Sydney-based, New Zealand-born artist Somber Hills has made the most of 2021. His debut EP, It's Sad Saying Goodbye, features tracks that combine elements of rock, rap and pop, mashing them together to create a sound that he refers to as "anti-pop". It's a moniker that, even if you've never heard of it before, feels fitting when you're listening to the EP. As he puts it, anti-pop isn't a genre that's about being "anti-anything", but rather, incorporating elements of existing genres to create something new.
It's Sad Saying Goodbye capture the emotions that Somber Hills experienced after moving from New Zealand to Sydney, and it's a project that is grounded in reality. Rather than a happy ending, the project captures the loose ends that come with moving to a new place. It's a powerful statement from Somber Hills, and the project hints at where his sound is heading next.
Listen to It's Sad Saying Goodbye below, and read on to learn more about the project, as well as how moving from New Zealand to Sydney has changed things for Somber Hills. It's Sad Saying Goodbye is just the start for him - he's got his eyes set on the rest of the world.
Cool Accidents: I wanted to start by congratulating you on your debut EP, It’s Sad Saying Goodbye! It features collaborations with Phi11a, Up Late and Sinclaire – can you tell me about how you approach collaborations, and how you found working with each artist?
Somber Hills: Thank you! Most of my collaborations have come from Instagram DMs lmao. It’s dope though because you know you're working with someone who fucks with your sound. If people aren’t willing to check out your stuff then you know straight away they aren’t going to be open to ideas in the studio.
Ph1lla hit me up on IG a year and a bit ago, and since then we’ve been working together. My good friend Manny set me up with (producer) Nat Sherwood, who showed me Up Late + Sinclaire's stuff. I was like 'yo, let's work', and the next week we hit a session at 301 Studios. That was a rad session. We just threw ideas around over a beat and the song naturally happened.
The EP is a very personal release – as a musician, do you feel pressure when releasing such a vulnerable project, or is it cathartic to share that side of you with the world?
I think the pressure comes from worrying about how people may perceive me through my music. I don’t feel that pressure. The ideas and emotions explored on this EP are, I think, very relatable. We’ve all had to say goodbye, or will have to do it at some point. Releasing music is the best. It's mad hearing how your music connects with other people, and it gets you pumped to make more.
It’s been a big 2021 for you – what tips and tricks have you been using to ensure your creativity hasn’t waned throughout lockdowns and the ups and downs of the year?
Ahh, I wish I had tips and tricks for this! I think the best thing is to try new stuff creatively. Take things less seriously and make demos without an intention. I’ve only recently realised that true creativity comes without thought. Instead, it’s like a stream of consciousness that hits you, where time doesn’t exist and everything just flows. No bar has a judging voice behind it, no sound feels out of place. It all just works. You need to get to that place to stay creative. I think to do that, you need to think less and just do it because you love it. If there’s anything that's ruined sessions for me it’s overthinking it. So, there’s my tip - think less.
As the pandemic kicked off, you made the move from New Zealand to Sydney – having been in Australia for a minute now, can you tell me about how being in a different country’s shifted the way you approach music?
I think I just feel the need to work harder. Australia is so much bigger than New Zealand and the community here is insanely talented. I’d say the competition is healthy. It's exciting to be around creatives who work harder than you, or have skills you don't. Sydney has made me excited to hit the rest of the world.
You’re influenced by the alt-rap world – I’d love to know about some artists from that scene you’d love to work with and why?
Recently, I’ve fallen in love with underscores. I wouldn’t even call it rap at this point. It’s just vibes - I don’t know how to explain it!
The EP’s referred to as being anti-pop – can you tell me a bit more about what that term means to you?
It's because my music isn’t rap, it’s not quite pop and it’s not quite rock or punk either. Especially the new stuff I'm making. It’s not to be anti-anything, but it just isn't any of the above. However, it has structure and elements of the above. Anti-pop is a genre, just not one Australia/NZ has figured out yet.
On your Spotify page, you’ve got the caption “conquer your existence”. I’d love to learn more about what this means to you, and how you’ve gone about doing exactly that over the last couple of years, where it’s been particularly difficult to do so?
Three years ago, I saw that line in a breakdown during a Korean music video, XAAMONG by mojomossomen. My friend Miru showed it to me, and it just connected with me so hard. I’ve always questioned my existence. I wake up in the morning, look at my hands and just freak out that this is life. To me, it means to do the best I can at all times, and to win.
I just feel like that is my path, to become ‘something’, or leave behind something big. It only feels difficult when doubt creeps in. However, I'm so used to being told no, learning things the hard way and obstacles appearing that it’s just a part of the journey now. I think, to me, it means to be unshakeable in whatever you strive for.
Finally, the different sounds on It’s Sad Saying Goodbye speak to what’s coming next, and you’ve mentioned it feels like the start of a new chapter – what do you have planned for the next few months, both in terms of releases and live shows
To put it simply, the creation of this EP has birthed a new sound that feels more ‘me’ than before. Fewer rules, more fun. My plans are yet to be made, or are on hold thanks to COVID, but there’s merch coming soon. I can’t wait to get back on stage. Oh and I’m heading to the states as soon as I can to do some cool things there. Thanks for having me! <3