When fresh-faced teens Lane Harry and Ike Campbell met each other at Marymount College in Burleigh Waters, little did they know that in a few short years they’d be an up and coming alternative hip hop duo on the brink of an international tour. In fact, they were writing and recording their own solo stuff for quite a bit before the thought of collaborating popped into either of their heads. Natalie O’Driscoll has the scoop.
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“I was just showing him what I was making and he was showing me what he was writing, but we weren’t that interested in each other’s compositions”, remembers Ike as we sit together at a table outside Griffith University’s Unibar on a scorching October afternoon. I want to know whether there was a defining moment that brought them together musically.
“At the time I was using a variety of DJs”, recalls Lane. He speaks so quietly that now and again I have to lean forward to catch what he’s saying. “I just wanted Ike to be my DJ. We were at a barbecue or a bonfire, at [friend and local musician] Tommy Sheehan’s house, and Ike showed me some beats he was working on, and I went that’s actually really sick, and so we started hanging out.”
From humble recording beginnings in early 2013, the duo quickly began to gain some traction in the Australian hip hop scene. In August of 2013 Lane-Harry x Ike Campbell, in collaboration with local hip hop artist Jesswar, released the 6-track The Jesswar & Lane-Harry EP which reached number 16 on the Australian iTunes hip hop charts, an unprecedented rise for an unsigned artist on their first release. This success was quickly followed up with their debut studio album Love and Terror Cult in November of the same year, which managed to attract controversy before its release after the single Jesus was taken down from YouTube. I ask the band about the negative attention they attracted.
“Too many people flagged it”, Lane states simply. “A lot of people got really offended”.
“Religiously offended”, clarifies Ike.
The chorus of the song, “We formed a new religion; F*ck the world is our only mission; Don’t need your permission; God forbid I’m already forgiven; Yeah I’m Jesus” was, unsurprisingly, at the centre of the controversy. I ask Lane if this was something he was interested in cultivating from the start.
“When I was like 16, I thought I would be cool, but nah… At the time we just thought it was really funny, and ever since then we’ve been labelled controversial, but I don’t think we’re controversial at all.”
I ask him then how he develops his lyrics, and he describes a unique personal style.
“What happens is I hear a beat, then I’d think who would I, as a consumer, want to hear on that beat, and then I would kind of at first write in their style, and then take the best bits and fuse it with my own, talk about stuff that only I really would talk about.”
The “stuff” that he would talk about, based on earlier recordings, is much what we have come to expect from the world of professional hip hop, a whole bunch of smack talk, self-promotion, partying, drug and sex references, with a smattering of social commentary thrown in, delivered in a distinctive, languid style. The beats he refers to are almost solely written by Ike Campbell, with the two rarely crossing over into each other’s musical terrain, rather preferring to play to their individual strengths, a winning strategy for the pair up to this point.
Hidden behind sunglasses and a profusion of curly hair, the softly spoken and thoughtful Lane Harry is a far cry from the bouncing and confident stage persona I have become acquainted with via the group’s YouTube channel. Similarly, in person the open and cheerful visage of Ike Campbell is at odds with the more somber and serious face he presents in the duo’s videos and press shots. I am interested in how much crossover there is between the real Lane Harry and the stage one. I ask him if he would be someone who would be likely to get ranty at parties.
“No, not a party” he demurs. “I’m not like, a d*ck”. We all chuckle. “But yeah, in the right context, I could have a rant… I say stuff on stage that I wouldn’t say to someone in an elevator.”
I feign surprise. “So you wouldn’t turn to someone in an elevator and say ‘I am Jesus?’”
Lane laughs. “Yeah, exactly.”
The prolific duo seems to have no end of beats to create or things to say, if their recent contributions to the music world are anything to go by. From May 2013 to September 2014, they as a duo and also Lane-Harry in solo or other collaborations recorded and released no fewer than six separate EPs, mix tapes or albums. And that was just the stuff they didn’t ditch. I ask how much stuff they have written and never recorded, and both boys react.
