When artists are appearing on the biggest festival stages in the world, it’s not unreasonable to think of them as being unattainable. They’re whisked on-stage to play for thousands of people and then taken away to, we assume, huge parties with the most beautiful people in the world and top shelf liquor. When Tame Impala took to the stage at Coachella this year, it dispelled that myth. Kevin Parker stood bare-foot playing before AC/DC at one of the world’s biggest festivals and yet made it look as casual as their early support gigs in Australia.
Perth band/hip-hop collective Koi Child have this Kevin to thank. They’ve burst onto the scene with an excellent single produced by Parker and a full album to come early next year. They didn’t approach Parker, though, he approached them at their first gig as a full band in Perth. It’s easy to attach Parker’s name to the project and let them ride to fame on that connection alone but it does very little to credit the band’s standalone skill.
The simple fact is, Parker approached Koi Child for one reason - they’re brilliant. There is an energy that hits you as soon as you hear the band for the first time. Black Panda - their breakthrough track - combines jamming with a richly charismatic flow courtesy of frontman Shannon Patterson. It’s not reminiscent of your typical Australian hip-hop but it also doesn’t sound like much coming from overseas. Maybe that’s why Parker was drawn.
At BIGSOUND in Brisbane where the band played their first ever interstate gig it felt like they had truly arrived. Ending the live part of the conference, they played to a packed out room and smacked everyone with a wave of stabbing brass and vigorous raps. The band mucked around on stage like they were in rehearsal while Patterson pulled everyone in as if they were his best friend. By the end Koi Child became the name on everyone's lips. The set may have been made up mostly by unreleased material but it didn’t matter. It felt like one continuous jam, like we were sitting in their Perth rehearsal space.
We caught up with Patterson, drummer Blake Hart and saxophonist Christian Ruggerio just before their BIGSOUND appearance to chat everything from their first meeting with Parker to where they fit in the spectrum of Aussie hip-hop.
What a crazy few months it’s been for you guys off the back of Black Panda?
C: Yeah pretty crazy it’s happened off one song.
S: This is our second song. We had one before that that didn’t make the cut. We released that independently.
Did you guys know you had something good when you recorded that one?
S: I thought so. When we we recorded it I was like this is the bees knees.
B: When we first made it, it was just a jam.
C: It was a bit of a piss take really.
S: I don’t think we were going to put it on the album but eventually we decided.
B: Yeah, in regards to singles it takes us so long to actually fully decide. We only just decided on our next single.
So there’s an album ready to go then?
S: Yeah, we don’t know when it’s coming up but it’s definitely coming.
B: It is all recorded, it’s all finished.
Is it hard to have it ready and know you’ve got to wait to put it out?
S: Terrible. This album we recorded November last year.
C: Still up until a few months ago we were editing and re-writing parts.
Is it difficult to decide that it’s finished?
B: I actually don’t think it is because we play it live and so we feel like we’re playing the songs and once you record it it’s over and it’s sort of a relief. The real pressure will probably be felt by our manager or label to release it. It’s kind of in their hands now.
Is the set at the moment made up completely of songs from the album?
B: Yes. We’ve changed up some of it.
S: We went down South for a few nights and worked on our set for the tour so we’ve got a 30 min set, 40 minute set and the 60 minute hot boi bonanza.
How did Koi Child come together? Are you all influenced by the same kind of music?
S: Initially, we were two separate bands. There was Child’s Play - me and Christian are in Child’s Play. And the other band is Cash Koi - it’s an instrumental band similar to BadBadNotGood. Child’s Play is straight-up beats, sax and hip-hop with a little bit of trombone and we joined forces…
C: I guess based on similar influences.
B: They (Childs Play) saw us play and they said, “let’s do a gig together.” And then we all saw Robert Glasper…
S: As two separate bands we both saw him and were like, “whoah, this is so cool,” so we thought…
C: ...Let’s have a jam and try and come up with something along those lines.
A few years ago at BIGSOUND if you said there was an Australian hip-hop band was closing the festival, you’d expect something very different to what we’re going to get with you guys. Do you feel like Australian hip-hop is even a thing anymore?
S: To me it depends on what makes Australian hip-hop Australian hip-hop. Is it hip-hop that started in Australia? Is it hip-hop that’s in Australia? Do I think it’s a thing? Yeah definitely. When people mention Aussie hip-hop it’s a vision in your head, you’ve got a list of music but I think it’s changing in a sense.
B: It’s less bogan.
S: I’m not from here and there are a lot of foreign people that are rapping now but almost everyone in this band is Australian, so does that makes us Aussie hip-hop? I guess so.
I guess the title is changing…
S: Yeah, it’s just changing. It’s cool, I still love Aussie hip-hop. I met a few of the guys from OneDay and they’re so cool. Even the guys in Perth, the Aussie dudes, they took me in.
What’s the music community like in Perth?
B: It’s so good.
C: Super tight.
S: Everyone’s just friends with each other.
B: Sam, our trombonist, actually opened a studio where it’s like artists rent a desk for $20 a week and it’s also a jam room. Tonnes of people rent a room to make art or they make beats.
C: Some people are just doing uni work in there but it’s a collaborative space.
