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Mind Over Matter - Mind Control

Author: Matt Unicomb
Monday, 21 July 2008
3D’s Matt Unicomb talks to Mind Over Matter’s Rowan Lockyer – aka Willow - about the duo’s debut LP Keepin’ It Breezy, the diversity of their sound, and how it feels to have cemented their position as one of the most vital acts on the Nurcha roster.

Anyone who has paid any attention to the Sydney hip hop scene over the last few years would list Nurcha Records as one of the labels that are doing things around town. One of the acts on its vibrant roster is the now established duo Mind Over Matter.

After supporting the likes of internationals Planet Asia, Masta Ace and Mystro, Mind Over Matter have secured a loyal following and keen interest from crews all over the country. Comprising MCs Willow and Smiles Again, Mind Over Matter dropped their debut album Keepin’ It Breezy in June, and at a time where Australian hip hop is booming they’re beginning to grab some hard-to-find attention, and get their sound in the ears of the people who matter – the hip hop fans.

The reaction since the release “has been all we could hope for,” Lockyer begins. “The feedback has been really good. On FBi we got single of the week for our track Clipped Wings. Things have started off well, and we can only go up from here.”

The album artwork shows the lads as they see themselves. The two look as though they are posing for the camera of a friend; they look comfortable. “We thought that in that photo, we were captured quite well – being silly smart smartarses.”

Since the duo’s 2006 debut mixtape For Our Hip Hoppers went Australia-wide, things have changed in the Mind Over Matter camp. “I would say that our musical taste has expanded,” Locker continues. “We can appreciate all types of music, and then apply it to ours.” This is absolutely the case for Keepin’ It Breezy. One track features a live cello, another features a choir - to classify the album as strictly hip hop is doing it a disservice.

Lyrically the boys have grown up a lot. “If anything’s changing our rhymes, it has mainly been things that we’ve gone through,” Lockyer says. “That’s what influenced us the most.” In the way of subject matter the boys touch on everything that they hold close. Diversity was paramount when writing lyrics for the album; but “we’re not political,” Lockyer affirms. “We’re not going to talk about stuff that we don’t know that much about – apart from that we try to cover everything that life brings us.”

The production talent assembled for the album is just as diverse. Beats come from British come Australian MC Motley, to international producer Stylez Fuego to bedroom-based Sydney lad Konfuzion. “Konfuzion is a friend of ours,” Lockyer states. “He’s also given a few tracks to Phatchance from Natural Causes, but not too many other people. We’re trying to get him to push his name a bit more and start branching out.”

The boys went down a similar path in getting hold of some Motley production. “Motley is a friend of ours,” he explains. We met him at the Park Jams festival at Luna Park and stayed in touch while he was in England. We were looking for beats so we hit him up.”

The hurried schedule in which the album was recorded and engineered had some impact on the final outcome. While they were writing for the album, they still aimed to have a few tracks left over to play around with. “It was a really tight schedule,” Lockyer admits. “We didn’t get to make as many songs as we could have. We still had a couple left over, though. We just didn’t really have that much time.”

Many would claim Keepin’ It Breezy is Nurcha Records’ most anticipated release to date. It has certainly been the most publicised and promoted. As far as their involvement with Nurcha goes, “we jumped on Nurcha around the middle of 2006,” he explains. “Last Credit signed up just before us, so we were the third crew to sign.”

The boys have been relentlessly promoting the album for the best part of 2008 and are now reaping the benefits. FBi picked up Clipped Wings, triple j has jumped onboard, and critics are giving top marks. It’s hard to navigate through MySpace without having Keepin’ It Breezy shoved in your face.

One track worthy of note is Proud. Recorded at the notable 301 Studios, the album’s single included a 35-piece choir consisting of 25 children from Mobray Public School. The decision to make the track the single was easy. “Proud was what most of our friends were saying was their favourite track,” Lockyer says. “It was one of our favourites. We wanted to do it justice and we really wanted everyone to hear it.”

The time at 301 Studios was well spent. The studio has played host to the likes of Kanye West and Snoop Dog over its notable history, regarded by many as Sydney’s premier recording venue. “It was mad just to experience that,” he laughs. “Just sitting in a room with two producers and equipment worth more than us was amazing. We ended up recording the choir’s chorus at the studio, and the verses at Chance’s.”

Mind Over Matter has a particularly strong relationship with label-mates Natural Causes. MC and producer Phatchance handled the majority of the album’s mixing, and also contributed with production. The photography was courtesy of Raphael Dixon, also part of the Natural Causes crew. “They’re just good friends of ours,” he explains. “They live close by.”

However it is not just the Natural Causes-Mind Over Matter relationship that deserves recognition, but the entire Nurcha roster. They are perhaps the tightest label in the country. Nurcha CEO Shaun Daniels AKA Shrekk has been hailed as Australian hip hop’s best promoter, and works tirelessly with upcoming artists, both on and off the label. Persistent is perhaps the best word to describe the work ethic of those responsible for the running of Nurcha Records.

So, where does this leave Mind Over Matter- “This year we’re going to really push the album, and do the tours,” says Lockyer. “We’ll try to do as many shows as we can, and hopefully put out an album next year - we’ve already started working on it.”

These young MCs may just be a breath of fresh air for many, hoping to “bring a more positive vibe,” Lockyer explains. “That’s what we always tell the kids. Believe in yourself. You only live once and don’t want to have any regrets.”

WHO: Mind Over Matter
WHAT: Keepin’ It Breezy through Nurcha Records / album launch at Gaelic Club
WHEN: Out now / Saturday 26 July