Last year at our Live Lodge pop-up venue, Shepparton rapper, Briggs, unveiled his new label, Bad Apples. While hardly less significant, the show simultaneously served as an introduction to his new collaborative project with Trials from The Funkoars. The pair — who have been trading verses for some years — were now formerly unified under one name: A.B. Original.
"We wrote an EP first, and then we showed Golden Era [Records] and a couple of other heads, and they said 'hey man, you should just flesh this out'", Trials explains of the project's evolution so far. "When we did that, the record started taking a bit of a life of its own."
That record is now — almost — ready. Entitled Reclaim Australia — referencing a far-right Australian group — the self-described "raw [and] honest" LP is due via Bad Apples later in the year.
Ahead of a return to the Live Lodge stage this September for their own headline show, we caught up with the duo to talk about their debut album, views on the recent Four Corners report on indigenous youth youth detention conditions and their intriguing Twitter beef with basketballer Andrew Bogut.
Briggs, when we last spoke, about a year ago, the Bad Apples label was just getting started. How has it evolved since then?
Briggs: It's been like a steady pace, man. A lot of growth, there's been a lot of music floating around in emails, a lot of good work the boys've been doing in the community and also in the studio as well. Birdz has just been on The Funkoars tour, which is always good, you know what I mean? You get out there, get in front of a crowd, and just perform. Night after night after night.
Trials: Yeah, it's his first national tour as well. So it's nice that we brought the homie on the tour with us.
And as far as controlling expectations, how are you guys seeing it so far, has it exceeded what you'd planned or is it really just in that groundwork stage at this moment?
Briggs: I really try to keep it organic, you know what I mean? I didn't wanna put too much expectations on the dudes signed to the label, and I didn't want to have any expectations for the label except longevity. That's the only expectation I set, to create something sustainable and also a good environment for everyone to be able to throw in, and make their music. And be comfortable. It wasn't like 'we want to release this many records', or 'sell this many', or 'do this many tours'. I feel like that comes organically, after everyone's happy and in a good place as artists. And there's also family.
And as far as A.B. Original goes...
Briggs: We're different. [Laughs]. Like when I talk about that, that's where the new stuff is. There's definitely expectations on ourselves.
You two have obviously been recording together for a while, why come together now to do a full length release?
Briggs: Have you ever seen that movie Space Cowboys? Where they gotta have one last shot at it? [Trials laughs]. And probably go with Clint Eastwood after all?
I feel like it was just right timing in our respective careers. Trials is always busy, and I try to keep myself busy also.
I also think it was also the right time politically for that to happen because, there's been a lot of rap music coming out in the country that doesn't even sound like rap music no more. So we're kind of the antithesis of that.
What do you put that down to?
Briggs: They're a bunch of bitches [Laughs].
Trials: I believe in scientific term is... [Laughs].
Briggs: It's hard to put a finger on people, making music [they] make, maybe it's just personal tastes. But I wasn't hearing rap music that I know rap music to be, you know what I mean? I wanted to hear some rap music that was the stuff I listen to.
And with you two, how far apart are your individual tastes? What did you grow up listening to and is it very far apart or is this kind of a natural collaboration?
Briggs: I think me and [Trial]'s musical taste, in some aspects, are the same. And then also, we've got our own tastes as well...
Trials: Which helps with the record so much as well, which makes it take the record into different spots because we both have the same base. We both love all that, west coast gangster rap, you know? That's what we both came up on as kids. And the idea for the record when we first started off was to make the records that we heard growing up – the stuff that was full of energy, full of defiance, you know full of anger, for lack of a better word. That got their point across. The kind of things that are pure to us as grade five kids
We were like 'man, you know what, fuck this. Lets get our logo on the young kids' pencil cases instead of doing Wu-Tang logos and shit.
Briggs: I want kids scratching our logo on their lockers [Laughs].
Trials: Me and [Briggs] are fully confident in the kind of music that we like and the music that we write, so we got to go from one aspect of the West Coast gangster rap to the kind of contemporary style which it still has, tinges of all the vintage shit that we like as well, unashamedly as well.
A lot of dudes are trying their hardest to walk away from that sound now, and purposely be progressive, because that's what's pop and whatever. And we just wanted to make a good, passionate record that was heartfelt that you could hear and feel mostly.
Briggs: Yeah we didn't want to be a progressive bunch of biters, man. [Laughs].
What are the contemporary influences you mention, because obviously the vintage stuff you're referring to this that West Side Connection and the Death Row era, right?
Briggs: Yeah, that real Death Row pop kind of stuff. That golden era of rap past. But I guess the contemporary kind of sound that we also enjoy is like, you know that Run The Jewels kind-of intensity. It flows in the same vein of that intensity — in your face.
And I guess there is an anger basis, or at least a certain tone...
Briggs: It's actually aggression and hostility. And I would hate for people to assume that it was angry for anything but the sake of being angry, there's definite direction.
