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NewTracks New Artist: PollyHill

NewTracks New Artist: PollyHill

Coming up through the local underground scene over the last few years, Auckland MC PollyHill is now ready to unleash her witty wordplay on a wider audience. With a second EP (‘Post Humorous’) imminent, she talked with NZM about her latest single featuring Church Leon from Church & AP. It’s called Sweepstake and features on this April’s NewTracks compilation by NZ On Air Music

What’s your name, where are you from and what instruments do you play?

Paloma Schneideman, born and raised Tāmaki Makaurau, but spent my most formative years between Matakana, Wellington and Israel. I’ve been settled in Tāmaki for the last 10 years. I play everything and nothing – self-taught I make everything on my Maschine beat pad.

Was any high school or other music training especially important for you?

I learnt the drums for about six months when I was 12… that’s the only musical training I’ve ever had. Actually, I’d consider my most important musical training to just be my mass consumption of music from a very young age. Since I got dial-up internet I was downloading everything I could off Limewire and listening to it all, start to finish.

Any other previous projects we might know you from?

I’ve only put stuff out as PollyHill. My first EP was ‘Greatest Hits’, which dropped in May 2020. My sophomore EP is dropping in May 2021 – it’s called ‘Post Humorous’.

What’s the background story of how PollyHill as a project came to be?

PollyHill was born when me and my good friend Olli Jones started jamming on Friday nights. Him on the beat pad, me stringing together some lyrics to go along with it. We just got drunk and tried to make something that remotely resembled music. Turns out a few people liked it and we played a house party, then a house party turned to a couple of gigs, which led to the 95bFM Fancy New Band showcase in 2019. As I started to upskill and learn how to produce, I became obsessed with making music, and at that time Ol was doing his studies and travel, so naturally we kind of went our own ways, and I continued driving PollyHill in a more solo manner. 

How has your music evolved from your beginnings in songwriting to now?

It’s quite different now. I used to take pre-written poetry and try and mould it to sit on the beat, it felt quite unnatural but was a good place to start. Now because I do most of the production myself, I’ll make the skeleton of a beat first, then write to that – it feels more evolved this way, cos I can play off the beat, and use my voice as an additional instrument, and less of like a copy-paste type thing. I can respond to the frequencies of the music, and that usually evokes a mood or feeling, which informs my writing.

How and when did you come up with the name for the new project?

Sweepstake is named after my favourite lyric in the song – ‘taking name after name like a keepsake, don’t ever brush a beef under the rug like it’s a sweepstake’ – double meanings and wordplay have always spun my wheels, that’s why I’m such a Mf Doom fan. 

This is the lead single off the forthcoming EP ‘Post Humorous’. Its name was suggested by my good pal and sometimes DJ Half Queen – we were laughing about how people mispronounce posthumously, then we thought it was a really fitting name for my project, because it’s like, after the laughs, now I’m taking myself a bit more seriously.

Aside from this release, what’s been the big highlight to date? 

I loved opening for Wiki in March 2020. It was just before lockdown, he’s one of my favourite MC’s, and I never thought I’d get to open for an international act. Then we got to hang with him after and he was such a good dude. Also opening for Imugi 이무기 in 2020, that was such a beautiful gig, with a great lineup, and such a loving and responsive crowd – a receptive kind of crowd makes all the difference. 

What makes Sweepstake stand out for you as a single?

I think it has a great journey – like it starts brooding and cinematic, then flips into this quite wild grinding beat, it’s the right range for me. The Church feature is a highlight – he’s one of my favourite lyricists of all time, even beyond this hemisphere. I loved going tit for tat with him, there’s like a competitiveness or sportsman-esqe nature to rap, and it was fun to vibe with someone I admire so much. 

What is the story behind Sweepstake?

I made the first part of the beat when I was in Wellington, that piano cinematic loop was the heart of it. It started as quite a melancholic song. Then I discovered the arpeggio phenomenon through the note repeat function on my beat pad, it created that whacky acid bass note sequence in the flip. So the lyrics emulated this story, the calm before a storm, and then a real explosive flip. 

I guess the track is split into three acts, that’s my filmmaking brain influencing my writing. The opening is a slow-burning sermon, that morphs into the second mood, something a bit more melodic, whilst I’m questioning my sanity and accepting that I probably won’t ever please everyone. Then it flips into the final act, with the guest verse from Church – that’s like the surrendering to the chaos and the final act, where everything blows up.

What’s your favourite moment, musical or lyrical, of the single?

Def the big flip part way through when Church comes in. 

Who did you write/record/produce the single with and where? Got a fun story about the making-of?

After I made the bones of it, Alexa Casino, a frequent collaborator of mine added the chops and was a production wizard, making it punchy AF. Then I sent it to Church and he laid his gorgeous verse. With some additional help from Dera Meelan and Ben Lawson, the track became what it is now.

What would you like listeners to take away from this song?

I want them to feel energised, overwhelmed even. I hope they’re impressed by the wordplay.

How do you generally work out what song would make a good single?

I never know, I don’t really make commercial bangers, anything I’m proud of feels like a good single to me, and I was very proud of this track.

Who else is in your team?

45RPM is my pseudo label, shout outs to Manu Taylor and Max Tetlow. Kartel is my distribution label. Half Queen and Alexa Casino are my guardian angels who I go to for most creative decisions, Ben Lawson (the Bengineer) is my reluctant in-house engineer who I harass frequently for his mixing wizardry. Nicola Sandford does my graphic design – they’re all darlings.

Are there any other musical endeavours you’re working on that we should keep an eye out for? 

Just listen to the EP when it releases if you feel so inclined please, that would mean a lot to me, and there are some vulnerabilities and sides to me that I don’t think have been seen before.

Can you please name three other local tunes that would fit well on a playlist alongside your song?

Have any previous NZOA applications not gained funding or been included on NewTracks? Got any advice for others out there?

I’ve tried for a couple of new single fundings but to no avail – but I’ve earned a couple of stripes since then so maybe now’s the time. And this and Spooky have been on NewTracks. I have no advice, other than, make music for yourself and the right people will listen to it?

Was there an NZOA criterion you struggled with in the application? Which was it and how did you work it out in the end?

I’ve always struggled with numbers – like proving that you get enough streams etc. I don’t have any answers, cos I’ve always struggled finding a place in the NZ music scene, but little by little things seem to be shifting in the right direction. I don’t know how anything will work out, I guess my mentality is not to compromise the integrity of the work and the essence of my voice, and everything will happen as it needs to.

Are there any musical blogs, Youtube channels or podcasts you’re super into?

No, I spend my days watching the Simpsons and listening to Stones Throw radio and Half Queen or Zeki mixes. I recommend all of the above.

Any last words?

I’m not shit without my creative community, my people that nurture me and through their own talent and creative spirit, make me want to be better, and inspire me every day. I’m so lucky my favourite artists are also my mates, is that nepotism? Narcissism? Cliquey-ness? Perchance, but what can I say, I love my friends.

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