7 Feb 2014

Smashproof: A balancing act

8:30 am on 7 February 2014

“It’s not an album, it’s just a collection of good songs”, insist Sid Diamond and Deach, two thirds of Smashproof, on the group’s sophomore effort, Forever, which dropped last Friday.

Stylistically, there’s not much cohesion; the transition in sound when you switch from opening track ‘Smashproof Watt’ to closing track ‘Paint Fade’ is pretty jarring. This is in contrast to the tightly-constructed narrative of Smashproof’s 2009 debut, The Weekend. It’s a concept album that produced the hit single, ‘Brother’ – which spent 11 consecutive weeks at Number 1 – and gave us a window into their reality of life in South Auckland.

Tyree, Young Sid and Deach are Smashproof.

Tyree, Young Sid and Deach are Smashproof. Photo: Supplied

With ‘Brother’ and its accompanying video commentary on the death of Pihema Cameron, in which third member Tyree asks, “Take away a kid’s life just because he tagged?”, they first sparked controversy and social debate, and then gripped the top of the charts in record-breaking fashion.

So, after such previously unprecedented achievement, how do they measure success now? Deach is silent, and Sid says “True”, before taking some time to answer. Tyree is away shooting a music video with X-Factor contestant Taye Williams.

“It would be cool to be overseas, in Europe, but we have to come back and do this again.” Sid continues wryly, “Like, f... hell, do we have to do this again?” 

That statement may read darker than was intended; the guys are laughing and relaxed as they speak about the project. They’re not bummed by any means; they’re just candid in their answers. And they admit that, as a group, it feels like they’re starting over again.

 “Yeah, it does bro,” says Sid. “I don’t know how to say this without sounding ungrateful, but with the success of ‘Brother’, we just weren’t prepared as we should have been”.

The memory of that time is also bittersweet for Sid, coinciding as it did with his mother’s being diagnosed with cancer; the sense of loss he felt from her passing is addressed in the first single from Forever, ‘Paint Fade’.

“At the time I was going through some things; my old lady wasn’t well, so I didn’t get to enjoy it. If it happened now it’d be different, but nah, I didn’t really enjoy it that much.”

Deach says Forever is about reminding people that Smashproof still exist.

“We needed a follow-up quicker; we needed another album straight away. We left it for four or five years,” Deach explains, saying some fans would ask if the group had broken up.

But while Smashproof as a collective may have been left idle for those years, their individual pursuits continued. Deach has club-night promotion as a side-hustle to the radio-friendly “poly-reggae” sound he’s since become known for, a style that doesn’t escape playful gibes from his fellow group members. Tyree and Sid also released solo projects, Tyree further cementing his reputation as the penman of catchy melodic hooks, and Sid staying true to the gritty street sound he began with. Their personal styles are now so distinct, it must be an interesting balancing act coming together again.

“It’s hard for me to do what I’m doing, and bring it to the table and be like, ‘Guys, I have a reggae song’,” says Deach, with Sid responding, “And then I’d say, ‘f... off’,” before both of them crack up laughing.

It’s more free this time around, to come in with our own ideas, and say ‘yes’, and ‘no’ with each other

“At the end of the day, we’ve still got to have that Smashproof sound,” Deach says, though Sid says there’s compromise involved. “There’s heaps of shit I wouldn’t do if it was solo.” When pushed on what songs exactly, he replies, again laughing, “You’re gonna ask me that? I don’t wanna look like an asshole.”

The creative process this time differed for the group as the founder of their label Move the Crowd, Kirk Harding, took on more of a mentor role, rather than being the strong guiding force he was with The Weekend.

“That’s really cool because you get an outsider’s perspective on your music, rather than just thinking it’s the shit,” says Sid of Harding’s role; Deach remembers being told by Harding to rewrite every verse he’d written on The Weekend.

“It’s more free this time around, to come in with our own ideas, and say ‘yes’ and ‘no’ with each other,” says Sid, with Deach adding, “We wanted all the direction on this album … I’m not afraid for the guys to tell me, ‘Bro, I think you should change this line’, but Tyree, he’s like, ‘eh? Really?’” More laughter.

Sid says what keeps them working together as a group, more than any creative need, is their friendship and the fun they have making music.

“It’s more fun working together than alone; it’s fun, we can go into the studio and do nothing for eight hours, or we can go to the studio and do heaps.”

The first two singles released, ‘Paint Fade’ and ‘Forever’ are decidedly more pop than previous Smashproof releases, but Deach says, even with ‘Paint Fade’, “We still cater to the listeners that like our heartfelt stuff, because that’s us. I think Smashproof is more about the heartfelt stuff.”

“We’re trying man,” Sid concludes, “we’re trying to put out some real shit.”

For more on Smashproof listen to the group's interview on Music 101:

 This content is brought to you with financial assistance from New Zealand On Air.