Trials: That's the thing, what we're saying is, we're not saying anything new. That's where the aggression and the frustration comes from. All the topics we touch on are things that've been spoken about for years, for decades now, and still don't receive that kind of attention. And now that Bad Apples have such a platform, it just felt super right to do one collectively where we can say 'nah, fuck it, that's what it is!'. You can either pay attention now, or, when are you gonna pay attention?
Briggs: Or it's been said, by artists in the states, and people have recognised that these things are being said in the states, but they don't want to recognise that it's happening here in Australia. Like, black lives matter elsewhere.
Trials: That's one of the most typical fucking things about this whole thing. Is that you can get so many people changing their profile picture and retweeting whatever the fuck on the internet when it comes to American politics because they're still at home with that because they watch Frasier or whatever-the-fuck on the weekend. When it comes back home, they're completely blind to it, when it's exactly the same, it's not worse. You've got Four Corners popping off the other day, and people are shocked and we're like, 'nah, we've been telling these stories for a long time'.
I know you've previously talked about not wanting to waste your spotlight opportunity, in regard to using the attention you've now got to get your own messages out. What is the message on this new record?
Briggs: Fuck 'em. [Laughs].
Trials: Yeah mostly collectively, 'fuck 'em and fuck that'.
Briggs: Fuck them, fuck the lot of them. It's about being a presence, man. When I did Sheplife, I was about leaving a legacy. When we embarked on this A.B. Original album, it was about being the rappers that we wish we'd had when we were kids.
Trials: Yeah exactly, exactly.
Briggs: That's what it was about. It was about being the rappers that we wish we could've aspired to. Because we didn't have, in the mainstream, rappers here to look up to. Black rappers and indigenous rappers to look up to. You only had Ice Cube. And that's cool, we can identify with that, but not wholeheartedly. It's not exactly the same.
Trials: And you see the same patterns with our cousins and our nephews. Everyone bangs Ice Cube, everyone bangs Ice T, 50 Cent and all that shit because they feel right about it.
Briggs: ...and they're still banging 2Pac.
Trials: Exactly, exactly, and you know why? Because it's raw, it's honest, something speaks to them. That's what me and [Briggs] wanted to do, this raw, honest record that we know is gonna get their attention. And not just the black kids, it's not about that. It's about telling everyone what's going on. But it's also about making our brothers and our nephews and our nieces and our sisters feel welcome and know that this is still a platform they're allowed to stand on, and they should.
Briggs: And the other thing, like beyond it just being a message and being a platform for us, it also has to be cool as shit. If the music's not hot, and it's not cool, then no one's going to give a fuck about it. So it's definitely, the illest shit that's come out of the country in a long time.
How about rap being scary again, you know what I mean? Like, I'm not scared of none of these rappers. Like if I can bash your whole squad, you don't have much of a squad. [Both laugh]
Trials: But it's not just that either. It's like black people taking pride in their cultures sometimes - to a lot of corners of this country — is still is scary in itself. That was something that we really wanted to take ownership of, and say 'naaah'. This is cool as fuck. This is one of the oldest cultures going. Don't you be ashamed of that. Be proud of that shit, scream it from the fucking rooftops and bang this shit while you do.
Briggs: And we have paved a precedence in the media, and in the industry and we've made pain a presence. So it's not out of this world or a big surprise that something like this happens again later on down the track.
And, with 'getting their attention' as you say, obviously the album title, Reclaim Australia, is part of that...
Trials: [Laughs] Who could 'reclaim Australia', except us? [Laughs]. Like that was a joke that me and Briggs had.
Briggs: We were like 'you know what would be fucking hilarious?' and we looked at each other afterwards and we were like 'yeah, but we're definitely calling it that right?' 'yeah absolutely, like no question'. [Both laugh]
Trials: Because it's so fucking obvious! It's so obvious and it's so understated that when you've got a political party that's getting that kind of momentum, with the irony that's staring the whole country in the fucking face and no one's talking about it — 'what about if we do it? How polarising is that?'
It does, it definitely makes a point in such a succinct way as well.
Briggs: It just so dumb, they're trying to 'Reclaim Australia'...
Trials: And it fucks up their Google searches as well [Laughs]....
Briggs: And every time someone types that shit in they see our grills.
And the Reclaim Australia presence isn't huge. It's a very disturbing minority. It's not going to take that much to overshadow it...
Briggs: That's the beautiful thing.
Our presence is capable of owning this title and this becoming ours, you know what I mean? With our presence, and with the machine and the thing we have with us, and the amount of good people we have around us, the kind of people we have on this record, we can own this term by the album cycle is out, and those other dickheads have to figure out what else they're gonna call themselves.
And then you can just call your next album that as well and just keep going.
Briggs: Yeah, exactly [Laughs]. We'll be right there, stealing all your names.
