No Comply: The Auckland hip-hop duo taking the scene by storm and tackling depression openly

Auckland-based hip-hop duo No Comply are on the up.

But as they bask in accolades following the release of their EP BKATIT, they're also open about tackling their downs.

Brothers Ethan (26)and Fynn (28) Blackwood have only been making music together as No Comply for the past two years and their efforts have been quick to earn praise. The new EP has been described as having a "knack for sharing smart and considered lyrics paired with playful, boundless energy".

Recent track 'I'll Be Fine' meshed a playful beat around an honest lyric of tackling struggles - "I'll come right, just give me two days, I'll be fine" - which resonated with New Zealand audiences, garnering them a place in the top 20 Airplay chart.

Fynn told Newshub new EP BKATIT continues his "ethos of always being raw".

"Honestly for me, it's to always have my door open, continue that ethos of always being raw and speaking openly and to spread awareness through media outlets," he said.

"I would love to speak in schools one day and just have that korero with somebody after a show. Mental health is something we should all be able to talk about openly and I want to keep encouraging people to do so by using my voice. I want to give back like so many artists have done for me through their music."

Ethan concurs.

"What we have already done effectively as musicians, is be open and honest about mental health and if we happen to make even one person's day slightly brighter, then we have succeeded in our mission. Anyone pursuing music as a full-time career inspires me."

The brothers began working together in 2019 despite one living in Auckland and the other in Wellington and largely have always got on as artists.

No Comply are gaining traction in the New Zealand music scene.
No Comply are gaining traction in the New Zealand music scene. Photo credit: Samuel Bernard

However, Ethan confesses to Newshub there is a downside of being brothers and working together.

"We sometimes don't like what each other has to say and that can seem super personal, as we have past baggage from growing up together. So we could be talking about an issue we have within the music realm, but really, it touches on emotions that go further back than that - so it can be confusing," he revealed, laughing.

No Comply has quickly gained a reputation for ferocious live shows that see the duo head into their audiences and embrace their fans. A recent tour during New Zealand Music Month wraps up in Auckland on Friday May 26 and the brothers can't wait.

"Being on stage is freeing and we want to personally connect with the people that have taken time out of their lives to come support. It's their show as much as it is ours and everyone likes to get a bit loose," Fynn told Newshub.

"It has to encapsulate who we are as people and artists/performers and that’s why you might get a stage dive followed by a meditation session to ground everybody that jumps into us scaling the scaffolding of the stage."

For Fynn, who's been in the industry longer than Ethan, it's been a harder road to get to where No Comply is now.

No Comply's live gigs have become legendary for their audience participation.
No Comply's live gigs have become legendary for their audience participation. Photo credit: Instagram - Kingsley Attwood

"I've been in the game for the better part of ten years now. It took me eight years, four groups, a solo project and a bunch of collaborations before I signed with my brother making it my fifth group," he confesses. 

"Never give up on something you love and always follow your gut. I thought about giving up a number of times and sometimes, I would take long breaks. But every time, I realised that nothing made me happier than music and as a creative outlet it did more for my depression and anxiety than any amount of conventional therapy ever did."

While the boys are rolling in praise currently, they're also aware they have their detractors thanks to an obligatory presence on social media.

"Someone once told me that we were the reason for them wanting to keep going with music and we had inspired them creatively. That gets me going," Ethan said.

"I don't consider anything anyones said to be the 'worst', but rather, misdirected feedback - which we can always use to grow."

"I read one comment on a thread once that got me feeling pretty down," Fynn added.

"But then I realised it was just a sad person with nothing better to do with his day. He still took the time to write it out and we are still playing sold out shows and I know what I would rather be doing with my time."

And as for that band name, is there anything that No Comply wouldn't actually comply with?

Ethan's belligerent response shows why the duo's become such a favourite with Kiwis and perhaps speaks to the polarising times Aotearoa finds itself in during these post-COVID-19, post-Trump times.

"Anyone that thinks they have the right to tell you what to do can quite frankly get f**ked. Sometimes the opinions of your loved ones are valid, and sometimes they aren't," he said.

"But certainly if someone doesn't know you, they're most likely projecting their version of how reality should be onto you, which just confuses people and is totally unfair. It is people's opinions that have starved us of our own intuition and is the reason why we don't trust ourselves enough to put ourselves before the needs of others."

Fynn is a little more tactful: "Being told what we can and can't do in general probably," he nods, before cautiously - and perhaps rebelliously -  adding: "Within reason of course."

No Comply play Auckland's Galatos on May 26. Their new EP BKATIT is out now.