Bliss n Eso's new studio album is titled 'The Sun'.
It may have been four years in the making, but Australian hip hop veterans Bliss n Eso are beaming in more ways than one with the release of their seventh studio album, 'The Sun'.
"We're very known for taking too many drinks between. . . Wait, is that the right way to say it? 'Too many drinks between drinks'?" Max 'Eso' Mackinnon laughs.
"We like to take our time with things and make sure it's right, but obviously the music would have been out earlier if COVID hadn't come and said hello," Max adds.
With the majority of the music ready "about halfway through last year", Max says the band wasn't keen to drop a full album if they weren't able to tour, which led to multiple singles dropping "to just start getting back in the cycle of things and give the fans some music".
"Everything is just. . . 25 different hoops of fire to have to jump through," he says. "I mean, even talking about film clips. For the first film clip we did 'Lighthouse' – that took five different film clips.
"We had a whole idea for the first one, about to get it all done; lockdown happens, we can't get the director from Queensland. Whole idea down the toilet. Then finally on that fifth one. . . Like. . . (laughs) I was in the middle of a farm, in the middle of nowhere, and they had me on a huge crane lifted up above like a dam, with a huge fire hose spraying me making it look like rain.
"We did everything we could to pull off something magical and motion picture, which I feel like we did. But yeah, everything is a moving part [at the moment], and there's hoops to jump through.
"We love our craft and we love the music, so we'll do whatever we can to get it through."
'The Sun' boasts a number of impressive feature artists; and the stories behind the collaborations are equally impressive. 'Good People' with Kasey Chambers is one of them.
Max reflects on Bliss n Eso's first time in a professional recording studio – a studio which belonged to producer Nash Chambers of The Dead Ringer Band.
"Somehow, through my dad, he had some kind of connection, he was like, 'Oh look, if you're serious about this music thing, I know some people that have got this studio'," Max says.
"So we went and drove all the way up there and stayed the night with Nash Chambers and Kasey and the whole family, and it was just like we'd known each other forever. That was when we were like; oh, man, we must've been 21 years old, 22 years old? And we've kept that friendship the whole time.
"Long story short, [Kasey] actually lived a couple of houses down from where we were recording. She would come and drop organic food and cookies, and stuff like that at the front door for us.
"We kind of had a thought of, we definitely want a female vocal on ['Good People'], but who is the best? And we just thought, 'Oh, how are we blind, by not putting this together already?'.
"We showed Kasey the song, and she loved it, she loved the message. I think it was just special that we'd done it with someone that we were actually very close with to start off with and, you know, is one of our good people."
Other collaborations, like Dizzee Rascal on ‘On One’, were more. . . unexpected. "Oh, man, that was such a spin out how that happened, actually," Max laughs.
"I'd re-posted a freestyle that he did a couple of months ago. I was just going to re-post it, that's it. Just tagged him. Then he direct messaged me back, and was like, 'I know who you are, bruva, let's f...ing 'ave it'.
"When he spelt 'have it' it was without a 'h' – it was, 'let's f...ing 'ave it' – and I was like, 'Jesus Christ, what does that mean? I'm pretty sure that means let's have it, like, let's have a go, let's get it done – let’'s work!'
"He remembered us from a Big Day Out festival that we were both billed on at one point, and he actually caught our set, and was like, 'Oh, these boys are dope'. Then yeah, seeing that I'd re-posted, he remembered these guys are from Australia, blah blah blah, and it took a couple of days – he was like, 'send me the beat'.
"We sent it and he was like, 'Love it. What do you need?' We were like, 'Well, we're going for this, like, rhyming structure where you've got to stay syllable practice the whole way through.'
"I think his was like, techno, so everything has to be, like, fresco, Cornetto, which I know kind of put him on the spot, because you've got to work a little bit harder to just keep on that one rhyming word.
"But he sent that through within a couple of days, and we were stoked. He's an old UK grime god icon."
While working with iconic artists has clearly been a memorable experience for Max and his cohorts, it's working with up and coming artists like Sydney's Chillinit that really seems to get these OGs excited.
"We had always felt like, out of all the new cats, Chillinit was more kind of on our wave, on our frequency," Max explains.
"You can tell that he's a rhymer at heart, a lyricist at heart and loves his craft and his bars. So it was just a matter of how are we going to make this work.
"I knew that if we just sat down with him and chopped it up, we'd figure out if we're the same c...s or not. And that's exactly what we did.
"Out of all the rappers that are coming up, Chill's definitely one that has that raw, kind of killer instinct, rap attack in him, so that was real cool to be able to bridge the gap.
