RPM Radar: Coda Conduct

RPM Radar: Coda Conduct

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Andrew from Brooklyn recently went to Australia to see what’s good in the music scene down there. On that trip, he sat down in a Sydney cafe with Coda Conduct, the two-piece made up of Canberrans Sally Coleman and Erica Mallett that’s one of the bright lights of the Aussie hip hop scene. They touched on a wide range of subjects including Aussie rapper tag, Elon Musk’s greatest weakness, and who really came up with the term “Spicy Dave.” Listen to and read their chat below!

Andrew from Brooklyn: So we have Sally and Erica here from Coda Conduct. You guys are one of my favorite hip hop groups in Australia right now, but I’m particularly excited to have you on because we’re all about music’s ability to connect people across continents, and if I’m not mistaken, you guys met while traveling, correct?

Sally Coleman: Yeah, that’s true. I think we’d crossed paths a little bit coming from a comparatively small town, but we met properly while we were traveling in India with some mutual friends…that’s when we were like, “let’s start a band!” Then we came back to Australia not really thinking that would happen, but it did.

A: How did that first meeting occur? Were you traveling as a group with those mutual friends, or happened to be in the same place and all linked up together?

Erica Mallett: My cousin is friends with Sally, and before I knew Sally they were friends. They still are! But my cousin was traveling in India with some people and said to me, “you should come meet up.” I think I was in Europe at the time, and I was like, “yeah why not, I’ll go to India with some people that I don’t know and my cousin.” And I got there, and there was Sally…and we found out pretty quickly that we had a lot in common in terms of our love of music.

A: What were some of those artists that you first bonded over?

S: I think a lot of Australian hip-hop…it’s changed a little bit, but I think at the time there was a real sort of element of it being collectible. Like, there was a finite list of artists who had been played on the radio and who knew each other, and you could kind of get your head around a lot of what was happening in radio and people printing albums. So artists like Hilltop Hoods, and Downsyde, and Drapht, and Horrorshow…Urthboy, The Herd, and all those guys we were really into when we were younger. But also we definitely both were just really passionate about hip hop in general, including niche artists…everything from Missy Elliott to Watsky, or to something kind of weird out of Sweden. We both love doing big YouTube deep dives.

E: I remember at the time, I don’t know if you’ve seen it, but “Australian rapper tag” was kind of a thing.

A: Tag like online? Or physically.

E: Online, it was a YouTube thing.

S: How good though would physical rapper tag be? Like you actually have to physically tag the rapper that you want to–

E: Lil’ Jon, you’re it! That’s what I’d do. But yeah, it was on YouTube, I think was started by a rapper named 360 and he tagged someone in the Australian hip-hop…what you’d call “the scene.” A lot of people like to call it “the scene.” And it just kind of went from there…and I just remember nerding out on all these videos from all these Australian artists that I hadn’t seen before…and yeah, a lot of those artists were the early artists that I knew about.

S: For context they don’t just tag them and say their name, they do a rap–they do a verse, and at the end they nominate someone else who then has to do a verse, and they nominate someone…and it just goes on. And there’s 50 or 60 of these people throwing it to, sometimes it’d be high profile artists, sometimes someone that they just want to spotlight that’s up and coming. So that went for a year or two I think.

A: So sort of like in the same style of the ice bucket challenge where you nominate somebody, but with actual creativity?

E: Yeah no ice buckets, but actual good raps. That’s the idea. You splash people over their heads with hot raps rather than icy water.

A: So much more comfortable.

E: Yes, exactly.

A: So are there any artists that you guys found during those YouTube deep dives that you didn’t know before who deepened your love for the genre?

S: I remember especially when we started looking really actively for female rappers, and thinking, “okay, there’s gotta be more. Maybe we’re not hearing them on the radio, but they’ve got to exist. I remember Little Simz, I liked her before she even reached a hundred followers on Facebook…and now I’m like “hell yeah!” Watching her blow up is amazing. So she’s someone that we were really excited about finding because she was just blowing up on YouTube–I think this is maybe five, six years ago–but she hadn’t really hit any audience outside of that real sort of Soundcloud, YouTube space.

