New Zealand rapper/producer sibling duo, NO COMPLY found themselves gravitating toward the music industry as early as primary school. Drawing inspiration from their surroundings and, to the disdain of their neighbours, creating music whenever possible. The brothers explored a wide range of genres before coming together to tackle the traditional rules of hip-hop. Ethan and Fynn Blackwood sat down with Phoebe to discuss the local industry, comical talent in their latest music video and their EP BKATIT.
How did you find yourselves in the music industry? Was it from a young age?
Fynn: We played in school, we were in choir, kapa haka and things like that. When we were quite young we were given musical instruments and in primary school I remember learning guitar, taking classical lessons. I fucking hated it.
Did you do banana pancakes by Jack Johnson?
Ethan: Oh, of course.
Fynn: I didn't, I wasn't that kid! It was traditional classical music mostly which was, you know, now I have a greater appreciation for but at the time I didn’t, so I ended up dropping that for…..
Ethan: Rock band! I was in a rock band with Lorde, that was pretty cool at Belmont intermediate school, but Fynn you were..
Fynn: Yeah I started playing in bands just out of high school, I was in a really shitty sort of Tame Impala inspired indie band, which I think we played one show for and that was trash. Then I joined a group called Lakes, which later became lakes and the Magic Band, which was like an eight, nine piece sort of funk rap fusion group. I played with them til like 2017. I was in a couple of other projects along the way and then the last one before No Comply was called Pool Service, which was like a, still like rap jazz, but heavy, heavy influence on the jazz.
Ethan: I'd always been pretty heavy on the music but it kind of came around pretty much from watching Fynn play his gigs, we were lucky enough to have a microphone and we’d come home from going out in town or going to a party and we'd stay up until five in the morning just freestyling into the mic, and it was the most horrible shit you’d ever hear in your life but that’s how the passion for recording started for me.
I'm sure the neighbours loved it as well…
Ethan: Oh my goodness, you have no idea. So bad. They’re literally right beside me, years on they still give me some funny looks.
Now that you’re both established musicians, where do you look to for creative inspiration?
Fynn: Yeah everywhere, every medium like film and film scoring. Art, photography also from our friends and other kiwi musicians. A lot of the people that we keep around us are creatives and they're life long friends or people that we've met along the way that we now consider good friends. They're mostly in the creative industry so we get to look around us which is pretty lucky. There's also just a lot of amazing work coming out of New Zealand across the Music industry in general, it’s amazing.
It seems like we've got such a good culture for supporting each other and younger artists here in New Zealand?
Fynn: I was pleasantly surprised, especially some of the rappers that I have always idolised like SWIDT, Eno x Dirty and guys like that. Meeting them for the first time, I was kind of nervous, like, oh shit! These are the dudes that I look up to in rapping and they're all just such sweethearts, keen to collaborate and gas us up. Everyone's very friendly.
Ethan: For me, it sounds corny but creativity is a universal energy. It's been around for 14 billion years you know, just tapping into that through some flow state shit, that's how I get inspiration.
New Zealand is notorious for tall poppy syndrome which obviously contradicts that entirely, do you think that’s just simply not the case within the local music industry?
Ethan: We actually had this exact yarn yesterday, I feel like it's less the creative people, it's more the people that aren’t doing creative things that are tall poppies. That’s where it comes from for me personally.
Fynn: Yeah, I'd say the same thing. It's usually the people that have never picked up an instrument that are the first people to come for you and think that they know more about your music than you do. I’ve never really felt that within the creative community in New Zealand.
What would be the highlight of your career as NO COMPLY?
Fynn: First time on stage together would be one.
And where was that?
Fynn: It was at The Tuning Fork with our friend Harper Finn, we did a split gig and it was our first time ever playing as NO COMPLY, Ethan’s first time on stage as an act and we overcapped, we sold out and the feedback was just insane but also we just gelled so well on stage and that was a, this is it moment like we can do this and that was pretty special.
Ethan: I thought it was just normal to sell out your first show at The Tuning Fork…
Fynn: Yeah like lets just do it again tomorrow haha.
Ethan: But I'd have to agree, that was a beautiful moment.
And looking forward, what would be the career goal? Where do you see yourselves in the dream scenario?
Fynn: Paying rent would be nice.
Ethan: Yeah, exactly. Harper said to me once, and it stuck with me that if you can pay your bills with music, then you've made it. It’s as simple as that really and if you impact one person's life in any kind of way, that's worth it you know? That’s why you do it.
Fynn: Exactly. Just connecting with people and helping them out. Paying the bills would be great and I mean, hypothetically, if we could, paying for our loved ones as well.
Ethan: It's a dragon you're chasing if you're like, I'm gonna do this bigger show and then bigger show, bigger show but we just played Big Fan with Harper, Chef Mob and Alba Rose. We were all on stage while Harper was doing a waiata and he did the ‘Maybe Tomorrow cover’, It was the most beautiful thing. That was to a couple hundred people and that was one of the more special moments.
Fynn: Money should never be the objective but if it does come around then you give back later on.
I need to know more about the talent featured in the ‘All My Friend’s music video….
Ethan: Legends! Oh my god, this was through Connor Pritchard who put together the video. I think it was done through a facebook theatre community page? It was amazing honestly, one of them used to be a cop in Boston before moving to New Zealand, he was telling us about being on set with Denzel Washington and how he’s such a prima donna it was so funny. They were really cool.
Fynn: They were good dudes, it was funny because they were meant to play us in the future and after spending the day with them we were like….oh yeah, pretty accurate.
So what does this year have in store for NO COMPLY?
Fynn: We had a tour this year that started in Wellington at Meow with Waguan who is an amazing artist we’d been listening to for a long time and trying to collaborate with. We finished the tour at Galatos in Auckland which is special because Ethan’s then moving to the UK until summer.
Ethan: I’m going to Bristol, the birthplace of Skins!
And how’s that going to work for NO COMPLY?
Fynn: He’s going first, I’m going to move over next year.
Ethan: I'm going with our manager who organised our recent tour, we’re going to suss out some venues, make connections and work at a few festivals then come back to New Zealand for hopefully a long list of summer shows, that would be sick.
So the bands not breaking up….
Fynn: No, we’ll send things to each other on the interweb, for example, our new EP BKATIT.
To wrap up, what about when you need a break from music? If you’ve been practising and recording flat out, where do you go for mental space?
Ethan: My main one would be, because music, creativity and ego are very close together sometimes. You can get so wrapped up in the whole, why am I doing this work? Why is this song not blowing up? I personally need to find some silence and that's through meditation and breathing. It helps a lot with the creative process as well.
Fynn: I don’t know what I do, there’s a few different things. I like to surf, I like to doodle. I watch anime and I’ve got a Super8 camera that I’ve been extensively collecting rolls on for the last 5 or 6 years but they kind of just keep piling up, I don’t have the money to develop any of it but eventually, I will.