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INTERVIEW: Milwaukee Banks Talk Basketball, Collaborations & Trading Dreamcasts

In 2014, a friend told me that Milwaukee Banks were going to ‘blow up’. I assumed it was a typo and he actually meant that the NBA team the Milwaukee Bucks were going to ‘blow up’ under the leadership of their new head-coach, Jason Kidd. Two years later, I would finally hear the fine sounds of the diverse electro/R&B/hip-hop group, Milwaukee Banks, on the car radio.

I remember scribbling their name down on a shitty Subway napkin while stopped at a traffic light. Later that day, I un-scrunched the napkin and tried to look them up and have a listen to some more sweet sounds. I am not sure if it was my horrendous handwriting or muscle memory from checking Bogut stats in ’05, but I kept getting results for the Milwaukee Bucks. A group that named their duo after a basketball team is a group after my own heart, and chatting with the boys from Milwaukee Banks, it was clear that basketball is just as important to them as music.

I got to speak with the two boys from Milwaukee Banks (MB), Edo and Dyl, while they were having dinner, and getting ready to go play some basketball.

So you guys are basketball fans, and I guess you are named after a team in a way.

DYL: Yeah, basketball’s a pretty big part of life. We’re going to play basketball in a bit, I’m off to pay a game. I play a couple of nights down at MSAC so very professional, very serious.

I used to pay at MSAC, I know what it’s like.

D: I don’t like playing the team I’m playing against tonight. The last time we played them they dunked on us.

Oh shit, just get out of the key when that happens so you don’t get posterised again. Have you both played your whole lives?

D: Yeah, I’ve played my whole life. When I was a kid, like any kid I was into basketball and footy. I got bored with football, and basketball stayed with me. I’ve played it ever since. I’ve had about two years off, and just got back onto the team recently.

I’ve had four years off now and I’m just waiting for that day to get back into it.

D: Yeah it’s hard when you are in the click of it and it’s all happening, it’s just a part of your daily routine and process, but when you fall out of that loop, to get back into it is quite easy. I went back two weeks ago and I was bragging to Edo that I put up like 19 points but I shot the ball like Kobe, man.

EDO: The more you put up the more chance you have, is that right?

Exactly right, until coach pulls you.

D: Yeah that’s it.

Because hip-hop is such an egotistical and bragging genre, rappers are always using sporting stars, especially basketball players, to reference their own ‘champion’ abilities. Rarely, if at all is this mimicked across continents. That was until MB came out with their track Patty Mills.

You guys seems to be the only group that I’ve heard to have referenced Australian basketball players. I can’t think of anyone else, you guys might be the first to throw Patty Mills in the mix.

D: Yes, we’re fans of Patty’s. It’s exciting to see him in the NBA. He’s not some chump either, you know the guy’s a player. Just how quick he got, did you see that Edo? He got the outlet on a screen for a fast break. I’ve never seen anyone like that. The guy can move. He’s always standing still or he’s sprinting. Insane.

Obviously there’s a massive correlation between hip-hop and basketball, both for you guys and everyone else, but what do you think comes first, the love for basketball or the love for hip-hop?

D: Oh that’s interesting, ‘cause I think as a kid I was into basketball before I was into hip-hop. I played basketball from a really young age and I really liked it. I got into basketball through my older brother. On Sundays we used to watch Inside NBA. The show would explain a couple of the NBA games. As a young kid I was right into sport and stuff so that came first and then my older brother got me into hip-hop as well.

Yeah, you start playing basketball and then you start watching it on TV and they play hip-hop the whole time, and I think you develop a love for both.

Milwaukee Banks are nearing the end of their national tour with just the Ballarat and Melbourne shows remaining. If you haven’t caught MB live yet you are in for a treat, and not just an audio treat, but a visual one too.

So what can we expect from your live show?

E: We like our visuals. A friend of ours, Jason Lee, he’s a motion graphics designer and for almost every beat that we’ve done from the album and EP, he’s made a live visual that syncs with the beat. Every track has its own visual element to go with it when we perform live.

D: I think when we originally decided to start our live shows we had to add that visual element just to make it a little bit different, rather than just a DJ-MC vibe. I suppose when we were starting out, some of the tracks were just us vibing out and some had lots of energy and us jumping around, you wanted something that went along those lines.

E: It helps with the mood of the audience and helps them to understand what we’re about.

Following the success of their 2014 Rose Water EP, MB have put out a double LP titled Deep Into The Night. The album boasts a darker side of the duo as they delve deeper into their own minds.

Your new album has kind of a different sound to the Rose Water EP. Was it a deliberate change up, or just new influences or a different part of your life?

