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Interview: Thundamentals’ Tuka the on Got Love Initiative and Vulnerability in Creativity

Since hip-hop outfit Thundamentals dropped their third album So We Can Remember over two years ago, they have continuously managed to stay on the frontline of local hip-hop. Last month Thundamentals announced a massive national tour (with guests Pez and Mallrat) and dropped the first single off their new project, Never Say Never. Last week they dropped another single Ignorance Is Bliss, which officially kicked off round two of their Got Love Initiative. The Got Love Initiative is a fundraising event hosted by Thundamentals, where they raise money through merchandise sales on tour, to support organisations who serve the community day in and day out. This year they are proud to be partnering with National Centre of Indigenous Excellence.

Fans will be able to purchase Thundamentals new range of Got Love merchandise from their upcoming Never Say Never Tour and online from here. You can also donate money through the purchase of Ignorance Is Bliss

Both singles show yet another evolution from the Blue Mountains-born group, as has been true from project to project. Thundamentals are always naturally progressing, never standing still or going stale.

This new project is starting to build some massive hype, so we had a chat to Tuka about the project and what’s coming next.

Has everyone been using the break from Thundamentals to work on their solo stuff?

Yes, and no. We released the record then we toured it pretty extensively for about a year and half afterwards. While that was happening, I was putting together my solo stuff. Then we took a little bit of time off, maybe eight months, to kind of remember what real life is like and now we are back.

It’s good to have you guys back and have a couple of new singles, which have really put a new flare into what you guys have been doing. 

Yeah, we haven’t let the scope of the project out of the bag yet. It’s a really special thing, what we are about to do, it’s been hard to put together and there have been all these obstacles so far. But the roll out of the campaign will have people start understanding the records which going to be interesting. I don’t normally talk about a project with this much passion – I really like this one. Unfortunately, I can’t tell you much about it, but these first two steps, as in Never Says Never, and Ignorance Is Bliss, they are just the start of the puzzle.

I really liked Ignorance is Bliss and the launch of the Go Love initiative. Can you tell me about what that involves and how it came about?

The year before, what we did with the Asylum Seeker Center, we released a song called Got Love with Solo and the chorus goes, “take a fist, make a peace with it,” and then on the tour we created specific merch and sold that at the merch desk and all proceeds went to this cause. We raised about 20 grand and was honestly the most rewarding aspect of my career. Out of everything we have ever done I felt like contributing to the community in a real way – using the platform is something that I feel like when I started, years ago, that’s what it was about. Now we can honour that promise we made to ourselves to continue to contribute to culture, rather than just benefit from it. This year we have a new cause, it was Jeswon‘s idea to start the Ignorance Is Bliss song, and he wrote the initial parts of the song. It’s a very current conversation, and the climate around racial issues and white privilege is happening right now. We obviously make hip-hop music, of which the bulk comes from America, and the system and community and a culture that happening over there. We make our own version of that music, and we felt like we should contribute to this conversation but also put the money where our month is and physically contribute to the issue as well. We felt that was really important – if we are going to put out a song about white privilege, not to just talk about it but to actually do something about it. At this point there hasn’t been a lot of backlash either, which is crazy, we thought people would have some issues with it and we are really stoked that people are receiving it in a really positive way, so far.

It’s an amazing song, and I think if people can see what you’re trying to do and see the proceeds going somewhere important, hopefully you continue to have no backlash. 

It’s nice to know our listenership and our following are on board with it and supportive of it, it is really nice to have intelligent, compassionate fans. Because not all bands have that, we are really proud of everyone’s response so far. We are very thankful.

Where is the money going this year?

It’s for the National Centre of Indigenous Excellence, there are centres around everywhere and it will go to all of them. Basically, it fosters people to have a platform to achieve aspirations in their life. So whether it would be people coming in from other parts of Australia and needing accommodation so they can stay in Sydney for a little bit while they tee up things in their life, or an after school care thing. It’s just a great cultural hub that works really hard to help people springboard off that, and we thought that was a really good cause. We aren’t trying to be politicians or in authority of justice or anything like that, we just want to support and contribute to people who are already doing great work in the community and to plug into it. We aren’t professionals in this field, we are just trying to do something in a tangible way that helps. Not just benefit from this culture and community and take, take, take. It’s really important to have the conversation and give the energy back.


How does it feel to be back on the road with the gang, obviously you’ve done a tour with your solo stuff earlier in the year?

We did the Macklemore tour earlier this year as a bit of a warm up. Well, it wasn’t really a warm up, it was at fucking stadiums! It was massive. It terms of getting the machine moving again, we are just super pumped to do our own headline shows and connect with our listeners again. I feel like we have a good, intelligent, fun-loving audience and it’s always fun to party with those guys whether it be Adelaide or Brissy, or anywhere.

