The No Problemos- ‘It’s Only A Problem If You Give A F**k’

Feature, Interview, Music
Photo by Paddy Riley Photography

Photo by Paddy Riley Photography

The way Kapiti hip hop crew  The No Problemos describe their party scene makes a city girl want to make the 45 minute drive to see it for myself. Jos aka Larry Lemonade, front man for the crew explains, “We have a lot of bonfires in Kapiti, well we used to and you know free for all, anybody would show up, Lindsay The Poet… We’d have bongos, drums, you know, we’d jam out, just enjoy music.” Having formed as a hip hop outfit about a year ago from a funk, rock type background, The No Probs have gained a strong following quite quickly, possibly due to their infectious presence live. Whendidyoufallinlivewithhiphop interviews them a few hours before opening for Raiza Biza + Friends at Bar Medusa and they’re amped for the show. Through and through a bunch of sweet, genuine dudes, the crew say they’re still growing but as bass player Josh says, “You never stop really, do you?”

HH: Who are The No Problemos?
Josiah Laracy aka Larry Lemonade a front man for the No Problemos and poet on the side.
Frank Bradely- I’m a singer for The No Problemos
Doug Coombs- I play a bit of guitar when I can.
DJ Pleez- I do DJ stuff.
Ants Ransley- I just sort of wandered into the mix and ended up emceeing and singing.
Isaac ‘Simo’ Simmonds- I do a bit of rapping and a bit of trumpet.
Tim –Play the drums, make beats.
Josh –Play the bass and beat.

HH: Can you guys explain your sound?
Isaac: Kapiti Coast hip hop really, live band behind a bunch of emcees. Openly collaborative experiment I guess.

HH: And how did it come about?
Frank: It all started off with the original No Problemos who are actually more of a garage, rock, psychedelic funk band and they were sort of cranking it for awhile. Then one day [they] up and decided to start making hip hop. It was originally just the four of them Nicky, Isaac, Tim and Josh and then everyone else just sort of jumped in.

HH: How did Hip Hop occur to you?
Frank: I think you get to an age where you become more socially aware and Hip Hop is one of those things you start listening to when you get a bit older and you’re thinking about the words. I guess we were all listening to a lot of hip hop and were inspired.

HH: What were you listening to?
Frank: Aw, everything. Home Brew, Mos Def, The Roots.
Isaac: Yeah The Roots. List goes on outrageously.
Frank: And then there’s all the other influences you know Bob Marley, we’ve got a bit of Reggae in our sound and a bit of soul- a bit of everything really.

HH: So there’s seven or eight of you, is it a challenge to mesh ideas together?
Josh: Well the energy of the song really comes from Tim who produces music, so Tim will come up with the beat and then it stems from there. The rappers lay down their shit, song gets finished and then we piece it together as a band.

HH: How long have you been working together?
Josh: Me and Tim have been playing together since we were 12 you know it’s Kapiti Coast, people are open, we play music together and this fell into place.

HH: Describe Kapiti then, it’s home right?
Isaac: Fishing, sunshine, all the bros and fishing- for the ganja I must say. [laughs] Yeah it’s good, we’ve all obviously known each other for a while and we’re not stuck on anything at the moment, we’re just moving forward and we’re still trying to find our sound and everything that we make along the way is just sort of our journey. I mean our sound’s changing… There’s a lot of silent competitiveness among the lyrical composers…and nah- it’s a good thing, we just all meet up twice or three times a week. Tim makes the beats and we just jot down our ideas.

HH: So it starts with Tim?
Josh: It starts with Tim.
Isaac: It all starts with Tim.
Josh: T-Dilla.

HH: And you’ve known each other since high school?
Isaac: Yeah, me and Doug have known each other since primary, we played in a band. We haven’t played music together for a while but it’s all just sort of coming back together now.
DJ Pleez: Me, Josh and Tim were in a band, The Strum, probably 2008 we were doing that and from that it formed into The No Problemos which was the rock unit and then we had Isaac playing drums at that stage, Tim was out front.
Isaac: Yeah we just swapped ay… Tim was playing guitar and singing with The old No Pros, I was on the drums,  now he’s on the drums and I’m up rapping with all the bros. It’s just a crew it’s like we’re not a band, we’re a crew.
Josh: We don’t just do music ay.
Isaac: Yeah that’s the thing.

