Hydrophonics: Band Purgatory
Saint Cloud’s largest drawing hip-hop band Hydrophonics play a rare live show on Saturday at Pizza Luce’.
Five years old now and several breakup/reunion shows aside, Hydrophonics remains one of the tightest hip-hop bands in Minnesota. They have bongos and a hippie feeling that is almost dread-locked Beastie Boy in nature with a flare for the Rage on occasion. Incorporating many influences and styles, they create a solid beat that will make anyone shake a tail-feather.
“We have a fluid sound,” JJ (Josh Johnson) of Hydrophonics said. “A mix of hip-hop, funk, rock, reggae and everything in between.”
They also were broken up for some time, or maybe just changing strategies.
“As far as being broken up, I would put us more in a state of purgatory right now,” Michael Omega of Hydrophonics said. “We are basically just rocking out locally ( St. Cloud area) for the time being. You could say we only do it for the money, but that would exclude all of the womanizing.”
Hydrophonics is a large band with many members. For M.C.'s they have Q (Shawn Kroll), JJ (Josh Johnson), and Jay (Jeremiah Mckee) on the mic. The band itself consists of guitarist Rosco (Cory Watson), bassist Travis Colgrove, percussion and vocalist Crappy (Justin Cappola), and on drums and vocals Michael Omega (Michael Loren).
Having so many people in the band creates great diversity in what they play at shows. Hydro covers Pink Floyd’s “Another Brick in the Wall" and then will move to Snoop Dogg, The Gorillaz, or Rage Against the Machine.
Hydrophonics lives and breathes hip-hop though, making it a part of their identity.
“Hip-hop is a way of life,” JJ said. “It's an attitude… It's about using what's around you to make something unique. Hip-hop is more than something you do, it's who you are.”
The members of Hydrophonics don’t just throw it down in one band, with many being involved in other side projects. This may be a possible source for the lack of recent Hydro shows, or life might just be getting busier for the band.
“It seems like all of us are involved in music at some level,” Omega said. “A couple of us are involved in ownership of a recording studio. Then Q, Crappy and I have a hip-hop group called Gigantic Mechanix with dreams of a summer album. Travis plays bass in a classic rock cover band called the Electric Almighty, Rosco is doing a solo album, and Crappy is also in a group called Liquid. I drum in a group called Simplicia, and occasionally with another called Sick Machine. Q and Crappy also tour with a Rage Against the Machine Tribute Band, and JJ just had a baby.”
One noticeable change to the band’s sound and line up is that they don’t have an organ player anymore. This creates a different feel to the group and moves them in a slightly different direction.
“Having no keyboards has been sort of a relief,” Omega said. “It opens us up to focus more on simplicity and vocals. I'm sure it would feel like a curse if I were to produce a new EP or album, 'cuz I'm totally obsessed with synths.”
With these changes, Omega feels that the new songs the band is writing are going in a new direction. He promised that at the Duluth show there would be at least one new tune to be unleashed.
Hydrophonics has recorded two spectacular studio albums previously, utilizing effects and splashes of voice-overs mixed with great tunes. Their latest disc is a 5 song EP titled, Learning Curve.
Similar to TBT’s popularity in Duluth, Hydrophonics never has a show in St. Cloud that has less than a few hundred fans. Their song, “Benton County Fair", is a hip-hop rip on small town fairs and the best song in hip-hop today.
“Our goal is simple,” JJ said. “We strive to bring the Hydrophonics experience to as many people as possible via any and all avenues.”
Crew Jones and Ray the Wolf will also be playing at Luce’ with Hydro. So get out and watch some great Duluth and St. Cloud hip-hop bands this Saturday, you never know when it might be the last show.
Hydrophonics On Duluth
I asked Chavo from the Alrights about the Hydrophonics bus and he told me a story about their winter tour. He said, “The Hydro bus trip was crazy, the steering column was all loose, the tire pressure was half of what it was supposed to be… No heat, dead winter… The lights went out while we were driving about 65 mph in the dark. We had to pull over and they rewired the lights to stay on the whole time. Pretty damn scary for the first ride on the Hydro bus. We look back now and laugh that we made it."
Three years old now, Hydrophonics have one of the tightest rock/funk bands in the Minnesota Hip-Hop scene today. At the Cabooze last month Jay took the mic and did some freestyling with the flow of a master. They have Bongos and a hippie feeling too that is almost dread-locked Beastie Boy in nature with a flare for the Rage on occasion. They incorporate many influences and styles into a fluid sound that will make anyone shake a tail-feather. They cover Pink Floyd’s “Another Brick in the Wall" live, and have already recorded two great albums. Both albums use effects and splashes of voice-overs mixed with great tunes. Their latest disc is a 5 song EP titled Learning Curve and just dropped a few weeks ago. Hydro is the Trampled By Turtles of St. Cloud (by that I mean their popularity, not their type of music) and never have shows in town that are less than a few hundred fans. Their song “Benton County Fair" is a hip-hop rip on small town fairs and is the best song in Hip-hop today, HANDS DOWN. Hear it and tell me I’m wrong, I dare you.
This week Hydrophonics comes to Pizza Luce with local faves The Alrights on Saturday, May 28. I had a chance to talk to JJ (MC) from Hydro about the band’s music, the bus, and even Duluth .
Andrew: So how did you guys get hooked up with The Alrights?
JJ: Through mutual friends. We loved their boyish charm and they were mesmerized by our rugged good looks. At first it was strictly platonic, but it started getting sexy shortly thereafter. It's truly a match made in heaven.
Andrew: Any memories of Duluth ?
JJ: Yeah. There was this kid who came and checked out the show and afterwards he was hanging with us around the bus as we loaded. Suddenly, like some mini-Spiderman he scales the side of the bus and perches himself on top. After the proverbial drum roll, he does a 360 back flip and lands square on his feet. It was rad.
Andrew: What does Hip-hop mean to you?
JJ: Hip-hop is a way of life. It's an attitude. It's about using what's around you to make something unique. Hip-hop is more than something you do, it's who you are.
Andrew: Where is everyone from?
JJ: We are all from planet earth, North America to be more precise.
Andrew: What are you guys going for as a band?
JJ: Our goal is simple. We strive to bring the Hydrophonics experience to as many people as possible via any and all avenues.
Andrew: How would you describe Hydrophonics’ music?
JJ: Hydrophonics is fluid sound, a mix of hip-hop, funk, rock, reggae and everything in between.
Andrew: How did you come up with a hip-hop band in St. Cloud ?
JJ: At first we thought, maybe we should be a country-disco band?? Then we figured, why not start an acoustic-thrash metal band?? But those ideas seemed rash and incoherent. So we decided to do what we knew how to do, which is create the fluid sound we’ve become known for.
Andrew: Any of the songs about love?
JJ: One of our newer songs, “On My Way," is about the complexities of love and life. It’s a story of love lost and the lessons learned in the process.
Andrew: Why haven't you made a recording of "Benton County Fair" yet?
JJ: Sad songs and waltzes aren’t selling this year. But seriously, we are very particular about the songs we record and how they fit within the context of what we are doing. Keep your ears peeled however, we hope to have “Benton County Fair" laid down by the time the namesake rolls through our town, which is later this summer.
Andrew: How can people learn more about Hydrophonics?
JJ: Come experience a live show, check us out atwww.hydrophonicsmusic.net, or come to our houses and peep in our windows at night.