By Poppy Tohill
Placing strong emphasis on originality with an absence of major sampling, offering accomplished symmetry between rap and singing, lyrics paint the pictures of real life, sketching experiences on a variety of musical canvases throughout Auckland/Thames based trio Midnight Gallery's forthcoming self titled debut album.
With the release of their debut album set for July 18, I had the privilege of catching up with production master Adam Fuhr to talk all things ‘Midnight Gallery' - band and album.
Hey! With just under a month until the release of the album, how are you feeling about it?
Hey, yeah we're really excited to put it out. We've been working on it for about the last eight months and have been playing a lot of the songs live, so we're really excited to be getting all the tracks out there for release with a couple of videos too.
How would you best describe your sound to someone who had never heard it before?
We're sort of primarily a hip hop group with some elements of R&B and in terms of the music side of things there's live instrumentation with feature musicians rather than the use of samples which is often used in hip hop.
Edgar and Tyla were already in Eddie Numbers prior to Midnight Gallery. How did you meet them and come to form the group?
I played in another band that did a lot of gigs with them over a few years period and we've always talked about getting together and having a bit of a jam and writing some tracks. Then last year we finally got together and laid down a couple of demos and thought it was pretty cool so then we decided to do an album, at which point we thought we better get a band name and that's how it all formed.
So your role in the band is to produce the beats etc, can you tell us a little bit about that process?
My background is as an instrumentalist, so a lot of the songs start on the piano or something like that, the drums are programmed and then maybe we get some featured guitar, bass or saxophone from some other musicians. Like I mentioned before, hip hop usually has quite a bit of sampling in it, but our music is composed from scratch so it's 100 percent original.
So rather than using samples as you were saying, you combine jazz inspired beats with live instrumentation which gives you an incredibly unique sound, was there a reasoning behind this decision other than wanting to obviously sound more original than the other standard hip hop out there?
I think it stays true to our identity in that sense. It's sort of just what comes naturally. We might look at some different processes for work in the future and we might do some collaborative things as well in terms of the production side of things, but it was really just what came naturally to us.
Your music is said to salute the 90s hip hop and R&B you all grew up to listening, who were some of your biggest influences when working on the album?
For me, The Roots are a big influence and J. Cole is probably another.
So growing up, has music always been a big part of your life?
Yeah, we all grew up in musical families and appreciated it from a young age for all of us.
Was there a particular point in your life when you realised you wanted to take your love for music a bit further and pursue a career in it?
Yeah, I think really this project has been a big sort of thing for that in terms of myself and getting really into all the production side of things. That made me look at it as something I want to do full on. I think just the whole aspect of playing live too is a buzz, and you've got proper staging and lights and things, and even just the energy around that is pretty addictive.
So the album was recorded predominantly in your Auckland Central flat, can you fill us in on a little bit of what the recording process was like for you?
Tyla lives down in Thames and Edgar and I live in this flat in Kingsland, so there was a few structures that worked for us. Tyla would bring an idea up and we'd work on that up here on the weekends, or sometimes I was working on a beat simultaneously while Edgar was writing lyrics. There's been quite a parallel process where the vocal part and the music had been written in conjunction with each other.
You've also partnered with a number of talented Kiwi artists who have created a piece of art to represent each track on the album, can you tell us a little bit more about that?
Yeah, so we started off with the first track, ‘Scars' which we got a piece of artwork done for. Then we thought it'd be pretty awesome for every track on the album to lend through to the Midnight Gallery title. So from there we've had sculptural work done, oil paintings and all different sorts of art forms which we're going to collate together as a sort of gallery of work.
So Is that how you came up with the band name?
No that was actually something that just came after, but from that. I guess because music is an aspect of the arts and can be exhibited, but being music it's sort of always tends to be at night time, so that was the idea behind that and then the whole art thing, just turned out from that. Cause we thought it was cool to merge our interests of music and also visual arts. Upon the release of the album there will be an art exhibition displaying all those pieces of work, so there'll be more information on that to come soon.
You've released both ‘Scars' and ‘Pillow To Pillow' as singles off the album and earlier this year saw the release of the music video for ‘Scars,' is there possibly a video for ‘Pillow To Pillow' on the way we could expect to see soon?
Yeah, so the video for ‘Scars' was released in February of this year, and at this stage we don't have a video planned for ‘Pillow To Pillow,' but we're currently working on a video for one of the album tracks which we thought would work well with visual representation, a track called ‘Stuck In Our Ways' and next week we're releasing another single, ‘Memory,' on Friday.
Talking about ‘Scars, how was it working with hip hop artist Raiza Biza on the track?
It was really cool. We sent him through a demo of the track and we got to work on his aspect of it and then we got together at the Kingsland flat to lay it down, and it was awesome to have him on board. He's an incredible talent. He jumped in for the video recording of that too.
Is there a particular artist you or any of the other guys in the group would love to collaborate and work with some day?
We're always open to collaborations. There's a whole heap of artists we'd all love to work with in terms of recording and the live sense. I mean, it'd be pretty cool to work with some of the hero's from the 90s.
In terms of writing your own material too, a lot of the lyrics from your songs are based on personal life experiences, is writing something all three of you do, and is it drawn from all of your experiences or what's your guys process?
Edgar and Tyla are the lyricists. I think they write basically their own experiences but also from the experiences of those around them, so its not just things they've experienced themselves, but also witnessed.
What is your favourite song on the album and why?
It's always changing at this point, after hearing them all so many times (Laughs). My favourite at the moment though is a track called ‘Extra Extra,' which is all about housing prices and getting into your own place. So that's really become a bit of a surprise favourite for me.
Besides opening for Hill Top Hoods at the end of this month, can we expect any more shows from you soon, perhaps after the release of the album?
Yeah definitely! We're planning an album release tour, so we're hoping to have Auckland, Wellington and maybe down to the South Island as we hope to do Christchurch, so we'll be announcing the tour in the coming weeks as the dates get confirmed.
Without giving too much away, what could fans possibly expect from a Midnight Gallery gig?
Heaps of energy and just a combination of rap vocals, live instruments, DJing, it's sort of got everything in it really, it's a good mixture of it all.
What's in store for Midnight Gallery musically for the rest of the year after the release of the album and tour?
We hope to do another summer tour and maybe collaborate with someone else in terms of putting the live shows on and hit up as many of the live festivals as we can and then look across shores next year and just escape New Zealand for a bit at least once (laughs).
To finish off, what are you guys listening to right now?
As I mentioned before, J. Cole or The Roots because they've always got a new album out to listen to, but also a bit of throw back things from the 80s and 90s. We're also listening to ESTA, a beat maker out of San Diego who's got a soulful electronics device.
Check out Midnight Gallery at iTunes