Interviewing people on the phone is trying.
Usually they’re disinterested, it’s hard to hear, and you get no perspective of who they are and what they’re really like. AB Original was an exception. Briggs and Trials had blown me off a couple of times, and the day that we finally managed to link up was the same day that the first episode of season seven of Game of Thrones came out.
“I’m sorry man, we’re just busy y’know. Like, Game of Thrones came out today and that really hankers us for a day,” says Trials, causing Briggs to burst into laughter.
“Fuck man, I’ve got to watch it twice too—white guys all look the same man. They’ve all got weird names, and especially when it’s old white dudes with white hair. I’m lost,” says Briggs, to yet more laughter.
“Everyone’s Gandalf to you hey,” says Trials. “Ah man, they could sneak him in there and I wouldn’t even know,” Briggs replies. Before adding, “Sorry bruz, we can start when you want.”
AB Original is what Australia’s needed for the last 100 years. Listening to their music evokes a sigh of relief. Finally, someone’s blown the lid off the most swept under the rug issue in modern Australia: our indigenous people. And they’ve done it in the form of an album, the perfectly named Reclaim Australia, which is part banger party album, and part candid, perfectly abrasive truth.
“We knew for a fact that the people that would hear the record wouldn’t have shared the same experiences that we’ve been fortunate and unfortunate to experience,” says Trials. “We did it because we wanted to and because it didn’t exist. We made it for the kids that we used to be. To have been able to walk into JB Hi-Fi and pick up a record like the one that we made, that’s what it was about. We had no expectations, and when we came along and fucked up everyone’s award shows, the hilarity in that, it’s not lost on me and Briggs.”
Chatting to Briggs and Trials on the phone, you can tell how close they are. Their timing and prompting are more stand-up comedy than rap duo. And I can’t keep writing “(laughs)” after every quote, but literally every sentence that came out of their mouths ended in all three of us cracking up laughing. And that’s one of the things that they state as being essential to their art. “To try and put the energy that we have when we’re just on the couch cracking jokes and put that into the songs, that was the ethos of the record,” says Trials, before adding, “Briggs and I have been working together for the best part of a decade man.”
Reclaim Australia doesn’t pull any punches, and that fact that the hero single ‘January 26’—an anthem that tears the bigoted concept of Australia Day to shreds—ended up in the Triple J Hottest 100, on Australia Day, is a perfect coincidence. The lyrics are fittingly direct in the face of a day that celebrates when the white man invaded a nation and kick started a few hundred years of appalling treatment of the native people. “Nah, you watching tele for The Bachelor. But wouldn’t read a book about a fuckload of massacres?” It’s about time someone said it, and AB Original’s brutal delivery more than compliments the power of the message.
“Our music is meant to spur on the conversations of the youth, you know,” says Trials. “These songs aren’t for some dude in Parliament. The change comes from the youth. We’re talking to them because it’s our younger cousins, it’s us, and it’s the younger kids who aren’t tainted or invested in some bullshit ideology that they don’t even understand. When we do an AB show it’s one part education and one part bass in your face. You know, kids haven’t heard ‘Tie Me Kangaroo Down Sport’ where Rolf Harris is singing, ‘Let the Abbos go loose, they’re of no further use.’ So me and Briggs’ll put it in our show, and make people stand there and say ‘this is what you’re standing up for, this is your fucking Australian pride, let’s discuss.’”
Before the snowballing of Reclaim Australia, Briggs told the press that the album may well be “career suicide.” I ask him if that was a genuine concern, or whether he had an inkling that the album was going to start something.
“We were trying to career suicide,” Briggs laughs. “Fuck it. We thought we were done, and we just thought that if this is the last album that we ever do, let’s just say all the shit that we wanted to say. All the shit that hasn’t been said. And then that shit blew up and now I’ve got more shit to do.” To which Trials adds, “If anyone knows me and Briggs, then they know that we hate doing shit,” to much laughter.
It’s been quite the year for AB Original, and their Splendour gig seems like the fitting pinnacle. “It’s one of the biggest stages that we’ve ever been invited on, so just know that we’re going to be using that to its full fucking capacity,” says Trials. “It’ll probably be the first ever career suicide at Splendour,” Briggs responds, and we all crack up laughing.