Solo on pouring new energy and reinvigoration into Horrorshow’s Bardo State

With the release of Horrorshow’s new album Bardo State came some of the Sydney duo’s most intensely personal material yet. Talking with Solo just ahead of the album’s release, it’s easy to gain an understanding of how much effort and enthusiasm had been poured into the record’s creative process. Having spent the last few years on the road with their own material, as well as that of One Day’s collaborative album Mainline, both Solo and Adit emerged from this bubble of action inspired and reinvigorated.

“We’ve been making music together for a long time now,” Solo explains. “Next year, our first record will be 10 years old, which is a crazy thought in itself. To be four records in and also to be coming off the back of doing the Mainline record with One Day, for the two of us who had spent most of our musical careers largely just working with each other? I mean, Adit’s done work with Spit Syndicate and he’s got his work with Left., but the bulk of what we’ve done has been focused on that duo dynamic. To then go and do the One Day record where there’s seven of us: three producers, four or five songwriters. To be in that dynamic with a whole bunch of different ideas and tastes, opinions going around? It was a really cool experience and I think it opened us up to new approaches to making music.”

“I think we came to this record with a renewed excitement and enthusiasm about working together.” He admits. “Trying to be more collaborative and open songwriting up to working with other people as opposed to me sitting with a beat for years, just banging my head on a wall. Learning that you can bring other people’s ideas to the table and bounce off them and incorporate them. I know that for Adit, working with Raph and Joyride on that project, obviously opened him up to different styles of production. We did this record that was intensely collaborative in the form of One Day and then it made us really excited; it re-energised us for going back to this duo dynamic of working with one another.”

For long-time fans of Horrorshow, Bardo State is not a remarkable departure from the duo’s previous (and beloved) roster of albums. Still, it’s a significant step forward for the hip hop act when it’s come to songwriting, arrangement and production. We’re seeing Horrorshow break in a new chapter of their artistry with Bardo State and the stories reflecting this period of experimentation and creative fusion are presented with clarity, sincerity and precision.

“You want to continue what you’ve done but also do something new.” Solo says of Bardo State’s position within the larger Horrorshow body of work. Commenting further on the dynamic between himself and Adit, he explains, “It has changed naturally over the years as we both have learned more about what we’re doing individually and also how to work to work together as a team. Bardo State is probably our most collaborative record to date, in terms of having guests on there and really working closely with people, bouncing ideas around. There’s co-production on certain tracks from people who have always been involved in our music like Jono Graham and Freddy Crabs, but I think they’re probably more involved than ever.”

“There are some really personal moments on the record.” He says. “The other thing we did with this record was not overthink it from the beginning. With our last record, we were really focused from the get go, on a concept. Every track we made was like, ‘How does it fit into the album?’ and that’s cool, it produced a certain result. With this one, we just made songs. We just approached it like, ‘Let’s make as many songs as we can’. We ended up with 20 tracks; some of them turned out to be really personal and some of them are a bit lighter.”

Looking at the role tone and layers play on their new music, Solo weighs in on how Bardo State stands to change up the Horrorshow live set up. Last year saw the duo tour successfully around the country and prior to that, fans were able to see them mix things up, with a stripped back national run reworking their stock of music in a more candid way. Bardo State will see Horrorshow rework things again for their upcoming shows, offering the crowd and themselves alike, a new insight into what the twosome can conjure up live onstage.

“It’s always exciting to have new material you can put in to your set.” Solo agrees. “It gives you more tools in your arsenal when you’re putting the set together. There’s a lot more melody on this album as well. We did Like A Version a couple of years ago and there was some singing in that, particularly at the beginning of the cover – that became a staple of the live set. I found myself singing in the set in a way that I’d never done before. Then we did the acoustic tour, which was really stripped back and musical; it was really based on singing and melody and vocal performance, it was stripped back in that way. All of that gave me more confidence in my singing and in my use of melody and that’s fed back in to the record, to then feed back into the live shows.”

“We’ve got some plans that are still coming together,” he adds. “Plans about expanding the live show and maybe introducing some other people, whether that’s in adding some instruments or maybe a back up vocalist. We’re still working it out, but we’re looking to beef the set up. As much as we love the one MC, one DJ combo that’s really the foundation of our set; the tour we did in October last year was that format. It was one of the best we’d ever done. We know that the set works like that in that format but we feel that with this record, there’s a lot of potential to add and make it bigger and better.”

Though Horrorshow have grown into one of the country’s most popular hip hop acts touring, Solo is open about how surprising it can be to witness full crowds reacting so positively to their music.

“I was really blown away by the energy that people brought to the shows.” He remembers of their October tour in particular. “I feel like our shows and the connection with the audience has gotten to a point where the people in the crowd love our music and they really know every word. These songs mean so much to these people and we were quite blown away. I guess that’s part of having been around for a few years; people have developed that attachment where these songs have been part of their lives and mean something to them.”

“I feel like that’s a big part of what gives our shows that candid quality,” he says. “Everybody who is there is letting their guard down for a sec. The thought of dropping these 15 new songs on people and letting them digest them and let them add them to their lives in the same way as they’ve been able to do with the old material is exciting. All that is part of the crazy process that we’re right at the beginning of, where you see your record come to life and take on a life of its own.”

Bardo State is out now.

HORRORSHOW AUSTRALIAN TOUR DATES

June 2nd | Settlers Tavern, MARGARET RIVER
June 3rd | Prince of Wales, BUNBURY
June 4th | Astor Theatre, PERTH
June 9th | Chelsea Heights Hotel, CHELSEA HEIGHTS
June 10th | Barwon Club, GEELONG
June 11th | 170 Russell, MELBOURNE
June 16th | ANU Bar, CANBERRA
June 17th | Enmore Theatre, SYDNEY
June 22nd | Magnums, AIRLIE BEACH
June 23rd | Dalrymple Hotel, TOWNSVILLE
June 24th | The Jack, CAIRNS
June 29th | Miami Marketta, GOLD COAST
June 30th | Great Northern, BYRON BAY
July 1st | Max Watt’s, BRISBANE
July 7th | Wollongong Uni, WOLLONGONG
July 8th | Bar on the Hill, NEWCASTLE
July 14th | Republic Bar, HOBART
July 15th | The Gov, ADELAIDE
July 21st | Discovery, DARWIN
July 22nd | Gap View Hotel, ALICE SPRINGS