E: Yeah you find little pockets within YouTube as with anything, and I would find little pockets…there was a rapper named Intuition, I don’t even think he’s rapping anymore, I think he’s like a dad or in construction or something, which is sad, but he was one of my favorites. And who’s that girl that did song “My Vag,” the cover of “My Dick?”

S: Awkwafina? Yeah we found her through YouTube, and this was before she became the legend that she has–

A: She presented at the Oscars this year, like–

S: Yeah, I remember “Giant Margaritas” and songs like that coming out…she was real big in her local community, but she wasn’t a global phenomenon at all. And it’s so cool finding people on the other side of the world and sort of remotely watching their success. You feel like you’re a tiny part of it even though you’ve never met them, or seen them live, or heard their song on the radio.

E: And then there are other areas, like freestyling, that I got really obsessed with. Like all the Sway [in the Morning] videos…I found Super Nat [AKA Supernatural], who’s like the world’s best freestyler apparently…you watch Super Nat videos, and he is. It’s like everything he says is the best written that you’ve ever heard, but he’s freestyling it.

A: Straight from the top of the dome.

E: Yeah, so I remember those early days of finding freestyle videos and just getting really nerdy about it.

A: Oh yeah, I totally identify. Those YouTube discoveries have shaped my own life and those of people I’ve known…it’s like the modern day equivalent of the record store crate, bottom of the barrel finds.

S: And there are still some that now I’m a little bit embarrassed about, like how much I loved Asher Roth.

A: Multiple people in my very close circle are very unironically still in love with Asher Roth, so…

S: Yeah, I heard that [“I Love College”] song once and was like “this is great!” but I heard it again recently and thought, “what was I thinking?”

E: Did you love college? Did you love drinking? Did you love women, that’s the question.

S: Clearly.

A: So, you meet in India, say “let’s start a band.” How do you go from that to Coda Conduct?

E: Man, I don’t really know how it even happened. I think it was a just really organic process. We met, we were like, “you like hip hop, I like hip hop. You’ve kind of been writing, I’ve kind of been writing. Why don’t we try and do it together?” So after we both got back from India, we met up in Sydney and just started trying to put words together. We didn’t know what bars were, we didn’t really understand what we were doing but it was more just learning from example, listening to musicians who were doing something similar.

S: Yeah, and people talk about “industry plants” in music, and we were just the opposite of an industry plant, whatever that is. We had no concept of what a publisher is or what a manager is. The fact that people send out press releases was just a complete foreign concept. We just thought you put something on Soundcloud and suddenly it’s on the radio. So for us, obviously getting better as musicians is this huge learning curve, but we’ve always been coming from outside of that industry space, so we’ve had this kind of DIY aesthetic from the start. So another big growth process for us is realizing that if music becomes a career, it’s also a business, and you have to do all these other things that you never thought about when you started rapping, you know? Suddenly you have to do your tax return and stuff…it’s been really fun but we definitely had no idea what we were doing. No trajectory, no structure to where we’ve ended up. Just a lot of passion and persistence.

A: So through that, you uploaded a few song to Triple J Unearthed, I believe in 2016 it was “Click Clack (Front n’ Back),” which made its way into my top ten for the Hottest 100 that year, it is–if you’ll allow me to gush for a second–I think it’s brilliant, I think it is the perfect call for booty shaking equality that we’ve always needed. And as a very uninhibited dancer that really loves to get down, I love being called out as a man to actually move on the dance floor, which we do not have enough of in music.

E: Yeah we see it at shoes when we play it–it’s always fun to sort of crack those guys who are standing there with their arms folded. Hip hop crowds are notoriously, you know, a lot of dudes looking at you and not moving, with their arms folded. But then you play that song and maybe one of their friends who’s a girl is like “eyy, come on,” and then you get a little smile and get a little shake. It’s so cool seeing people’s reactions.

