Sligo Hip Hop feens, This Side Up, release their debut album on November 14th. TSU started as an all vinyl night in McGarrigles, Sligo, in 2008 which rapidly led to nationwide performances and some quality, original tracks. Jasper Mathews dropped them a line to discuss tunes, mental health and getting rowdy.
How did creating the album go for you?
We made a big decision to step away from what we were at and put all our time into the music. It’s been a great thing! We’d gathered up some gear and got Citóg Studios on the go in Dublin last year. It’s where we recorded our ‘3075’ ep. So we had the set up and experience recording this time around. Admittedly recording an album has been a serious challenge. It was a long process and there was times when momentum died off and we’d wonder what we’re at, but overall it’s been mighty craic. It’s what we want to be doing all the time.
Whilst retaining a fun and rowdy vibe, mental health features throughout the album, in your opinion how can music and art be used as a means of spreading awareness of mental health and of treating mental health issues?
Music and art can just strip away that awkward barrier between people. You can end up saying and expressing things through music and art that you might find difficult to discuss otherwise. It allows us to get in a certain headspace or mood and just lash it out. You don’t have to be 100% yourself all the time and that sort of lets you open up more. Our favourite tunes became the most personal and hopefully they connect the most with other people.
As well as promoting mental health a lot of your music has a motivational, forward moving feel to it, how has Hip Hop motivated you throughout life?
We’ve learned tonnes from hip hop, mostly being open to peoples ideas and then forming your own ones and being confident in them. Not getting stuck in a bubble. When you delve into hip hop there are loads of different ideas going on. Even on a personal level we’re fairly different people. With hip hop, like everyone’s favourite music, there’s tunes in there to get you through everything so it’s always there. Then also going around playing gigs it’s landed us in with a bunch of sound heads from all over. That’s deadly! Shout out to the heads!
You describe your style as “Full Fat”, how has this style developed since your early days of performing?
We started as a live act. This Side Up was a vinyl night our DJ Noone started with another legend PC back in 2008. Our own set of originals grew from that night so all our songs were written and played live within a few weeks. Playing live it’s fun to get up in peoples faces and get a bit rowdy. A we got more into recording songs and putting together videos we could get a bit more thoughtful but the live buzz is always part of what we do. It’s kind of summed up by ‘Full Fat’. Nothing watered down, being ourselves and being from the West of Ireland. Keeping it rural! ha. Full Fat is a phrase that just popped up a lot and sort of makes sense.
How did you link up with Verb T and Moreone? Any further UK collaborations in the pipelines?
We were in the process of booking some gigs and got in touch with Antidote Sound System up in Belfast, shouts to Andy Hasson, he was having Verb T and Ill-informed over to Belfast and we decided we’d bring them to Dublin the night after. We played both nights with the lads and the gigs went down a storm. It was a great buzz and when we were parting ways Verb T suggested a collaboration. He had just set up his own label, In the Balance Records, and signed up Moreone, Eddie sent over some beats and the song came together across the net. After that we had Verb T and Moreone over for another series of gigs and we recorded a video for the track. Big shout out to Peter Martin who’s filmed all our videos! Got it looking slick. We’re delighted with the collaboration, Verb T and Moreone are top MCs. Nothing else in the pipeline just now but we’ll get working on it.
More and more these days one sees acts involving themselves in multiple aspects of playing music, you guys have been promoting gigs as well as performing from the get go, how does involvement in the promotional end of things affect your experience of playing and releasing music?
First up we love putting on gigs and getting proper, decent, live Hip Hop on the go. We were lucky to get that freedom in Sligo to begin with, shouts to Tricky! We just sort of fell into that and picked it up as we went along. It can get tough and it’s always an exercise in breaking even really. There are times when you wish it was in someone else’s hands. Jumping on stage you have to clear the head of everything else, it can be a mission but feck it, it wouldn’t happen otherwise. All good craic and it’s brilliant when it goes right.
Given an endless budget who would you feature (alive or dead) on your ideal line-up?
A Tribe Called Quest, Black Thought, The Mouse Outfit, Fliptrix, Outkast, Nas
You set up a recording studio for making the album and you self-release through your own label, have you any plans to record and release other acts through Citóg Studios and Tabletop Records?
Nothing planned but it’s something we’d love to do. We’ve been flat out up till now but the next step would be getting other acts in and share skills and stuff. Pool some more resources together.
Irish Hip Hop seems to be frequently put down, what is right about Irish Hip Hop and who do you think exemplifies this?
Hip Hop in Ireland makes sense really if you think about our love for music and ability to tell stories! I think it’s become more widely accepted recently and it’ll come more into it’s own. There’s been some amazing stuff going on here for years. I think right now there’s some savage stuff happening down in Limerick! A lot of it’s stemming form Music Generation workshops with God Knows & Murli from Rusangano Family, and Deviant and Naive Ted. They are passing on their skills to a younger generation of rappers and there’s some crazy good music coming out of there.