Monday, October 24, 2011
Back and Forth with Lucas Dix
What up Lucas? Got a few questions for you. First off, let's take it back. What was your introduction to hip hop? What inspired you growing up, or continues to inspire you?
Aside from rocking my clothes backwards while listening to Kriss Kross in second grade and having some Biggie albums get confiscated by my Mom in 4th or 5th grade, I really didn't fall in love with hip hop until my reintroduction to Wu Tang at the end of high school. Punk rock satisfied my teenage angst through middle school up until 11th grade, but once I started to question God, the universe, myself, etc., I needed something more. Wu Tang fit the bill perfectly. Every member had like 10 different aliases and they rapped with this crazy, slanged out imagery about mythology, comic books, kung fu movies, and mathematics. Plus, they had this beautiful sense of brotherhood. I have about 6 or 7 homies in my life that are my fucking brothers, my "been through some intense shit with you and will love you for the rest of my life" type brother. For the longest time I thought that all of us were going to conquer the world together through music and philosophy. We seriously would drive around for like 4 hours a night (back when gas was $2.50 and we were too young to hit the bars up), freestyle to RZA beats, listen to Ironman or Liquid Swords and formulate our Pinkie and the Brain plan.
Last year, I was tutoring a student and he was really starting to get into more underground and old school hip hop music as well as inquiring about the world around him. One day, he told me something along the lines of "I have all these questions about life and religion and how people interact with each other and sometimes it's just so overwhelming." I literally teared up and was like "Have you ever heard of the Wu Tang Clan?". Then I proceeded to jot down the 10 albums he needed to listen to. That collective meant a lot to the development of my peoples and I during a time where we made an exponential amount of personal growth, so much so, that my friend Sins has RZA and Raekwon's signatures tatted on his back. I also was heavily influenced by Aesop Rock, Slug, Black Thought, MF Doom, Mos Def and the like, but nothing like them dudes from Shaolin.
OK. So, what was the impetus behind these new Jellyfish Brigade tracks? Talking to you one on one downtown last weekend I got a basic idea, but can you expound on what we talked about?
For the longest time, I was someone who ate fast food and didn't do anything but rap and was damn sure that I was going to live off of touring and putting out music. I had this bullshit elitist ego and hated on everything from other rappers to religions, to 'sheeple" in society. Then, about a year and a half ago, I had this sudden change of heart where I was tired of being angry and thinking that I was the greatest thing on the planet (when I quite obviously wasn't). My mindstate just flipped and I started to focus on being a better teacher (I sub in 8 districts for my daytime job, plus I tutor). I wanted to be more understanding and empathetic of all people and started to develop a "whatever gets you through the day is ok and whatever gets your through the night is all right" mentality. I wanted to see the sunrise from the morning side more. I wanted to learn how to cook, eat healthier, build fires and camp, do yoga and work out, go hiking, learn to swim, and most importantly have a garden.
One day this summer, while watering my garden, I stopped in front of my giant sunflowers and stared at them for a while. I thought about my lady and I planting the seeds in little pots, then clearing out some area in my yard so I could transfer them to the dirt, then watering them and seeing them slowly grow, to them now being almost twice as big as I am with huge, golden heads. This garden was so important to me because, for the first time, I felt like I had something tangible that I could provide for myself and those around me. I had this new instrumental that Jeff had given me at the time and thought "That settles it. I'm going to write a song about my garden."
The second song on the single is a remix of Portland, OR artist Natasha Kmeto's "Want You Too". She is an awesome producer/singer in the city and friends with Jeff. I was pumped about the opportunity because it gave me a chance to be a Jay-Z to her Mariah Carey, a Drake to her Rihanna.
Around this time, my love hit me with the news that she was going to be moving to Africa and then back to the east coast. This is a woman who has been a huge influence on the changes changing me and I basically just wrote about how we spent our relationship: drinking wine, making love, going to the river and bridge/cliff jumping, etc. I am a proponent of the beauty of the sacrifice. I honestly feel like one of the best ways I can show her that I love her and cherish the time we spent is by letting her go and being supportive of her decision to leave, even if it's going to hurt.
Shit's about growth and change and being uncertain of whats going to happen in the future. Then again, most of the Jellyfish Brigade stuff is. This time I just had a symbol to direct the metaphor. Sunflowers, yo!
Word. So how would you describe the difference between how you approach this project compared to your work with Gavin in Hives Inquiry Squad?
I would say most all of the Jellyfish Brigade songs that exist (first ep, Sunflowers single, and the next ep that's not out) are songs that Jeff made for The Great Mundane project, decided they didn't quite work for what he was going for and then were given to me. Jeff and I connect on very similar levels. One night we'll have a conversation about how "the grass is always greener" and how we need to recognize that we are standing in the green grass right now. The next day, I'll go to write and start writing a song "Standing in the Green Grass" and basically expound on the conversation.
Gavin and I have been working together for about 6 or 7 years now. Our process is different in that we never write a song based around a subject. We don't say "this is a song from the perspective of a crack in the concrete somewhere in the middle of a city and all the things it sees during the course of a day." Rather, we work on moods and images. Gavin will show me a wonky beat and spit me a line like "I'm the dusty albatross cloud 9 afficianado" and I go "all right, I feel you"; then we write our verses.
With Jellyfish Brigade, we're going for an Avett Brothers meets Postal Service meets Foreign Exchange sound. It's going to morph towards complex ideas expressed in simple folk song lyrics with lots of singing to compliment the rapping. We recently got a write up that said we were "part Lazerbeak and Sufjan Stevens, half Das Racist half Neon Indian." That was like "boom, people are getting it." Hives is more Camp Lo, Aesop Rock type shit where Gavin and I string weird phrases together with multi-syllabic rhymes and grandfather slang. Jellyfish Brigade is me with my shirt off in the middle of the woods using a fallen tree as a balance beam over a river. Hives is Gavin and I in a basement of a future world in the present with glowing screens surrounding us, as we plot the break out. I will say this. Jellyfish is waaaay easier to write for, solely because I feel a constant pressure in writing with Gavin. Every time he spits me a 4 bar I go, "damn, how the hell am I supposed to follow that?" I'll admit that he's a doper emcee than I am.
Are there any future plans to perform your Jellyfish material in a live setting? Or is this going to be strictly a studio project?
We are definitely going to be performing as Jellyfish Brigade. Jeff's been on the road constantly for the last year so we have never really gotten a chance to sit down and work on a live set. Now that we have about 10-12 songs and some merch, we are ready to play out. I think with 1320 Records putting out "Sunflowers" and re-releasing "Gills and a Helmet", we will get some damn good show opportunities in the near future. We've already seen a bit of the effect as we've gotten offers to play shows up and down the west coast just this past week.
Our first official show is Thursday, November 17th at the Tonic Lounge in Portland, OR with our homey and local producer Shut-Ins, who is releasing his debut project that night, Gavin Theory of Hives Inquiry Squad, and Dropping Gems artist Brownbear with a live band. $5.
I'm really excited to start playing and perfecting our live set.
Anything else you'd like to add? Any shout-outs? Or just any other info you want to get out there?
Go to www.jellyfishbrigade.com or www.1320records.com to download "Sunflowers" for free as well as our debut EP "Gills and a Helmet" (which is offered as a pay what you want, free is a welcome option).
Also, thank you good sir for asking me to do the interview. You do a lot for this city with your support of the hip hop scene. Much love and respect.
Thanks for doing this man. I really do appreciate it. Soon....