Tuesday 28 July 2020

ILL DOOTS: "Well Known Well Documented Miracles" [Interview]

'The Mess' is the new release from Philadelphia-based collective, ILL DOOTS.

We have previously gushed about the immeasurable talents of ILL DOOTS - their 2018 debut self-titled album, released through Ropeadope Records, introduced listeners to their "good music with no rules" approach to music-making.  The album, along with their subsequent releases, have served as a wonderful and inspiring showcase of their distinctive style born of fusing multiple genres together including hip-hop, soul and R&B.  Propelled by tracks including 'Hue', 'Smile' and the awesome 'Ain't No Way to Live', ILL DOOTS had set the stage but then gleefully rewrote the rule book.

As fervent live performers, that level of reinvention and adapting to the environment around you and the collaborators you work with has proved a staple for ILL DOOTS.  Never content to linger within one style or lane, the band seem to find an impressive ease in being able to push their music into new directions, perhaps challenging themselves to deliver in ways people wouldn't expect them to.

'(Pants) Tore Up', released in 2019, ingeniously sought to characterise the concept of things that are handed down to us - whether those things are vital life lessons from an older generation or, in line with the song, clothes with their own personalized flaws; 'Ten Thousan Rayguns' saw vocalist Elle.Morris take centre stage in a genuinely thrilling reinvention of what we had come to expect from ILL DOOTS's music incorporating more elements of synthy electronic R&B bliss into their mix.  The ILL DOOTS dynasty saw its expansion even further with the release 'US vol.1' by the collective's rapper, US.

Needless to say that the release of 'The Mess' this year once again subverts those expectations.  Backed by some long standing collaborators in the form of rappers Ron Draper and Rich Quick along with RapperOHM and BOOG!, ILL DOOTS present eight eclectic and diverse tracks that seek inspiration from a range of styles and influences – kicked off with the effervescent ‘Heartbeat’, the pace changes frequently veering towards the heavier rock-esque sounds of 'Ig2g' to the classic 90s aesthetic of ‘Columbia’ to the introspective nature of ‘Well’.

With great excitement Blue-in-Green:RADIO was able to secure time with members of the band to discuss the new project and all things ILL DOOTS...

How did members of the band initially come together to form ILL DOOTS? (Jordan, Drums)
Scott (Bass/Musical Director) and I (Jordan, Drums) met freshmen year of college through his roommate at the time and all 3 of us starting sheddin' together. Scott and I then exchanged numbers and were just hitting each other to shed regularly after that. An open mic is the 1st night where all the people that would be band gathered together before all of us really knew each other. Anthony (US fka Phantom, vocals) did a spoken word piece and Scott recognized "oh he's rapping", so he hit him up on Facebook and invited them to a jam session with us. After that Anthony would bring Tex (another vocalist who has since left the band) along to sessions and they started to record in Scott's dorm. What started as working on a few songs turned into a full album of music; "Meteor Music" (2010). When the time came to release it and play a show, all of us musicians: chubbz, myself, Bpad, DeCarlo, who were in the jam sessions or recording for "Meteor Music", formed the band and became the initial spark for our explosive live show.

Which artists have had the biggest impact on shaping your music? (Scott, Bass/MD)
Without a doubt our biggest influence is J Dilla. Initially we sought to emulate his style and manipulate rhythms and sounds the way that he was able to. As we've grown older and continued to study his music I think the focus has shifted to emulate his creative philosophy: making music without boundaries or rules. We are a band but hip hop is our home base, and so we draw inspiration from the groups that came before us: OutKast, A Tribe Called Quest, Blackstar, De La Soul, Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five, etc. Additionally we take inspiration from some of the great bands that have come before us: Sly & The Family Stone, Parliament/Funkadelic, Earth Wind & Fire, Fleetwood Mac, The Beatles, Prince, Prince, & PRINCE! We could go on for days about artists who have influenced us, the list goes much deeper than we could possibly transcribe.

How does the process of writing and creating new music usually work for you all? (US, vocals)
In a myriad of ways. I will say over the course of our many years together, it developed into almost equal parts independently written music being brought to the group as an ingredient for music making --- and collaborating live in the room together. However, the more satisfying route for us all, and what is exemplified best in our latest album The Mess, is when there is no plan, only the people, the moment, the instruments. We love responding to and within the moment when it comes to creating --- if it is not created within the moment then it is either a personal piece that the group is investing in developing OR it is an exercise, in other words practising our craft. Our previous self titled album fell more into the latter --- an exercise in sounding like and honoring our greatest musical influences --- however, with our music writing now it is less an exercise in trying to sound like something specific, and more an intentionality in just being available for whatever feels right. Lyrics come from everyone, sure primarily the vocalists but often instrumentalists as well --- vice versa for the sounds of the instruments, you never know exactly who is playing (or curating) the sounds that you are hearing because each of is open and willing to do it all.

