Smokin’ hip-hop energy

ON THE ROAD: Sentry had to hit the gym to get in shape for his new tour, which will debut songs from his third album.WHEN he writes music, Seth Sentry subsists on a diet of caffeine, cigarettes and some surprisingly nutritious breakfast cereal.
Nanjing Night Net

But now that his latest album is written and recorded, he’s hitting the road with some new material, a shake-up to his usual show, and hitting the gym.

“We’ve gotta be fit, that’s the thing,” Sentry tells Weekender from his home in Melbourne. Hip-hop performance is an active art, involving lots of movement while rapping intricate lyrics.

“And when I write a lot I smoke a lot of cigarettes,” he says.

“I don’t know why, I just fancy myself some sort of f—in’ author. Some old author in his little log cabin out in the forest. So I smoke cigarettes, and I always regret it ’cause when we come back to perform live I’ve gotta kind of stop that and do a bunch of running to get my cardio back up.”

Certain words and phrases come to Sentry (real name Seth Marton) all the time, which he jots down on a piece of paper or on his phone, but he turns writing into a 9-to-5 job when he’s working on an album.

It’s a formula that’s worked well so far. Sentry is set to release his third record some time this year after three weeks of recording wrapped up in February, and he has already locked down the album art work, working with the same artist from his first two records.

“We did it in such a way that if you fold out the front and back cover they both connect to make one long panorama,” Sentry says.

“I like the art to be a reflection of the music as well … I like to include pieces from songs and stuff into the art.”

The first taste of the record, single Run – about growing up in the suburbs and running from police – is a hint of what’s to come from a more personal offering. The album is the first to be wholly produced by frequent Sentry collaborator Styalz Fuego.

“The songs are a lot more honest than I’ve ever written before,” Sentry says.

“I don’t know why that is, I think it’s just getting older and, I dunno, being more open to self-examination or whatever.

“Maybe it’s going to be 50 per cent kind of this self-examination sort of thing, introspective, and maybe another half just, I don’t know, random s – – t.”

So far, each of his records has produced one song that particularly captured the imagination of his fans. EP Waiter Minute had The Waitress Song and album This Was Tomorrow had Dear Science, asking why scientists hadn’t yet invented the hoverboard. It’s a songwriting philosophy Sentry champions.

“Basically I just pick something kind of trivial and I like to blow it up and see how much I can kind of squeeze out of it for a song,” Sentry says.

“That’s what I did with The Waitress Song. I’ve got a crush on the waitress so I try to see if I can write a whole song just on that. Same with the hoverboard: I picked the hoverboard because I think I was watching Back to the Future and I thought ‘aw, where’s my hoverboard’, so you write a song.”

The latter effort meant Sentry was in the middle of a social media whirlwind at the beginning of the year – Back to the Future showed hoverboards in a fictional 2015, so fans flocked around Sentry as their leader.

“I’m not dead passionate about it like people seem to think,” Sentry says with a laugh.

“It’s just a song, but I was getting like, by the end of it, tens of thousands of these links to this phoney hoverboard video … which was cute and it’s really nice, but I couldn’t use social media for ages because it was just link after link after link of this video.”

Social media is a key way Sentry connects with his fans (he admits “a lot of it is just me just giving shit to people who try to give shit to me”). He’s been overwhelmed with feedback for Run, which has resonated with people around the country.

“You always think when you grow up in one of those little isolated kind of coastal communities you have your own world that no one else understands,” Sentry says.

“But from all the feedback I’ve been getting, I guess everyone kind of had a little place like that.”

Sentry will be visiting far-flung places in a national tour, which comes to The Cambridge in March, presenting a fresh show and new songs with long-time on-stage collaborator Sizzle.

“We’ve been going back through and pulling all the beats apart that we used to use for live shows and remixing them. We’re gonna be restructuring the whole set from the ground up,” he says.

Seth Sentry plays The Cambridge on March 12.