On listening to Hare Squead, you’d be forgiven for not immediately thinking of their hometown, Dublin. The Irish trio, comprised of friends Lilo Blues, Tony Konstone and Jessy Rose, makes cross-genre, melody-driven hip hop that bursts with energy and soul.
As Lilo here explains, growing up in Ireland did help shape their sound; it meant the group looked both inwards and across the pond for inspiration. Drawing upon their African backgrounds, a love of early noughties R&B, and Will Smith circa Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, the trio emerged last year with the release of their debut EP Supernormal. Their fast acclaim furthered after supporting Washington D.C rapper GoldLink, who also re-versioned and featured their track Herside Story on his new album At What Cost.
Now their latest EP, Season 2, shows off an ability to adapt and apply their skilled instrumentation to any style – whether it sits in the groove or runs with it. Hare Squead’s energy is compelling and addictive; their unique style not adhering to any stayed formula. They completely own who they are, and that’s where the confidence of their music shines through. Here, Lilo of the band reflects on the new EP and the journey so far.
Clementine Zawadzki: It seems surprising to a lot of people that Ireland has a hip-hop scene…
Lilo Blues: It seems surprising to me [laughs]. Dublin’s not really known for hip-hop, it’s much more… I don’t know… there’s a lot more indie music and rock music. But there’s a huge urban thing going on in Dublin right now and the whole hip hop thing is starting to get a lot bigger in the country right now. It wasn’t something that was the norm, but slowly and surely it’s becoming the thing.
Clementine: Do you think the hip-hop scene there is more special given that it’s like a secret?
Lilo: Definitely! Especially when we go away anywhere, and people will always be like, “Where are you from?” and we’ll be like, “Ireland,” and people will be like, “What? There’s black people in Ireland?” and we’re like, “Yeah . . .” and it’s special to show the world a different side to Ireland, because right now, people think it’s just drunk people on a hill. But it’s really changing and becoming more multicultural. We’re excited to show our music and all the things to come, it’s really positive for us.
“People will be like, “What? There’s black people in Ireland?” and we’re like, “Yeah . . .” and it’s special to show the world a different side to Ireland…”
Clementine: Do you take anything from your surrounds then?
Lilo: I want to say no, but the thing is, I feel subconsciously it definitely does. You don’t notice these things, but everything you see or like your social settings, play a big role in what you’re creating. I think it does definitely influence the band and me. Ireland doesn’t really have a sound, so we’d be listening to whatever’s popular in the UK and America, and then it’s like a big mix of all these different cultures and genres and stuff. It’ll be interesting to see what sound comes out of Ireland in the future once the scene gets recognised.
Clementine: So the echoes of the drunks on the hill have in some way shaped you…
Lilo: Oh my days! Do you know what… the drinking thing is not a myth. We have pre-sessions before the pre-session. Man, it’s crazy out here. Ireland’s full of lovely, great, welcoming people. You’ll see people you don’t know, but you’ll end up hanging out with them all night and they’ll probably be singing Livin’ on a Prayer for some reason. I don’t know why that’s a thing with drunk people…
Clementine: It’s a classic…
Lilo: If it’s not that, then it’s Sweet Child O’ Mine. There’s just one road in Ireland and there’s just one big hill and there’s about three houses and there’s one bar, and that’s where we all get down.
Clementine: How did you establish your sound then when you guys first formed?
Lilo: Our early conversations were like, “Oh shit… we’re going to be bigger than The Beatles” [laughs] and we were like, “We have to sell out the Aviva Stadium” and then we were like, “No. We have to sell out Mars!” We were just so ambitious. We still have a big of that, but the earlier stages it was just crazy. Everyone brings their own kind of energy to the band; Jessy is a wild dude, he’s always up, and then Tony is like the big brother of the band, and I’m inbetween. Musically though, everyone is really good at melodies and really good songwriters, so it’s really collaborative. It keeps everyone on their toes.
Clementine: Hip hop is really shifting and changing in the eyes of wider audiences now. There’s Frank Ocean, Drake, Chance the Rapper, who all bring this real melodic focus, and that’s definitely something I can pick up in your songs. Do your influences sit with what’s currently happening or earlier than that?