S: Like the person who did our album artwork is just an artist in the studio.
That’s really cool. There are so many artists these days that are using the internet and their bedroom to produce but how important is it for you guys to have that community and that physicality?
S: Important. We can high-five each other.
Was the album recorded with all you guys in the same room bouncing off each other?
S: In the beginning it was like that, we’d record everything together, but afterwards we had to fix a few things up. I recorded a lot of my stuff afterwards but I was still in the room with mics recording.
B: All the drum takes are live and then some mistakes people go and re-record little bits.
The video for Black Panda is really cool and it’s got a real force to it with the way you guys move towards the camera. That’s what I’m imagining the live show to be like…
S: Yeah the live show is really bam bam bam.
C: That’s what we wanted, all the energy to come through.
S: I think at the end of the show it’s gotta be like, “whoah, what just happened?”
B: We hope.
You’ve done quite a few shows now and you’re heading on a massive tour at the end of the year with Tame Impala. How do you guys feel about that?
B: Pretty much my favourite band.
How did that relationship start with Tame, particularly with Kevin Parker?
B: Basically we had a once-off gig when all the bands met. He was just at our first gig. He’s basically my favourite musician and at the end he came up to me and said “that was sweet” and he helped me pack up my drums and I was like, “what you’re so nice,” and then he came back to...I drove his car because he’s had a little bit to drink and I was sober…
S: What! You drove his car?
B: Yeah. I drove his car with him and his girlfriend in the back. I was just driving and my girlfriend at the time wanted to go home so we dropped her off, went to my house and there was coincidentally a party at my house that night and there was someone doing fire-twirling out the front - it was a pretty adventurous night. And then at the party he was just in front of all my mates and was like, “you wanna play with us at Rotto?”, and I acted like I was totally chill I was like, “yeah, yeah that would be cool.” The next day I thought it wasn’t real and then he called me up and it was all a go and then we had to become a band because you can’t not become a band. So that was our second gig.
S: It was just meant to be a one-off thing and then that happened and…
C: We had to get a band name. “Who’s your manager? What are you called?” And we didn’t even have a name.
S: We made up the name on the spot. We just put Child’s Play and Kashikoi together and got Koi Child.
Did that first show with you guys altogether feel right?
B: It was a great night.
S: One of the craziest nights of my life so far.
B: Kind of like the hangover the next day.
S: There were six things we needed to find - two of them were people.
B: It was such a wild night. We need to find all our clothes we left at parties. We found everything in the end.
And what, then you just drunkenly asked him to work on your album?
S: No, actually. I bumped into him at Mojos in Freo and he asked how the mixing was going and I said we were struggling a bit with whatever it was and I went and partied with him after that and he kinda just drunkenly asked me…
B: He’s not a drunk though.
S: When he offered I was like, “you must be drunk”
C: Such a generous, loving guy.
S: I couldn’t believe it but I acted really cool.
How reaffirming is that for you guys to have someone like that justify that your hard work isn’t going to waste?
S: It’s awesome because he’s really nice and he actually thinks our music is really good. And he says it and coming from him it’s amazing.
But you guys must’ve felt the music was good to do an album?
How good does it feel now to have the album and have a platform to launch it off?
C: It’s the dream. Living the dream.
Were their points in all of your careers where you thought it’s not picking up let’s pack it in?
C: We’ve always done it for fun.
B: We’ve wanted to play bigger shows as anyone would.
C: We’ve always done other things and music has just been fun, a habit really. Now this has happened so it…
S: It could be an actual job. If we work it right we’re hoping.
I think the public has this misconception that if you have a song on the radio you must be living in mansions.
B: I know. My extended family thinks that. I am on the dole, though.
What was the attitude like recording the album? Did you decide you would have 12 tracks?
C: It was all based around Kev’s availability because he was in and out of town but then he said he’d be in town on these dates and was happy to come down and record. Then we were like, “Oh shit, we’ve gotta get our act together.” We were still writing stuff while we were recording.
B: Two of the songs we made on the island. Shan and I were having some drinks and the vibe was a bit dead so we thought let’s just go record - just drums and rap.
Is it all like Black Panda?
S: It’s different. Black Panda is probably the most different song on the album. I don’t know how to explain it, it’s very diverse.
B: The songs are more mellow and a little more progressive - more of a journey than full on assault.
S: Black Panda is like a punch - a nice punch.
Does it feel good to marry those songs with the slow-burning ones live?
S: Yeah definitely. We went and practiced and wrote all the songs down and figured out which ones will go into each other well, where we’d have a break, where we’d have a bass change. Everything's planned out very nicely which is weird because when we started…
B: There would be a groove and everyone would look at one person and be like next groove. That’s what it was for our first few gigs and now it’s changed to a real band.
What happens next? We’ve got another single coming?
S: Yeah, October I think.
C: I can’t wait to be holding an album.
B: The artist who did the posters for our tours now is the same guy that did the album art. You can know what imagery to expect. Fingers crossed we get coloured vinyl. That’s a bucket list thing for me. Now we’ve got a label behind us.
S: I like normal vinyl!
- Interview by the interns' Sam Murphy for Cool Accidents