As the world dealt with lockdown over the last two years, a spotlight shone on Australia’s drum and bass scene. An eruption of emerging talent and new music echoed from the other side of the world, and continues to echo as events open and restrictions ease. Now Viper Recordings is showcasing Australia’s best and brightest with a four- track project The Wizards of Aus EP.
Following the release of the EP’s final instalment, we caught up with Aussie artists Solomon France and V O E’s Caroline and Tom to talk about all things drum and bass from the land down under...
So firstly, how is everything going in Australia? Like the rest of the world you dealt with Covid over the last two years, and you’ve had your share of restrictions, lockdowns, postponed events etc. But it seems like normality is restoring – as an artist, how does it feel getting to play events again?
Solomon France: Yes it definitely seems like things are going back to normal, I don’t want to jinx things but things seem to be good here, fingers crossed it stays that way! I saw Camo & Krooked and Mefjus play in Sydney, which is insane. I am only 21 now, and I was 18 when Covid first hit, so going from no shows to being fed Camo, Krooked and Mefjus on a platter, what more can you ask for? And of course we are playing shows too, so things are great!
Caroline: Yes, it has felt like a slingshot. We had so many shows lined up before Covid hit, but then everything was pulled right back. Tom and I were recording our music in separate rooms, it was a very isolated process, while everyone was focusing on surviving. But now we are hurtling forwards again, doing shows both in Australia and abroad. It went from nothing to non-stop, and trying to catch your breath in between! In the best way of course, not complaining at all!
Tom: What’s made it harder is that every state in Australia has different rules, so some states were partying while others were looking jealous from the sidelines. It feels like a crazy jump having such huge artists coming to our corner, as before it was mainly local acts. The floodgates had definitely opened for us in terms of drum and bass.
Solomon France: Yes it feels like a second wind for the Australian drum and bass scene through Covid. And to come out of it better too, it feels better than it has for a very long time.
Tom: I feel people have got much more energy and drive to go out to events. People have been cooped up for so long, they are like ‘come on, give me more shows!’ It’s the same on our end too, the lockdown has made us more eager to get on stage to play, and overall just hungrier for it.
Absolutely, especially for certain parts of Australia which has a thriving D&B scene?
Solomon France: I can’t speak for all of Australia as I am from the Sydney side, but I know Perth has an incredible scene. In Sydney there’s a solid community, and through Covid it absolutely exploded! There’s definitely a much younger crowd as well now. We usually used to see a lot of 35 year olds, but there’s lots of 18 and 19 year olds coming to events. This probably has to do with a multitude of things, from TikTok to the New Zealand scene popping off, to just people being locked in and itching to go out. Whatever the reasons are, it warms my heart to see new generations enjoying drum and bass.
Caroline: Adelaide has always had a good D&B scene. It’s maybe not as big as Perth but it is very close-knit. But overall I think the scene in Australia has been bubbling away quietly, not exactly underground but definitely not as loudly. We’ve had all these genres come in waves – dubstep, trap, riddim. But drum and bass came and kicked the door in, like ‘mama’s home!’
Tom: Yeah when we first started doing drum and bass, we did it because of our love for the music, not because it was a popular genre to do.
Caroline: I feel we have been really fortunate that we have been able to share our music at this time when it is about to pop off in a huge way.
And speaking of sharing music, let’s talk about The Wizards of Aus EP! You guys alongside Ekko & Sidetrack and Blaine Stranger on a 4-track EP on Viper Recordings. So what’s this project all about?
Tom: Well when it was first mentioned to us, it was just the excitement of showing off what Australia has to offer. Especially with a large Australian team already on Viper Recordings, the EP was a good excuse to showcase what is coming out of our neck of the woods at the moment.
Solomon France: Exactly that, it’s all about acknowledging the amazing community we have here in Australia, we’ve got these amazing producers so why not showcase it?
Caroline: And going back to how Covid affected Australia’s scene, there was a huge silver lining that many acts were getting noticed and more attention, when before they may have been overshadowed by overseas acts. So events were looking into Australia’s treasure chest and realising ‘damn, there is a lot of good music here!’. So we really wanted to emphasise that point with the EP, and show what this country has to offer.
And obviously Viper is one of the most established labels in the scene. I’m sure it’s always a pinch yourself moment to have your music released on this label, especially alongside the huge names of Ekko & Sidetrack and Blaine Stranger?
Tom: Yes, it’s such a huge thing. Viper and working with Futurebound is such a huge goal for us in general, so being alongside all these artists on the label is really special. These are people who we use to reference our tracks, and be like ‘this is the level we want to get to’. Featuring alongside any Viper artist is a huge win for us.
Caroline: Yeah it definitely feels like a milestone for us. There were a lot of high fives when the email came through! Tom and I have worked very hard to get our music to the standard that it is, so to have that acknowledged in being asked to be a part of an EP like that, it warms our heart. We are just happy to be a part of it. The hardest part though was picking a track! We needed to make sure we would compliment everybody else’s track, while also showcasing the best of what we can do.
And the track you released on the EP was Running Blind – can we hear more about this track?
Tom: So for all of our tracks there are two sides – the production side which I am more focused on, then the deeper songwriting side which Caroline has a bigger part in. This one started pretty much like all of our vocal-led songs, it started just as a song. I’ll write a piano line, no drums, no drop. That all comes later based on the emotion of the vocals. So this song was written as an acoustic, and then given to Caroline for the songwriting part. And once she had come up with the amazing vocals like she does for all of our tracks, the song idea comes so quickly and it makes it so much easier for me to imagine the drop from that, something that matches her energy and emotions.