Congratulations on the upcoming release of 'The Mess': how does this project differ from past ILL DOOTS releases? (Chubbz, Keys)
This project differs from our past releases because it was the first time that we spent this long (10 days) together creating an album from start to finish. We arrived in Waldoboro, ME in the fall of 2018 without any pre-written musical ideas. Everyone brought up instruments/equipment from our home studios and set up in a barn to write and record, where we created 31 musical ideas that we eventually narrowed down to the songs on "The Mess", and "age" which releases October 2nd.

Can you talk a little about what went into the making of 'The Mess'? (Elle.Morris, Vocals)
All hands were on deck in producing and writing. Plus, there was a compilation of studio gear and instruments from 3 studios that we brought to a beautiful barn in Waldoboro, Maine. We spent 10 days producing and writing ideas, pruning and refining, and then ultimately leaving with a collection of songs that we share with the world. It was a collective quarantine of sorts, to let out our thoughts, feelings, and observations of what was happening to us and around us.

I've long been a fan of your self-titled album released through Ropeadope Records in 2018: do you have fond memories of that project?
Yes and no. We began recording that album in the winter of 2016, knocked out the basic tracks in a few days and were most of the way through recording the vocals when one of our vocalists left the band. This put is in a really tough spot that took us a while to navigate out of. Eventually we had to strip most of the songs back to just the instrumentals or the most basic lyrical ideas and build them back up with the help of some of our frequent collaborators in the Philadelphia area (Prof., Zeek Burse, Khemist, Rich Quick [RIP], Ron Draper, DjNoPhrillz, etc). It was like we had to make the album twice, and while we would prefer to never have to drag a project so far through the mud before being able to complete it, I think we would all agree that it was for the better and galvanized us as a group. We ended up with a more dynamic and exciting album, we were able to feature and collaborate with some amazing artists who wouldn't have been involved otherwise, and ultimately that process led to Elle.Morris joining the band as a full time vocalist (all praise to the ILL Queen). Ultimately "The Mess", although sonically disparate, was a much more cohesive process, and I think an attentive listener will hear that difference.

Live performances seem to comprise a large part of the band's make-up: how does your music translate from the studio to the stage? (Elle.Morris, Vocals)
I'd have to say it's the acronym (I.L.ove L.iving/I.L.ove L.earning) and the mission of living, learning, and loving that anchors both experiences. They always come from a deeply genuine place and we always make our business to connect with someone, even if it's just with ourselves.

Who would be a dream artist for the band to either record or perform with? (We all answered this one, sorry if there are doubles, we interpreted this as dead or alive since we're dreaming)
Sly Stone, P-Funk, Black Thought, Betty Davis, Jay Electronica, Frank Ocean, Tobe Nwigwe, Tierra Whack, Tune-Yards, Vince Staples, Tyler the Creator, Rage Against the Machine, Run the Jewels, Royce da 5'9, all of TDE, D-Smoke, Thundercat, Yasiin Bey, Dave Chapelle, Lauryn Hill, Rapsody, Daylyt, Mick Jenkins, EarthGang, JID, Lizzo, Grizzly Bear, Kid Cudi, The Carters, Noname, Griselda, Kamauu, Madlib, IDK, serpentwithfeet, Anderson .Paak, Bad Bunny, Billie Eilish, Cardi B, Kali Uchis, Busta Rhymes, Jadakiss, George Clinton, Jorja Smith, Lupe Fiasco, Minnie Riperton, Raphael Saadiq, Princess Nokia, Sampha, Sergio Mendes, Santana, Andre 3000, 2 Chainz, Young Thug, Herbie Hancock, BadBadNotGood, Maleek Berry, Nina Simone, Prince, Quincy Jones, Notorious B.I.G., Brandy, Laura Mvula, James Blake, Bilal, Solange, Raphael Saddiq, Bobby McFerrin, Rick Rubin, Gregg Alexander, Paddy McAloon, J DILLA.

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