How the Spire42 Collective is differentiating itself amongst Brisbane’s underground hip-hop scene
WAEVZ AU spoke with the leader of Brisbane underground trap collective Spire42, Stewlit, to learn more about the group’s journey in bridging the worlds of Brisbane’s trap and band scenes, forming their identity, and embracing musical liberation through anarchy.
Brisbane’s rap and R&B scene has arguably been underrated for far too long by the greater Australian hip-hop fanbase. ‘Brissy’, as it’s colloquially known, has seen the likes of Nerve, No Money Enterprise, Lisi, Nokz78, Jesswar, Carmouflage Rose, Unamii, Day1, Baby Prince, and Creed Tha Kid (amongst others) come through and lead the charge for the city – the latter of whom in particular (Day1, Prince & Creed) have embraced a vibrant trap sound.
As Australian hip-hop collectively works to build a contemporary identity removed from (but still respective of) an era associated with digestible ‘skip-hop’, we’re seeing artists in cities such as Brisbane drawing from local and international influences to pave a distinct laneway.
The 4K’s very own Spire42 Collective – a collective consisting of artists, producers and creatives UccisMood, Lou Vicious, Deidara Black and NIFFD – have sought to merge the values and aesthetics of a thriving local rock ‘n roll scene populated by an endless array of dedicated ‘band heads’ with the signature elements of an American trap or emo rap sound.
Embracing a rock ‘n roll mentality has allowed Spire42 to effectively represent their overall musical palette in their music and therefore keep a distance from being bogged down in one genre. Moreover, the collective’s embodying of a rock ‘n roll mindset has seen them forge their identity around an anarchical philosophy, a facet of rock ‘n roll and punk music that has been deeply rooted in the genre and championed by the likes of The Sex Pistols’ Sid Vicious and Rage Against The Machine’s Zach de la Rocha in decades prior.
However, for those seemingly deterred by Spire42’s no-holds barred approach, the collective live to liberate and unite the people, rather than encourage the disordered destruction and disjointing of society that some who identify with anarchism preach. Their live shows are exemplary of this as they seek to embrace the genre’s roots in anarchy as a form of catharsis, allowing both themselves and their audience to share in a moment of emotional release driven by the music.
Speaking with WAEVZ AU in early September, one of 42’s co-founders Stewart ‘Stewlit’ Riesenweber sheds light on the group’s journey in bridging the worlds of Brisbane’s trap and band scenes, how 42 formed its distinct identity, and the power of embracing musical liberation through anarchy.
“I met Louie maybe like six years ago… like a long time ago. Back then he had literally nothing. I got interested in the fact that he was making his own music back then, so we stayed in touch and years down the line he ended up moving into a house with me. I was living a much different life back then; I was a professional gamer at one point playing ‘League of Legends'” Stew explains.
“I created QUT eSports – which was like Australia’s first University E-Sports facility – and got E-Sports recognised as a sport in Australia, all with a team of course. I helped spread that around Australia which was fuckin’ wonderful work and eventually moved into running QUT’s sports facility. I had all these skills; I had something to give.”
Spire42 Leader Stewart 'Stewlit' Riesenweber pictured centre.
Touching on what brought the Spire42 collective together, Stew is raw in his explanation of how these five individuals – each fraught with their own personal traumas or addictions – came to form the innovative 42 crew in a shared house in Brisbane.
“My mission in the world was always to give, and this house was almost like a halfway house, just somewhere where we all came together and helped each other and the people around us recover from heavy addictions. Even while I was doing all that E-Sports stuff I was like a high-functioning substance abuser. Doing a speech in front of the Figure 500 companies of Brisbane pitching E-Sports and I was just ripped up, so, yeah it was a weird time."
“Pretty much that led Louie to asking me about doing music and being involved, and he always asked me for help in more of like a life mentor way rather than a manager. Even the word ‘manager’ now means so little to me, the word is just confusing because they’re my brothers; I’m just tryna guide them. That’s just the way we got into it; we rented this house from one of our brothers; Deidara Black moved into it; and then we linked up with Ucci and NIFFD and that’s been it since. I’ve always had a love for music in general, like an absolute band head. That’s what brought me here.”
How Spire42 have found their sound is intimately connected with the values driving the collective at its centre.
“We all love our rock music and rock has had a huge influence on the world, it’s not too separate from what we’re doing. We always loved that [rock], and then rap exploded. The first rappers I sort of got into were like Chief Keef, Vince Staples, and in general we came up listening to trap music and this trap-metal hyper-fusion has just come of that.
“It’s why Louie and Dei have always been really melodic people, same with NIFFD and Ucci, it’s because they love that side of music. But then high energy is the way we’re trying to be and the way we approach life, with passion. It’s within the message as far as how we got brought to this genre, this music, this way; it’s really just our lives.”
Further adding to the experimental and freeing approach to making music, Spire42 are driven by inclusiveness and a desire to bring together the worlds of rock ‘n roll and trap within Brisbane and beyond. As for how they’re working to merge the two genres, Stew reaffirms the importance of zero creative and emotional limitations.
“It’s the chaos, right? When there’s no rules involved; there’s no boundaries involved between people. The point of 42 is to create something for people to feel that exactly. At the end of the day with the punk side of things it’s the mentality, it’s the mentality of the youth – like reckless, rebellious,” Stew says.
“What we’ve been searching for recently is having more punk bands at our shows. There’s plenty of bands around, the band scene is huge. There’s plenty of mixed audiences you can do with people who do like that sub-genre and that’s something that I’d love to share with people in Australia in general; like fuck if you’re on this way how are you not mingling networks? Even finding a mentor that does bands they’ll teach you what to do.
