It is fair to say that life has been, to coin a cliche, a bit of a rollercoaster for Bliss n Eso so far this year.
On the eve of releasing their sixth album, Off The Grid, the hip-hop trio’s excitement turned to despair when stuntman Johann Ofner was fatally injured in January during the filming of a video clip for the song Friend Like You. Bliss n Eso organised a fund-raising concert in his honour at the Coolangatta Hotel on March 3. Every cent raised was given to Ofner’s young daughter.
All they could do, Jonathan Notley (MC Bliss) told Weekender, was to “try to do something positive in a tragic situation”.
“To meet his family and have his daughter get up on stage and learn how to scratch on the turntable – and seeing that smile on her face – it was very special,” he says.
“We got all his friends on stage with us at the end and had 30 people jumping around to Friend Like You and a big group hug. Instead of mourning his death it was a celebration of his life and gave people some closure.
“Everyone needed that.”
The tragedy pushed back Off The Grid’s release date to April 28 but fans will be happy to hear that Bliss n Eso are back on track and chomping at the bit to hit the road on their 32-date tour.
“I can’t wait. To see kids reciting lines which you wrote with so much love and passion – and they’re saying them back to you with even more passion – it blows my mind. That’s the pinnacle, for me.”
They have released the third single from the album, Moments (featuring Gavin James), which follows on from Dopamine (feat. Thief) and Friend Like You (feat. Lee Fields). In typical Bliss n Eso fashion, this album is no clone of its predecessor. Or the album before that.
Notley laughs when mention is made of Bliss n Eso’s 2006 album Day of the Dog and the song Get Your Boof On. If you haven’t heard it before, it is strictly adults only.
“That song, wow, some of the lyrics make me cringe so bad. I don’t know what I was thinking there. But it’s like a cult classic of ours,” he says.
“And funnily enough the biggest lovers of it are girls. We get requests for it all the time when we are on tour. But yeah, I jumped out on a limb there with those lyrics and let them rip.”
Acclaimed album Flying Colours followed in 2008, winning an ARIA and elevating Bliss n Eso to stardom.
“It was a definite jump in our evolution from Day of the Dog,” Notley says.
“I feel like Off The Grid is another one of those leaps. We’ve really opened up as people and we’re sharing a lot of personal stuff for the first time ever and I think people will really relate to it.
“I never want to keep making the same record every time, I want to keep growing and evolving. That’s what keeps you firing inside.”
Off The Grid is not only an evolution in Bliss n Eso’s sound, but also their lyrics.
“Once you tap in to being able to tell your stories, you really get a taste of it, which is what we did on this record. You realise the power of what you’ve been sitting on the whole time,” Notley explains.
“When you really open up and share things, and get that human connection going, it’s very fulfilling.
“On previous albums we had this poetic kind of rap and we were very abstract. I love that, don’t get me wrong, and the party lyrics are cool too. But when you really open up and share personal stories, and then you see the connections you make when people hear it, man, it really hits you in the chest.
“It opens a whole new love and appreciation for writing.”
A theme running through Off The Grid is that beauty can grow from darkness. The reference is both personal and generic, and is depicted on the album’s cover by a rose growing out of a skull.
“It applies to the world in general but also what we’ve been through,” Notley says.
“There’s been some hard times on this album so that sentiment is part of the album. But it still has a positive light at the end, which is where we’re at.”