Here’s a clip of indie singer-songwriter/hip-hop outfit Common Grackle, with the singer-songwriter aspect covered nicely by indie-pop proponent Gregory Pepper and the hip-hop textures as laid down by producer Factor. Yet, is the stylistic split as easy as that? Probably not. What the collaboration signifies most is the seamlessness between styles. As such, this is a true 21st Century concern where genres mean very little, and with this song being the title track to the full-length The Great Depression.
Another aspect of all of this is how the record was made, involving less garage space, and more Internet bandwidth. The two artists built the record together, with musical ideas added by way of file sharing. With the meeting of pop melody and crackling beats together with psychedelic sonic swirls that evoke pop tributaries spanning the decades, one can only conclude that it’s its own thing, offering some of the features of what’s been laid down before, but ultimately unbound by any one genre. And we haven’t even got around to talking about the lyrics, heavy with irony and dark comic timing.
After the record was popped in the post for me, and after a spin or two, I talked to the guys via email about musical divisions of labour, undercutting listener expectations (aka “fucking with people”), beer accessibility quotients from city to city, and about their live shows.
The Delete Bin: This record is in defiance to the idea that the rock world and the hip-hop world are two divergent musical streams. Yet, at the same time, the songs seem to invite the listener to be aware of the tension between the two. How deliberate was this dynamic when you were putting the record together?
Common Grackle: We knew what we were getting into; no grand expectations. Pepper writes these melodies and plays traditional “rock” instruments, and Factor makes beats and messes around with samples.
DB: Undercutting listener expectations seems to be a thread running through the songs, with a song like “At the Grindcore Show” being a delicate ballad, and titles like “Thank God It’s Monday”, to the contrast in that song between deadpan vocal delivery and a lyric like “all you honeys give a little honey to your homeboy”. How does cultural subversion fit in to what you’re doing on this record?
CG: I guess we like to fuck with people, if that’s what you mean. As far as specific phrases and imagery, pepper’s lyrics are often sincere, but scarcely ever literal.
CG: There was a sense of competition that grew throughout the process, trying to impress the other guy with a new overdub. I think it expedited the recording process, and also kickstarted a siblingesque rivalry that continues to this day.
DB: In addition to your own work on this, the record also features rappers Ceschi and Kool Keith. Tell me about how their contributions added to how you first envisioned the songs?
CG: Ceschi is our labelmate and homie, and we hooked up with Big Willie Smith through a mutual friend. We weren’t sure what they were going to add to the mix but we had the utmost trust, and definitely weren’t disappointed.
DB: You’re based in Guelph, Ontario after having spent time on a more competitive Montreal scene. How did your experiences in both cities affect the album?
CG: I (Pepper) had a lot of fun in Montreal, but the solitude of Camp Pepper is where I get down to business. The main difference was that you could buy beer at all hours in Montreal, but it’s privatized here in Ontario. This machine kills fascists, and runs on booze.
DB: You’re touring at the moment. What can audiences expect from your live show?
CG: It’s a sort of fake four showcase so we share a big, long set with Ceschi and Louis Logic, playing a bit on each others tunes. You can expect a lot of screaming from Pepper and a lot of dropouts from Factor. Fucking party hard!
Common Grackle play Shine here in Vancouver, Feb. 10
For more information, check out Common Grackle on MySpace.