A Conversation with PolyHill

May 26, 2020

Establishing herself as a standout member of New Zealand’s alternative music scene PolyHill has emerged with her major streaming platform debut, ‘Rare View’. We caught up with the multi-talented artist to chat about her new track, being an Auckland artist and life as an independent creative.

Check out the conversation below.

Tell me a little bit about yourself and what you do?

My name is Paloma Schneideman, musically I go under the alias PolyHill. I am a beatmaker/producer/MC and filmmaker. I’m based in Auckland and for the last year, I’ve been playing quite a few live shows but just never took myself seriously as a musician. Then I played more and more and just got such a buzz from creating and putting more music out that after like a year later I thought ‘hey maybe I’m a musician.’

Rare View is your major streaming platform release, can you tell me a little about your journey leading up to this point?

PolyHill originally formed as a duo with one of my good friends Olly, he was the producer and I was the MC. We used to make music as almost a therapy session, we both worked at AS Colour and were a little bit aimless. We would drink wine he would make beats and I’d rap. Gradually we put together a few tracks and thought ‘hey this is pretty sick.’ Off the bat, we had our sound quite quickly. Then we played a house party, which was our first gig, and got such a good response from that. From there we just kept getting more interest which led to doing the ‘Fancy New Band’ showcase. Around the same time, we had just recorded three of our tracks to make a little EP and that was the original EP called ‘Greatest Hits.’ We put it out on Soundcloud only and it was more of like an ‘if you know you know’ we’re not going to try and spam people and promote too much. 

It was mainly like a trickle-down effect. We just kept getting gigs and I got to a point where I handed in my notice at work and became a full-time filmmaker and musician.

So, for Rare View, somewhere at the end of 2019 Olly and I were just jamming, as we did, and he made this sweet melodic beat. I was really surprised at how good I felt at the time, as artists we commit to this narrative of always being complicated or struggling. At that point I was like ‘fuck it I actually feel really good,’ and the beat evoked that. I met LB recently and thought he’d be perfect on it, so I sent him the beat with my verse on it. I tidied up some of the production and sent it to Alexa Casino, I often get her to do some additional production, and she helped finish it up.

We made the song at the end of last year. I’ve been kind of the one driving the project because I have the time and it’s my prerogative at the moment. For me to release this new stuff that I produced, I felt it was essential to put out the old stuff as well. I love the older stuff, but my sound has definitely changed. Rare View felt like a nostalgic almost wrap-up song for that era. It feels like that track is about hindsight and moving forward with a sense of hope. Almost the end of an old chapter and the start of a new one.

Even just putting things out on Soundcloud and Bandcamp you had gigs at Others way and Laneway. What was that like already seeing the recognition and getting on these kinds of line ups? 

It’s pretty buzzy. I think word of mouth is a really big thing and I never thought it would be. But also, because I make film, I feel quite implanted in the music community already, just vibing with the right people and you respect their art form and they respect yours. That’s been the most rewarding thing for me so far, and the thing that’s got me the most opportunities. That being said I think now I feel ready to push a bit more and say, ‘hey here’s my music.’ It would be cool if you like it, but I know not everyone will. 

You are a filmmaker as well, tell me about the difference in how you approach each art form?

It’s interesting. I think there are heaps of parallels you can draw between the two. They’re both forms of storytelling for me, the music I make I don’t make bangers I feel like I tell stories. As I’ve honed my production and song writing I’ve found it helped the film. There are all these similarities in pacing and tone and what you choose to put in and what you choose to remove. So, I think there definitely are parallels, what I find gratifying about music is that I can sit and make a beat in one day and put some bars on it in one day. Where in film, there are so many hoops to jump through, I think that’s why I’ve fallen so hard for music because I don’t need to rely on anyone. That’s not to say I don’t love collaborating, I love collaborating. I think not many people have the work ethic and/or obsession that I have. I guess the ultimate dream is to marry the two, make some videos of my own music. 

So, would you say you’ve found a bit more independence through music, creatively speaking?

Yea definitely. I found it really empowering when I started to make my beats. Not because I didn’t like making beats with Olly, he’s great. It was more just you have to hold yourself accountable you’re making all the creative decisions and not waiting for anything to come back to you, I just found that idea super empowering and no one was really making the sound that I was drawn to. To have agency over that has been cool. I just really get a kick out of it.

I also love producing for other people, especially women, it’s a rarity that women produce hip-hop. I feel like you don’t come across it much. 

Touching on that idea, there’s a really powerful line in your song ‘I remember the boys would tell me pipe down, isn’t it funny who’s got a mic now’, which kind of reinforces that point you were making of the lack of women in hip-hop. What are your thoughts on that idea and the lack of women in hip-hop?

To be honest I think I had way more of a pre-conception about how it was going to be before I connected with anyone. A lot of the dudes who are in the industry are really kind. I know that there is a certain inner circle that I’ll probably never penetrate and that’s cool. I just need to make sure my bars are great and I’m not compromising my craft. That’s how I’ll get respect and who I will give my respect to.

So that line, it’s definitely about being an MC and making beats, sometimes I feel that there are limited roles for women to rap in. They have to be sexy or they have to be hard. I don’t really fit into any of those roles. So that line is a comment on that, but it’s also about a women’s experience in general, or what I’ve experienced. A woman with confidence and a woman who makes someone laugh there’s power dynamics tied in with that, and sometimes that wasn’t particularly well-received like it was threatening or something. In terms of it I’ve experienced that in the Aotearoa hip-hop community –  not particularly, so I’m pretty lucky.

It does seem like Auckland especially is becoming a cool diverse hub for artists, where a lot of the big artists are a bit left-field of what the typical rapper might look like. So, what’s it like being a part of that positive community? Where there is a lot of inclusion and there’s space and opportunity to be yourself as an artist.

For sure. It’s crazy those lineups which are a clusterfuck of every genre but it still works. We must be bound by some shared experience of what it is to be from Aotearoa. It is nice having the diversity.

After Rare View what are your plans moving forward?

I’ve got a little EP that I’m working on. I think there are a couple of tracks that I’ve finished and then a few more demos in the making, the goal is to put that out and drop a couple of singles beforehand. Maybe try and build a little bit of traction before the EP comes out. Like I said I’d love to find a way to do something that creatively stimulates me and capitalizes on my talents. Hopefully, some gigs again when the world returns to normal. Who knows it’s so bizarre. 

You can check out ‘Rare View’ and the ‘Greatest Hits EP’ below

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