Caroline: For Running Blind, the story behind it is about someone who keeps self sabotaging, and you are constantly trying to assist them. And the pain then turns from theirs to yours, as you try to do the most to help someone, but they don’t help themselves. They constantly put you through pain, through all the processes, without any consideration of your feelings or mental health. I feel it’s a situation that is very relatable, and one I have found myself in a couple of times, with a relationship or a friendship. I think people need to understand that you can’t keep putting yourself in harm’s way for people if they aren’t ready for it.
Tom: It’s also the positive side of acknowledging the situation, recognising you can’t keep doing it, and breaking free from it. It’s uplifting as well.
Caroline: Exactly, this came very quickly from hearing Tom’s piano line. We tend to go with first impressions, we don’t often rewrite a lot of things. Whatever feels right at the time is a genuine response.
Tom: The main riffs, leads, and chords, it was all very quick. It’s similar to musicians jamming. The original idea we did within a couple of days. A lot of our tracks don’t evolve much from start to finish. But Brendan (Futurebound) kept pushing us – ‘let’s see if we can make this heavier’. He kept challenging us, and it kept getting pushed to the maximum of what it could be. You hear the amount of energy and excitement, it doesn’t really slow down, it’s just a rollercoaster throughout.
Maybe a month after hearing the demo, he said Running Blind would be perfect for The Wizards of Aus EP. From that it took a couple more weeks working back and forth to get it right. But overall we are very happy with how it turned out!
And then Solomon can we hear more about your track, Peace of Mind?
Solomon France: Yeah sure, but my process is way less interesting than theirs! I think I started it over a year ago – I got the chords down, a really nice hook that I liked, and I got the vibe right. It kind of just sat there for about a month. I didn’t do too much to it until I went back to it a month after writing it, just this 16 bar vibe. I ended up fleshing it out and getting a pretty decent finished track in about a day.
Then I sent it off to Oli who’s a vocalist from Perth, another fellow Aus and an absolutely great guy! He wrote this topline for it, and I ended up finishing it maybe a week after. It sat in the semi-finished folder for about a year, until Brendan said ‘can we have a track for The Wizards of Aus EP?’. I thought it would be the perfect one to finish up, because Ollie is a vocalist from Perth, so it is very fitting. I finished it off, changed the snare and gave it that little lick of paint, and it was good to go!
And then you all came together and showcased your music at The Wizards of Aus event! How did it go?
Caroline: Really good! The opportunity to provide shows off the back of The Wizards Of Aus EP, and give something back to all the fans that were supporting us, it was very heartwarming. To bring everyone together so we could enjoy and celebrate D&B in Australia was really special. It was great seeing Blaine Stranger and Ekko & Sidetrack – this was the first time I got to meet them and see them perform live. Tom was selfishly away on his honeymoon so I had to hold down the V O E fort! My goal for the show was just to kick the door in, flip a table and hopefully blow some minds! I went real heavy and I had the best time doing it. I also got to see Solomon play which was great fun, and just seeing the rays of sunshine on the crowd’s face, what a night!
Tom: I was contemplating, could I just sneak away from my honeymoon and not tell my wife? Quickly catch a plane, do the event and then come back? After all, you couldn’t miss that line up!
Solomon: It was an unreal line up. That was my first time in Perth, I flew in from Sydney and got to meet Caroline and Jeff from Ekko & Sidetrack for the first time. The show that everybody put on, I was basically an undercover fan. I just got to vibe out, watch my first Ekko & Sidetrack show, and my first V O E show. It was awesome!
Sounds like it was an amazing night! Then moving on from The Wizards of Aus EP, what else can fans expect from you?
Solomon France: So I’ve recently released my remix of Fox Stevenson’s ‘Miss You’. I did this track just for fun, I never intended on releasing it, but it ended up getting a lot of attention and people seemed to love it. It’s actually released on Spotify and Apple Music alongside everywhere else thanks to my amazing manager. I was very excited to get this out into the world. On top of that I’ve got some other stuff but I can’t give too much away right now!
I’m playing a number of shows as well. I’ve got a Ministry of Sound one in Sydney, which is going to be so much fun. I’ve got a couple more with Just A Gent. He was kind enough to ask me to tag along on his Australia tour at the end of June, start of July. That will be Sydney, Newcastle, Adelaide and Melbourne. I’m looking forward to that!
Caroline: So we are touring New Zealand, five shows with Metrik, Flowdius and Fairbrother. It’s not only our first time in New Zealand but our first international tour which is nuts. It was postponed three times because of covid, so it doesn’t feel real that it’s actually happening. We have been dying to see the New Zealand crew as we are always getting comments from them asking when we are coming over. And just seeing how big the scene is over there, very sexy!
Then in terms of music, we’ve got the ‘Chemical’ remix competition, which we will be finalising the winners for. This was tough because we had like 140 entries, and then we whittled it down to 35, then 20, and now 10. I’m pushing for a 10 track EP, just cos there are so many different flavours. I don’t know if it’s narcissistic to like all the same songs that we wrote! But it’s so interesting to see how people put the pieces together on their end and their own different creative flavours. But we are hanging to get that out!
Tom: Then once that is out we should be following up with another EP. We’ve given Viper the impossible task of hauling through like 35 demos and picking their favourites. There is a lot of music we are eager to get out, and show off what we have got. We don’t have any dates set in stone yet, but it is safe to say there is a lot of good music coming so keep an eye on everything coming out of Aus!
The Wizards Of Aus EP is our now on Viper Recordings
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