OrderSixty6 Doesn't Have A Ceiling
As 2020 Queensland Music Awards Finalists OrderSixty6 are gearing up for their performance at Brisbane Festival, I had the opportunity to sit down with the group and discuss their motivations and their processes as an artist collective.
I met SAB, Apollø, Professor Paul, and Melrose at a local bistro right before they were closing. We briefly discussed a mutual connection with KMAY, whom I’ve interviewed before, and shared a joke about a video they had posted on Instagram before we started getting into the questions. I won’t bore you with that transcript though.
The Creative Issue: How would you describe OrderSixty6?
Apollo: We always say that the four of us are lead singers in separate bands that came together to make music in one room.
Melrose: Like we all had rehearsal, and our band mates didn’t show up. So we said “lets make a band.”
SAB: In terms of the our influences and the music we make individually. It’s very distinct. So we try to bring different flavors to the group.
TCI: How does a song or a video, or even a project come together with you guys working in a group? What is the process of pulling together these different perspective?
M: The way we sort of work, is that all the guys here produce their own music, and write their own music. So we all come at it from this position of “I have a cool idea.” A lot of the songs for Order I produce. I usually come forward like “I made this beat the other day” or “one of the guys will be like I had this hook.” We get into the same room and we just say cool ‘I got this concept and this beat lets just write.’ That’s pretty much how they all turn out. I come from a very musical place of like a song has to be about something and the guys are very much on the same wave. Let’s just not rap about rapping let’s centre the song and make it about something.
TCI: The legacy of Hip Hop Rap Groups extends as far back as the genre itself. The likes of Public Enemy, or NWA, or more modern incarnation from Odd Future to Brockhampton (who I know is a big influence for you guys). What value does a group dynamic bring to a genre like Hip-Hop that at least on its surface is so individualistic?
S: I think the value is having a second or third pair of ears, and another brain on the idea. Because individually I can come up with a song. I’m sitting at my desk, and I’m making the melody. I’m coming up with the lyrics. I do that for whole recording process, and once it’s done it’s done. In a group dynamic while we are making everything someone is like “oh I like this we’ll keep that” or “nah this doesn’t really work try this”. I feel like that’s valuable to us, because it makes us self critique and get that real time feedback.
Professor Paul: I think the beauty of us being solo artists, as well as being in a group is we all are getting better on our own journeys all the time. When we do get in the group situations, it’s like SAB’s gotten heaps better at doing his thing, and Apollo has done the exact same (and Melrose has too). When I am presenting something to the group there is this pressure now that I have to bring something that also matches their energy. It becomes a fun game of one upping each other. We always wanna make the other person go, “whoa we haven’t done that before, we haven’t hit that thing or written about that concept. Like damn your delivery is so different from the last song”. It’s unlocking different potential, and reaching that at our own levels. I think being in a group is great way to discover that and finding new ways [to work] through watching the other boys level up. You think “maybe I can do this in my own way,” and try it. All of sudden you’re doing something completely different that you wouldn’t have figured out on your own in your room.
M: My big thing with being in a group is it keeps egos in check. Hip-Hop is one of those genres where you’re saying the most amount of words and most of those words are about yourself. It’s the difference between Roger Federer, who just focuses on himself, and a basketball team. Where everyone has their roles, and people can go this is what I bring to the table, and the only way I’m going to get better is if the guy next to me is pushing me. But at the same time we are not going out there like “look how awesome I am” because we all gotta share it. I think that’s the value to not just us but to the audience. It’s far more entertaining to have such a wide and diverse group. It’s like a cat with a laser pointer but there are four laser pointers and they’re all doing something different. That’s what I love about Brockhampton, Pharcyde, or the Wu Tang Clan, you’re never bored.
TCI: Are there any drawbacks? Or obstacles that you guys have had to overcome?
P: I literally, for a song we are working on at the moment, wrote like seven verses for it because the others were like ‘nah’. It was valid, they were all valid. I just kept sitting down and penning stuff and I was like “okay maybe this”, and they were like “nah”. It’s exactly like what Melrose was saying the ego is in check. If it’s not coming [creatively] or they think I can be better, because we all want the best for each other, it can still suck to hear. You’re putting your heart on the lines and it’s like “we know you can do better”. It’s like “yeah you’re right but that just took a half hour out of my day and I poured myself into that”, and it’s actually shit. Then you are just going again and again and again. It’s hard, and it’s a blessing.
M: We all have different journeys in life. So this sounds kind of weird, and it’s not that bad of a drawback but like scheduling. Not simply like “I can’t make that meeting” but like “bruh I’m working everyday this week.” I was in uni for a while, SAB’s in uni at the moment. Our normal day-to-day stuff gets amplified when you have a genre and an art form like ours which is all of us personally put onto a song. You combine that with all of us, and I think we have all had a lot of personal struggles whether that’s mental health, physical health, work, school, family, all that sort of stuff. Especially the stuff I’ve done on our last record Chester. If you listen to a song like ‘Bruce Banner’, in terms of everybody’s origin story here. That stuff is so amplified in a group. It’s hard.
