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Interview: Dylan Joel

Dylan Joel Still Sippin

Since releasing his debut album ‘Authentic Lemonade’ back in October, Melbourne rapper Dylan Joel has certainly been making waves. In just over six months Joel’s well and truly cemented himself in the Australian hip-hop scene through supporting the likes of Illy and Seth Sentry as well as scoring himself a slot as the prestigious triple j ‘Featured Album’. Now embarking on his second national tour, we caught up with him to talk about how this year has been for him personally, how he actually got into hip hop, and what he has in store for the future.

To start off, you seem be having such a huge year since releasing your debut album back in October. You’re on your second national tour at the moment, how are you managing such a hectic schedule and warm welcome to the scene?

Firstly, thanks I appreciate that! I guess I’m just going with it. It’s funny, I think a lot of it revolves around exactly how it all started; putting in the work, creating new music, practicing, performing, just trying to get good at the craft, and then all that other stuff just happened I guess. It’s been really exciting and comforting having those people backing us, because I’m just learning that it’s about staying true to that and making it your focus.

You’re debut album ‘Authentic Lemonade’ was released over half a year ago now, did you expect such a great response to the release? Did it come as a shock or were you quite relaxed?

With the debut album you’ve always got high hopes because you want it to go well and it’s something you’re proud of. It’s funny though, when it got to the release time I managed to let go of that expectation, I was like “it’s just going to do what’s it’s going to do”, and that was the best space to be in.

It wasn’t until seven weeks after the release of the album when triple j made it the featured album and heaps of people starting hitting us up for interviews that it really hit me. I knew that it was a real peoples’ album seeing as I wrote with my community and the people that came to our shows in mind, but that was a real shock; I didn’t expect it to be received so well by the industry.

If you had the chance, would you change anything from it?

I feel like every artist is generally like “man the things I would have changed!” (laughs). Not really though, I’ve just accepted it for how it is, knowing that it was my body of work for that period of time. 

Yeah that makes sense. Growing up you played the guitar, drums and even DJed for a short time. Playing such a broad spectrum of instruments at a young age, what were you listening to and how did you get into hip hop? 

The way I got into hip hop was really odd, normally people just get played a record or something like that, but mine was kind of funny. Before I got into hip hop I started writing music as a 13-year-old boy, and with my guitar and electric drum kit I just made whatever I was feeling. I wrote so many lyrics though that I couldn’t actually fit them into a normal song, so I had to get them out real fast. Then a friend of mine, maybe three years older to me, was like, “you know what this sounds like?”. He showed me Hilltop Hoods and Bliss N Eso, and they were my first hip hop albums.

It’s kind of obscure to have your first hip hop albums being Australian seeing as it’s born and bred in America, but for me, I really appreciated that. Growing up listening to my parent’s stuff it was a real mix, people like Bob Dylan, Fleetwood Mac, Tracy Chapman, and James Taylor. I was really into pop when I was a kid too, whatever was on the radio, what came out on a few Max Hits albums. Then I just connected to hip hop and it just went from there.

Seeing as you have more of an acoustic songwriter background, how does ‘Authentic Lemonade’ have such a jazz, gospel, and soul sound? Where did those influences come from?

That actually comes mostly from my upbringing. I grew up going to church, for me my first experience of live music was gospel church music. A lot of it was quite blues based actually, a six or 7-piece gospel choir with an amazing African singer, Morris. From a really young age that was a huge part of what I listened to and I really connected to it for that reason.

We heard you’ve recently been playing some unreleased tracks at your shows. How does your new material compare to your older work, and can we expect some new releases from you sometime soon?

Yeah man, we’re playing a few new edits of songs, really two new songs. One of them in particular is going down really down super well, we’ve been stoked on the response. In terms of releases, there won’t be an album this year, but there will be some singles that may or may not be on the album, and I’m really excited to get those out.

Finally, in your opinion, why do you think Aussie hip hop has had such a bad wrap in terms of overseas attention?

Oh man, that’s a great question! I think there will always be a little bit of that with every country outside of America. Because it was birthed in the states, not just the sound but also the story, the oppression and racism, they kind of have every right to be protective. I think it also gets a bad wrap because we haven’t seen huge changes yet, guys like Hilltop Hoods, they have a particular sound and there are a lot of artists that sound similar to them seeing as they paved the way.

Hip hop in Australia right now is a really exciting time and I don’t think it’s going to be getting as much of a bad wrap as it was getting in the past. People are starting to experiment with new sounds and new styles, so it’s becoming a lot broader.

It’s understandable that people are protective over the culture, we have such a weird accent and weird slang words that it is quite foreign to classic hip hop. It’s definitely starting to change though; I think we’re being more influenced by where hip hop started, so it’s an exciting time and everyone is feeling that.

Definitely, if you even look at the attention the UK and grime has been receiving lately, they’ve literally cultivated a global following from their unique sound, so that could even be something that happens here…

Totally man, the grime scene has always been big, but for Australia I don’t know if we have anything like that, a distinct sound or a branded type of hip hop. A lot of people like to call ours positive feel-good hip hop, but I’m not sure if we have a movement yet. Who knows what could happen, if there will be a turnaround or not. Either way there definitely is some pretty cool stuff getting created in our country right now!