HH: Okay, so when you guys say ‘Hip Hop for good people’ that’s on you’re Facebook site, what do you mean?
Isaac: It’s hip hop for everyone really. We gotta change that ay…We want everyone to relate.

HH: How long have you guys been putting out music?
Isaac: Not really long to be honest. It did just start with us being idiots and Tim was just making beats and we’d just do whatever and I don’t know what it was that we decided okay we’ll start making rap and doing our thing. We’re not serious like you can probably tell we’re not serious. We get up on stage and we just want to have a good time, we want everyone to have a good time.
Tim: We’re a party band.

HH: What’s been the best feedback for you guys that you can remember as a band?
Isaac: Just recently the bros from Third Eye up in Auckland, obviously on YGB and stuff, they got in touch with us and were like bro ‘we’re digging your vibes, we obviously on the same level’. They’re keen to tee up a big gig in Wellington for maybe July/August a few months down the track… But then obviously playing with Raiza Biza and other Wellington artists it ‘s just extremely encouraging because they’re obviously setting the standard for New Zealand hip hop, and Wellington’s sort of has some catching up to do. The scene in Auckland is just absolutely cranking and everyone knows it so we just wanna set the scene up for Wellington with No Problemos and who ever else jumps on board.

HH: How’s your music received up in Kapiti?
Josh: We’ve had our best gigs up there.
Isaac: Yeah, definitely. Home Town.
Ants: Real humble scene, we’ll have a keg party afterwards back at the flat.
Frank: People are really genuine. I think you find people from Kapiti have more time for you. In Wellington it’s really hard to get people to take notice, I suppose, but Kapiti Coast is so much more chilled and everyone will come and watch you and they’ll have a good time and they’ll have some drinks and it’s just like any other night you know.
Isaac: And we’ve got some people, you know, my Dad, he’s like, I don’t know how old he is, he’s probably 50 or 51 or 52, he’s our biggest fan. And I love it ae, he’s honestly, he’ll be at our gig tonight, he comes to our band practice and it’s just cool seeing people young and old just relating. Especially to Hip Hop, that’s what’s really got me. Like we put on a gig and there’s a few older people there. I don’t expect them to be like what’s this noise they’re making but we’ve had people come up to us afterwards, just all ages ay and just really dig it.

“You don’t really give an artist much direction, it’s just believing that people do what they do best when they just are left to it to do themselves.” – Frank on the album art by Marcus Ebbett

HH: Do you think you maybe have a point of difference compared to other hip hop crews?
Isaac: The live band maybe.
DJ Pleez: I reckon it’s got something to do with hip hop and people are getting it and a lot of people don’t necessarily realize that they relate to that but there seems to be a few people that we’e shown and they have something to relate to. I think it more speaks about hip hop.
Isaac: No egos really.
Frank: Yeah that’s what I was going to say, we avoid the sort of posturing and sort of like bigging yourself up, you know.

HH: You all do?
Issac: That’s something that we all sort of connect on the same level. We can just  chat about anything, we can talk endless shit and we just know we’re on the same level. Like on the same buzz  and we have the same ideas of where we want to go with the band…

HH: And where is that?
Isaac: My two things in life are traveling and music so I obviously want to go travel with the music.

HH: Does that translate for everyone?
Isaac: Yeah, I’m sure it does.
Ants: I just want to say like point of difference, everyone has a different musical input, we’re not all the same, we kind of have different backgrounds but are coming from the same place.

HH: Yeah cause you transitioned from Rock and Funk?
Isaac: Yeah like a real dirty garage sound.
Tim: Filthy.

HH: How did that go then?
Isaac: Yeah really well, we definitely keep a lot of aspects from old No Probs. I mean rather than just having a track play behind a band, it’s cool because we can just jam if we’re feeling a track then we can just carry on for five minutes, whatever’s working and we can just let loose…What was the question? [laughs]
Tim: Everyone that was digging it before when we had that sound seems to be digging it even more now. We did our first gig and then we completely changed the sound and people were just like, aw mean.
Issac: Yeah, it was a real natural transition really.
DJ Pleez: First gig was half and half, half normal shit, or what we call normal.

