Melbourne DIY: Potatoheadz

Take a home grown group of Melbourne students with an hefty passion for music, throw them in a share-house, add some Young Spice and Sedgwick, leave them to bake and soon enough you have Potatoheadz, and boy are they tasty.

A diverse, DIY label showcasing a broad collective of contributors, Potatoheadz was born out of a simple desire for Young Spice and Sedgwick to release their friends’ music alongside their own. To date, the North-Melbourne boys have cooked up an expansive array of tunes reflecting their eclectic tastes- ranging from juicy house to slow-burning techno with some hip-hop and just about everything else in-between. Their collection of sound is so fresh and artistically innovative that by the time you’ve powered through Potatoheadz’ discography, currently compiled across two cassettes aptly name Vol.1 and Vol.2, you will have sampled such a zany variety of tracks that you can’t help but wonder how it seems to fit so perfectly together.

While my mind instantly went to Toy Story, when asked where the name for their collective came from, head chefs Nipuna Jayasekera (Young Spice) and Sam Sedgwick’s (Sedgwick) first thoughts came drenched in Vodka.

“…Potatoes seem lousy but they can generate electricity AND vodka. We are sort of like that: unassuming… but occasionally we create sparks. On a side note, potatoes also saved Matt Damon’s life when he was hungry and abandoned on Mars in The Martian so that’s pretty cool too.” The name wasn’t too serious, “it sat with us the longest, without either of us feeling any resentment towards it.”

While I’d probably recommend bringing more than a Potatoheadz cassette with you if you ever find yourself on the little Red Planet, their playful approach to their craft enables each Volume to be truly nourishing. With crew members like DJ Oyster and Dyl Pickle working under aliases as varied as their musical tastes, the thing that makes Potatoheadz special is their ability to somehow sculpt them into a cohesive whole. They have become custodians and musical archivists of sorts, saying that their creative influences can be traced to, “having played in bands and dabbling in all sorts of musical ventures in the past.” There’s a sort of raw energy that each of the Volumes possesses and it’s not hard to guess where it comes from. “Personally I like hearing demos and tracks that have been made with whatever instruments and gear is available,” he explains. “It seems to me that when someone makes something in this manner it has this really pure sound and energy that captures their moment in an introspective way.”

This willingness to experiment and opt for creativity over commerciality is a breath of fresh air and hints at the organic process from which all their music springs. Their mantra is simple, “if it sounds fresh we get around it.” While they acknowledge, “these days the lines are pretty blurred when it comes to genre,” the volumes’ connectivity stems from picking artists that have an “uninhibited feel to their music…that varies between being quite honest, adventurous and unique.” And that’s the thing with these boys, they stay truthful and sincere to their organic produce.

Potatoheadz have wedged themselves into the Melbourne scene and if their early work is anything to go by, will soon become a staple of our musical diet. It seems that their complete autonomy and the freedom this gives them from an overbearing label and other such industry hacks has created a sense of artistic integrity that carries through everything they do. “We have some really deep love for hip-hop and house music, which would possibly come from our shared experiences growing up in a country town, then migrating to a real mecca of electronic music. We have been heavily influenced by the club-scene in Melbourne, so our roots lay in dirty, raw and instinctive rhythms.” They don’t make compromises to their sound to play within the precinct of current trends and always try to maintain “confidence in our choices and not be shaken by what can be a rough musical landscape.”

These spuds didn’t sprout overnight nor alone, “connections were made through spending lots of time conversing about music and not being afraid to ask questions.” This curiosity coupled with a healthy dose of respect for those who have paved the way before them has meant they’ve been able to draw on the pioneers of Melbourne’s burgeoning boogie-scene for guidance and inspiration. Sedgwick implores the importance of humility as “giving off a certain [arrogant] swagger, is really un-appealing and people generally won’t give you the time of day. Go into record stores, explain where you are at with your productions or aspirations, and then they can more concisely give you information or direction. Express your gratefulness. Be friendly and don’t fake shit.”

