It’s not always easy for Australian bands to gain a cult following in Europe, but Melbourne-based collective 30/70 are starting to do just that. Their languid, vibrant brand of neo-soul mixed with jazz and hip-hop elements has won fans in Gilles Peterson and Jamie Cullum, as well as Bradley Zero, who released their lush LP Elevate on his Peckham-born Rhythm Section label last year. This summer sees the group finally bring their live show in front of our eager eyes on a tour which includes a headline Jazz Cafe show, and Brainchild Festival! Having eventually navigated the time difference, writer Jess Wrigglesworth spoke to band member Allysha Joy in her Melbourne home/studio about the group’s influences, what makes her city’s scene so special, and what to expect from a 30/70 show.
For anyone who doesn’t know about 30/70, tell us a little bit about what you do.
30/70 primarily is a collective of musicians that play together in this one project, but then also have a bunch of other projects that we’re all working on together and individually. We make jazz, hip-hop, experimental music. The project began as an instrumental 3-piece around 5 years ago and then I joined about 3 years ago. We’ve now released a bunch of music together, which is awesome!
There are 5 sort-of permanent members, but we’re always flexible, so we have a pretty big community of people from the same scene that fill in sometimes. While we’re touring this year we’re bringing Tiana Khasi, who’s an incredible singer and keys player. She’ll be playing with us instead of one of the core 5, so it’s all pretty fluid, which is fun.
People don’t always associate Melbourne with soul or funk music, but there seems to be a really great scene there with bands like Hiatus Kaiyote and Jaala,and obviously you guys too. How does it feel to be part of it?
It’s pretty special! The soul scene is a really beautiful collaboration between so many amazing musicians and producers and promoters and record store owners. I’ve done a bit of travelling and touring, and I feel like Melbourne just has this energy and a really inclusive nature. The community is vast and diverse and positive and welcoming which is awesome; I feel like anyone could come to Melbourne and immediately just be part of the crew. I’m really proud to be a part of it. I grew up in Melbourne but further out so it feels like I was just living out in the forest until a few years ago and now I’m in this scene pretty hard. I’ve just landed in my place and it’s really nice.
What are some of your favourite places in the city? And favourite artists to see?
My favourite place to play at the moment is called The Night Cat. It’s a 360º stage in the middle of a room, at ground level, so you can be really intimate with your audience. It’s a really dope venue, and our sound engineer does the sound there so it always sounds really good. Another venue to check out is The Evelyn Hotel, and Northside Records is the best record store in the world!
There’s lots of music to check out! For me the place to start is pretty much everything on Wondercore Island, including Hiatus Kaiyote, Jaala and Sampa The Great, who is an incredible rapper and human. They’re just cutting edge. Also Silent Jay and Jace XL and their individual projects. Jace is my favourite Melbourne singer.
Do you think 30/70 will stay in Melbourne?
At the moment, I feel like we couldn’t be anywhere else. I feel so blessed to be able to live as a musician and be surrounded by other people that are doing the same. I don’t think there’s many places in the world where you can afford to live a full-time creative life with a studio in the city. It’s pretty rare. And there’s such a positive vibe here at the moment – no divide or competition between artists. People are just in it for the music, and the party.
Also Melbourne’s beautiful because it’s a small community – you can just land in the middle of the scene and be friends with your heroes and make music with them. We all collaborate, like Paul Bender (the bass player from Hiatus Kaiyote) helped us make this record. Melbourne’s my place.
But I do like the idea of skipping winter and just coming over to Europe for the summer – that’s a good vibe. I might continue doing that.
Speaking of, is this summer’s tour going to be your first time playing here?
I was in Europe last year to play a bunch of solo shows but it’ll be the first time the band’s coming over, which is sick. I’m really excited to have the guys with me.
I’m really excited to be over there and connect with a different scene and bring the Melbourne energy. Brainchild sounds totally in alignment with our vibe and I’m really excited to see all of the other bands that are playing this year too. I think I’m most excited about the things that I haven’t yet heard, because the artists I know are playing are great, but festivals are always a nice time to discover new stuff.
What does a 30/70 live show involve?
I’m really interested to see how it’s going to go down travelling, because when we’re in Melbourne we always play with a light show, a visual experiment, smells, sometimes we’ll even have food…
What kind of smells?!
Sometimes we’ll burn frankincense or incense in a venue. We try to make it as interactive as possible so it feels unique – not just an audible experience but an all-encompassing sensory explosion! We’re going to try our best to bring those elements on the road with limited luggage…
When you played your solo European shows did you find the audiences differ here?
I was astounded by how well-received jazz is in Europe. I played lots of solo regional shows as well as big city shows, and I was just so impressed by how people could tune in and just be present in solo Rhodes jazz R&B. We don’t have as much of that in Australia. Melbourne’s really pushing, but it’s a small community in a small population (compared to somewhere like London). I’m really excited to take 30/70 to that audience, where there is a bit more appreciation.
Your last release, Elevate, came out on Rhythm Section. How did Bradley [Zero, founder of Rhythm Section] find you, or did you go to him?
He’s been to Melbourne lots over the last couple of years, and I think the story is that he went into Plug7 which is a local record store here, and one of the guys gave him our first record (Cold Radish Coma) and he really dug it. But he was already well in tune with the Melbourne scene – he’s released Silent Jay and Jace XL (who are really good friends of ours) on his label as well.
It’s great working with Rhythm Section because with lots of labels or music industry people, you have to explain creativity behind the project or the vision or what it is that you want for the music. But because Bradley’s an artist himself he gets it on this other level. And he loves to party, so it’s always a good time hanging out with him!
When it comes to writing do you all write separately or is it a more communal process?
A lot of us – like me, Ziggy and Henry – are full-time musicians, so it’s almost like there is no process and no start or end. Every day is dedicated to being creative in one way or another, writing lyrics or writing music. A lot of the music is collaborative in 30/70 – everyone’s got their own flavour that they bring to the band (mine is 2000s R&B). Often it will start with an idea that one of us had at some point that day or that moment.
You are part of a genre which historically has quite a political nature and a lot of ties to activism, would you guys say the music you make is political and is there something specific you’d like to say with it?
Yeah, I want my music to speak beyond my own experience and give light to different situations and to resonate with people! I’m constantly trying to further educate myself on political issues and social issues around the world and so naturally it becomes part of my lyrics because it’s something that I’m thinking about a lot. I think it’s really important to the band’s ethos as well – we’re not in it to make money or to be self-indulgent or egotistical. We make music for people and for elevation.
What’s next for you and 30/70? Is there more music coming soon?
Yeah, I’m currently doing all the vocals for the next 30/70 record – it’s really close although it’s been really harmonically challenging to nail the sound. It’s definitely taking a new direction from the Elevate LP, more on the R&B side. More like tunes, less of a beat-tape.
Beyond that we’ve all got our own stuff coming out. Henry’s project Horatio Luna just released a really dope record, and Gilles Peterson really liked it, which is sick. Zeitgeist Freedom Energy Exchange (which is the drummer from 30/70) is releasing a record really soon. I’ve got a record coming out on Gondwana in August, so I’m going to be back over in Europe in October for some more solo shows which is crazy. We’re all working pretty hard, but steadily.