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'The Libertine 2', an ode to the day one Triple One fans

27 June 2019 | 1:37 pm | Parry Tritsiniotis

On the brink of grandiose success, Sydney rap crew Triple One have released their most emotional, and grassroots EP yet, The Libertine 2.

Triple One have just completed their first national tour for their hit single ‘Butter’. I attended their sold out show at the Marrickville Bowlo. A communal affair, the band shuffled through their hit tracks, encompassing elements of emo to pop to trap. The show seemed a pivotal event in the bubbling career of Triple One. It is interesting trying to understand the mindset of artists when they are on the brink of major success, and Triple One’s newly released EP, The Libertine 2, is a nod to their screwed-on, focussed mentality.

The band dressed uniformly in black overalls, each wearing a different brand in order to portray their own individual styles. Whether it be rapper Marty Bugatti in Nike, producer Billy Guns in Champion or rapper Obi Ill Terrors in Lowes, it represents that while they are one, they each also have unique stories to tell. Symbolically, this is important. Four intensely unique artists combine as friends to create the enigma that is Triple One. The Libertine 2 is a fundamental representation of that, making the project ever more important along the band's discography.

Marty, Billy and I met up to chat about the EP at their Sydney studio above Chippendale’s Lord Gladstone Hotel. Having followed them since the release of their EP and having seen them grow as artists within our local scene, it was a privilege to sit down with them and chat about the creative process surrounding the release of The Libertine 2.

2016’s widely acclaimedThe Libertine, is a cornerstone Triple One project. The EP acts as a perfect introduction to the gritty sound that the group has become known for. Its combination of ethereal beats, big guitar breaks and heavy emotional rap verses are the fundamental qualities of the artistry and legacy they are creating. Its rawness has led to the development of a cult fan base around the band. It is only suitable that The Libertine 2 has followed this same path. It’s sonically like its predecessor, so it’s only right to be humbly promoted as ‘for the day one 111 fans’.

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Billy emphasises the importance of the group’s first EP, saying “Still today most of the tracks are the breadwinners for us. They receive consistent streaming, both locally and internationally. It shows that real fans come back to these tracks every single day. While its sick to get hype and radio play here, Libertine 1 really delivers for those day one fans, and we wanted to recreate that energy on the sequel.”

The damning question is, why is the timing suitable now? On the brink of major success and armed with a series of rampant pop singles, the band has decided to release one of their most personal, and grassroots records to date. It’s a bold artistic move. Their ability to be ferociously and unapologetically themselves is the sort of attitude that will continue to allow for a strong fan base to develop.

Marty expanded on the idea of timing, suggesting, “It’s now or never for us for this project. We recorded these songs across the past three and a half years. If we don’t release it now and continue on with our newer catalogue, we will never get the opportunity to release it. We really want to put this out as an ode to those day one fans, given how similar it is vibe wise to The Libertine 1. It’s a form of fan service.”

There’s a lot that has changed for the group between the time of the two EP’s. There’s an obvious edge of maturity captured in the sequel compared to the original, despite the age of the tracks. Although they’ve been finding rapid success and are currently navigating the ever-changing trajectory of their career, their drive and determination has not changed at all. The boys suggest the only significant change artistically between the EPs is a greater appreciation for song crafting. Gunns explains, “There is a beauty in the harshness of the way these songs are recorded. We have had access to incredible studios like the one we are in today, but in the end we wanted to keep the harshness of the original uncut tracks.”

Marty follows, “It’s a second attempt of the Libertine 1 with an extra set of knowledge, life experiences, as well as practical song creating techniques. When we first recorded the songs, there was an energy in the air we couldn’t recreate coming back to them. We decided not to rerecord a lot of the songs when we put the finishing touches on them, because they just wouldn’t capture the same energy and emotion”.

The first defining feature of listening to the project is the grandiose sonic journey that the EP takes you on. Strings, oriental samples and big drums create a perfect platform for introspection by the vocalists. ‘Eighth Day’ features a walloping euphoria with some of the most personal verses on the entire EP. Despite having no formal musical background, Gunns is the sole producer on the EP, and steals the show entirely. When reflecting on his musical influences crafting the project, he expanded:

“My biggest regret is not learning to play an instrument. I was brought up listening to some pretty prolific bands. My dad used to play me Nirvana and as a 2 year old I’d request ‘Banana, Banana!!’ Growing up in a family who loved music was important for me, and that’s how I launched myself into wanting to do music. Once I grew old enough to understand what hip-hop was, I always thought rapping is cool, but how do I program these drums?”

In terms of direct sonic influence on the EP, Gunns cites Clams Casino heavily. “It was one of the first artists I was drawn to away from the traditional boom bap style producers. Before the big A$AP Rocky, Vince Staples features, I’d drive around listening to his beat tapes.”

