How do you break the routine after producing 30 hip hop albums at your studio, Space Ghost, in a matter of six years?
You team up with your formidable mate from The Optimen, DATS, and start laying down beats, hiding them away from the idle minds of lonely rappers. You decide to produce an album with more soul, range and vocal dynamic. However, to do this you require a singer. One with sass, one that embodies the Brisbane music scene and people relate to, from the sweaty fiends dancing up a storm on the weekend to your grandmother who still lives in the outer suburbs.
One half of the Bankrupt Billionaire production team, Sammsonite explains the process, â€œI got all these tracks together with DATS, so we ended up doing an audition. We went through a whole bunch of singers, a lot of them brought their resumes and came with their best perfume or what notâ€¦ Kel came along in a pair of thongs, adlibbed for 40 seconds on a track and I had to, kind of, tell the girls that were coming up next to go home.â€
As one of Brisbaneâ€™s foremost female vocalists, particularly due to her roles in Coalition Crew and The Kelly Gang, Kel needs little introduction. With Bankrupt Billionaires, her heady vocals cement the soul infused production aesthetics of Sammsonite and DATS.
â€œltâ€™s a natural fit, weâ€™ve got the hip hop sensibility and we are looking to do more soul,â€ Kel says.
â€œAt the beginning I did want to (rap) and I thought, â€˜yay, I finally get to work with Sammsonite and DATS, letâ€™s do some rapsâ€™. But then people have told me for a long time, â€˜sing, just sing girlâ€™ and Iâ€™m a much better singer than a rapper. I love to rap, itâ€™s a lot of fun but as Iâ€™m getting a bit older Iâ€™m definitely going back to my roots.â€
While the production values mirror those found on a typical hip hop release, particularly the percussive elements, it is Kelâ€™s vocals that really push the project further afield. Sammsonite explains. â€œWorking with rappers, I think that after a while, the genre of hip hop can only go so far before you start trekking into areas of hip hop that I would consider unlistenableâ€¦ I think the only way to go for me was to completely flip it and take on a new genre altogether and soul seemed a perfect fit.
â€œWe were sampling a lot of soul records, so we knew a lot about soul music. It just came out of us. It was quite easy to make a soul record when you think about sampling all these artists all your life.â€
Citing Mark Ronson as a major influence on the groupâ€™s debut EP, Sammsonite explains the band continually strived for new sounds; the result is a mix of the soul production of old and newer hip hop stylistic elements. â€œSoul arrangement is a little bit more lush, itâ€™s got a smoother edge to it, while hip hop is a little more aggressive â€” the energy comes from the band rather than the vocalists, then the vocalists feed from the band. In hip hop it sometimes feels like the rapper can push it with the energy and it can sound a little overdone.
â€œSoul singers can incorporate emotion that a rapper canâ€™t really do. Mainly just the way they can use their voice, they can relate a happy story or a very painful story and you almost donâ€™t have to listen to the words. You listen to the tone, the texture and the feel that the singer is able to relate and itâ€™s much more versatile.â€
With their debut CD available online, the group has their eyes set on an official launch party in West End in a couple of weekends. â€œThe launch we have planned, weâ€™ve gone for this arts space, the Ice Cream Factory so everyone can have a really good night with a good vibe,â€ Kel explains. â€œWe have a really eclectic bunch of supports so itâ€™s just going to be ongoing fun all night. We encourage people to get there early!
â€œWeâ€™ll be shaking it up a little bit for sure. Weâ€™ll be doing most of the EP but it will probably be a little bit more upbeat as well. The EP only runs for about 25 minutes but we want to run for about an hour. Thereâ€™ll be plenty of surprises in there for you.â€
Sammsonite sounds slightly perturbed in the background as Kel lets the cat out of the bag. â€œWe might even drop our next singleâ€¦ Did I just say that?â€
Bankrupt Billionaires play The Ice Cream Factory, West End, Friday March 16.