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If you listen to one artist this week, make it Somber Hills

There’s an undercurrent of darkness in the hyperpop movement right now, where the edge of violence that defines genres like punk is creeping in. Aotearoa-born, Eora-based artist Somber Hills isn’t afraid to play in the shadows, releasing a new single this week in the form of ‘YDS’ that marries his influences across alternative and hip hop to create an anthem that reflects on being young, dumb and stupid.

“Time moves so fast and the moments we love and cherish escape us so quick,” the artist, otherwise known as Lukas Martin, shared. “Our motives and goals may stay the same but time will not wait, and if in a year you haven’t done enough to get where you’re trying to go, it’s gone, you’ll never get the time back. I had a painful year, but in the pain there’s learning and I learned that to truly enjoy what I’m doing I have to embrace who I am and not focus on what someone else thinks.”

Not focusing on what others think extends to being unbothered about whether he’s dropped in the hyperpop category or another one, with the acknowledgement that his music is difficult to categorise and that all that matters is remaining true to what he wants to create. He was gifted his first guitar as a child, but isn’t running a traditional rock band’s show, and freestyles most of the music that he ends up releasing. The result is everything Machine Gun Kelly wishes he was, and perhaps the legacy left behind by now somewhat dormant artists like Poorstacy.

Speaking on the process of recording ‘YDS’, he explains: “I know what a lot of the context in that song is about, but it’s like I didn’t know it needed to be said…A lot of my music is cathartic, it’s getting out what’s going on in my brain all the time, ‘cause there’s always like a hundred thoughts. Every time I make music, it’s the one time that my brain isn’t going a hundred miles an hour and there’s just one thing in front of my mind and it’s out and I feel better. It’s hard to explain, but it’s why I do it.”

It’s why a lot of artists do what they do, and in the same vein of a lot of the music that we know and love, this project also carries with it the emotional weight of experiencing the ups and downs of coming of age. But with what’s changed as he’s grown up, a lot has also stayed the same for Martin. He started out with music as a fan of rock and punk bands, but ended up favouring hip hop and trap once he hit high school. Now, he’s returning to his roots, and it’s part of what makes the Somber Hills project so special.

“My favourite band of all time growing up was Paramore, but then I just stopped listening to them all throughout high school and recently rediscovered my love for them. I’ve been deep diving back into the old stuff, and so I think with a lot of this music, I revisited everything that I started listening to as a kid, and that’s how all this music kind of came about. I was like, ‘Oh my god, why am I not doing this?’ This is what I always wanted to be, a rockstar, when I was a kid. When they were like, ‘What do you wanna do when you’re older?’ I would write, ‘I wanna be the best guitarist in the world’. I was like, ‘Why am I not playing guitar in my music? Why am I not doing the stuff that got me into music in the first place?’ And that’s how this all came about.”

Now signed to Warner, the same label that houses Paramore under Fueled By Ramen, Somber Hills is just getting started.

Check out ‘YDS’ below.