Marty also shines heavily on the project. It’s rare for a rapper to be able to inflect his vocal with as prolific and unique a vocal cadence. ‘Lady Blue’ is a clear example of Marty’s clinical nature. An emotionally charged verse that’s balanced with subtle aggression is a perfect vignette into the features that make his delivery so infectious. The inspirations he quotes directly reflect these qualities:

“I’m naturally drawn to rappers who have similar cadences in voice. My main influences include Danny Brown and Denzel Curry more recently, but coming up and starting off, definitely Big L. When I started rapping I tried to rap like Connor, but once I accepted my voice and how I could use it to my advantage was when I truly began to flourish.”

"Growing up though, my sister's friend would burn CDs and collect songs, give them to my sister and then hand them down to me. It would be HomecomingSpeakerboxxx, Ludacris. It's probably where I get my pop sensibilities from.”

Both Lil Dijon and Obi III Terrors are at their best on the project. Dijon’s heart fuelled, emo-inspired hooks are powerful in nature and tie the verses together perfectly. Obi’s raspy vocal and dark imagery again return, adding significant levels of depth to the release.

These factors combine to make The Libertine 2 a singular sonic experience. Unlike many of their other projects, the EP tackles one vibe to serve one audience: their hard-core fans.

Its emotional rawness is the redeeming quality after multiple amounts of listens. While Triple One have become known for their profoundness in tackling mental illness, it is especially prevalent on this project. When asked about the challenges of exposing yourself and exploring emotional vulnerability in art, Marty explains:

“From a writing perspective I feel you can say stuff in music that you can’t say in real life. Because in music however its romanticised, it can be taken as not as serious because you’ve put it in a song. At the same time its often not as literal so it’s a good form of therapy, and often the best stuff you write is often when you’re not in a positive head space.”

Gunns expands on that sentiment, suggesting that “Regardless of whether we had zero listeners or not, the same songs would still exist. It doesn’t effect what is being said at all. We will no matter what, be unapologetically ourselves on these tracks”.

On the topic of judgement, Marty explains “We don’t exist in a social group where we can be judged. It’s just us four, and we have known each other since we’ve been 16. We were mates before we made music, so when we made music, we aren’t scared of judgement.” Gunns continues, “In a group everyone can hear it and hear when heavy shit gets said, and is nice to hear from a support network perspective.”

Artist integrity and authenticity are key Triple One values. It’s being conscious of them that has allowed the group to have such singularity in their sonic direction. Whether making pop, trap, or emo rap, the boys have a work ethic that is directed towards abrasive honesty in every creative outlet they take on. The brevity of their styles however, is an interesting concept, which posed me to ask the question of how they decide which artistic direction to take on each project.

Marty took the lead saying, “Because of how prolific we are in the amount of music we make, we are fortunate to pick and choose and select projects. Over time naturally, we create a massive variety of music, so after we have a bunch of tracks, we take a step back and think from a creative director point of view. These songs fit together, these sound the same, these have a similar vibe, and from there a project like The Libertine 2 comes together.”

The answer suggests a certain level of calculation surrounding creative decisions, highlighting how self aware the project is. This isn’t a band that will write five songs together and release them as an EP three months later. Every track, every project, every piece of content that is released is for a reason. They’re a well-oiled machine, put together by a bunch of friends trying to make an impact.

Being friends with such calculated creative decisions would seemingly create a bunch of creative differences. However, on the topic of conflict, the boys assured that all conflict was dealt with healthily and proactively. The only type of conflict which would arise was task conflict, and it was almost always transformed positively.

Gunns suggests “We make good music because we have four pairs of ears rather than one critiquing and working towards a final product, it allows us to cut the lowest common denominator. We are open to criticism, and we have an extremely open communication process”

Marty adds, “Its what allows us to make such a pure product”.

Given the tenacity of the bands work, its also important to consider the impact in which they are having on local rap scenes. Triple One do not sound like their Aussie rap predecessors and are becoming what seemingly is pioneering in the new wave of Australian hip-hop. No longer is there a stigma surrounding what it means to be a rapper from Australia, and I credit the rise of Triple One to that new fact.

Gunns reflects on this fact, "We knew coming into it we weren't influenced by other Aussie rappers, so we knew our sound wouldn't be like that. It's whats allowed us to have rarity in the music we create. We haven't necessarily thought of the impact we are having on a scene given how early we are in our career, but we hope to think we are giving rap fans in Australia an opportunity to be inspired to make whatever music they want."

At the end of our conversation, I set the boys the difficult task to describe the EP as simply as possible in a couple of sentences, and to talk about their goals for The Libertine 2.

Gunns says, “It’s what Triple One is, I’ll say it again and again it’s for the Triple One day one fans. We aren’t trying to take over the world with this one, it’s for the people that have got us to the level that we are at today.”

Marty describes the EP simply, “You listen to it in the car by yourself, it feels like rain, clouds, like introspection. It brings you joy in solace and the ability to see beauty in the darkest of times. There are underlying messages of course surrounding mental health and love, but being able to find warmth in these moments. In terms of our career, it’s the calm before the storm.”

Gunns repeats that line: “It really is the calm before the storm.”