Spit Syndicate: Our Chat With Nick Lupi

Jason Reyes
10th May 2018

It’s been less than 12 months since the release of their well-received LP One Good Shirt Had Us All Fly, but Inner-West hip hop giants Spit Syndicate, comprised of Jimmy Nice and Nick Lupi, are back with fiery momentum for their fifth studio album ORBIT which comes out tomorrow.

“We got no time / No sign of us slowing in my lifetime” is the first line that we hear from the reinvented Spit Syndicate in their opening track Wonderland featuring Turquoise Prince. It is a record with thumping beats, eclectic lyricism and catchy hooks, to put it simply.

Describing it as their “best album yet”, Nick Lupi had a chat with Scoop about how Spit Syndicate did things differently this time around, particularly in lead up to the biggest headline tour of their 10-year career.

Was there a specific moment in time where you guys thought, “let’s do this. Let’s put another one out”?

Basically we wanted to channel out any feelings of frustration we had towards music. We felt like the immediacy had been missing from how we’d be making music. With One Good Shirt, as much as we loved it, it had taken three years from start-to-finish for some of those songs.

We didn’t feel like some of these songs were the greatest, most accurate representations of where we were at in 2017 when we released it. Once we released it, we weren’t really that happy with how it performed commercially. They didn’t travel as far as we had wanted them to travel.

We didn’t wanna take these feelings and then just bottle them up and complain like most musicians. We thought, what can we control? We can’t control whether or not something plays on the radio. We can’t control the Facebook algorithm that determines how far this music video travels. What we we can control is the music we make. We just wanted to control what we could, continue to push ourselves and do our fucking best.

So we just started making these songs without an album in mind. We were just making them, enjoying it, and not overthinking it, which can sometimes happen in this process, particularly when you’re as far into it as we are. When we were a few songs in, we decided to take these ideas down to Berry with a few of our collaborators. From there, we came back with 6 or 7 songs and we were just like, “You know what? Let’s make this an album”.

After taking 3 years between the SS albums before that, we were just like, “nah we gotta go harder”. In 2018, people want music more than ever. People just wanna stream it on their phones and then move on. So we’ve kinda had to adapt to that.

Was it kinda like that nothing-to-lose mentality?

Pretty much man. You know we’re not getting any younger. We’ve got this hunger and fire inside of us now, so we moved on that and I think it’s resulted in our best album yet. The Horrorshow boys called me yesterday and they were just like “I think this is your fucking best album yet”. So hopefully others feel that way as well.

I then told Nick how much I enjoyed the album personally, and being a JB HI-FI employee, I told him that I was looking forward to playing it on release day.

Thanks bro. One of the other things we’ve done differently with this release is that we’re kinda handling the entire release by ourselves so theres no label, there’s no external management, everything is kinda handled by us and our team at One Day Entertainment. We almost made it a digital-only release. The only place you can get a physical copy of the CD is through our online store.

The Orbit Tour will be your biggest tour to date, am I right?

Yep, 20 shows. We’ll be away for a long time.

How much does performing your songs live mean to you guys?

Performing live is one of the most incredible and unique things that you can do as touring artist. Obviously you see the songs and this body of work come to life, but you also get to interact with the people that connect to the music in a way that no amount of social media engagement is ever going to be able to match.

Performing is when we’re really going to get that pay-off moment. That’s when it’s going to be like “fuck this is why we’re doing this”, this is why we’ve been busting our asses for the past 6 months obsessing over this shit. We think about it every night, we think about it when we wake up… You know, we really care about our craft. This is what we’ve been doing for the past 10 years of our lives.

Speaking of Factory Theatre show on June 16, you guys promised that it will be your biggest show to date. How much does this one show mean to you?

The Sydney show in particular is special, because not only is it our hometown but it’s the biggest headline show we’ve ever played – it’s right in our neighbourhood in the Inner-West. We’re gonna be doing a One Day style warmup party beforehand. It’s basically gonna be like another unofficial One Day Sunday party at the Factory which has a lot of nostalgia value.

We used to do it at the Factory every month until the party kinda outgrew the venue, so to be able to go back there and throw One Day Sunday party is really exciting. It’s probably the show we’re mostly looking forward to naturally.

I know that at some stage of your career you realise that there’s a constant juggling of priorities, i.e trying to balance your musical career, work, hanging out with mates etc. Now that it’s your fifth album, would you say that you’ve achieved a nicely balanced lifestyle for the time being?

I wouldn’t describe it as a nicely balanced lifestyle, it’s gonna take many years to perfect. We certainly have a lot more clarity on what’s important to us. I think that’s what happened. We’re in our 30’s now. I’m 30 and Jimmy is 31. That’s what happens when you get to this age. We have a little more clarity on what’s important and how we wanna be spending our time.

Have we got this balance perfect? Fuck no. We’ve got a lot way to go. But we’re really lucky that we’ve got this team around us that invest their time and talents into us. And that goes from the people in the office, the designers, the directors and the musicians that are helping us make this album.

We’re extremely lucky to have so many people working on the album. SS in one sense is Nick and Jimmy, but this shit belongs to so many people. This is the end result of so many individual efforts that have come together to work on this. A lot of people have ownership of this album.

You’ve got a good contingent of features on ORBIT (Tuka, Turquoise Prince, imbi the girl, Sarah Corry and Kai from Jackie Onassis). Did any of the collaborations stand out to you?

I really loved how Contraband & Conversation came together because that was a really collaborative process. It involved an old favourite collaborator, Kai, and also a new favourite, imbi.

It was a real reminder of how great it can be making music and art with people. Not only did we get a fucking mad song by the end of it, but the process itself involved a lot of laughter and exchanging of ideas. It was really fun and from it we got a really great friend in imbi. Watching her career in these early stages is fantastic, I think she’s gonna do great things.

And also Turquoise Prince – he’s one of our close friends so working with him is great. He’s really talented. He’s got a really great blend of going off vibe and being in the moment, but he also has this attention to detail. He’s got that really good balance.

I definitely see the fun you had that you guys had with Contraband, particularly in the mumble rapping part where Jimmy’s like “that’s how you end a motherfuckin’ song”.

Yeah that was just some fucking around in the studio. And for that song it’s important that it feels fun and natural because that’s what the song is about.

Our whole approach to collaborating and making music is that it’s gotta be organic and not feel forced. We only really collaborate with people that we’re friends with. We don’t really send songs to people that we don’t really know. It’s mainly just our crew and our extended crew or people that we fuck with, not just as artists but as people.

I’ve got one last question for you. A lot of fans, especially the OG fans, have been wanting to know: who’s Lupi’s stylist?

*laughs* I don’t have a stylist man. I just go off instincts. Everything is picked by me, no stylist would put their name to some of the pieces of clothing that I’ve chosen I don’t think.

Spit Syndicate’s 20-show ORBIT Tour kicks off in Darwin for the Bass In The Grass Festival on May 19th. They are performing at Sydney’s Factory Theatre on Saturday, 16th June. You can purchase their fifth-studio album ORBIT on their online store from tomorrow.