Thundamentals And Joe Blanck Share Their Creative Career Secrets
Their stories overlap in interesting ways.
Beer. Vodka. Watermelon. #UnderthinkIt
Consisting of DJ Morgs, Tuka, Jeswon and Poncho, Thundamentals are an Australian hip-hop band who hail from the Blue Mountains.
Their latest project is a collaboration with A Blanck Canvas, the art studio whose sole focus is “bringing the unimaginable to life through 2D and 3D art form.” You’ve probably already seen their work – past clients include Cirque Du Soleil and The Victorian Opera, with their most recent performance seeing them take the latter’s production of Sleeping Beauty to Dark Mofo.
On the surface, it’s an unlikely match, but when we dig a little deeper, a common theme emerges: everyone in this room got here by focusing on the simple things – a passion for their craft – and not thinking about all the things that might get in their way. As we sit down and talk about how both the Thundamentals and Joe Blanck got to where they are today, their stories weave and overlap in surprising ways.
One Step At A Time
When the Thundamentals first started, the kind of career they have now didn’t exist in this country. “When we started out, the idea of being Australian hip-hop artists and having a viable career didn’t seem like a possibility,” says Jeswon.
“We came into the whole thing so naïve. We weren’t trained and we were friends,” says Tuka. “We performed for four years without releasing anything because it really was just like we were doing it totally for fun.”
It’s not that they didn’t have ‘eyes on the prize’ per se – it’s just that by being too fixated on a dream that may never eventuate you can end up freaking yourself out and shutting yourself down before you can even begin. So they took things step-by-step.
“Just to release something was the first goal,” Tuka says. “Then you go, ‘well it would be nice to tour’ so you do a tour. And then as things escalate [you] eventually look at a very humble bank account and go ‘wait…we could take six months off and not work for the first time’. And that’s turned into three years now.”
It’s a similar story for Blanck. He worked one job after another, and when the opportunity to work out of a space in Docklands for virtually no rent arose, he jumped at the chance. “I thought, well, I could really give it a go and try and make my dream a reality without having a huge, scary, massive two-year lease on a building.”
Two weeks later he had only $200 in his bank account and was beginning to freak out. “But then I got a little job building a suit for a film. Then another little job. Then a big job, building a big turtle for Cirque Du Soleil and that kind of started everything off.”
Do Things For The Right Reason
“The music industry doesn’t take Australian hip-hop seriously,” says Tuka. “So, you basically get shunned until you have a fan base.” He says this matter-of-factly, no negativity lacing his words. It’s the truth, but it doesn’t bother him – the band isn’t in it for the gatekeepers. “It doesn’t matter because we have amazing fans who are supportive of us.”
“I just think that there’s so much more currency and value in building a genuine relationship with people that are actually interested and invested in what you’re trying to do and say,” Jeswon says. “I’m making music for myself for my friends and for people that believe in it.”
It’s an approach that is paying off. “We kind of see our fans as our boss[es],” says Tuka. “The music industry is like something we operate with but our relationship with our fans is the most important thing.”
Blanck also received some resistance initially. His father – who he now describes as his biggest fan – was a bit unsure at first. Even Blanck himself didn’t really have the possibility of becoming an artist on his radar until he got some work in a scenic art department. From there, however, he delved deeper into the industry until he came across puppetry. “I realised that’s what I wanted to do and shifted in that direction.”
As the industry evolves, the market for Australian hip-hop is growing. “All these opportunities have opened up over the years,” says Jewson. “There’s a legitimate viable industry now around hip-hop.”. This shift has now allowed Thundamentals to focus on their careers full time. “It’s a dream,” says Tuka. “Waking up every day to work on music.”
Enjoy The Ride
They’ve taken two very different paths, but today things are overlapping for Blanck and Thundamentals – they’re working together on a project.
“I’m a big Thundamentals fan! So it was cool getting the phone call to collab with those guys,” says Blanck. The project will see Blanck and his team bring to life artwork from Thundamentals’ latest album, Everyone We Know.
“It was a really easy one to say yes to,” says Blanck. “They’re good designs and can also be translated into the real world and into puppets, especially on the large scale.”
It makes a strange kind of sense that here is where the stories converge. As we sit in a warehouse filled with fantastic beasts, of monster heads, and fan-operated puppets, it’s hard not to believe, naff as it may sounds, that dreams really do come true.
“It’s not something secure that you can go hit up every day,” says Tuka of the industry they find themselves in. “It’s not always going to be there for you, and I think it’s pretty natural to have some doubts around it. But I honestly can’t see myself doing anything else.”
”It wasn’t that I thought we were going to get paid. It was just like ‘I’m not doing anything else’ and I dug my heels in. It’s grown at its own pace that you can’t really control. There’s no formula for this kind of thing.”
Feature image: Thundamentals/Supplied
Roam is all about celebrating Australian creatives who #UnderthinkIt and find success. RSVP here to join them at an exclusive event featuring the Thundamentals, PEZ and A Blanck Canvas in Sydney.