"Because I hadn't seen too much of. . . well, I don't really want to call us 'old school' but you know, the old-school generation and the new-school generation, where's that bridge, you know? So it was really cool to create a sick bridge."
Fans can likely expect to see the two 'collaborate' again, in a way, sooner rather than later – via the Rappertag 2021 project, recently restarted by 360.
Max concedes he will inevitably be tagged at some point, with his contribution to the original Rappertag still one of the most popular fan favourites a decade later.
"If we're to rate how the last one went, I know that my Rappertag was up there with some of the favourites," he says.
"I think it's an awesome thing; I think it's a great platform for new and up and coming rappers. I think it's even kind of gone a little bit further than busting a verse on a beat.
"I'm getting a feeling that the version that 360 did is now going to be a song on Spotify; the version that Nerve did is now a song on Spotify; the Rappertag JK-47 did is now a song on Spotify.
"So they're making their own original beats for them, and then they can actually release it themselves, which is actually very cool. Because I mean, the old Rappertag was just, 'Let's take a beat that's already been used and rap over it'; you know, it wasn't like a release."
Max says he appreciates Bliss n Eso fans for their willingness to accompany the band on the journey.
"With Bliss n Eso, our musical bed and landscape can change – every song can be different; we could be doing a house track, we could be doing a slow boom-bap track, we could be doing a new uptempo trap track, and our fans are just willing to go wherever we're willing to go.
"Because obviously I think they believe in the message and I think they don't mind our taste in beat picking," he laughs.
"With our albums we like to have a nice selection of different universes you can go into. So you'll have those witty kind of punchline bars like 'Creepy', then you'll have in-depth personal songs about certain things in our lives like my son being born on 'So Happy', or my parents splitting up and my mother passing on 'Know Yourself'.
"Then we have storytelling songs like 'Cadillac Out Of Hell'. So we have a huge range of different kind of ways we can express ourselves, and I think sometimes we do find it easier when we are pulling off personal experiences that we've been through.
"I find that sometimes when I'm listening to a rapper, for example one of Childish Gambino's first songs that he put out, he had a line – I mean, I don't even remember what it rhymed with, it didn't matter – and it was like him sitting in bed when he was six with his mum and his aunty, playing with the McDonald's Muppets toy.
"Now, that is not gangster. That is not 'hey, look at me and all my b.tches', but that is what I loved. I loved this personal touch that created this visual that I could feel was very personal, you know?
"So I think once we dive into our own experiences and throw our vulnerability out the window for a bit, hopefully we can create those universes for the listeners.
"You know, I don't feel a verse is complete unless I have one part in it where the producer or engineer or someone goes, 'Oh, Jesus, man!' Like, 'you just mentioned Drake's penis in 'On One'. I'm like, 'yeah dude, someone had to.'"
'The Sun' is available now. Since our interview was conducted with Max, Bliss n Eso have announced a monster 29-date 2022 national tour.
Bliss N Eso 2022 Tour Dates
Thu 20 Jan - Beach Hotel (Byron Bay) Fri 21 Jan - The Fortitude Music Hall (Brisbane) Sat 22 Jan - Blank Space (Toowoomba) Sun 23 Jan - NightQuarter (Sunshine Coast) Wed 26 Jan - Harrup Park (Mackay) Thu 27 Jan - Magnums (Airlie Beach) Fri 28 Jan - JCU Uni Bar (Townsville) Sat 29 Jan - Gilligans (Cairns) Fri 4 Feb - Panthers Port Macquarie Sat 5 Feb - Hoey Moey (Coffs Harbour) Sun 6 Feb - Lismore Workers Club Thu 10 Feb - Panthers Penrith Fri 11 Feb - Panthers Bathurst Sat 12 Feb - Garden Hotel (Dubbo) Fri 18 Feb - Entrance Leagues Club (Central Coast) Sat 19 Feb - NEX (Newcastle) Thu 24 Feb - Forum Melbourne Fri 25 Feb - Torquay Hotel Sat 26 Feb - The Pier (Frankston) Fri 4 Mar - Discovery (Darwin) Fri 11 Mar - Enmore Theatre (Sydney) Sat 12 Mar - UC Refectory (Canberra) Sun 13 Mar - Kinross Woolshed (Albury) Thu 24 Mar - AEC Theatre (Adelaide) Fri 25 Mar - Metro City (Perth) Sat 26 Mar - Wintersun Hotel (Geraldton) Fri 1 Apr - Moruya Waterfront Motel Hotel (Moruya) Thu 7 Apr - Albert Hall (Launceston) Fri 8 Apr - Goods Shed (Hobart)