The Hilltop Hoods' exploration of a traumatic -- but ultimately life-affirming -- experience was the catalyst for a world-first collaboration with Google Play Music.
The popular Australian hip-hop trio on Friday (Nov. 11) shared an immersive music video for "Through The Dark," a personal song penned by founding member MC Pressure (real name Dan Smith) on the journey he faced after his son Liam's cancer diagnosis.
The Hoods joined forces with Google to shed light on Pressure's tale and help find a way out of the darkness for others facing similar challenges.
"We received literally thousands of emails and interactions from people telling us their story of similar things. And how much the song meant to them and how it connected," Pressure tells Billboard. "'Through The Dark' has "become a theme as part of their therapy of getting through their journey, and because of that we wanted to do more than just a single. We wanted it to be bigger. And this gave us that window of opportunity to create an amazing immersive experience for all of those people and to have a type of legacy to give back to other kids suffering a chronic illness."
The interactive film has been created for use on Android smartphones and traces a father and son's travels through two 3D-animated worlds, a dark place representing fear, the light meaning hope.
The tech giant's execs approached the band with the seed of an idea. "It felt like a fit," explains Google Play's product marketing manager Sophie Hirst. "If you look at the users on Google Play Music, we knew that our users really love Hilltop Hoods, they really consume a lot of music on our platform. Plus, I've always been a big fan of the band."
The song, a fan-favorite at the Hoods' live shows, appeared on the group's 2014 album Walking Under Stars and on the rebooted Drinking From The Sun, Walking Under Stars Restrung from February 2016, both of which reached No. 1 on the ARIA Albums Chart (the Hilltop Hoods have landed five albums at the top of the national albums chart).
Though Google declined to divulge its cost, both parties workshopped the video project for "many, many months," Hirst explains. "We were breaking new ground together and that felt exciting for Google and the band. This is a genuine partnership."
For every fan who listens to Hilltop Hoods' latest album on Google Play Music via the link at the clip's conclusion, Google and the hip-hoppers have pledged to donate $1 to youth cancer organization CanTeen. The money raised will boost a new project Side of Stage, which will enable young people affected by cancer special access to live music shows across the country.
The video is now live and can be viewed at throughthedark.withgoogle.com through high-spec Android mobile devices and desktops.
Hirst hopes the Hilltop Hoods partnership will be the starting point for many other music campaigns. "It was really important for us to support Australian artists. The other thing is we just really love seeing how technology can push art forward. We love building things, we love playing around with technology and seeing how that can be used to innovate creative art, and in particular music. It's something Google has done for a while and will continue to do."
Pressure has been living in the light for some years now. His son is healthy, Liam's leukemia is a problem of the past. "He's like any other 12-year-old. He has a crush on a girl at school, he downloads as much rap music as I do. But he's been living cancer-free for over two years, so that's great. It's a really beautiful end."
The Hilltop Hoods are nominated in three categories for the Nov. 23 ARIA Awards.