Flobots take a stand
Denver band spits politically charged game
Published: Thursday, October 18, 2012
Updated: Thursday, October 18, 2012 14:10
Since politics and music first mixed, generation after generation of artists have voiced discontent and frustration towards the state of global political affairs. Prominent within these musical revolutionaries is the Denver-based alternative rock/hip-hop band Flobots.
Flobots rode into the limelight in 2008 with their hit single “Handlebars,” off their debut album “Fight With Tools.” Since then, they have released two additional albums: 2010’s “Survival Story,” which features Rise Against’s lead vocalist Tim McIlrath on the single “White Flag Warrior,” and this year’s “The Circle in the Square.”
Flobots has found a niche in today’s music scene, with songs that attack topics ranging from corrupt political infrastructures to international social injustices. Their thought-provoking rhymes are driven by relentless bass riffs and engaging viola melodies, while each track has a unique musical and lyrical feel.
The Vermont Cynic spoke with Flobots’ MC Jamie Laurie (AKA Johnny 5) to look into the group’s direction, examine the content of their new album, and preview what they have in store for Higher Ground this Sunday, Oct. 21.
Vermont Cynic (VC): A lot of your music is about challenging social conventions. The idea of transcending conventions is also reflected through the band’s diverse instrumentation.
How did a group of musicians from wildly different backgrounds come together to form such a cohesive sound?
Jamie Laurie (JL): I think it was that very thing that kind of united us. We all believed that it was important and exciting to push musical boundaries, and we all have that commitment to try and make really interesting and good music.
The creative process is always an adventure because there’s no formula for what we’re doing. We just have to bring each song to fruition the best way we know how.
VC: How does that translate into performing live? What’s the onstage energy like?
JL: We’ve always really been known for our live shows, even more than our recording.
We really try to engage people physically and get them moving. We’re trying to engage people intellectually, to get them thinking. Most of all though, we’re trying to make sure that the feeling that you come away with is emotionally uplifting.
I think if you talk to anybody from any one of our shows, they come away with a smile on their face because they’ve had a really good time. Especially at Higher Ground – that place is a lot of fun.
VC: What was your favorite part about playing in Burlington?
JL: That show was one of the loudest shows on that tour. The audience was into it, and we were into it.
It’s going to be a hell of a show. Even if you’re not into hip-hop, or if you’re not into politics, or you don’t think you are, just come to the show if you want to have a fun night. I can say with confidence that we will not disappoint.
VC: Most of the lyrics in your songs are politically charged and cover a wide range of social issues. Do you think that music is an effective way to address these political and societal adversities?
JL: Absolutely. Music is what you turn to when you need comfort or if you need to let loose. I like to think that our music can do that same thing for people.
On our new album, we have a song called “Loneliness,” and that’s just what it’s about. I remember listening to the song “Low” by R.E.M., and just screaming it at the top of my lungs when I was in middle school because I had a crush on this girl. So we want to be that for every aspect of life, whether it’s your personal life, or it’s when you look at the world and you get frustrated.
Sometimes you see what’s happening globally and you want to feel empowered, and we want to address that feeling.
VC: There is a popular saying “Be the change you want to see in the world.” Do you feel as though your work with Flobots embodies the change that you want to see in the world?
JL: Absolutely. We try to do that on a daily basis. We have the luxury though, that when we do it, other people get to hear it, and other people get to witness it. Listening to our albums or coming to our shows should reflect what we want to see in the world, and we try to make sure we do that every day.