I recall a few years ago talking with a filmmaker friend who remarked that the greatest fault any work of art could commit is to be boring, because despite its message or intentions, it fails to hold the attention of the viewer. Art, he said, is consumed in a person's free time, and its first objective— above all else— should be to entertain.
stand as an antithesis to this warning. If you had to sum up this psychedelic rap-rock foursome in one word, it would be "entertainers." Composed of vocalist Bobby Franklin, bassist Brandon Howard, guitarist Olando da Silva, and drummer Andres "Panama" Romero, xDefinition's shows are as unpredictable as they are captivating—an explosive collision of lyrical and musical improvisation with off-the-cuff, highenergy showmanship. Forming less than a year ago last July, their sound can best be described as a blend of Rage Against the Machine (Franklin formerly fronted local RATM cover band Know Your Enemy), the Red Hot Chili Peppers, early-'90s 311, and Jimi Hendrix (evidenced by da Silva's soulful guitar playing).
Where Y'at sat down with Franklin, da Silva and Panama to discuss their live shows, their debut album, and the state of rock music today.
WYAT: I hear a huge 90s alternative rock influence in your music, as well as many other up-and-coming New Orleans alt. rock acts. Would you say this era has had an impact on your sound?
da Silva: The early 90s was the last great breaking point for rock—Soundgarden, Pearl Jam, Rage Against the Machine, The Deftones. You don't see groundbreaking, original bands like that anymore. Most [rock] music since, it's too overproduced. There are too many gimmicks, and the lyrics aren't there.
WYAT: I definitely hear a lot of Rage influence.
da Silva: I was a big Guns 'N Roses fan back then. I remember I was skateboarding, and a friend of mine called me over and said, "Orlando, you've got to come hear this." He would always come up with the worst bands ever, but I was like, go ahead, play it. He played "Killing in the Name Of"…I had him replay it so many times he was to the point of kicking me out of his house. I can never forget that day. Bobby: For me it was "Bullet in the Head." I remember I was 11 years old. I had never heard anything like it.
WYAT: Bobby (Franklin), you toured with Know Your Enemy, a Rage Against the Machine cover band these past few years. What made you want to stop and form an original band?
Bobby: [Know Your Enemy] was income. As much as I loved doing it, after a while, if you start off as an original musician and vocalist, it's hard to keep doing someone else's art. da Silva: Making music is a job. I've been in many bands where the members just didn't relate—I did it for money. There are many bands that just clock in and do the show because it's their job. You can hate your boss, but you still show up for work because you have to make a living. The difference now is I love these guys...we can laugh off little disagreements. Franklin: This is the first band I've been in where there is not one bad bone in the body. Everyone's positive—it gives us confidence.
WYAT: What do you do to set your live show apart from other local acts?
Franklin: As a frontman and a vocalist, I want to bring a lot of energy to my performances —I want it to be a show. da Silva: What you remember most about a vocalist is the personality in their voice. This guy (Franklin) is incredible. As a frontman, he loses himself on stage, which allows me to lose myself in my performance. I don't need to put on a show if my frontman is doing his job. Franklin: When you get up on stage and start playing, and every eye is on you, you know you've got to bring it. As the show goes on, you've got to continually keep building it up—it's a rollercoaster. You're an entertainer, and your job is to entertain.
WYAT: How would you describe your fanbase?
da Silva: What I like about our crowds is the mix. You get the rap crowd, the rock crowd, the funk crowd. You'll have a punk rocker standing next to a hippy. But everyone is there for the same show—it's all one energy. Franklin: We perform regularly at the Blue Nile. I remember we got off stage and someone was like, "You guys played like there were a million people in the audience"… I think there were 70 that night. And that's what we like to do every time.
WYAT: What has been your biggest show to date?
Franklin: We played the main stage at the House of Blues with locals The Scorseses and Luke Starkiller…I'd played The Parish room for many years with many other bands. It was something to finally play the main stage; the crowd was incredible. It was like we'd made it....
WYAT: On your fusion of styles, hip-hop and funk are two styles that are wildly open to improvisation. How much does that play into your shows?
Franklin: Being a hip-hop vocalist, I grew up (rap) battling people in the streets. If the band brings the beats, I'll know what to do with it. da Silva: A large part of the House of Blues show was improvised, maybe 50 percent. Franklin: It makes every show unique. I watch a lot of bands and while every show may be great, it's the same thing. Your live presence is just as important as writing and recording. You need to keep it fresh. When you improvise, you are entering a totally different realm. You are in the moment.
da Silva: This is particularly true for us - we never practice improvisation. Whatever is happening on stage, each musician will have to stop and listen to it and react; we are in the same position as the crowd.
Franklin: That speaks to our group dynamic. You definitely take a chance when you improvise—you put yourself out on a limb.
Plenty of bands like to play it safe though. That's not us - we improvised that House of Blues show and we rocked it. da Silva: I think that is the problem with rock today. Bands spend all this time working to write the perfect song. It leaves no room for growth. We like to have fun—our energy comes from trying new things on stage. You don't get that on a record.
WYAT: Speaking of recording, you have a record release coming up at the end of this month. How are things coming along?
da Silva: We have two songs left to finalize. Franklin: Our album is currently being mixed by a producer called Chop, who did Wiz Khalifa's album. Wiz's album is amazing; however, we told him we don't want our album to have that glossy, over-produced club sound. We want it to retain the raw, grittiness of our live shows.
WYAT: What is the one thing you would like to achieve with your music?
Franklin: For us, it's all about making good music, putting on a great show and entertaining the crowd.
da Silva: I remember in '96 going to Reading Festival and seeing Rage perform for 25,000 people. 25,000! Every single one of them were jumping. I had never seen anything like that before—I want that.
Franklin: That will be us one day.
xDefinition's debut album release party is May 25 at The Parish—House Of Blues. Opening acts include Enharmonic Souls, Punch Drunk Apollo, Darel Poche and Remedy Krewe.