It’s nearing the end of wintertime and the Union Hotel is a welcome shelter from the dreary drizzle outside. The locals at the bar chatter loudly over one another while still straining to hear the football scores on television. In a quiet corner however, Seth Sentry sits on a stool flipping coasters off the edge of a circular table.
“Can you do this?” he asks, giving his wrist a quick flick and catching the coaster again after a couple of 360s.
Wearing a hoodie and his backwards cap, Seth Sentry is as relaxed as his attire.
“I never used to be [good at this], because I didn’t think I was any good at it,” this being his musical career – not his coast-flipping abilities, though they are impressive. “I still don’t think I’m good but I get less stressed about it now. If I had one interview at 5 o’clock in the afternoon, even if it was a phone interview, then my whole day would be fucked, completely ruined, ‘cause all I would think about it, ‘shit I gotta do this thing’ and I’d watch the clock, counting down.”
These days, though, Seth is unperturbed during the hectic and often erratic promotional side of the business. He laughs, just one of many this afternoon, admitting this is the most stressed he’s been.
“This is the busiest time of my life. I had to get up at midday today. The crack of afternoon,” he chuckles before continuing a touch more seriously. “The hard work is done now because the album is finished. I mean, look at me, I’m drinkin’ beers and doing interviews, it’s fantastic!”
It’s been almost 4 years since the airwaves have been graced with Seth Sentry’s romantic-come-slightly-obsessive rap, “The Waitress Song” – which continues to be Triple j Unearthed’s most highly downloaded song to date. A five-track EP closely followed and has since been toured relentlessly.
“The album was originally going to be dropped in 2009, you know,” the rapper states matter-of-factly.
“The EP was gonna be the album. We were working on a full length but people liked ‘The Waitress Song’, which came as a bit of a shock because that wasn’t even going to be on the album. It was just a weird, silly song I wrote in an afternoon,” he says humbly.
“But then we thought, ‘Nah, fuck it, let’s just get something out’ and one thing led to another and you realise it’s 2012.”
It was just as shocking to Sentry to be able to tour a 5-track EP for so long and says it was a long lesson in learning how to flesh out each set for his devoted followers. “I don’t want to just run out there, do my songs and say ‘thanks very much’ and maybe chuck in an encore. I wanna go out there and hang out with these people. These are people who have learnt words to songs and bought albums and who are awesome fans. So I see it as a chance to catch up with people and I dig that.”
Sentry’s debut album will be released on his own record label, High Score Records (his fans would recognise this immediately as a reference to his slightly fanatical videogaming) and is receiving distribution by Inertia Music. A nice change of pace from the hip hop artist’s previous grassroots approach.
“With the EP, I mailed out every single copy myself and did everything from the ground up. So it’s nice to have a hand this time but I still wanted to approach it with the same ‘do it yourself’ attitude. Whatever songs I wanna write, I can still write and I don’t have to run it by anyone. If I have any ideas for marketing strategies then I can just do what I want.”
“I’m my own boss,” he begins to joke again, “and I’m a great boss. I bought me a big mahogany desk and a leather chair and a stuffed moose head for my office.”
The MC’s lax attitude and playful demeanour confirms his excitement for the future ahead, including the possible expansion of High Score Records. “Nobody wants to jump on board a boat before it’s been taken out on the water so I’ll focus on myself first. But that’s definitely something I’d be keen on doing in the future.”
He elaborates, “there are a lot of talented dudes out there, I get a lot of fans hitting me up and sending me their raps. But if they’re too good I try to sweep them under the rug a little bit, ‘Nah mate, you’re no good. What’s your day job’?”
Chortling for the umpteenth time, Seth continues down another conversational path. “[The Australian hip-hop industry] is growing exponentially. It’s a valid form of music now, not that I didn’t ever think it was. Now it just slips onto a radio playlist and no one raises an eyebrow. Three years ago people would be bitchin’ and complainin’ that there’s too much rap on Triple J or whatever.”
The fact that Sentry is able to release his debut album from an independent stance also indiciates the healthy direction the once underground scene is heading in. He happily and emphatically agrees before adding: “There are kids out there who are only listening to Australian rap, it’s just mental! I don’t know if that’s too healthy, it’s very limited. Very myopic,” he concludes.
The kids listening to this MCs’s raps could definitely could be doing worse. Seth is just crossing his fingers for one thing, however.
“I’m keen to do as many gigs as we can. We’ve got a full set now, we don’t need the little mixtapes! If we could tour for 4 years off a 5-track EP, you would hope we can keep it going with a full length album!”
This Was Tomorrow is out now through Inertia/High Score Records and you can read the Tone Deaf verdict here. Seth Sentry heads out on a national headline tour on September 20 (full dates and details here) and plays Newcastle’s Fat As Butter festival this Saturday 22nd September.
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