By Susan Latiolait for Eugene Daily News
Eastern Sunz, a Pacific Northwest based hip-hop duo, has grabbed attention in 2012 from The John Lennon Songwriting Competition and International Songwriting Competition for some of their lyrics off their new EP Filthy Dirty Hippie, which focuses on political, social, and environmental issues.Though the lyrics are thought-provoking, the title of their EP pokes fun at how they perceive their eco-friendly lyrics amongst the rest of the hip-hop community. Nevertheless, these intelligent lyrics have garnered attention in the independent music scene and have won multiple awards. Rapper Aaron Harris, otherwise known as Courage, often gets inspiration for his music from his graduate studies at the University of Oregon. Along with releasing the newest EP in March, Harris is studying community and regional planning and uses many of the topics highlighted in his studies as inspiration for his music. Harris sat down with the Eugene Daily News to discuss Eastern Sunz, their message of change, their connection to the Eugene community, and exciting new developments for their future.
Susan Latiolait: Explain what it means to you to win multiple songwriting awards?
Aaron Harris: I think that its advantages are that we can book shows and tell promoters that we are an award-winning artist, and lately, we have started working with bands. So getting high-quality artists that want to work with you, it is nice to have some accolades. But it certainly hasn’t helped in getting any big-time publicity.
SL: Why do you believe your lyrics touch people?
AH: Eastern Sunz really focuses on creating more intellectual, politically oriented music, so I think that plays a big factor in it because they are listening to music that maybe a lot of hip-hop songs don’t have. There is definitely hip hop that have messages, but there are also a lot that do not and that’s the center piece of our identity.
SL: How do you get inspiration and ideas for your songs?
AH: Two big motivations for writing songs are traveling and school. Right now I am working on a paper about “wicked problems” which are basically social problems. So you could ask 1000 different people what causes poverty and you would get 1000 different answers…but you can’t solve these problems, so topics like this really contribute to my music. Our first song off our album “Corroded Utopia” that won an independent music award for hip hop album of the year is a song called Treadmill of Productions, and it is a song based from a sociology class and theory about how we live in our society. Those kinds of theories and ideas are the kinds of things that inspire us.
SL: What do you enjoy about playing for the Eugene community?
AH: We love playing anywhere in this region because we consider it being at home. We played a show at the Wow Hall in Eugene and it was great energy. People here love good music and there is a big pool of talent here. You can feel that.
SL: What are your plans for the future?
AH: We are working on a new album; it will be our seventh album, which will hopefully be released this summer. We have put a lot of work into putting together a live band right now. We are in the process of learning all the materiel and practicing five days a week. Our goal is to have that all locked down and have a demo ready to apply to summer festivals in the region and all over the west coast. We have never gone all out with a whole live band before, usually it is just two turntables.
SL: What is it about the live band that you are most excited about?
AH: It is taking our music to a whole new level. We are always developing, so it is really symbolic of us growing. We have drums, bass, keys, saxophone, and a female singer added to our turntables and us. It also attracts a whole wider audience of people; nothing beats a live band. Right now I am just excited to have a lot of talented people who are committed?
SL: Did you find these people for the live band from the Eugene area?
AH: Everybody is from Eugene. My brother will be playing the sax, but everyone else was found rather serendipitously. My brother is a jazz purist. We have both done music for our whole lives, but we have never really crossed paths, so this is a cool opportunity for us to play together.
SL: Do you plan on using your academics for work in the future?
AH: I have always been into sustainability as it pertains to social issues, not just the environmental side, but also social equity. I definitely envision myself having a job as a planner of some sort eventually, but music has always been my number one passion.
Make sure to catch Eastern Sunz play their next show in Eugene at Diablo’s downtown Lounge on Dec. 28, 2012.