“I’m just gonna appreciate it for everything that it is.” Forgetting about the numbers with Dylan Joel

“Haha that’s funny as! No, there’s no problem, mine’s actually just sitting at my feet right now so all good.” The laugh on the other end of the phone line comes from rising hip-hop talent Dylan Joel. His dog is, evidently, far better behaved than mine. With my apology for any strange background noise courtesy of my dog out of the way, we begin our interview properly.

A multi instrumentalist (he learned drums around the age of ten before teaching himself guitar) out of Melbourne, Joel’s skills as a vocalist are evenly matched by his talents as a rapper. He’s just returned from a support slot on Seth Sentry’s massive 50-date Strange New Past tour, and he’s also busy readying his debut album. In just under two weeks, he’s headed back out on the road on his own headline tour. I offer that it’s been a while coming, but he’s not necessarily quick to agree. “I was a bit worried that this was a bit too early to be doing out own tour … My manager always says that I downgrade where we’re at. I always say ‘I’m not ready for that’ or ‘I think this is moving too quick’. But I’m really hyped for it! I think the whole numbers thing can sometimes take away from why you love doing what you do. I’m just gonna appreciate it for everything that it is.” This sentiment reflects an excitement about music and a dedication to quality over quantity that is prevalent throughout the entire Dylan Joel narrative.

Take the album, undercut with the theme of dedication to authenticity, for example. The title of the LP (Authentic Lemonade) and lyrical content (especially on tracks like Numbers, Ain’t You and Always Fresh) aside, the entire thing took about two years to finish. “We could have just put it out earlier but why not make it as good as we can and have some fun with it? I don’t think it’s a good idea to rush your debut album.” Live instrumentation sourced from all corners of the globe now replace elements originally produced through a program. Brass sections were played in New York and sent over, while drums and keys were replayed in the studio and gospel vocalists were brought in to add harmonies. The extra five months have paid off, producing a sound that is truer to the musician who has always played with a band and finds inspiration in the musicians around him.

“My first taste of live music was from church. There was a keys player who would play Hammond Organ and rolling electric keys at the same time. So one hand would be playing organ and the other hand would be playing keys. And there were these two gospel singers… They were just some of the most talented musicians I have ever heard.  I really connected so much with that stuff and I really wanted to incorporate a lot of that background element into the record.” Part of that ability to go back in after essentially finishing the album is down to a solid working relationship with producer Cam Bluff. After their first session produced three ideas, they worked on the entire album together; Bluff as executive producer, Joel as his co-producer. “That first day session was almost two years ago today.”

So, how does all that live instrumentation translate to the stage? “We’ve got a set up where we can loop everything. So my drummer plays drums and he sings vocals. And then my bass player now plays bass, synth, guitar, keys, sample pad and vocals. So he has this station where he does everything. And then I’m singing and playing guitar. We’re doing everything ourselves.” The looping also means that rather than pressing play on a track, they can improvise and change things up with each set if they want to. “I think it’s hard with hip-hop sometimes because you have a track that you press play on and you can’t really improvise.”

Discussing the video for the single What’s Good, I learn a bit more about Dylan Joel’s undeniably positive nature. Originally meant to be an outro to the album, What’s Good was picked up as a single. When the time came to brainstorm an idea for a video, the suggestion of a house party didn’t feel natural. Instead, Joel and Co. held a fundraiser called the What’s Good Pop-Up Op Shop at Melbourne’s Section 8The cause was one close to Joel’s heart, having heard of friends living in Nepal, who lost their houses in the recent earthquake the devastated the country. “The media talks about this stuff for a week and then it gets old and they go to another story but the devastation will continue for years.” So, with sponsorship from Savers, and signed donations from industry heads and musicians alike (Hilltop Hoods, Bliss n Eso and Alison Wonderland to name a few), they managed to raise over $10,000 for the Australian Himalayan Foundation. “It was way bigger than I ever expected and its exactly what I think the song says… to focus on the good in the world. There’s a lot of bad shit but it needs to be balanced out.”

“Music is so rad… it connects with people and it’s so relatable so why not use that to do some good?”

There’s a sense of community and a desire to engage that pervades most of what Dylan Joel does. Aside from being a musician, he’s also a youth worker, though he’s not sure how long he’ll be able to keep the balance. The first show of the tour is as the main support for Ivan Ooze, another support act from the recent Seth Sentry tour and it’s an all-ages gig. “I think they’re super important. But it depends on the artist and the message they’re trying to get across.” He says, speaking on his experience with all ages’ gigs and organisations like Victoria’s The Push that are dedicated to music accessibility for young people. “I think it’s cool if artists can remember what it’s like being that age and play and talk between songs with those [good] intentions. You can really set a really rad precedence for live music from there on. Because as soon as you turn 18 and you go to shows… you don’t know what to expect if you’ve never been to one.”

He continues as a youth worker two days a week currently, while the rest of his time is dedicated to music. But the idea of never being involved? “That picture kind of scares me a bit because that’s a huge part of what I do. I want to stay as involved as I can so hopefully they’ll work together. That’s my aim!”

Authentic Lemonade is out today. You can catch Dylan Joel throughout October and November at the following shows:

Fri, Oct 2: Oct Wrangler, Melbourne (Under 18’s)
Buy tickets here

Thu, Oct 15: Black Bear Lodge, Brisbane
Buy tickets here

Fri, Oct 16: Boardriders, Gold Coast QLD
Free entry

Wed, Oct 21: Transit Bar, Canberra ACT
Buy tickets here

Fri, Oct 23: Goodgod Small Club, Sydney NSW
Buy tickets here

Sat, Oct 24: Rad, Wollongong NSW
Buy tickets here

Fri, Oct 30: The Workers Club, Geelong
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Sat, Nov 07: Rocket Bar, Adelaide
Buy tickets here

Sun, Nov 08: Jimmy’s Den, Perth WA
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Fri, Nov 13: Howler, Melbourne
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Fri, 27 – Sat 28 Nov: Gorgeous Festival, McLaren Vale SA
Buy tickets here