The couple of new tracks that you’ve put out are almost like a new evolution to that Thundamentals sound. Is there more new stuff to be rolled out throughout the tour?

Yeah, we are road testing a bunch of new songs on the tour, that people are going to be hearing for the first time and they won’t be able to hear them again until the record is out. It’s a funny thing, I guess we have been away for two years, but in our minds, conceptually and creatively we haven’t. If you sort of scan through our catalogue we’ve always been progressive and we’ve always done a lot of genres. That being said, we are not running away from our old sound. We get this conversation all the time, “make your new stuff like your old stuff,” and it’s like, “no, listen to the old stuff if you want the old stuff.” We can only make new stuff, but get what they are saying, they want us to make music in that same kind of boom-bap, emotionally mature space, and that’s definitely on the record. I don’t want to talk about it too much, but it’s a really big body of work and we have covered a lot of bases. So people are going to get that but we also wanted to roll out what we were feeling and the artistic expression that we wanted to put out.

It has always come across very natural, it hasn’t felt like you were forcing something that didn’t work.

Yeah, I think there is a big thing with creativity and vulnerability. When you put out something that you’re confident with, if it’s vulnerable I think it’s more effective. I guess what I am trying to say is if you put out music and you actually fuck with it and you actually like it, there is a certain vulnerability about that. It makes it smooth, and if you’re comfortable, it oozes confidence. I remember when we put out Smiles. It’s not an anthem, it’s a chill song and it shows a lot of vulnerability, except that vulnerability shows a lot of confidence. That’s our approach I guess, we don’t want to force things, like you said it needs to feel natural and authentic for us for it to be worth it.

You first three albums came out with Obese Records, since they have shut shop has that had an effect on you guys?

To tell you the truth, we have always been a very self sufficient band, regardless of Obese. They definitely helped us in the early stages with one or two things, but as the band evolved we really did everything ourselves. I guess the biggest difference this time is we are working with a major label (Universal) for a lot of aspects of the business, but again we are a self sufficient organism and machine. They totally understand that and they just want us to be happy and do our thing, because it’s been working.

Do you have a tentative date for the new project?

We are going to do this tour and I have got something very special up my sleeve for how to tell everyone. So I can’t speak on it yet.

We have been interviewing a lot of start-out MCs and up-and-comers from Australia, lots of them have been absolutely stoked to have opened for Thundamentals. How does it feel to inspire the next generation of local MCs?

To be honest, I find it surreal that people would think that about us. That’s crazy, I have never really thought about that. I am learning a lot of this new generation of kids, to tell you the truth I am probably learning more about them than they are learning from me. So the feeling is mutual. Watching someone up on stage for the first time, like when their band has first started, from my perspective that kind of reminds me and triggers things in me and I end up learning a lot. As well as what’s working in their set and what’s not. It’s good to always have your feet firmly on the ground and in touch with the community and the scene. For the first time in a while, I am really excited about it. With artists like Sampa The Great, Remi, and B Wise, and Horrorshow, who have always been there. This is just the top layer of what’s happening, below there is Gill Bates and so much more diversity. It’s been happening for a while, but it’s getting legs and is more accessible for people. It’s a really exciting and electric time.

Thundamentals kick off their tour this Saturday in Canberra. Tickets are on sale now and are selling fast, be sure to jump on them. Tour dates and info below.

If you want to contribute to the Got Love Initiative and download Ignorance Is Bliss click here.


Never Say Never Tour
Featuring PEZ & Mallrat

Oct 29th @ UC Refectory Canberra ACT # – GET TIX
Nov 4th @ HQ Complex Adelaide SA – GET TIX
Nov 5th @ Originals Music Festival Coolum QLD #* – GET TIX
Nov 17th @ Republic Bar Hobart TAS – GET TIX
Nov 18th @ The Croxton Melbourne VIC – SOLD OUT
Nov 19th @ The Croxton Melbourne VIC – GET TIX
Nov 25th @ Miami Tavern Gold Coast QLD – GET TIX
Nov 26th @ The Tivoli Brisbane QLD – GET TIX
Dec 2nd @ Wollongong Uni Bar Wollongong NSW – GET TIX
Dec 3rd @ Long Jetty Hotel Central Coast NSW – GET TIX
Dec 8th @ The Jack Cairns QLD #* – GET TIX
Dec 9th @ Dalrymple Hotel Townsville QLD #* – GET TIX
Dec 10th @ Magnums Airlie Beach QLD #* – GET TIX
Dec 16th @ Cambridge Hotel Newcastle NSW – GET TIX
Dec 17th @ The Metro Sydney NSW – GET TIX
Dec 28th @ Southbound Festival Bussleton WA – GET TIX
Dec 29th @ Beyond The Valley Festival VIC – GET TIX

*PEZ not appearing #Mallrat not appearing

Image: Supplied