So Saint Vitus is a metal bar. What are you doing here?
[laughs]. This whole tour has been metal bars. Me and Sage played in Jacksonville, Florida earlier last year and Drew of Circle Takes the Square and Kathleen are both fans of his [Sage]. So they came out to our show and that’s where they saw me perform and we met and talked and Kathleen had been sending me music from the new album. And then we were talking and they released a new album this year and we were just like we should go on a tour and see how it goes. I’m between albums at the moment, so I wanted to play for their fans, go to their bars and see what we could do. And lately, Atmosphere this summer toured with Slightly Stupid. Sage, in the past, toured with Against Me. So I’ve seen people doing this kind of cross-genre tours and I’ve seen it go various ways. But also we have the new live band, which has a big strong, live sound, and I felt like we could compete with a hardcore band without having a dip in energy because I’m not rapping over a CD player.
So it was an experiment and I do things like that because it keeps me fresh. If night after night, everyone knows all my shit and they expect me to be B. Dolan and I act like B. Dolan, and they get what they want, it can get a little too comfortable. So I really was apprehensive the first night we went out. I was like, “Are they gonna walk out or are they gonna throw shit at us? Which one?” But this leads to a big surge of adrenaline when you’re onstage and you act like you’ve got something to prove and you go at it with an intensity. And that brings me back to when I was 18. And that’s good for me as a performer. It makes me keep challenging myself. And surprisingly, these guys – talking about your fanbase being a reflection of yourself – they’re a really eclectic and interesting hardcore band and they’ve got a really eclectic and interesting fanbase. I came prepared for twenty people to walk out of the room on any given night and I wouldn’t be offended. If you’re at a hip-hop show and a hardcore band starts playing, a large number of people are going to break out and go for a cigarette break and come back when it’s over.
But that hasn’t happened. All these people have stayed and attentively watched our set and even done hip-hop crowd participation shit that is totally foreign to them. They’ve bought a bunch at the merch booth and I’ve gained fans online. And all the shows have gone really well. Because aesthetically there is a lot in common with punk rock and hardcore and underground hip-hop. There’s a similar vibe and fanbase and we even play the same clubs sometimes. It’s been really pleasantly surprising.
So a lot of people conceive of you as a political rapper, but as we touched on earlier, you don’t like that phrase and you also have songs like “Vin Diesel” and “2BAD” that are really playful. And I read that the Church of Providence has a wrestling ring.
Yeah, the Church of Providence is just a fucking bedlam. We have a wrestling ring, burlesque acts, games, weird crowd-interactive games like toilet paper dodgeball, wild shit throughout the night. And it creates a very chaotic atmosphere, so you can easily mix genres. You can have a rock band and they you can have a rap act and then you can have a rap battle and then a burlesque performer. It gets to just be fun and you can put stuff in front of people that they might not normally pay attention to.
Nice. So I mentioned those things to ask this: what do you conceive of as the relationship between politics and play?
Like I said, I think the personal is political and I think that a lot of “political rappers” suck. For any artist, you don’t want to hear just one note played for an hour. You don’t want to hear the same shit continuously. I think range is important. You have to be able to make a couple of different kinds of songs. If the only song you make is about your politics, I would find it incredibly boring, because I am not just my politics. I am my emotions and my experiences.
And those things can be political.
Yeah. When it gets down to it, politics is always in the mix, but when people say “political rapper,” they think they know what politics means, so when you say that and you attach that label, you make assumptions that don’t really cover what we do. We make really emotional songs about family and really fun songs about sucker emcees. We do all those things and we try to have a show that has peaks and valleys and moves through different areas of our lives. And that’s why people keep coming back. People know to a certain extent to expect a certain style, but they don’t know what the record is about before the record comes out, which I think keeps them interested.
This is my last question. So it’s the end of the year and blogs and fans are starting to look through their libraries and think about what projects stood out the most. It’s all subjective and limited by our listening habits and networks, but the ultimate benefit, I think, is the ability to put all those lists together and see the limitations and then hopefully go back and fill in the gaps. And I’m wondering what have you heard this year that you think shouldn’t be overlooked?
Aside from my friends –
– Feel free to endorse.
[laughs] Well, Circle Takes the Square’s new album is the shit and for the past 10 days I’ve had my jaw on the floor watching these guys, so at the moment I’m really inspired by their album. And it was a Bandcamp release, so I think a lot of their fans might even need a reminder. And Prolyphic and Buddy Peace of Strange Famous put out incredible stuff this year. And Dan Le Sac vs. Scroobius Pip put out a great album. So luckily my friends are doing things. I also really do think “Retrograde” by James Blake is still the song of the year for me. And it came out earlier this year and it still hasn’t gotten any less potent. There’s a lot of genius in that guy’s production and songwriting. Atmosphere actually released a song called “Bob Seger” that I like a lot. And Sage Francis is about to release a mixtape in December and I’ve already got it and I’ve been listening to it for the past week and I think that’s gonna kick a lot of people’s asses. Yeah!
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