Separately, Luke Dubs and Elgusto are the scions of musical families, blazing their own paths as live musicians, producers and DJs of considerable renown. Together, theyâ€™re Hermitude, one of Australia's finest instrumental acts. Call them virtuosos, call them renaissance men, call them innovatorsâ€¦ Just don't call them a hip hop group.
â€œThe thing about us, man,â€ Dubs explains, â€œis that we didn't intend to be a hip hop group, as such. We don't see ourselves as a total hip hop outfit. We know we're heavily influenced by it and listen to a lot of itâ€¦ but there was pretty much no one doing it instrumentally when we started. There were guys making beats, of course, but actually doing it live is another thing.
â€œWhen we first started playing gigs in Sydney as Hermitude, they were fringey, electronic nights. We did work with a couple of MCs in our early days - Urthboy and TZU's Joelistics - and that kind of put us in the hip hop category, I guess. We're happy to be in that category, man, and it's a great thing to be a part of, but I guess in the beginning we didn't strictly see ourselves that way. We just made instrumental beats.â€
Of course, it's hard not to think of Hermitude as a hip hop act when the Sydney duo are signed to Elefant Traks (all three of their titles, including the 2008 LP revelation 'Threads', have been released through the iconic hip hop label) and are well known for their relationship with Urthboy. Dubs went to high school with The Herd's breakout solo star, and Hermitude has just put the finishing touches on their contributions to the rapper's new album.
â€œThe Urthboy record comes out in a couple of weeks, and we wrote three beats for it,â€ Dubs reveals. â€œWe did the first single, 'Hellsong', which did really well on triple j, and a couple of other tracks. That kept us real busy for the first half of the year, man. We were slaving away. (Urthboy) cracked the whip. He wasn't even feeding us!
â€œActually, it wasn't anything like that, but we were in the studio every other day banging out beat after beat, trying to get them through the strict quality control on the Urthboy record. I can't wait to see how that goes when it drops.â€
The real Hermitude story goes back much further than the new Urthboy record and the success of 'Threads'. It's the story of two young lads from musical families who did something shocking in contemporary society - they didn't rebel against their parents.
â€œNo, there was never any rebelling going on,â€ laughs Dubs, whose father made his name as a respected trumpeter. â€œBut there wasn't any real conscious decision to go into music, either. I mean, I was at gigs every weekend, because a lot of the time mum would go out and see dad play and take me along. But I was six or seven, and I was more interested in sliding across the dancefloor on my knees than listening to what dad was doing.
â€œBut as I got older I ended up taking up the piano. I've always loved what dad's done and appreciated being raised in a musical family, but it wasn't until the tail end of high school that I realised I could actually make a career out of it, that I could follow in dad's footsteps - not for the purpose of doing that, but just because I thought, 'if I can support myself by playing music, then I'll be a happy man'.â€
The 16-year old Dubs and 11-year old Gusto played in their first band together in '94, but according to Dubs, it wasn't until they got a little older and the age gap started to 'shrink' that the duo thought they should â€œjoin forces and take over the worldâ€.
â€œWe've built up a reputation over here, but it's taken a lot of time. Instrumental music still isn't on a lot of people's radars. People relate to vocals, and like seeing someone up there telling their story. I guess with instrumental music it's a bit harder to convey those types of messages. But (instrumental music has) come a long way in Australia, and it's awesome to see that going on overseas on a big scale, as well.â€
Hermitude play Sounds Of Spring at RNA Showgrounds Saturday September 26. For more info visit www.soundsofspring.com.au
'Threads' is available now through Elefant Traks.