Usually when a band takes a four year hiatus to work on solo projects and other interests, the likelihood of a, for the lack of better word, reunion is pretty slim. Thankfully, Oakland natives, Crown City Rockers, are breaking that mold and very proud to announce the completion the groups third, yes I said third, full length album, The Day After Forever. From Boston to Oakland, this five piece live hip hop group proves once again that they are not just a funk band with an MC.
With Max MacVeety supplying the spine with the drums, Headnodic pumping the blood with bass tones that will make any full gown man weep, Kat O1O filling the organs with keys, Woodstock producing skin and bones on the MPC, and Raashan Ahmad spitting out the heart and soul on the mic, you end up with a complete body of true experienced hip hop. Before the CD release party on October 2nd at the Independent in San Francisco, I sat down with Raashan and talked about how it’s been performing with the group again.
Interview by Jon Hermison
So the Crown City Rockers are back on the road again?
Actually we just back in town, back in Oakland, a couple days ago, and we're gonna head back out again soon.
It's funny, we're not on a particular tour but we're always out doing shows.
You're not doing these crazy half year long tours anymore though?
Yeah man, we're not doing that right now but playing live is still probably the best part about it, ya know.
Definitely. And with these shows the band is promoting their third full length, The Day After Forever, right?
Yeah man, yeah, We're all super stoked on it, it's been about 4 years since the last one we did.
Oh wow, that's quite a break.
Yeah, we all took a break and focused on some side projects; playing with other groups and artists.
Yeah I know that you did your own thing for a bit and Kat O1O did an album on her own too right?
That's right, you know, Headnodic produced a Mighty Underdogs album, I've been doing shows, Kat's been doing shows and Max, the drummer, helped on the last Zion I record. He's been getting drums on lots of tracks so yeah we've all been busy. But it's good to get out there and extend our arms, ya know, try to get our Wu-Tang on.
As soon as I caught wind of you guys back in the studio, I was amped.
Thanks man. Yeah all that stuff helped to make this record, like all the tricks that Headnodic learned with other artists. For me, with the help of my solo stuff, I've worked on my breath control and my confidence on stage has gotten a lot better. I think all the things we done in our side projects, including Kat, who went full fledge into production. She brought a whole new level of freshness to the group! All that experience has made everyone's skill level higher coming into this album.
That's a good point; it's like when you leave home, your comfort zone, you can learn a lot more and expand yourself.
Yeah exactly. It's also like once you leave home you start to appreciate your parents more, ya know? We're all so excited to be back in the same room and playing music again. It just feels so good to share all the jewels we got from our solo stuff, and each of us being like ‘oh that's fresh, where'd you learn that?’
Do you guys try to keep it even between what Max is doing on the live drums and what Woodstock is doing on MPC?
Actually I think that everyone in the band has a beat machine but we keep it pretty even, sometimes mixing it together. Some tracks are literally us jamming in the room and some are mainly programmed. But that also goes back to the solo careers because Kat was doing a lot of keys and synthesized stuff and she brought that back over with her. Plus Max played with a lot of groups and even took some lessons and super improved and we're all feeding off it.
It's great to see someone progress even if it seems like they already know their instrument well, they can always keep improving.
Yeah man, it's crazy, no one in this group is ever satisfied with themselves and we're aware of not only what level we want be at but also what being a professional means. We're gonna keep pushing because we've all
seen great musicians play and we want to be at that level.
How's the crowd been taking to the new tracks and how does the group feel about them?
It's crazy man, we're so critical of ourselves, ya know? We'll be coming off stage and the crowd is super amped and screaming for an encore and we're like 'man I can't believe I missed my cue on that song." We're always chasing to get better. We played some stuff over in Eugene, Or. and it went over really well. Just with the experience of touring, we all know that the more we play something the more comfortable and relaxed we are with it. So far so good though, man. The fan response has been great and we're all happy to have something new.
Apart from using each others solo experiences, is there any specific direction that the group is trying to reach with "The Day After Forever"?
We took a long time with it; went into a really nice studio and recorded a lot of the record, and at the end of the day a lot of the stuff we recorded was really dope, but it lacked some of that grit and grind that we all love. So we went back to Headnodic's house and recorded some there and then recorded some on tour in vans and hotel rooms. The direction we want to take is to make something timeless, you know? Stuff we were recording before was current but trends keep coming and going so we wanted to make something that--regardless if you listen to it now, a year or three years from now--it's still good music and fresh. We just wanted to make a solid piece of work, and we feel like we have it.
That's always a challenge, to make something timeless.
Yeah man, true. You never know how long a trend is gonna last. We try to be conscious of that because we don't want to make something that is super now, because things change in a day.
Pretty soon all MCs are gonna be looking like LL Cool J via 1986 with tank tops and fishing hats.
For real man. I was talking to a girl about some show she went to, I asked here how it was and she said it was okay but all the guys were wearing skinny jeans, and that's old news. I thought skinny jeans were still in. the funny thing is even if she's wrong she might not be in a week.
Skinny jeans out, Cross Colors in!
Ha, yeah I'm waiting for Cross Colors man, it's only a matter of time.
Going with other hard things to do, with the band having that live hip-hop sound, how hard is it to transfer that vibe and atmosphere into tracks?
It's getting easier, the hard thing is keeping it sounding hip-hop. You only hear of a few live hip-hop bands, but when we tour, we find that there are a lot of bands out there! Some end up sounding like a funk band that hired an MC, and not all these cats came together with hip-hop in mind. We don't wanna be a funk band with a rapper, we want to make sure it's sounds right. The music is important to all us and we want to represent it correctly.
I've noticed through seeing you guys live and listening to tracks that you're reinstituting the theory that hip-hop can be fun and full of positive energy. What influenced this?
That's just our take on hip-hop and how it makes us feel. At the beginning and the end of the day it's still music, and people just need have fun with it man. That's why we're in this, that's what attracted us to it, and that's just the way I am naturally.
To make a career out it is even better.
Yeah, just the fact that people will pay us to play our instruments and perform, is a blessing.
When the band moved to Oakland from Boston did that change the content and vibe of your music?
It’s kinda hard to say you know, because you don't always realize that you're changing, you're just in the moment. But I think East Coast music just has a more Winter feel, it just makes you wanna put on Timberland boots and a hoodie. But when you live in Cali, it's all sunny and you just want to get outside and that does effect the music. It's just different. Besides that I believe that the Bay Area is just great for artists, the art is in the sands. The whole area is very active and a great scene to be a part of and we're very grateful.
Every time I see you guys perform it's always better than the time before, it never plateaus. Just the vibe itself man, always entertaining.
That's great to hear man, that's definitely what we're going for.
So when is the public gonna hear this album?
Well it was September 29th, but it changed to October 2nd at the Independent In San Francisco. So come check it out. You gonna come out?
Yeah man, I’ll be the one up front with the camera. Is there another break after this?
No man, no chillin. One of our biggest goals is to never take this long to put out another record again. We're always going to be recording and playing live.