HH: So you’re still growing?
The No Probs: Yeah definitely.
Josh: Well you never stop do ya.
Isaac: We’re happy with what we’re doing but none of us are satisfied and that’s a good thing.

HH: Tim, as the beat maker, who are your influences sound wise?
Tim:  I listen to a lot of UK Hip Hop. A lot of rock music, hip hop music…. The Streets, Dizzie Rascal, I just listen to samples and it’s just what we’re feeling at the time.

HH: Do some of you work and some of you study?
Tim: We pretty much all work at the same place.
Isaac: Web Genius.

HH: What’s That?
Isaac: It’s like an internet, web development, they’re making websites and stuff. I just left but…
Tim: It’s my parent’s business.

HH: So do you have to be like, let’s just leave work at work now or?
Isaac: Yeah pretty much.
Tim: Most of the recording seems to get done during work hours.

HH: Okay so after listening to your album there’s a quote there that talks about ignorant people making you ill or something…
Josh: Yeah with Lindsay Rabbit. He’s a poet from Kapiti. That was recorded at Tim’s house.
Isaac: That’s the other thing like this dude’s like 60 – maybe even older.
Ants: He’s seasoned man, he’s been doing it for decades.
Isaac: Yeah he’s this poet who’s been doing his thing for years and he’s one of my old man’s mates and we just asked him if he wanted to come and do some poetry on one of our tracks and it just seems like a good way to open it ay. Just open-mindedness ay, I reckon that’s what it is.

“Your ignorance makes me ill.” – Intro to ‘Pancakes’ by the No Probs.

HH: Well, from a listener’s point of view it seems like you guys are then socially and politically quite aware, is that right?
Isaac: Yeah that’s the thing, to be honest, most of my raps anyway, speaking for myself here, I just talk a lot of crap – I don’t talk shit, I talk crap. But we’ve all got the same mind-set with what’s up as well like the systems corrupt and what not.
Ants: The fact of the matter is every time we do hit the booth to record we’re all pretty wasted.
Jos: We’re passionate about equality and justice and goodness in the world you know, we just want the world to be in a happy place, as what it should be, that’s what we try to talk about like collective expression.
Isaac: Collective expression, that’s good.

HH: What are the plans for the rest of 2013?
DJ Pleez: I know we’re playing at J-Day at the start of next month and we’ve got a couple of gigs, Simo will be back in the next couple of months, we got some stuff tee’d up with Third Eye and we’re just going to keep it cranking ay.
Isaac: Videos, we want to get some little cartoon videos. Ants is down in Dunedin studying and I’ll be over in Oz for a couple of months as of Monday and I’m going to get a little iPhone and a mic just so we can keep recording via correspondence. Nothing’s going to slow down musically but then obviously when we come back together we’re going to be fuelled to put on some big shows.

HH: Where did you guys get your name?
Tim: It’s basically about not really letting shit get to you, not caring about problems.
Frank: Does anyone know where it came from though?
Tim: Yeah I came up with it. I liked it ay.
Isaac: It’s the No Problemos state of mind, we all seem to be on the same level.
Josh: Tim’s line is, it’s only a problem if you give a fuck.  I reckon just before kind of illustrated it, we were running late and that was a fact, we ran a little bit extra late because the bros were jamming out front and they were playing ‘Don’t Worry Be Happy’ so we all kind of joined in.

HH: Can you describe the live experience by the No Problemos for those who haven’t yet been able to see it?
Isaac: We like to bring the energy. It obviously depends on how we’re feeling or what we got up to the previous night.
Frank: We sort of believe the crowd will feed off us so we just try and have as much fun as we can and hope that reflects back to us and when the audience is enjoying it, we enjoy it even more, it’s just like a circular thing.
DJ Pleez: It’s just a bit more upbeat than what our stuff is from the studio. It’s got that energy of a live band, live kick and live bass and something is actually touching the notes.
Isaac: We just want to party.

