Each Wednesday, Rocks Off arbitrarily appoints one lucky local performer or group "Artist of the Week," bestowing upon them all the fame and grandeur such a lofty title implies. Know a band or artist that isn't awful? Email their particulars to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Several weeks ago we attended FlyFest, a day-long rap show put together intent on championing the local hip-hop scene. Among the acts that were was a duo called Simple Success. As is our M.O., we took some concert notes in the form of timestamps.
This is what we wrote:
11:21 p.m.: Turns out, a group called Simple Success is supposed to be on. They just got here though. There are two of them. A little prodding turns up that they're a remix and production duo. One is a drummer (Kyle Vento) and the other is a DJ (Edgar Miranda). They have a ton of equipment to set up, the most unexpected of which being a projector and its accompanying screen. This is likely going to be awful.
11:22: They've started.
11:26: Holy Christ. These guys are great, the drummer especially.
He's crushing it right now. He's all aggro arm-swings and robot efficiency. The way their show works is there is a DJ who has the projector hooked up to his mixes (it's like a rudimentary version of what Mike Relm does), while the drummer beats the life out his drums and symbols.
They manage to roll up rap into a semi-conceptualized experience. They even make Soulja Boy's "Pretty Boy Swag" song sound idyllic. It's cool. And totally worth the set up. In our face, we suppose.
11:33: CRASH, BOOM, SMASH! CRASH, BOOM, SMASH! CRASH, BOOM, SMASH! CRASH, BOOM, SMASH! CRASH, BOOM, SMASH! CRASH, BOOM, SMASH! Let's go ahead and send the 2010-11 Best Drummer of the Year award off to get Kyle Vento's name engraved on it. Every rapper considering doing a show with a live band needs to call this guy. We can't say enough excellent things about him.
It took them all of 12 minutes for them to transform us from Judging A Book By Its Cover haters to full-fledged groupies. Know this: Since that performance, theirs is one of the first names we search for when perusing the live shows schedule for the coming weeks. And with a show (finally) on the way, we tapped them for an interview.
Rocks Off: The default Artist of the Week opening question: Tell everyone everything they need to know about Simple Success in exactly six words.
Simple Success: DJ. Drummer. Remix. Produce. Record. Perform.
RO: We've been to a ton of hip-hop shows; y'all's, hands down, was among the most enjoyable. It's very conceptual and very excellent. Talk a little about what goes into putting that together.
SS: Wow! Thank you! Man, it's a complicated process. It usually begins with us just improving and jamming in the studio. We'll just run through a bunch of songs on the fly and see which ones strike us. We'll start to build a small skeleton set just to work around. A lot of the time the song selection happens pretty randomly.
Well hear tracks wherever they are being played and be like "Hey, that will fit here" or "We could loop that and bring in this." After we have an idea about the songs we want to play, we'll brainstorm about how we can funk them up.
Being partly a remix group, we'll take the songs we have in mind and start working with the a cappella track and samples from the original tracks and make loops and edits to fit what we're looking for. We'll add some of our own instruments and percussion to add some flavor and add some other little tricks to keep it fresh.
We normally make the remixes that we perform live with minimal or without percussion; Kyle adds this in with the live drums. We'll do this type of remixing and mashing up for the majority of the set and then throw in some classics that everyone loves and just rock with them.
After the songs are selected we start to piece them together according to their BPM. We really pay a lot of attention in the way we format the set by tempo. We plan out our set of songs so that our set climaxes and maintains energy, but at the same time we might completely switch it up on you and bring in a low-BPM thugged-out Swisha House classic. You just don't know what's gonna happen; thats what we're proud of in our live set.
ANNND, as if it couldn't get more complicated, we make edits to the music videos of the tracks we're performing and project them on a screen in between us. They are synched up with the music and mix along with the entire set. The end result is a night club DJ/live band sound.
RO: You guys have a song called "Cuz I'm Dope." Underground favorite B L A C K I E has a similarly titled song. Settle it now: Whose is the dopest?
SS: Bobby Brown and Whitney Houston in an Elmer's glue factory. #kanyeshrug
RO: You guys should totally have a projector-based-shows battle with the Room 101 guy. That might be mind shattering.
SS: SUMMER FEST 2011!
RO: You recently incorporated a real-life rapper into the fold. Why?
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SS: About two years ago we decided to build a studio out of a practice space on the north side of town to have our own getaway to work on music and do all of our recording ourselves. Over the years as things progressed, we noticed an opportunity for ourselves to expand our venture. So last summer we decided to found an indie record label (Bella Musica) and music publishing company (Tombout Publishing). Lux was introduced to us by a friend.
We heard his music and wanted to feature him on one of our tracks ("Cuz I'm Dope"). He came in to record and he blew us away...no homo. The kid is super talented. We really believe in him and wanted to support him in everything he does so we decided to sign him as our first artist under the new label.
Bella Musica is completely documented, official, and a legal recording studio and label. Its one of our biggest accomplishments so far and we're sooo excited for his upcoming projects.