INTERVIEW: Remi On Performing Personal Songs And Letting Go Of Your Demons

You’d be hard pressed to find an Aussie hip-hop act who had a better 2016 than Remi. From playing entirely sold out tours across the country, as well as every major festival, to releasing his critically acclaimed album Divas and Demons, to speaking openly about racism and mental health, he’s about as relevant and necessary as they come. Kicking off 2017 with a bang, Remi performed at Sydney’s Field Day on January 1, where we were lucky to have a quick chat with the man himself about the year that’s passed, and looking ahead.

What are you guys getting up to after Field Day?

We’re heading up to Byron Bay for Falls Festival. It’s been a great tour. We did Southbound last Tuesday and Lorne on Friday, plus the Marion Bay show of course.

Were you guys around when the big crush happened after the DMA’s set?

Yeah, we heard all about it. DMA’s were the set after us. At the time we had no idea because we just got in the car and left, but we found out the day after when we woke up. It was so sad because DMA’s killed it. The worst part was that they didn’t have enough exits. It was so closed off and I understand that they need to do that for sound and all that, but when it comes to it if you have 19 people with serious injuries that really sucks.

On a more positive note, 2016 was a huge year for you. What were some personal highlights?

We were lucky enough to go out to Kalkarindji in the Northern Territory, about 10 hours south of Darwin, and celebrate the 50 year anniversary of the Wave Hill Cattle Station walk-off. It was such a beautiful thing to be involved in. We were the only non-indigenous act that were invited to come and play, so that was an honour, it felt special. We didn’t really know what we were getting into before we did the gig, but as soon as we rocked up the community welcomed us with so much love and positivity. It’s something that isn’t promoted enough when it comes to people who are indigenous. People can make them out to be some kind of animal or beast, which is so far from the truth. They treated us better than lots of people treat us here, so that was my personal highlight.

Indigenous artists are definitely gaining more momentum right now.

They are so under-represented but one of the most beautiful things that we’ve seen this year is the acceptance of A.B. Original‘s new album Reclaim Australia, along with the amazing stuff that they are doing through the live scene. There have been some incredible voices for the youth as well through cats like Thelma Plum. People that are willing to sacrifice their own personal peace to point out what is wrong. They speak their mind which can take a lot of heart to do. Everybody knows that the hardest thing is to speak out when it’s against the masses. They do that and they warrant a lot of respect for that.

You spoke a lot about your own mental demons on your new album. Was it cathartic to put all those feelings into a record?

Definitely. With time, making that kind of record, even if you get over your demons, it helps you process it. At the same time, if you go back to writing music in a similar headspace, you don’t want to hear that shit again. You don’t want to be living in that world. It would be so easy to just continually be creating music that’s sad because that’s what the world is like.

When you released the record do you write for personal catharsis, or does the audience play a role?

People connected to the song Substance Therapy because they could draw it back to their own experiences. It’s both a fortunate and unfortunate thing that it’s struck such a chord with people.

And has performing it on tour taken its toll mentally?

I’m in a weird spot where some songs are too personal and we don’t perform them, but for other songs I don’t really think about it. I’m more thinking about the people in front of us and how they can get out their own emotions. It’s also hard to be as depressed as we were when we wrote those tunes when you have a whole bunch of people that are supporting you and showing you love. Especially when they tell you about how they listened to them and how they helped them and all that stuff. For us, we love people, so it helps so much. We were those kids with the headphones on listening to tunes, so to be on the other side of the fence is amazing.

When you recorded the songs, did you know they would be too personal to perform live?

I didn’t think that when I recorded them, but I also don’t ever think about performing live when I’m writing a song. I don’t think that the style of music that we make, that taking into account how people are going to react is going to be beneficial. We saw London Grammar last night, and they play chilled out stuff, but people are just going wild. It’s crazy. You see that, and we saw Matt Corby as well, and a lot of his songs, it’s not like you’re hearing a banger, you’re hearing these heartfelt songs. I don’t ever let that get into my mind, because if the song is good enough then people will love that shit. One of my favourite songs is by Jay Electronica, and it’s called Better In Tune With The Infinite. It doesn’t have a drop, but I would lose my damn mind if I heard that song live.

There’s some stuff, where if you’re talking about some sort of trauma, whether it be relationship trauma or depression trauma, if you continuously live there you’re not moving on – and that’s the whole point. You’re sad because you’re a human being, but most of the time it’s about that separation where one day you can wake up and realise “You know what, everything’s cool.” If you always rap about it and keep talking about it, you’re going to fantasise about the past and that’s the most dangerous place to get lost in because you can never go back.

Image: Dani Hansen for Howl & Echoes