Allday has been a household name on the Australian hip hop scene for a few years now, so it’s exciting to see the young Adelaidean’s ascent into Australian pop/rap royalty. His style has matured since the days of 2014’s Startup Cult debut album, with his third album Starry Night Over The Phone dropping today ahead of a career-defining (and probably very memorable) Allday & Friends set at Splendour In The Grass next week.
The new album is littered with features like The Veronicas, Lonelyspeck and Japanese Wallpaper – keeping in stride with his past records – but is notably more melodic than his earlier work. The SoundCloud rap-esque trap beats are there, the quick rhymes are still flowing, but he’s also singing a lot more. Songs like Atmosphere and Rhythms shine a light on this side of him and it shows a young rapper carving out a space for himself in the world of traditional Australian hip hop.
We catch Tom Gaynor at a café in Sydney’s Surry Hills where he’s sipping on a cold brew and though he speaks softly, his unique and highly-enunciated manner of speaking and funny little asides shine throughout our chat. His humour is all timing and nuance and you can tell it comes naturally to the 28-year-old – unsurprisingly, in a past life, Allday has done a bit of stand-up comedy.
So you live in LA these days, how do you like it?
It’s pretty good. I have a place with Mallrat and do you know the singer Phebe Starr? We have a place together on the Hollywood Hills. We have a nice view out the window. I was in the pollution in the middle of Hollywood, and I was getting itchy! So Australian, not being used to the pollution. I would wake up and go, ‘eugh! I gotta get out of this dirty neighbourhood.’
Do you have any famous neighbours?
I saw Kristen Wiig at the ice cream store! She looked like she was on a date so I didn’t say anything. I mean, you don’t say anything to the celebrities anyway, you leave them alone. I heard Childish Gambino lives in the neighbourhood too, but I haven’t seen him.
The August tour you announced is massive! What a dream team of Mallrat, E^ST, you and JXN. How are you feeling about playing so many huge rooms?
Last time we did Festival Hall and in Sydney we did Luna Park. I don’t know how that compares to Hordern Pavilion, but Luna Park is kind of just like a big room, whereas Hordern I feel like is more of a venue. Last time we didn’t do Adelaide, too. It’ll be fun.
I’m kind of beginning to use more of a band. It’s been such a rap show in the past, I’m trying to bring more instruments, more like… samples. More integrated and I think that’s gonna make it more fun for us and more fun to watch. Also, the people in the band can sing and they can make me sound better.
Would you say your style fits into the SoundCloud rap box? You were pretty much doing it before it really blew up.
Ummm I mean, I’ve been around for a minute now. I don’t know what SoundCloud rap is now, I definitely was putting stuff out on SoundCloud and gaining fans off SoundCloud. I definitely go into that territory, but when did I start doing that? When I first started, I was like old school rap. Then for a minute it was like, ‘I should just copy what’s on triple j’, like the older guys like Hilltop Hoods. I was like, ‘maybe I should do this so people like me?’ and that’s the only thing I ever did that didn’t feel like me. It’s one of the few bits of music I look back on and feel cringey about - the stuff when I was trying to be someone else. The rest of it, 2014 and stuff, I was doing some of the more trap stuff.
What are your favourite rappers at the moment; who are you vibing?
Out of the new rappers, I like… I like that guy 6lack. [Denzel Curry] is one of those guys that’s been around a minute. I can relate to him because I feel like he’s between eras and sounds. [His Like A Version] sounded like the original, it was so good.
For me, all those guys – Kendrick, Lil Wayne, Drake, Kanye, J Cole even. I like Meek Mill, Gucci Mane, 21 Savage, I like Young Thug, Future, Gunna. I’m not really checking underground boom-bap stuff anymore but I still love it.
Tell us about your album – were there any overarching themes driving it? You’ve spoken about your album title being about being away from home and all your loved ones.
Yeah, I think that’s what it was, basically. Moving to LA and being away from people in Australia, having a girlfriend, a partner, who was American and then I’d be back here all the time! It’s like, ‘shit, I’m always separated from someone.’ Then I was considering moving from Adelaide to Melbourne, and I was sort of looking back at the first time I made a big move and reflecting on it again because I hadn’t reflected on it that way, but I was feeling that way again?
When I was writing it wasn’t all about me, I wanna say I wanted to write for anyone going through that, but whenever you write it’s always from your perspective.
How did you get The Veronicas on the album’s first song Restless?
I just put it there because me and manager were discussing how people listen to music now and he was like, ‘we should just put the best song first, shouldn’t we?’ We were looking at old albums like Whispering Jack by John Farnham and stuff and the first five songs were all hits! It was a funny way to do it, just put all the good ones first and if you still like it later on…
Obviously, I spend a lot of time on the cohesiveness of it, trying to make sure it flowed, probably more than other albums. As much as I say I put the big ones first, I definitely made sure it flowed.
How [me and The Veronicas] met was that we met at a festival in WA and we just hit it off. I’d said hey to them the night before at a festival, I was like, ‘that’s so cool, that’s The Veronicas!’ But at the airport, we waved at them and they just came and sat down at the table, eating airport food. We just sat chatting for half an hour, 45 minutes, we’d never met before! That’s how we became pals. They’re between LA and Australia too so we just chill and go and get dinner or whatever. Then they said to me, ‘do you wanna be on our album?’ and I was like, ‘yeah!’ then when I was doing it, I was like ‘can you be on my album too?’ so we have two songs together.
Your fans are so wild they have tattoos of you. Is that weird to have people that are probably your age idolising you?
It’s weird, yeah, but also… not? Also like, I’d be lying if I said I felt weird about it, because if you spend your whole life doing something and trying to be good at something, and someone acknowledges it then it means a lot to me. If I said that it felt weird, I’d just be lying – it feels GOOD. That’s what I’d like to happen. And all these word ideas, little phrases, I’ve always put it in [the music] because I think it’s fucking good, so if they get it tattooed and get it, fucking good! That’s awesome.
We have a Facebook group called Allday & Friends, and there’s always new tattoos going up in there. It‘s pretty cool. At times when you’re not inspired or feeling burnt out or whatever, just seeing like ‘man, I’ve got this on someone else’s body’, it does give you a little kick.
You can catch Allday & Friends at Splendour In The Grass; Allday's album Starry Night Over The Phone is out now.