“A lot”, declares Ike. “We’ve always got heaps of beats, heaps of tracks. We cut off six or seven tracks from this album.”
“The new album we probably wrote 40 songs for, and just put 15 on it”, says Lane.
The new album they are referring to is Renaissance, the group’s first non-independent album to be cut since signing with Gold Coast label Human Records earlier in the year. Due for release in 2015 and with a supporting tour about to kick off in Brisbane in November, the album’s first single Anarchy shows how much growing the 19-year-old pair have done both musically and philosophically in the short time they have been together.
Issues such as terrorism, religion, disease, addiction and suicide all receive the Lane-Harry treatment on Anarchy. Exceptionally talented local musician Scott Dalton provides the haunting vocal line of the chorus, and Ike’s spot-on instrumental hooks receive star treatment via the slick and practiced hand of producer Guy Cooper, director of production company Serotonin Productions and the duo’s manager and sound collaborator from the early days until now. The different elements combine with a tight synergy that delivers a well-rounded, high quality product. Reminiscent in tone and production to Luxury, the acclaimed single from their second collaboration with Jesswar, Anarchy has all the ingredients of a song that’s about to go ballistic. I ask them how they see the difference between it and their earlier stuff.
Ike reflects on the difference in sound. “I feel like it’s all getting more structured, and consumable, and more professional sounding. Professional production from Guy [Cooper] just makes everything sound so much nicer.”
The album also has a more complex and layered texture, with live string sections and other instrumentation featuring where previously there had just been samples and electronic beats.
“It is more mature.” Lane responds. “Anarchy is probably the most mature song we’ve put out so far. If you compare it to Jesus, the first song on the last album, that was cool, but it wasn’t important.”
I want to know in what way it wasn’t important. Does he mean the message?
“The message, the video, everything about it was just like a cool song that people will listen to, but this is an important song for people to listen to, it’s like deeper than a rap song, it’s an important song for the moment.”
Writing songs with meaning is something that they both obviously care deeply about. Ike explains further. “If people see a song that’s number 2 or 1 on the iTunes charts they think ‘oh it must be good because that’s what everyone is getting’ and so they buy it, even if it’s a horrible song.”
Lane agrees. “Like that f*cking Redfoo song, there should be riots in the street, that this song is a hit. People just follow trends. So I want to put out a mainstream song that’s going to make people see the difference between that song and what they’ve been listening to.”
And what is that difference?
“The main difference is the quality in the sound and an appreciation of the listener, cause I feel like a lot of sound is condescending to the listener. They’ll just use some Jason Derulo instrument loop and oh, let’s have twerking in the video, and it’s just like, they’re dumbing everyone down!”
I ask if an appreciation of the listener is something that they consider pretty important when they’re writing.
“I feel like that’s the most important thing.” states Lane, and Ike nods in absolute agreement. “I just wanna make sh*t that people will want to listen to”.
With Australian press and a tour for the album about to kick off, US press happening early next year, a fanbase that includes Matt Corby and 360, an album about to be released and an international tour looking to begin around March 2015, I ask the guys what they hope to see happen over the next twelve months.
“What would I like?” ponders Lane. “I’d like Anarchy to be well received and appreciated, I’d like our next single [No More] to get a pop audience as well, but make people who listen to pop music think and not be such a slave to the sound.”
Ike answers too. “I would like to be really well known, just for making unique and quality music that people like, enjoy and that people like become huge fans when they hear it, and just want more. And I want that album to just blow up a bit, yeah just to get people thinking.”
I ask if the goal is to get a decent amount of international recognition, and both boys become as animated as I’ve seen them, and talk simultaneously.
Lane: “Oh without a doubt”
Ike: “The aim is to get international”
Ike looks at me and grins. “Australia is not enough.”
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You can catch Lane-Harry x Ike Campbell with special guest Jesswar:
November 1 | Alhambra Lounge | Brisbane
December 2 | Secret Show | Gold Coast
Blank readers also get the first listen to Anarchy.