HH: There aren’t too many other bands in Wellington that I’ve seen using the live DJ with the band as well…
Isaac: Yup.
DJ Pleez: Mainly at this stage for what we’re doing with the band we’re sampling stuff and using a beat pad like an MPC but yeah just slowly bringing in turntables and stuff into the whole set up as well. I have been a guitarist all my life and I just started getting into [djing] a year ago when we switched from rock to the hip hop thing because it was the sort of thing that we needed, there was an empty space we needed to fill for live [shows], by having some sort of DJ that could do the synths and electronic samples and stuff that we were putting into the recordings and I just decided to figure out how to do that.

HH: Jos, you’re very quiet…Is he always quiet?
Isaac: No he isn’t ay. Just ask him if he’s got any stories.
Jos: Do I have any stories. Ahh. I suppose how I met Isaac and how I got into the band….We have a lot of bonfires in Kapiti, well we used to, and you know free for all, anybody would show up, Lindsay The Poet. We’d have bongos, drums, you know, we’d jam out, just enjoy music….Isaac was actually singing and rapping and I joined in, said a few words and then he invited me back to his studio, I jumped on a track and then from there joined the band.
Isaac: It’s just happened like that in every case though.
Jos: Everything’s natural, nothing’s forced.

“I think I clicked with it because I had a bit of an epiphany and realized that Hip Hop had a real big jazz influence and for me jazz is like the pinnacle of music and I’m like shit man some of the best musicians are making hip hop and combined with that I just fell in love with Black Thought because he’s just a… motherfuckin boss, when it comes down to it.” – Ants on falling in love with hip hop.

HH: What’s the response been from the album?
Isaac: It’s been good obviously, we just dropped a few tracks here and there before then and it’s been good definitely. We chucked it up for five bucks and you know people would buy it, we’ve put it out for free downloads now and we just figured from now on unless we’re going to do something serious – cause we’re making like a track every week. Tim’s just cranking out the beats. I can’t keep up, we can’t keep up so we got a whole list of tracks there waiting to be dropped. We’re thinking we’re just going to drop another free EP soon and when we feel like the times right we’ll take ourselves seriously and maybe get some hard copies of an album made but for now  it’s just…yeah.

HH: What’s the connection with The No Problemos and Ill Magik?
Isaac: That’s a good question.
Frank: Just bro’s ay.
Isaac: It’s just another creative movement. We met them cause of the band and they’ve hooked us with a few t-shirts and we’re just like making plans from like a year from now, two years from now, we’re just all heading in the same direction so it’s so exiting honestly.
DJ Pleez: As we said it’s like a crew not just a band, it’s a community. We’re working together and hip hop’s not just music there’s a whole society and community around that and they’re very complimentary things, the No Problemos and Ill Magik and we’re just there to support each other you know.
Frank: I think it started off as they asked us if we wanted to just catch up for a blaze and now we’re like real close friends with them.
Isaac: It’s ridiculous like you don’t often meet a group of people who you connect with straight away and then it’s so obvious, we’re just like on the exact same level, like hearing it from them, we all talk shit and we’re just so open and comfortable around each other and then just talking about plans… just a lot of excitement among us all really.
Josh: Nicest dudes as well.
Isaac: Yeah the nicest dudes like outrageously, outrageously genuine, just helping us out, we help them out.
Frank: Not to mention, cool clothes.
Isaac: Yeah cool clothes, buy some, buy some Ill Magik shit ay.

HH: What was the inspiration behind the album cover?
Issac: Yeah one of our bro’s actually, once again it all comes down to that collective, creative crew, because one of the best bros Marcus, honestly when we’ve recorded a track, he’s been sitting on the couch drawing away and it’s just one of the bros whose an amazing artist, like outstanding artist and once again it was just another creation really and we’re just all fusing together.
DJ Pleez: He also works with us at Web Genius.
Frank: You don’t really give an artist much direction, it’s just believing that people do what they do best when they just are left to it to do themselves.
Isaac: Once again it was just another sort of self progression as well, because Marcus is on the same level as us he knows what we do everyday, he knows what we’re into and he just did this painting and we’re all just like ‘oh my god’ like jaws on the floor.