Referring to the production of Vol. 1, Nipuna says, “we spoke to the guys at Butter Sessions (Sleep D) and they were really helpful throughout the process.” They also managed to recruit Corey Kikos to do the mastering for their tracks and answer questions whenever they pop up. “They probably don’t realize but they are mentors in Melbourne’s dance music scene and we have a lot of respect for what they have done.” Ultimately though, it was the words of Zac Segbedzi (Zanzibar Chanel/Ruff Records) that crystalised what would become the Potatoheadz label. “We asked him if he would be interested in releasing our music to which he replied rather honestly, “not really my flavor but its sounding really good! You should just put it out yourself! So that’s what we did.” Thank you Zac Segbedzi, we are all eternally grateful.

Zac acknowledged what can be a harsh reality for aspiring Melbourne artists in that most labels “are just putting out music from [their] immediate posse.” This has forced Potatoheadz to look inwards and find variety amongst themselves. Incorporating what’s there in front of them first before searching outside and its this process that lets them keep crystalizing their cool. Nipuna recounts, “The best memories I have of the beginnings of Potatoheadz was when the majority of the crew were living in one big house in North Melbourne, and were just listening to music, making music everyday, smoking weed and drinking and going to Uni.” Although he notes with perhaps a touch of sadness that he knew at the time that lifestyle wouldn’t last, Potatoheadz’ distinctive lack of inhibitions has persevered. During their time at Uni, “everyone would be walking in and out of each others rooms and just seeing what we were all making,” and not a whole lot has changed. This open door policy and the communal brand of creation it has inspired is mouthwateringly apparent throughout all of their releases and perfectly contagious for the listener. “The presence of our non-musical friends was also extremely important, as they were able to bop their heads if the beats were fresh, or look at their feet if a beat was stinky.”

As always, working and collaborating with your friends comes coupled with highs and lows. Sedgwick recalls a challenge and formative moment in their creation “where we were staying at a friends beach house [in Torquay]. Leon and I had previously been really close collaboratively, but Leon started producing music with Nipuna during the summer of 2015. I was a bit taken aback, by the calibre of music that they were making. It was really special, and hard for me to come to terms with initially. It was a really interesting summer; full of good times, musical exploration and perhaps a little substance abuse, but the reality of the situation [was that] Young Spice was born. The small sense of resentment or rejection that I felt quickly passed and soon I was really vibing on it. To this day, my favourite artist is fucking YOUNG SPICE.”

These early moments of collaboration “contorted our brains a little bit but arguably that’s what gave us the edge that the label has now taken on.”

“But all good things come to an end and we inevitably had to split off into different areas of Melbourne and also different countries. We are now spread out over three countries for the time being. I guess that could be considered a set back as it makes communication a real effort. On top of this we all have jobs and other shit to do to survive so it’s a constant effort to support each other and to push each other to keep hustling.”

It isn’t hard to imagine that with time apart and abroad each artist’s tastes and talents will grow individually. This is still early days for the boy with so mush ahead there’s great promise ahead.

“We are all pretty much learning on the job with this label, which is fun but also means sometimes we are not sure the best way to do things. I think we all enjoy collaborating and the creative process of putting things together more so than the business side of things, which we hope to improve in time. Music is fun and money is not. At the end of the day, it’s sweet to hear that people are appreciating the stuff we have put out and we will continue to do so. Shouts out to all the family that have helped us with PHZ, you know who you are!”

From humble seeds, Potatoheadz continue to grow into their newfound position at the cutting edge of a crisp new iteration of Melbourne sound. Driven by punchy electronic high hats and nostalgic vocals, its rare to find music that tastes both fresh yet comfortably familiar. Their latest release Vol.2 is now available on Bandcamp, sprinkled across SoundCloud and in stores at CryBaby and Wax Museum. If Volumes 1 and 2 are anything to go by we should be craving course 3. Treat your ears to a feast.

The verdict? Delicious.

Volume 2 can be purchased HERE.

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