Lilo: What’s happening right now is a great thing for me, personally. Initially before I started rapping I was always a musician, so I was always playing the guitar, the keys, the bass, I play the drums as well, and even when I’m writing my flows, I’m trying to write it as close to the patterns that would be made on the drums. I didn’t grow up listening to Tupac, Biggie and all them legends who are amazing, I was listening to 50 Cent, Andre 3000 and Lil Wayne, and they were very melodic. All of 50 Cent’s hooks were very melodic and he was singing a little bit, and for hip hop to fully emerge to the point where rap has become melodic is great to me. The first album… I don’t know if I should say this, but I’m going to say it… the first album that I was able to listen to from beginning to end was Chance the Rapper’s Acid Rap album, because he’s very melodic and it kept me interested because I love that as a musician.
“I didn’t grow up listening to Tupac, Biggie and all them legends who are amazing, I was listening to 50 Cent, Andre 3000 and Lil Wayne, and they were very melodic.”
Clementine: On that note, lyrics are a real focal point in rap. Are they for you guys?
Lilo: I spend so much time on flows and melodies that I’ve forgotten about the input into lyricism, but that’s just me. I’m still growing and learning as a writer. I think I’ll get to a place where I’ll be boasting about my lyrics and pen, but I don’t personally think I’m there yet. I feel like we do come up with really good lyrics, Jessy is a great songwriter and Tony is a great songwriter.
Clementine: What themes do your songs explore?
Lilo: Singing about love, happiness, girls… just positive vibes, you know? Life’s too short to be all negative and crying and stuff. We’re just trying to lift everyone’s spirits up.
Clementine: Is there a track of yours that sums up the band?
Lilo: I’ll go with Herside Story.
Clementine: Now, that one was remixed by GoldLink…
Lilo: Yeah, basically we were all just in our apartment and we got a call from our manager and he was like, “GoldLink has vocals for your song,” it was so random! Like, of course he does… and then the next week after, the song ended up being on his album, and we were like, “Wow, this is just crazy.” You know, hip-hop is predominantly an African-American art form, and the whole world is influenced by it, and it got to a point where it hit Ireland, so to see someone who is birthed in a place where hip-hop was created show some love to three black Irish kids is awesome to me.
Clementine: And you have just released your new EP, Season 2. How did these tracks come together?
Lilo: We actually recorded some of it in Grouse Lodge in Ireland – I forget what county it’s in – but this is a studio where a lot of famous people have recorded and spent a few months down there… even Michael Jackson recorded there, so we had that honour. I think people should expect more genres, random sonics and stuff like that. We don’t want to put ourselves in a box, but whatever we do, we want it to be done to a good standard and the best of our ability.
Clementine: What’s your writing style like?
Lilo: It varies from time to time, it could be a beat or chords, or one of us will bring a song and we give and take. I think if you just have one way or doing it, the songs are just going to keep on turning out one way. If you try different ways then you get interesting points in songs.
Clementine: Is there something you haven’t tried yet?
Lilo: So many things, like we want to do heavy metal… we’re weird. I listen to a lot of different music and so do the guys. You know, we’ve got the worst band name ever.
Lilo: There’s a love and hate relationship to it. I do love it because it’s funny, but then you tell people and they’re like, “Sorry, what? Harry Squad?” or “Hair Squared?” and I just think of them going on their phones and typing this shit probably spelling it wrong every time.
Clementine: How did you come up with your band name?
Lilo: We all had these square headed haircuts, like the Will Smith Fresh Prince of Bel-Air look. There was already a band called Squarehead in Dublin, so we were just like, “Let’s flip it around.”
Clementine: But it’s love/hate now… so what if you could change your band name?
Lilo: If I could change the name, we love Outkast, so we’d probably call ourselves something like Inkast or something.
Clementine: What if people think you’re an Outkast cover band though?
Lilo: Oh yeah, crap.
Hare Squead’s Season EP ‘Pure/Flowers’ is out now. They play The Ultralounge on 7th September.