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Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Fresh Cut Collective's Live Hip-Hop

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Fresh Cut Collective took their time when they began recording their new album last fall, precisely tracking the drums and then layering bass, guitar, keyboards and vocals over them piece by piece. After several months of that slow, meticulous process, they tossed out those recordings and started from scratch.

"They just didn't sound right," says keyboardist/rapper Kiran Vee. "Something was missing from them. The energy and the character of our band wasn't there. So in January we sat down and talked about it, and we realized that because our band is so much about our chemistry as players, the only way to really capture that was to record the album live. We borrowed a friend's reel-to-reel recorder and did the whole album in three days in our rehearsal space at the Hide House."

Vee says the resulting album, Re-Frame (Part One), does justice to the band's live show—which was crucial, since Fresh Cut Collective is first and foremost a live band. The group's mix of synth-driven hip-hop and funk-minded rock is crafted with audiences in mind, and Vee raps in messages to the crowd. To understand the band, Vee says, you need to see the band live. "Even when the band first started out, we were playing for a year and a half before we put out an album, since we were more concerned about the live show," he says. "Our records are there to put our music out there and give people something to listen to, so they can get to know the songs better and really hear the lyrics, but having an audience is what we really feed off of."

Re-Frame (Part One)
is Fresh Cut Collective's second record, following their 2010 debut, a self-titled album that Vee describes as more of a studio creation. "The process of making our first album was really detached and drawn out," he says. "We did a ton of post-production work on it. We still really like that record, but it lacks a fullness. It doesn't hit me in my gut when I listen to it, unlike our new album, which really sounds like musicians in a room playing together. When you listen to the new one, it just feels like you're right there."

The more obvious difference between the two albums, though, is the change of emcees. The group's original rapper, Adebisi, took off for New York in 2010—he's since released a couple of impressive mixtapes, including last year's Blaxploitation—leaving Vee to inherit microphone duties. "I had been rhyming since high school, and it was always something I wanted to do, so when Adebisi left it was this great opportunity," Vee says. "That was the perfect time for me to step in, though it was a challenge for me, since the band already had a following. I spent a lot of time on my own, honing my style, so I could step up to the plate right away."

Adebisi was a strong presence, and his blunt flow was usually the center of attention when he was with the band. Vee's flow is slinkier and more pliable, bending itself to parallel each track's groove. Since Adebisi's departure, Fresh Cut Collective sounds less like a band backing a rapper than just a band, period, which is how Vee says he always envisioned the group.

"We all come from different musical backgrounds, so everyone brings their own taste to the band," he says. "Hip-hop is great because it lets you combine all those different styles into one format. So it's only natural that we call ourselves hip-hop, even though we're not really part of the hip-hop scene. We're not part of any scene, which we really like. We've played shows where we're on the bill with all rock bands, and shows where we're on the bill with all emcees and DJs. For me, having some kind of universal appeal is really important."

Fresh Cut Collective plays a 9 p.m. album release show at the Miramar Theatre on Friday, March 30, with Toussaint Morrison, Safari Al and DJ Tarik the Architect.
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