing to fuck up." "And if it can get fucked up, we can fuck it up," laughs Lambert.

The album has a few new gems, with singles Higher featuring James Chatburn and 1955 featuring Montaigne and Tom Thum, bringing in fresh goods and interspersed with 12 of the Hoods' favourite six songs from each original album. But what's really going to intrigue die-hards is the extension of The Thirst series, which seemed to have ended with The Thirst Pt 5 on Walking Under Stars. "It just goes on, and on, and on," says Francis in relation to the latest The Thirst installments: Pt 6 and Pt 7. "There was a hint at the end of Pt 5 that it was going to continue," he jokes, with Lambert adding, "It's sort of like writing a memoir. Our memory's so bad that we have to record what's going on in our lives just so we know what happened later on. Man, I forgot you were in that car accident until I listened to The Thirst again," he laughs, turning to Francis, who cracks up the table with an enthusiastic, "So did I!"

But for those who may have been scrambling to Google Translate the final par of Pt 7 (which is in French), sorry to burst your bubble — it's not another clue for their next project. "Nah, it's not a hint," apologises Lambert. "Have you ever seen a film called La Haine? The verse is about a story that one of the characters tells about a guy falling from a skyscraper, and all the way down he's saying, 'So far, so good. So far, so good'. That's what my verse is about; we took this dive and all along we've been going, 'So far, so good. So far, so good'. But then, we're at the end of it now, and at the end of that story he says, 'So how will we land?...'" "In a swimming pool full of models," says Francis, deadpan. "Well, DJ Debris's had it! Jesus Christ, he doesn't say much but when he does…" says a hysterical Smith. "Nah, we're all taking a break. Our manager doesn't know what he's going to do with himself."

"I'm having a baby in July," grins Lambert, to which Smith snorts and says, "I'm having a sleep in. A month-long one." Ignoring him, Lambert continues: "We're taking time off to get back to life, it gets away from you when you're touring. Also, I've gotta vacuum. I haven't vacuumed in so long." "What the? That segue… I've got a dishwasher, but I'm not looking forward to doing the dishes," laughs Smith. "This thing's just come out of nowhere. 'What are you gonna do on your holiday, Suffa?' 'Fuck, I'm gonna vacuum!" "Debris is in a pool full of models and I'm vacuuming! Priorities bro," jokes Lambert, and we need another minute to calm down.