“People think it’s so hard to reach these people and realistically there is a big jump in this rap industry. It feels like the next step is sort of an unreachable point, whereas the band scene is a lot more integrated. It’s what we’re trying to achieve, creating that smaller culture of people within the industry that are all dedicated to integration and are trying to learn from each other as collectives, like be more at peace with each other. Like just not have any beef in the world.”
Spire42 member UccisMood performing with the crowd. (Photo by @jordan.ronin)
As we chat what resonates with myself is Stew’s idealistic nature, an attribute which serves as an undoubted asset to any team that is further accentuated by Stew’s hesitance to use traditional labels such as ‘manager’ to describe his role within the collective, rather he points to his impact on others as a source of explanation.
“I’m an extremely family-based person in general, like I’ve just had my first child and she’s changed my life in more ways than I could’ve myself. I named her ‘Iliana’ which means ‘bringer of light’, because I guess that you could say with my personality and how that reflects on me, I’m a very whimsical thinking person. I’m not afraid of the fantasy because we’ve seen fantasy. I don’t know how hard you’ve gone to see like what other realities exist but fantasy is real, very real. So, why can’t I live fantasy now?
“Really, I’ve always been someone who’s writing a script for my own life as I go and tend to exceed the script which is always wonderful. But I guess that’s what I bring to 42, that’s what I have surrounded the culture by with just a real family mindset. Like none of us say no to each other about shit.”
Stew and Spire42 arguably represent a refreshing approach within the present-day Australian rap scene that is driven by the youth. Undoubtedly, it is within this approach that the restrictions associated with cliques are broken down in order to allow others the space to develop skills and to build the scene from the ground up. Instead of outsourcing talent, it is about levelling up those around you to be able to establish an organically self-sustaining hip-hop ecosystem driven by a pure love for the genre and its creative potential. For Stew and Spire42, this is the exact emphasis.
“New world order really – I guess that’s a short way of saying it. Not to bring a destructive chaotic energy – like people have said Travis Scott wants that – but more to bring a free energy in the world. Inspire more people. Be you and then figure how to be more you.”
Furthermore, Brisbane’s underground rap scene is developing at a speedy rate, with Stew believing it to be a significant musical hub in due time.
“There’s a lot of depth to the Brisbane rap scene with the genre layout and the amount of subcultures that haven’t even touched spotlight yet. Like especially SoundCloud artists that don’t even worry about Spotify. I guess the thing that stands out to me is there’s raw talent here, especially like talking about moving our whole base down to Melbourne at some point but like at the end of the day Brisbane is going to be an international hub very soon.
“With them expanding with new large cities it by default makes Brisbane a larger city. There’s 10,000 people moving to fuckin’ Queensland like every fuckin’ month. We weren’t largely affected by COVID, like COVID to me was the point where we chose to all-in. That’s the way I thought when COVID first hit, I thought ‘this is the chance I’ve been waiting for’, a pandemic, sick bro.”
Having been laid off from his role as a personal assistant to a managing director of a sales company, Stew and Spire42 had finally found time to be able to put the work in for their music and subsequently put their government stimulus to use during COVID. It is here where they honed their raw, unbridled fusion of intense emo rap melodies and rock ‘n roll energy.
With trap and emo rap being pioneered across Australia in versatile and boundary-pushing ways, the trigger for the sound’s origin and subsequent boom in Australia over the past few years largely runs parallel to its origins in Atlanta.
“Definitely Riky [Rikodeine] bro, I reckon Riky’s like the main reason. Australia's suddenly gotten so much exposure to lean and shit and it’s weird to express in that way and it’s strange to put a drug to a shifting culture but like not gonna lie, at the end of the day the music is largely influenced by that. But you’ve got to realise what that drug actually does to people’s minds: it frees inhibitions in terms of their worries and the things that are stopping them from making actions, it gives them that lift.
“I guess that’s what I’ve always viewed as what inspires that music in people, and it’s even part of the message in lifting up inhibitions and taking steps forward. That’s the pure rage message from Louie Vicious. All that shit is linked up like that.”
Spire42 member Lou Vicious. (Photo by @pixel.bandiit)
Without a doubt being a musician requires patience, both in biding your time to earn the acknowledgement and success you know you deserve, and in the way you endure the challenges and setbacks. Having paid close attention to the Brisbane and Australian scenes for a few years now, Stew acknowledges how motivating it has been to see the scene find such substantial success recently.
“It’s really cool to know early on and picking who the frontrunners were and seeing that come into fruition, like that solidifies my belief that we are going to also be the frontrunners that I see. Like watching the national scene has been really cool because you can tell when people have a sound like in one way or another, and like they all find it and there’s a message that’s included and they’ve got their teams.
“With me for example I’ve only been watching these artists who people see breaking out into the scene for a year and a half to a year, but they go way back. And that’s motivating as well to see where we are in comparison to that, so, I guess from my perspective it’s all just one lovely like game that I’ve been watching play out and I’m waiting for my turn to play.”
As Spire42 continues to evolve there can be no denying that the collective will have their turn to play. Their refusal to cede control of their creativity and to remain unrestrained sonically means that the sky is the limit for this collective determined to grow and learn with every step. One thing’s for sure, if you’re ever up in Brisbane, do yourself a favour and be front and centre at a Spire42 show.
Words by Matthew Badrov
Photos by @pixel.bandiit (Lou Vicious Photo) & @jordan.ronin (UccisMood Photo)