Click album art by Marcus Ebbett to download album

HH: There seems nothing to pick at, you all seem in-sync?
Isaac: We’ve all known each other for a long time like all pretty much went to the same primary school.

HH: Which was:
Isaac: Raumati South School, Paekakariki, Paraparaumu Beach, Kapiti College. So yup we’ve all known each other for a long time, and it’s all just worked very well.
Josh: I mean me and Mickey (DJ Pleez) have been in a band now since, oh, for over a decade.
Ants: We’ve all had out arguments though.

HH: What does an argument look like?
Isaac: We just get over it.
Frank: We write a rap about it.
Isaac: We had a couple of Too Funky (Isaac’s old band) feuds back in the day, we had some physical abuse ay.
Josh: As soon as the keg runs out ay.

HH: So Jos you’re newest to the group, are you as much an outsider as your quietness suggests?
Isaac: Nah! Jos is just as much in the circle. And it’s just like we can just go out you know, during the summer especially, I’ll jump on my skateboard, cruise down the road, Jos will be at the courts shooting hoops, I’ll skate up and see these guys who will be filleting some fish and it’s just like it’s just ridiculous ay.
Frank: It always comes back to fishing.

HH: When did you fall in love with hip hop:
Isaac: I don’t know ay, it seems my teenage years were a bit of a blur [laughs]…I was probably like 15 first started smoking pot with the bros, chilling in the van down at the beach, and it just clicked. We just used to sit there and I reckon what sparked our rapping thing is we just used to sit there and we’d all text the bros and be like yup meet me at the beach in about 10 minutes and we’d all go down at 10:30 and fucken the bro would be dropping us home at like four in the morning and we’d just all be freestyling, talking shit.
Frank: It was just fun ay, instead of going to a shitty party we’d all go hang out with our mates and do some raps and have a good laugh.
Ants: Meanwhile I’m waiting for people to turn up to my shitty party.
Jos: Myself I fell in love when I heard Warren G, Regulate actually. I went to a predominantly white school and the only Maori kid showed up with a boom box and I must have been nine at the time. And he shows up at the back of the library with his boom box sitting at the back you know, bunch of white kids listening to like top 20, Just The Hits compilations and I’m hearing Warren G Regulate for the first time so I was West Coast from then on, Snoop Dogg.
Doug: Probably when I heard Dr Dre’s album, Chronic 2001, and just the simplicity and just the amazing fatness and on a sound engineering kind of mind, just like how they managed to get such an amazing sound with just like such simplicity and that just kind of sparked it for me, definitely Dr Dre.
DJ Pleez: For me, listening to the Slim Shady EP and the Marshall Mathers LP when I was trying to get to sleep as a little boy. That was me driving around the country with dad and making him listen to those albums it was yeah, good times.
Frank: Nelly Dilemma, that was my shit… (Sings the hook and the verse.)
Ants: It was about two years ago. I was digging through old CDs and I dug up an old Men In Black album and there were two songs on it. There was one by The Roots, their song the Notic which is with D’Angelo and the other one was De La Soul- Channel No. Fever and I think I clicked with it because I had a bit of an epiphany and realized that hip hop had a real big jazz influence and for me jazz is like the pinnacle of music and I’m like shit man some of the best musicians are making hip hop and combined with that I just fell in love with Black Thought because he’s just a… motherfuckin boss, when it comes down to it. Militant delivery, just real vivid imagery that guy… So it was definitely those two songs that got me hooked ae.
Josh: I would have been nine or 10 and this fullah Khan brought home, Khan Milanta, came round to my house with the Dr Dre 2001 cassette and because my dad was looking after me he let me play it, because mum would never let me do that and we just listened to that shit on repeat for hours, just learning that and that’s what did it ay… I still listen to that, it’s the best fucken album.
DJ Pleez: That’s what I like about dad ay…And it’s not to do with, because your mum will see it, it’s because, it’s fucken disgusting that they’re going to cover up someone’s art work and go on this moral rant about it ay and we’d be nine like, ‘Yes dad.’
Fin: (No Probs friend randomly walks into the  interview.) When Cypress Hill brought out Skull & Bones.

Check out the No Probs latest music video, The Only Thing We Got, shot by We Take below: 

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