S: Yeah and I think that song, like it’s a silly song in some ways, but there’s layers to it. And if you look at it from a female perspective it’s like, “yes, this is what I get told to do all the time, why can’t someone else be on the receiving end of that? And why can’t I get a break?” You know? But on the flipside it’s really gentle, and it’s not meant to be confrontational, or harsh, or super critical. It’s just a reflection and a reminder of a lack of equality. And rather than berating people for that, we’re like “hey, let’s talk about it in a way that’s fun. And what can we do that’s not yelling at each other when talking about issues of equality.

A: Which is certainly needed, and certainly comes off that way. Which is part of why I love the song. And the video is incredible–how did that come together?

S: Are you familiar with [comedian] Matt Okine?

A: Very familiar with Matt Okine.

S: Right, well Matt Okine bizarrely supported us as a rapper–

A: Boilermakers!

S: Yes, he supported us in Melbourne for a show that we played, and his mate came along who’s a film director–his mate was like “you guys are great, do you want a video clip?” and we’re like “hell yeah!” So our friend Neil put that together and was really generous with his time. He’d worked on a show called Dance Academy with a bunch of teenage dancers, which is like an Australian teenage drama.

A: Scripted drama?

S: Scripted drama for teens. Like Glee but with dancing.

A: Gotcha.

S: Yeah, and he brought in some really great dancers, who we paid but obviously went so above and beyond. He just did a really great job.

A: So from there, we’re three years on and you guys have released multiple other great singles. “Love For Me” is another classic self-love anthem, where did that originate? Was there, similarly to “Click Clack,” a missing space for that sort of narrative in music?

E: I was in a space where I was going through a pretty unhealthy relationship, and I kind of just had a realization that–it sounds cliché, but that I’ve got to put myself first, that I’ve gotta put my foot down and decide that I’m the person I’m sticking up for here. And I guess that’s where I got the idea from. But the way we write, we get a concept, Sally and I, and we use that as the central idea and we put our own spins on it. I’m not sure what Sally’s take on it was…

S: Well yeah, I made the draft of that beat and I sent it through to Erica, and she came back with that little hook idea just recorded at home over it, which was just that–

S & A: *singing* My love for you…

S: –and I was, like “this is weird…but it’s really catchy.” And it just ended up staying all the way through the writing process. We came back and we were like “maybe we should make it more normal.” Like, it’s a weird little hook to start with. It’s strange, it’s really weird, but it just stayed throughout the writing process, that little intro. I think we wanted to make it the chorus but we couldn’t quite figure out how to fit it in.

 

E: When I sent that idea originally it wasn’t like (normal) “my love for…* it was (ghostlike) “my love for YOOUUUUU” and it was extra weird, so then we tweaked it to being what it is today.

S: *laughs* But yeah, Erica sent that first idea through and I was like, “let’s roll with it.” So we polished the beat up and wrote some verses and it is what it is.

E: And it’s the same sort of thing as “Click Clack.” Like, it’s fun and playful, and our bars are pretty much just us talking about how good we are, really. But if you look a bit deeper, there’s a theme there that’s deeper than just “I’m the shit.” I am the shit, though.

A: Absolutely. Wow, that would have been an interesting intro to keep in the first place. It sounds a bit Vincent Price…almost Thriller-ish.

E: Yeah, I do not know what I was listening to at the time that influenced that. I was sitting in my room in my little home studio, the lights were off, it was like, 2 P.M. and I’d closed my blinds so it was just me in my dark room, and I was just playing around with “my love for you…”

S: I think I heard it and I was like, “this is so wack.” But the more I listened, the more I wanted to listen to it again. So, I don’t think I decided for a while if I loved it or hated it. But it stayed.

E: I didn’t know that, but I’m glad.

