It’s not often that a band gains traction on a national level and decides to take a hiatus, but that’s exactly what TZU did after 2008’s ‘Computer Love’.
Leaving radio play and critical acclaim in its wake, the band decided to take some time off to do the important things.
For Joel Ma, the answer was travel and the release of his solo album, ‘Voyager’, the frontman quipping that his friends had grown up to push prams. For the rest of the band, this meant a switch from hectic touring schedules to an extended down time. But as the band entered the studio to record their new album, ‘Millions Of Moments’, there was the dramatic realisation that the dynamic had changed.
“Joel’s got his solo project, I was working with Urthboy... we’ve all got these beats projects,” Countbounce explains. “With this one, I guess, we had gotten our hip hop on somewhere else and we wanted to do something different with TZU ... it allowed TZU to be more of a musical excursion.”
To put it in a clearer perspective — there’s not a single rapped verse on the album.
“We took a long break and we weren’t sure what we were going to do next. We came together and spent a few weeks just playing around with the musical side of things and we made an instrumental album.
“Somewhere along the line we decided we wouldn’t have any rapping on the record... it would just be electronic music with a song element and no rapping... which we realised would alienate some of our fans, but it just seemed to be what we all wanted to do.”
At the suggestion that diehard fans may view this as a cynical ploy to widen their fan base, Countbounce is adamant it wasn’t just about appeasing the masses, but the changing directive of the band’s musical ambition.
“We didn’t just make a record to get all the electronic indie kids on board... We don’t want to piss people off, we’re just making music that comes out of us and we hope people really enjoy it.”
Taking the band’s latest single, ‘Beautiful’, as a case in point; hip hop swing and boom-bap are replaced by higher tempo drum patterns and electronic ambience. ‘Millions Of Moments’ contains many of the music elements typical of previous TZU releases, however, at times the resultant album feels aesthetically removed from their older work.
“‘Beautiful’ has so many seemingly incongruous elements in its production, and it’s a ghost story. I always wanted to be more ambitious with content and lyrics, and to write the story was really rewarding... and it still manages to be a pop song in a way.
“We want our old fans to go, ‘wow, this is really different and exciting’, and they’ll follow us. We know that’s not always going to be the case, particularly the people that were into us because we were a hip hop group. We’ve been known to do different shit anyway and it’s not a surprise that we’d do something weird.”
Countbounce cites inspiration from “the ‘70s; psychedelic electronic music, all the way up to modern dance music, dubstep and electronic bands”. He reveals the group’s jamming out was often juxtaposed by a need to keep tracks within a digestible format.
“We had to cut many of the tracks back to make a cohesive TZU record. Without cutting them back it felt like an indulgent, psychedelic jam record. People still want snappy little arrangements and movement, even if we’re not going to be rapping.... we’re a pop band. We make music that doesn’t necessarily meander as much as we’d like sometimes.”
Countbounce says that while there’s a theme to the album, he’s not naive to the fact many people won’t hear the whole album.
“The reality these days is that albums are fragmented across iTunes playlists and they don’t always play in the entirety. Each song stands on its own, even if they aren’t singles. It is a body of work, you go to an art exhibition to see a body of work not to see one painting... but we’re not in denial that some people will only hear one song.”
With the band about to hit the road for a national tour, Countbounce hopes they haven’t missed the mark, and that long time fans will still find value in their art.
“It’ll still be a bit of a hip hop party show, lots of new stuff and more extended musical instrumental sections. It’ll be a bit more of an adventure trip. It’s [both] exciting and daunting.”TZU play Sol Bar, Coolum, Sept. 21, The Zoo Sept. 22 and Sprung Festival, at the RNA Showgrounds, Nov. 10. ‘Millions Of Moments’ is released Sept. 21.Click to watch TZU- She gets up