Since Sweatshop Union released their self-titled album 10 years ago, they have become symbolic of northwest Canadian hip hop, but the road to where they are now wasn’t always easy, inspiring many songs and albums along the way.
Mos Eisley, one of the six group members, was nearly deported from Canada when he was in high school for graffiti.
“I never really took hip hop seriously until I got busted doing graffiti. They were going to deport me from Canada and I realized I had to figure something else out. I thought that music would be the best way to go,” he said. “I liked it, and I was making mixed tapes, and I thought that I could actually do it and it was legal.”
Sweatshop Union became known early on for their politically minded lyrics, and often rapped for crowds of protesters.
“I was raised in a political household. My parents are both revolutionaries from Iran. I was a refugee in Germany and in the States because of that. A lot of my parents’ friends were very political so I ended up listening to a lot of different people talking about things that didn’t even really make sense to me back then, but it definitely formed the way I felt about things,” said Mos.
The love of hip hop drew the group together in high school, and even though they didn’t go into the group with the intention of creating music with a message, it just worked out that way.
Since 2001, Sweatshop Union has made four more albums including their most recent Bill Murray EP, which reviewers called their most ambitious to date.
“I think it’s funny that people have called Bill Murray our most ambitious album, because it’s the shortest album we’ve ever made and it’s also the most flippant and nonchalant,” said Mos.
“There’s no real message to it, we were just having fun and kind of talking. In the end it still comes off that songs sort of mean stuff but it was very much a fun album for us to make. It was funny to see that people thought this album had some sort of weight to it.”
Something that set Bill Murray apart was the absence of long time group member Kyprios, who left the band this year to pursue a solo career.
Mos said the group attempted to work with Kyprios but the songs just didn’t fit the vibe of the album.
“He’s a very fun guy. We’re all brothers, so we miss him sometimes. He has a very high-energy opening set so it’s a bit different, but I wouldn’t say that it’s affected us negatively,” he said.
Despite some negative reviews from fans, Mos said that the group is going to continue to make albums like Bill Murray.
“We’re going to focus on making more progressive music and I think Bill Murray was a good look at what’s to come,” he said.
Sweatshop Union is now looking at tapping into the international hip hop scene.
“Our focus has been very strong on North America for the last 10 years and that was mostly because we had to. We didn’t see a way out and now we’re starting to see how to do it,” said Mos.
Sweatshop Union will take the stage at the Spiritbar in Nelson tonight at 10 p.m. Tickets are available at the Hume Hotel for $10.