A: Awesome. So, the new song, “The Monologue,” is a collab with Nyxen. How did that come about? Was it something you guys wrote and thought, “let’s get Nyxen to sing the hook?” Or was she part of the process?

S: Most of it we wrote, and we worked on the beat along with Jayteehazard, but the initial chorus idea and a lot of the verses were already written by the time we brought Nyxen in. But she just kind of took it to her own space. That sort of post-hook thing she sings where everyone sort of compares her to Lily Allen, I think is a bit…

E: We had to–when she was recording it–we had to tell her, “be less Lily Allen.” Cause she had in her head that it was in a British accent…we were like, “this sound sick. But also, what?”

A: *laughs*

S: But she nailed it. And the process of actually having her in the room with us recording it, rather than us emailing back and forth, meant it went through tweaks…we often write things that are very fast, and sometimes vocalists come in and are like, “there are too many words. Like, I can’t sing that fast and make it sound good.” So that was something we definitely took on board and worked with her, and we just get along so well…she’s brought us onto her shows now, and she’s got a great crew to hang out with.

A: Obviously, you guys namecheck Elon Musk in that song. Has he commented in any way? Or shared his thoughts?

E: Well, no, but surely after we released the track he released that weird Soundcloud rap…

A: Was that “#RIPHarambe?”

E: Yeah, I reckon that was a secret diss to us… I mean he hasn’t contacted us, but I took it as a diss track.

A: So the gauntlet’s been thrown, is what I’m hearing.

E: Yeah, he’s trying to fight us. That’s what is going on, yes.

A: Okay. So, the next great hip hop beef, we had Ja Rule and 50 Cent, Nas and Jay-Z…and now we have Coda Conduct and Elon Musk.

E: That’s right. That’s the biggest beef of the century.

A: Wow. Can we expect it all to come to a head at some point with some giant throwdown rap battle?

E: I think–have you seen 8 Mile?

A: I actually haven’t. It’s one of my biggest shames…

E: There’s this big rap battle at the end that the whole movie’s leading up to, it’s just like Eminem and his opponent…it’s gonna be like that. It’s gonna be some 8 Mile shit.

A: Have you guys sussed out his weaknesses? Do you know what you’re gonna throw back in his face? Or is it gonna be more in the moment…

E: You know, I think his greatest weakness is also his greatest strength, which is space travel. So, if we can somehow trick him into getting onto a spaceship and then send it to Mars instead of to the moon…cause we don’t know much about Mars, he might die there…anyway…

S: I don’t think I have anything to add to what’s going on right now, I’m just nodding. I’m just gonna sit here and nod.

E: Where do you want to send him in a spaceship?

S: Nah I think it’s all about the tunneling, you know? Like get Elon Musk in a Boring machine deep under L.A. or whatever it is.

E: Alright, so we put him in a spaceship but then send him underground.

S: Sure.

A: That sounds like the perfect marriage of both those ideas, I love it.

E: Yeah, done. Decided.

A: So, what’s next for Coda Conduct? Can we expect any new music, tours, anything overseas anytime soon?

E: Overseas? Not sure. If anyone wants to give us a huge overseas opportunity, we’re in! But…do you want to add to that Sally?

S: I was just gonna say we have an EP coming out, we have a new song coming out before the EP comes out…and then we’ll play some shows when we’ve got the EP out. There’s an exciting few shows that are being announced soon which we cannot say, but soon.

A: Hopefully by the time this is out they’ll have been announced, or if they haven’t, this’ll be adding to the suspense.

E: There you go.

A: Now Erica, I wanted to ask you–you’re pretty active on Instagram, and your handle is @spicy_dave. Where did that come from?

E: There’s a lot of–Sally’s laughing, because this is the biggest thing that divides us, Sally and I. Sally reckons that she came up with the handle @spicy_dave, but that is not true. I can just say that on record, that is not true. Spicy Dave– *to Sally* you’re not taking the microphone– Spicy Dave is my spicy alter ego, where I exemplify my spiciness. And I came up with it.

