From: Seattle, WA
“We’re the shit and if you haven’t seen us perform live, you should stop being silly and come see us live,” Mark Hoy, emcee and singer of Theoretics, said jokingly. “That’s our strongest suit right now.”
Mark Hoy has a point. You cannot say you have heard Theoretics until you have seen them live. Their performance is something so special, so powerful, so energetic, that it cannot be conveyed through any recording. Luckily for the thousands attending Sasquatch this year, they will be able to experience the magic for themselves.
Theoretics is Hoy, emcee and singer Chimaroke Abuachi, Arthur Brown on saxophone, Adam Gross on drums, Ben Krulewitch on keyboard, Cameron Peace on guitar, and Birch Pereira on bass. The Seattle-based hip hop band formed in 2010 as the child of a jazz band and two rappers, and is now the jazzy, funky, danceable, rapper-fronted collaboration that is Theoretics.
The five musicians minus the emcees used to be a five-piece jazz band called Vunt Foom, which Peace described as “a little bit abstract.” Hoy and Abuachi created a group called Archetype where they were rappers. After their band broke up, they ran across Vunt Foom. They began combining the lyrics and material they had written and fusing it with already existing Vunt Foom music, Hoy said.
“One thing that is interesting is you can take a look at our old material and see the transition period. It was Vunt Foom with Archetype,” Peace said. “It went through a metamorphosis and became this cohesive sound that is now Theoretics.”
Something different about this band versus other hip hop fronted bands is their process of collaboration. Hoy described their music writing process as unique because they all write their music together. Someone will bring in one idea, then everyone expands upon it.
“Normally you see rappers with a band who write music then give it to their band and say ‘here, learn this,'” Hoy said. “Sometimes it takes longer than we want, but we share the creative process.”
They are all professionally trained musicians, and some of them teach music. Hoy and Abuachi both sing and rap. All of these factors contribute to their unique sound. Over the years, they have gotten better and grown in terms of figuring out how to balance a diverse group and use it to their advantage. Hoy also said that he thinks they do a good job of making sure everyone’s voice get’s heard and not shutting each other down.
“You have to lose some battles from time to time,” Peace said. “You just have to bow down gracefully because that’s what makes the project what it is.”
Their new distinct sound isn’t the only way the two bands fusion has been mutually beneficial. The crossover of genres allowed them to play for audiences and venues that wouldn’t have normally been as accepting to them. Theoretics were able to play at venues that typically don’t allow rappers, because of their heavy jazz-influenced music. They have also been able to play at places that wouldn’t normally allow a jazz band to play there, because they are hip hop fronted.
A lot of that also has to do with the Seattle music scene.
“It is the art’s in Seattle in general – club owners are willing to take a chance on you,” Peace said. Not to mention that in other parts of the country, such as Los Angeles or places on the East coast, bands actually have to pay to play, Peace mentioned.
Not only is Seattle nurturing in giving bands a chance, but it’s also nurturing between genres. For example,Theoretics have worked with Alabaster. Shaina, Alabaster’s lead singer, has appeared in their videos and performed with them. Hoy has also performed with them. They are two totally different genres and have managed to bridge the gap. Hoy said that the relationships between the two groups was the result of playing a benefit concert together. The welcoming Seattle music scene is like an “incubation bubble,” which results in camaraderie and growth, but can have it’s negative side effects, Hoy said. It can be hard to get out of the bubble unless a band can market itself extremely well outside that bubble.
The members of Theoretics have worked on projects outside of the Seattle scene as individuals (Pereira toured Germany last year, for example), and Theoretics have started touring more together recently.
“Traveling with a seven-piece band is expensive, so we are saving that energy and money for an opportunity that makes sense,” Hoy said. “I’m convinced that’s not very far off in the future.”
Playing Sasquatch this year is a good start. The successful debut of the hip hop stage at the 2012 Sasquatch resulted in the expansion of the stage this year featuring Theoretics.
“They were looking for more hip hop bands this year so it was actually in our favor,” Pereira said.
Sasquatch isn’t their first big music festival. Last year, the band played at Bumbershoot, which Periera said was a reason they got the Sasquatch slot. Not only did they play it, but “they killed it,” Hoy said. This kind of exposure catches the attention of bookers and promoters, who help bands get these kinds of shows.
“Once your name has been floating around and you’ve been playing Bumbershoot it’s just kind of natural,” Pereira said.
Theoretics are also booked to play at the Capitol Hill Block Party. From huge music festivals, to small bars in Seattle, there are plenty of opportunities to see Theoretics live. As Mark said, that’s their strongest suit, and everyone would be silly not to.