It's a blazing summer's day at an outdoor cafe in Sydney's Inner West, and MC Brendan 'Tuka' Tuckerman and DJ/producer Morgan 'Morgs' Jones – half of Australian hip-hop group Thundamentals – look happy to be seeing sunlight. Having spent the past eight months holed up with other members Jesse 'Jeswon' Ferris (MC) and Kevin 'Poncho' Kerr (DJ/producer) in the Sydney recording studio of fellow Blue Mountains-bred hip-hop group Hermitude, Thundamentals decided upon a refreshingly direct method to reconnect with fans when announcing their impending fourth album, Everyone We Know.
"Jesse and I put our phone number on the internet, and three weeks before we launched the name of the album we asked people to text us," says Tuckerman. "We got about a thousand text messages – Jesse and I were doing 10-hour shifts calling everybody, telling them, 'Yo, what's up, we're releasing this record called Everyone We Know, we thought we'd introduce ourselves to you.' Because really, the music industry doesn't provide employment – our real boss is the people who are gonna buy the record, so we're just getting to know them, and they become 'everyone we know'. It was about making a real, personal connection with them... it was humbling."
The unorthodox approach yielded no shortage of memorable exchanges, from Tuckerman speaking with a woman whose boyfriend proposed to her onstage at a Thundamentals show ("That's happened about six times now," says the MC), to being placed in the middle of a police pursuit. "I was talking to one dude who'd just broken out of a mental asylum, and he was getting chased by the police in his car and he's like, 'Yo! Tuka! I wanna fuckin' talk to ya mate, but I'm gonna have to let you go, ay!'," Tuckerman laughs.
An unintentional concept album ("Concept albums are usually pretty wack," says Tuckerman), the genesis of Everyone We Know, the follow-up to 2014's So We Can Remember, happened organically. "The concept just builds as we go along – we don't start with a preconceived concept, like 'this album is going to be about the various sizes of paper' or whatever," says Jones. "It just kind of evolves."
"We all had a pretty rough couple of years – lots of amazing stuff career-wise, but a lot of shifts in our personal lives," Tuckerman continues. "So we ended up rapping specifically about a lot of people that we knew or experiences we'd had... everything's about real people."
"Our real boss is the people who are gonna buy the record," says Tuckerman.
One of the album's highlights, the emotive "Blue Balloons", is a prime example of the group mining personal experience.
"After our last album came out, a guy called BB from the Blue Mountains passed away, and he was a big fan of ours," says Tuckerman. "We never met him, but the day that he died we were flooded on our socials because he liked our music and was from where we were from. We went to his funeral service, and to commemorate him everyone was given a blue balloon. After his mum delivered this heart-wrenching speech, everyone released their balloons, so we were just watching these hundred blue balloons float away. The song just flew out of Jesse, and it was an experience that fit the rough theme we had for the record."
With an ever-growing fan base and a string of sold-out headline shows to their name, childhood friends Tuckerman and Jones seem unperturbed about the expectations placed upon Everyone We Know, due February 10th. "It's mad fun, man, you can't front," says Tuckerman. "Let's say we fail – we're already up to album four, so everything from here on is just a bonus."
"There was maybe a bit more pressure with this one because you grow up and start looking at this being your career – or are you gonna work at the cafe next month again?" adds Jones. "Some of those pressures were lingering, but I don't think it changed anything. Basically I had the same approach to everything – smoke weed and make beats," he laughs. "But just do it more."
Top photo: Thundamentals (from left), Jeswon, Morgs, Tuka and Poncho.
From issue #784 (March 2017), available now.