If Random wanted to be any more the opposite of mainstream rap, he'd probably have to take up the banjo and start playing country music. A middle-school social studies teacher by day, Random writes hip-hop music that is devoid of profanity, misogyny, violence and (thankfully) Auto-Tune. Instead, Random's hip-hop output is divided between conscious rap in the vein of Blackalicious and the Roots and his "nerdcore" alter-ego, Mega Ran. On his Mega Ran concept albums, Random takes on the persona of the legendary 8-bit video game character Mega Man, utilizing samples from the classic video game series and weaving storylines about Dr. Light, Dr. Wily, and the numerous foes he must defeat. If it all sounds a little convoluted (and a lot nerdy), that's because it is. But it's also some of the most original music to come out of the Valley in years, hip-hop or otherwise.
Normally, if you're a band looking for a catchy name, you might want to avoid a word as difficult to spell and pronounce as "hemoptysis." If, however, you happen to be a retro thrash metal band and the definition of said word is "the expectoration [coughing up] of blood or of blood-stained sputum from the bronchi, larynx, trachea, or lungs," well, you're probably just feeling lucky than nobody else beat you to it. Despite a name that doesn't exactly roll off the tongue, Hemoptysis has accomplished an awful lot for an unsigned band formed in 2007. They've already released a five-song EP that earned high marks from New Times' decidedly non-metal music editor, Martin Cizmar, and their Web site features a laundry list of sponsors and endorsements from high-profile companies like Peavey and Jackson. A gig at SxSW is just the icing on the cake for these up-and-comers.
Phoenix grindcore throwbacks Landmine Marathon may be one of the most unlikely bands to land a SxSW slot. First, they're an extreme metal band playing a festival that is largely geared toward the indie rock/hipster set. Second, they didn't even apply for the festival. Bassist Matt Martinez had no idea that the band's label, Prosthetic Records, had sent applications for several of its acts until he received an e-mail saying they'd been accepted. "We weren't looking to make industry contacts," says Martinez. "We're not looking for a manager. We're not looking to get signed." Maybe not, but with second billing on the Prosthetic Records showcase, a crushing new album and lead screamer Grace Perry's undeniable sex appeal, Landmine Marathon is sure to leave Austin with quite a few more additions to their steadily growing fanbase.
PIGEON RELIGION PIGEON RELIGION PIGEON RELIGION PIGEON A week or two ago, one of the posts on our blog, www.PHXmusic.com, offended a Pigeon Religion fan. How do we know that? Well, someone typed the band's name approximately eleventy-billion times into a comment on the post, disabling it. That's par for the course. Officially classified by SxSW as "punk," the willfully obnoxious noise band is certainly adept at making a hell of a racket, which you can hear on one of the cassette tapes they sell. Yes, cassette tapes. The band's own missives tell you a lot about them: "Pijin Rilijin is in the stuudio right now recoording and I would like to foormaally say that this will blow the minds off eeveryone. Druug rock at its fiinest, this record will challenge everything you know about how songs are suppose to be written and how music should be listened to." If the band's goal is just to challenge everything I know about music, their mission is definitely done.
This is going to be a controversial statement: Miniature Tigers do not live in Phoenix. Now, obviously, pointing out that this delightfully twee-ish indie band, which is appearing at SxSW for a second consecutive year, moved to Brooklyn seems innocuous. Not so. It'll probably prompt brilliant but temperamental singer Charlie Brand to shit-talk us on Twitter, angry that we mentioned his band's move to NYC even though they're billing themselves from "Phoenix, AZ" on official SxSW documents. That's okay. We're excited enough to hear, Fortress, the follow-up to Tell It to the Volcano that we'll brave Charlie's scorn to bring him publicity. Though, again, he doesn't actually live here anymore, regardless of what SxSW.com says.
The Summer Set
If you're not up to speed on local pretty-boy pop-punk bands, you may not know that The Maine is already old news. Actually, those guys — who jumped from indie-ish Fearless Records to Warner Bros. after making a huge splash at SxSW, the AP Tour, and Warped Tour last year — have already written a memoir, if you can believe it. The new hotness? Scottsdale's The Summer Set, who is also biding their time on Fearless. Lead singer Brian Dales is a gossip generator, having dated Chelsea Staub, who's starred on the Jonas Brothers sitcom and in Bratz: the Movie. He wrote a song about her ("Chelsea," he creatively titled it) and got her to appear in the video before they split late last year. Love Like This, their full-length debut, came out in October, which means we probably only have a few months to wait before their first memoir is printed.