Local five-piece Schoolfight gained national exposure with their 2005 debut LP, ‘Big Man On Champers’. They scored Triple J airplay, sold out The Zoo, and had momentum to spare thanks to their laidback hip hop jams. So why has their second album, ‘Curse Of Work’, taken seven years to drop?
“We're not Pitbull,” laughs Slim (aka JB Lester), the group's laconic keyboardist. “If we were Pitbull, we'd be sweet... I don't know who he is, but I'm always seeing ads for Pitbull. He's everywhere. I'm sure he could just whip something together and throw it on the internet and a million people would listen to it. But we're independent artists. As everyone in independent and local music would attest to, it's a slog. There's not many of us who can put some tunes out and get all the radio play and the tours handed to us. People such as ourselves have to work at it.”
“We've learned a lot, obviously,” frontman Emcyte (aka Zac Eakin) adds, “about the art of putting an album out. I had an idea it was going to be tough and would take some time, but I've definitely learnt with this one that there are a lot of little things that get in the way. You want to line things up. You want to have momentum to make it all work. When you have setbacks, when you lose players or whatever else, it just throws that all out. It slows the process a bit, and that hasn't helped.”
Over a few beers at West End hangout Rumpus Room, not an unlikely place to find the lads, Emcyte (pronounced MC Whitey) admits the seven year gap was as frustrating for him as it was for the group's fans.
“It's been so long coming,” he concedes, “and I got so sick of people asking when it was coming out. I just started saying, 'when it's finished'.”
“It just takes time,” Slim adds, somewhat understatedly. “In a perfect world, with all the money and time you could ever want, we'd knock out one of these every six months. But it feels like a dream now; it feels amazing to finally have it done. We've been wanting to get it out there and start spreading these tunes, you know? We've been playing some of these songs for a while, so we want those people who enjoy them live to be able to take ['Curse Of Work'] home and crank it on the stereo and play it to their mates.”
Fans haven't had many chances to catch the 'Fight in their natural element lately, as the pressure to finish the album has seen them play less live shows. The balance between the studio and the stage has been a tricky one for them to maintain.
“We didn't do that very well, man,” Slim agrees. “When we recorded, we did let the live side slide a little bit. In conjunction with losing a few members... it almost put us back at square one. We had a nice little roll on there, but then we were out of the scene longer than we should have been. We lost a lot of momentum. That's another thing we've taken out of this experience – we can't just disappear for years and come back. There aren't many bands out there that can disappear for five years and then come back. We're not Bon Jovi.”
Of course, they didn't vanish from the industry altogether. Just last year, they were surprising – but deserved – winners of a Queensland Music Award for their single, 'Robots'.
“We certainly didn't expect to win it,” Cairns native Emcyte says. “I know I didn't. Both because of the names that we were up against, and because the QMAs have become a really big deal. You look at the talent they're giving these awards to! But I noticed throughout the ceremony that all the winners were from North Queensland originally. The Medics, DZ Deathrays, The Middle East, Emma Louise... I remember leaning over to Slim and going, 'mate, we're in with a shot now'. We had that Cairns connection!
“It was a really nice thing. It felt good that someone had actually sat down and had a listen to it. When your music gets played to a number of different judges, and they all decide it's a good song, that says something.”
They've never exactly gone away, then, and they claim the band is tighter than ever. But it's difficult not to view the 'Curse Of Work' album launch at The Joynt this week as something of a comeback. If that's the case, you can expect the local community to come out in force.
“People still go to live music around here,” Slim says, “which is great. They treat artists really well at The Joynt. They treat fans really well. They sell tallies. It's nice to be able to support a place like that.”
The unusually long gestation period has resulted in unusual ambitions for 'Curse Of Work', as the band readily admit.
“I don't think we've got any real aspirations that we're going to sell triple platinum and take the country by storm or anything,” Slim says. “The real success for this album would be to get us back to where we were before we started it. This album's been a sticking point, and it's really taken the wind out of our sails over the last year or so. To get us back to where we were, trippin' around the country and playing some songs... if every CD we sell doesn't get thrown back at us at pace, that would be a success for me.”
“We've got 'em all marked,” Emcyte laughs. “If that shit ends up at Cash Converters, we know what happened.”
Schoolfight launch ‘Curse Of Work’ at The Joynt this Friday August 31 with BrokenWord.