TCI: COVID-19 has exposed weaknesses in the way particularly art is serviced. As a collective that has been grinding for so long, has the idea of not being able to tour, and have those live experiences to meet and make fans, changed your approach to delivering or even making your art?
A: I don’t think it’s changed anything. We have always known within ourselves that we are very piece-by-piece. We aren’t like these other groups that have blown up over a viral song. We are slowly building. I feel like our routine of how we write and create art hasn’t changed, because we have been doing it the same way for three years.
P: We’ve been isolating for three years. I only leave my house to go to Woolworths. I don’t go out. We literally just make music. It’s a blessing. We don’t do tours, we’re not big enough. We are used to this isolation process. To get paid by the government to stay home more. It’s like cool I get paid to actually work on my art. I’m getting paid to get better. For me it’s a perfect recipe, this is how we thrive.
M: Even when COVID wasn’t around we don’t play a lot of shows. The amount of shows we actually played is less than ten in three years, but all of them have been slightly bigger and slightly better than the last. The most recent gigs we did were two sold out house parties. We played the Queensland Music Awards at Fortitude Music Hall in front of like 1000 people. A year before that we played in front of 50 people at some bar. I don’t even think I was there. For now we are focused on our visuals. We are putting out a music video for every song on our last project, Chester. We’ve done a livestream for 4ZZZ where we filmed in five different locations, making five different music videos that were live performances. We are kind of built for this, which is kind of weird to think about. We have always put a lot of effort into our online media, our photos and our videos. So when shows come back it’s gonna be awesome but at the same time it hasn’t changed.
P: Our fanbase hasn’t grown from our live shows because we have been spread on all these different platforms from music, to music videos, to different ways of collaborating. Our fan base has gradually grown through a lot of different networks. Having one of them taken anyway does suck, because we wanna do that, but we are focused on these other things right now. When things do open up and our fan base is a little bigger we’ll have the chance to come back and do shows a bit more. It’s not forever.
M: We are doing Street Serenades for Brisbane Festival where they drive us in a truck through different suburbs, and it’s all social distanced. That’s so exciting because that is an idea I’ve never heard of and to be part of it is so crazy. That’s the great thing about adversity is that it teaches you about resilience about intuitiveness and about ingenuity, and that’s what we are really excited about.
TCI: Do you feel like there is a ceiling on what’s possible as a rap group from a small city, in a country that doesn’t export culture to the extent of an America or even the UK?
P: I wanna be the kid from the small town who like makes it when he is 35, and people look back and go “wow we can do that now” because you did that.
M: For me I didn’t know anything about the Brisbane scene, and then I went to a gig and suddenly we meet all these people. It’s small yeah, for sure. The Australian music scene has a lot of challenges. We don’t have a big population we don’t have a big export capacity. Hip-hop (particularly) is nowhere. We still haven’t figured out what accent we are using. But there is no ceiling when you look at a kid like Kid Laroi. He went from Western Sydney only sixteen, or fourteen and he has gone from that to number eight on billboard for his album. Millions of streams, with fans all over the world, million followers on instagram in like two years.
S: All of our own experiences and walks of life make us want to tap into that, and be relatable to certain people. When you put that into a group there’s just so much reach there like he is trying to target the people who relate to his honesty and lyrics and he’s doing the same thing. I’m doing the same thing from my cousins and I friends in South Africa and Zimbabwe. We are all coming from different walks of life and in someway make our music relatable to different ears.
M: There’s no ceiling to that.
TCI: In ten, 20, 30 years time, when you imagine the legacy of OrderSixty6, or even just your legacy as artists individually, what do you hope you are known for?
A: I reckon Australia’s biggest rap group. The next Hilltop Hoods would be sick but like globally.
P: All I give a shit about is that we are still friends, I just want to still be friends with these dudes. Because no matter where OrderSixty6 goes it started from us just having this same energy. So wherever we go and no matter how big it gets, I just feel like if we remain friends that’s good.
M: I genuinely don’t care if it’s 50 people or 5000 people. I’d love 5000 people but like the world is the world and will figure it out. As it was for me when I was a kid, you just put on your headphones and you were away you were in that music. Ever since I started making music all I wanted was some kid somewhere on a bus home from school who chooses to put me on. No matter what the fuck happened to me. That’s all I care about. Because that’s what music was for me.
We wrapped the interview with a more personal discussion on music that I knew wasn’t gonna make the final cut. I thanked them for their time and the group left the bistro we sat in. I felt excited for the Brisbane’s music scene to have such a solid group of artists slowly climbing the ranks.
Heading head first into a post-covid world OrderSixty6 felt like they had a handle on what this strange new future will hold for Brisbane music. Be sure to check their music out if you get a chance, I recommend starting with their song ‘Neighbours’.