Meet EarthGang: the funky, rap duo bubbling in Atlanta's indie scene. They garnered attention last year with their debut mixtape, The Better Party, and such energetic performances as seen at Perfect Attendance during the A3C Festival. The release of the haunting single "Miss the Show" hammered fans' interest further. So I had to meet with Johnny Venus of the uber-talented and hilarious duo to inquire about their upcoming album Mad Men and to find out what exactly makes EarthGang tick.
Where did EarthGang come from?
Johnny Venus: The name came to me abruptly one day. It represents what we're made of and why we do what we do. It's for the people by the people. Our music is influenced by the the conscious and subconscious, and we create it to influence the like.
What's the inspiration behind your music?
JV: Life! Green pastures! Telling stories! Influencing people in positive ways and leaving lasting imprints in their memories. And of course, the spirit of pure creativity.
How did you both meet?
JV: We met in high school during a vicious rap battle sponsored by the Part-time Hall Monitors Guild. (laughs) I hope these jokes don't make us look like assholes. Seriously, we met in high school during a field trip in 10th grade. I decided to approach Doctor Dot with the proposition of starting the music group under the Shade Tree at Mays High School. He obliged.
What are your feelings on the music scene in Atlanta?
JV: It's lacking. Atlanta has lost it's identity due to the music industry. Partly because many non-native, "industry heads" have come down here and have changed the culture of our music scene and partly because the radio only plays a certain sound. The underground scene has become the same way. The hype is what determines the "dope" artists and that isn't always true. Conversely, events such as A3C, which showcase dope artists from all over the country have a certain reverence in the environment. I hear about shows all the time and it's usually the same nine or 10 artist who have ties to a promoter. The hood music scene sees radio as the only way through, so of course we imitate what we hear. But over all, the city needs something to call its own. Even artists that have mass nationwide and global appeal from the city are grouped into a category of music, not as artists from ATL. In the past, you knew when an artist was from the A. T.I., Bohagon, OutKast, TLC. Now they barely have an identity, just a "sound" that represents Atlanta. The world needs to know that Atlanta is more than a sound.
How did The Better Party come to be?
JV: The Better Party was our first time recording a full project — well, any material, for that matter. During most of the recording stage we were nomads in respect to studio space. We recorded in dorm rooms at Hampton University, closets in Atlanta, a house studio owned by "Mr. Fish" (a fellow underground Atlanta musician and member of Lee Harvey Oswald), and finally in Hampton University's Music Recording Technology Jazz studio. The work was all done by people our age ... mixed and mastered by us as well with the help of Jack Swain. It was like a quick glance at what we could do with a little time and effort.
What musicians inspire the group?
JV: Dope musicians! Musicians who aren't scared to be bold with their creativity. If you sound like someone told you to make a certain type of record we don't listen to you. And trust us, it isn't hard to distinguish between the two. Music is a form of expression first and foremost.
There's a lot of style on your tracks. How important is style to you?
JV: Accidental style is important. When we create, our goal is to set the listener in a mood for each track. That may be why The Better Party was so damn all over the place. But the style is all a part of the execution. You'll hear who we are, where we're from, and what sounds we like through our music. We pay attention to details.
How was it performing at A3C's Perfect Attendance?
JV: Fucking awesome! The place just felt reverent and vibed-out once we started — a ritual of sorts. We did four songs and each one took the crowd into a different state of mind. After a song there would be a hush over the room kind of like they didn't know what to expect next and we'd just hit them with some more crazy stuff. Our goal is to create music which, when heard, makes the listener respond with a phrase as close to "WHAT THE FUCK IS THIS?" as possible.
Describe your live shows.
JV: Too live for jive. We really haven't even begun to rock the crowds like we will. Most of the shows we do are to new fans and they love them, so imagine what they'll be like when you fans start to learn the words. We're energetic, vibrant, insane. We like a lot of rock artists and they were the originators of "stadium status," so we're just trying to make them proud.
What's EarthGang cooking up next?
JV: What we are about to do will rock this city, country, the world, only with help from you all. Our time table is to kick start the newly revamped website, which will keep fans up-to-date on music, videos, shows, secret giveaways, and of course buying our cool ass EarthGang shirts. Secondly, drop the music video for "Kick'n It" (track No. 6 on The Better Party feat. Jid).
JV: Thirdly, drop our next single "OPIUM." It's too dope! Before that, you all should download "Miss the Show," a song we released last November. Lastly, our second album Mad Men will be released during the spring/summer of 2011. It will be beneficial to your survival, especially as a true ATLien and Creative Loafing reader.
How did EarthGang cook up "Miss The Show"? What was the inspiration?
JV: The beat, which is extremely foolish, was given, yes given, to us by Hussle Simmons, another Hamptonian from the great city of Baltimore, Md. The first time we played the song through my monitors in our dorm room was the rainiest, most gloomy day of the semester. Our room flooded, school was having its way with us, and the instrumental played all day on loop. We mopped our floor up to it, went out into the heavy rain to it, cleaned our wet clothes up to it, and cleaned our conscious to it. It was therapeutic, as music should be. This divine order, which brought the rain, this track, the floods, and these thoughts our way was the creation of the song.
You've garnered comparisons to OutKast and even De La Soul. How do you feel about comparisons?
JV: We pay them no mind now. Earlier in our career we would address them as need be, but we're confident in our sound. It is us, it will sound like us, and it will affect you only as we want it to. So we aren't worried the least bit about a glass ceiling. But these comparisons do assure us that we're over here jamming!
Where will EarthGang be in 10 years?
JV: On the scene like the dust on your TV screen.
Nashville has more dive bars than ATL now that sucks. tbh i think that new…
*Christ, Lord sorry
"Punk" style like this seems like it is the polar opposite of punk. Bradford Cox…
They're kind of starting to look like a joke of themselves. Song's good though.