A: Sally, rebuttal?

S: What actually happened is that we got offered a spot supporting Mr. Carmack a couple years ago, and I couldn’t do it because I was going to Falls Festival. And I was like, “sorry Erica, I’m not cancelling Falls Festival to do this support slot, I know you wanna do it but I can’t. Just do it solo!” And Erica’s like, “I can’t, I can’t, I’ve never done a solo set, what would I do?” And I’m like “I don’t know, just create an alter ego.” She says “I don’t have an alter ego,” and I’m like “just say your name is Dave. Just say you’re Spicy Dave.”

E: Oh, that is not–that is not how it happened. That is SO made up. That is so made up. I can’t say anything except for that…is bullshit. She did not come up…*laughs*

A: This is going to be the center of the Coda Conduct documentary one day. The Spicy Dave Fiasco…or getting to the question of who really invented Spicy Dave.

E: Me, that’s the answer. Simple.

A: What exactly signifies the “spiciness” of Spicy Dave.

E: Um, I guess I just try and come off as positive and confident. I would say that that’s not necessarily me, I’m quite full of self doubt and I wouldn’t say I’m the most confident person. I can pretend confidence, I can seem confident, but…I guess it was just my way of trying to remind myself of my spiciness. And Dave can be a bit of a fuckboy sometimes, like…says some sassy things that Erica might not approve of. But the expert here is Sally, did you want to add anything about Spicy Dave?

S: I just came up with the name. That’s all I did…

A: Why not chalk it up to a team effort? But yeah, I identify with that. I came up with one for me for a while as a more confident alter ego: DJ Lance Memeworthy.

E: Oh, sick. I think I’ve seen your instagram liking our pictures sometimes.

A: Oh, really?

E: Maybe. I mean, has @djlancememeworthy liked our pictures once?

A: @djlancememeworthy probably did while he was still @djlancememeworthy, now it’s changed to @andrew.from.brooklyn, because that’s a more accurate description of who I actually am. But I still keep DJ Lance Memeworthy in my heart, as my DJ alter ego. Also when I’m ever DJing, which happens once in a blue moon, I’ll bring it out–

E: Bring him out!

A: He wears a giant fluffy yellow coat–

E: Yesssss.

A: –and a hat and he just…he hasn’t been out in a while since the Dankest 100, that was pretty incredible. I had a party that was all meme themed and had a meme playlist that just went from meme song to meme song to meme song…

S: That’s full on.

A: Yeah, it was. We also had a cash bar in the basement of our house and it was like two dollar specialty cocktails…we had an apple martini that was green that we called the “Two Kermits” after that Kermit and hooded Kermit meme that was going around at the time…we had something called “What a Gin and Tonic Would Taste Like If It Was My Longest Yeah Boi Ever,” which was just a Gin and Tonic…and the local beer in Minnesota you always get for parties is called Hamm’s, so we just called them “Steamed Hamm’s.”

E: I love it. Is there a reason you didn’t invite Dave?

A: Well, Dave…I could have sworn Dave was on the Facebook event.

E: Yeah, Dave didn’t get an invite…

A: Oh, this was definitely DJ Lance Memeworthy’s secretary’s problem.

E: Right.

S: I feel like Wendy would get along with DJ Lance Memeworthy. Me and my friend have an entirely fake Facebook account for a girl named Wendy that has been running for eight years, and is like pretty committed. But she gets invited to a lot of parties still, so I’m a little disappointed that Wendy didn’t get an invite.

A: Well, for the next Dankest 100 or any DJ Lance Memeworthy event, Wendy can be on the VIP list.

S: That’d be great.

A: Amazing. Thank you guys so much for sitting down with me, it’s been a real pleasure to come to Australia and interview one of my favorite rap groups!

S: Thanks so much for having a chat!

E: Yeah, thank you for taking time!

A: Of course! And keep tuned for what’s next with Coda Conduct.

 

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