You headed over to the West Coast of America to record part of Reclaim Australia, is that right?
Trials: Yeah, when we went to LA, it was mostly about expanding the sound, seeing what we could do over there with our message. We got a bunch of interviews on Dash radio, where people interviewing us were genuinely shocked [with] what we had to say, because they had no idea how it was down here [in Australia].
They thought it was this super progressive nirvana, and we were like 'nah, this is actually still [happening] down here, and to the nth degree. It's fucked up'. They were shocked, surprised and scared that it can regress like this still in 2016.
We went over there to work with a bunch of different writers and a bunch of producers, and we got some crazy shit. We did fucking stacks, we have enough for another album.
I know you mentioned this earlier, but I'm keen to get your perspective on the Four Corners report that aired last week. I know Briggs you visited a juvenile facility just outside of Sydney not that long ago, as part of an ABC TV documentary. Beyond the planned Royal Commission inquiry, what do you view are possible community level solutions, to what has long been — at least described in that ABC documentary — an over representation of indigenous youth in the prison system?
Briggs: This is what happens when you invest in prisons and not in kids.
Trials: Exactly, exactly.
Briggs: If you're an angry young 15-year-old, the last thing you need to be confronted with is a 120-kilo angry old man who's got a chip on his shoulder and working a shit job. And doesn't have any kind of problem-solving, negotiation skills or tactics, outside of restraining these kids in a super aggressive or violent way.
The thing is, I understand these are extraordinary situations. And sometimes it calls for kids, or for anyone, to be handled and restrained. But how does it get to this point, you know what I mean? Where this isn't about being restrained, this is about bullying and abuse. What do you put back on the street after a kid comes from this situation? This isn't about rehabilitation. They put kids out on the street worse than what they were when they went in there. And now they have a legitimate fear and a legitimate disposition against the system.
The best program they have [in the prison he visited outside of Sydney] are with kids going to continual counselling and interaction when they're released. Like a duty of care after a kid's released, and that helps defer the reoffending.
Somewhat related, there's also your recent Twitter beef with basketball player Andrew Bogut...
Briggs: What a dickhead. Just an ignorant doofus.
Trials: He's collectively blocked every single one of us in the crew as well. Our extended friends will try to school him on such matters.
Briggs: He is just so out of touch. He's just an idiot. How he can even fathom to gather some kind of opinion on anything outside of 'the paint', is fucking beyond me. It's like, you 'dickhead, focus on your free throws'. What Andrew Bogut should be worried about right now is who on the Dallas Mavericks is gonna carry him through the next season. [Laughs]
But, more seriously, do you think that's a reflection of a wider Australian view that he's latched onto, or do you think it's just him sharing his own isolated opinion?
Briggs: Nah, he's just the average idiot. There's always gonna be people who are going to challenge any kind of idea. And that's him. He wrote something else the other day like, 'making yourself better, it all starts with you'. [Laughs] That's all well and good when you get a scholarship, you fuckwit. This is a dude who doesn't recognise his privilege. Not everyone's born, two metres tall, with a fucking scholarship to play basketball.
Trials: Why not Briggs? Fucking hell. [Laughs]
Briggs: If he can play centre for the Bucks mate, so can you. [Laughs]
Trials: It all starts with you, gotta believe in yourself mate [Laughs]
Briggs: Because it doesn't take anyone else determination, to see you through and give you a scholarship and carry you through. You know, you gotta do it as well.
With the album, it has been previously slated for release in September or October, is the date any more locked down now?
Briggs: Nah, we're gonna do a Beyonce on ya. [Laughs]
Trials: Maybe tomorrow, you never know.
Briggs: Stranger things have happened. You'll just get it when it comes at ya.
Nah, it's funny man, this project from the beginning has been a really organic one. And nothing has been forced, except for the mixes. [Both laugh] Except for the mixing of the tracks, and the mastering, nothing has been over magnified. We just want to make sure they sound as good as they possibly can. As far as the release goes, we'll have a single within the next week or so, and then we'll drop the album when it's ready.
Trials: We've got a team around it now that are confident in what we're doing. [A team] which are way better at planning things than Briggs or I are. So we just do the music, keep it moving.
Once the album is out, what's the plan then?
Briggs: We're gonna go Coober Pedygonna, hide in a hole. [Laughs].
Trials: With a handgun and a briefcase and a million dollars. [Laughs].
Briggs: We call it the Andrew Bogut. [Both laugh] And what we do is just wait for everything to die down and then we come back and peek out of the hole and see if anyone's still looking of us.
Nah, really, we're gonna tour, man.
Trials: We're gonna take it around Australia, rinse it out, and then the plan is to take it overseas and talk to the communities around there and figure out where people have made progression or regression. And on a worldwide scale, figure out what the fuck is going on. And how we can fix it.
A.B. Original are set to preview material from 'Reclaim Australia' at their Live Lodge show on September 29th, details here.