D: All of the above, I suppose. We got very collaborative on the last EP so that opened up to new doorways and to new sounds and working with other artists.

E: I think there’s also the progression of us as writers and working on the MB project. But when we did the EP, and I remember just talking to someone about it, it was, to use the term, ‘just thrown together’ – but I don’t want to use that as a bad term as if we put no effort into it. The first songs were written a bit more spontaneously and on the fly and sometimes there’s no real direction to the whole project. So when we worked on the album I think it was a good progression of what we wanted to achieve.

After Rose Water, there was a remix album. How did that come about?

E: I think it was just ‘cause we had a lot of Melbourne producers that we wanted to reach out to and work with. And we started playing shows for people in the Melbourne scene and stuff and we thought it might be nice to have them reinterpret some of our work. One of the remixes (Sweater Made Of Gold Remix) by Andrei Eremin, he was the video engineer we have been working with. He was doing all our mixing and mastering and he just wanted to mess around with one of the tracks.

D: And we thought, ‘if we do a bunch of them, let’s put it out’.

Did the remixes lead you into wanting to collaborate with more people on the next album?

D: I think collaboration is something we were always open to doing. On the EP we worked with KIRA on Rose Water, the title track. It was just something we were into because we come from different backgrounds as well so reaching out to other artists is only natural. Getting vocalists on the album was something that was really new and exciting for us. I know it was exciting for Edo because he comes more from an electronics background. If you listen to that Summer Disbray track (Shame On Me) it’s a classic piece of Edo production combined with beautiful female vocals and it came out perfect, and we wouldn’t want the collaboration done in any other way it was really natural you know. It wasn’t something we pushed and pushed until we just got something. All the collaboration came naturally which was nice.

I’m really digging the Reincarnation track on there. It’s got a bit of that Flatbush Zombies vibe to it. Reincarnation and afterlife seem to be a recurring theme in the album. Are either of you particularly spiritual or just lyrically worked out that way?

E: I would say, me personally, I believe in reincarnation.

D: I would say I am quite open to different philosophies and ideas. I wouldn’t say I’m religious in any way, but definitely I just naturally delve into that end of the spectrum when it comes to living my life and my beliefs, I suppose.

Dyl, you used to do a bit of DJ-ing as well. Do you both produce or do you tend to stick to your own roles?

E: With the album, we both did a bit of production for sure.

D: I produce as well, and my style is a bit different to Edo’s, and I think we work together, we bring different things out of each other. I worked on the Reincarnated track and Edo added a few things. Sometimes when I’m producing especially for Milwaukee Banks, the drums tends to be banging hard. I suppose I have a traditional hip-hop background ingrained in me but I actually started out making beats, before I started rapping. When I was younger I was actually DJing in my bedroom, scratching my parents’ records and stuff. And then that led me into beats and then into MC-ing just for the love of the culture, I just liked it so much that I wanted to do it. I would go to parties and stuff and a few kids around town would be bumping raps and I’d be like ‘I understand hip-hop, I like it. I reckon I could write stuff down.’

My parents never had a computer or anything when I was growing up, so I actually saved a lot of money from working at Safeway and bought a Dreamcast when they were running out of stock at EB Games and were cheap. I had it for about a year or two and then a friend of mine was like ‘I’ll swap you my computer for your Dreamcast’… so I swapped for the computer and it had Soundboard on it and it had this other weird program, a drag and drop thing.

Are we going to get Edo on the mic at some point?

D: Every now and then when we’re doing a big show, he’ll jump out. He won’t rap though.

E: I don’t rap. I sang on one of the tracks on the EP but I didn’t sing on any other tracks on the album. I was going to work on one but it didn’t make it to the album. But yeah definitely not rapping, I’m pretty god awful.

Yeah, me too. So what’s in store for the rest of the year for you guys, just a bit of touring or are you going to start working on something else?

D: Yeah we’re going to keep playing shows for a little while. We don’t know too much in the way of details yet, but we might be playing a few shows internationally later in the year and probably very late in the year get back to writing. For now, playing shows and coming up with ideas again.

Milwaukee Banks are clearly just getting started. The change up from their EP to their new album proves versatility and unlimited creative direction. We haven’t heard the peak of Milwaukee Banks, so make sure you keep up with them and be sure to check out Milwaukee Banks on Soundcloud and grab their album on Bandcamp.

Milwaukee Banks tour dates:

Friday May 27: World Bar, SYdney
Sat May 28: Rocket Bar, Adelaide
Sat June 4: Huges & Kisses, Melbourne
Sat June 11: Karova Lounge, Ballarat

Image: Andrew Diprose