This past Friday night, those in attendance at Charlotte’s Visulite Theatre were treated to a wide array of musical flavors uniting under one roof, Voltron style. Given the diversity and talent of the artists on the ticket, it’s hard to imagine that any true music fan could have left the venue uninspired by at least one of the performers on display.
Starting out the night was Red Jesse, a local Charlotte artist who showcased his versatility by splitting his set into equal parts MC and band leader of The Dead Men. Red Jesse has been hitting the local scene hard in recent months in advance of a solo album due out next month, so be on the lookout…he might be coming for you.
Next up were fellow Charlotteans and fan favorites Chasing Pedestrians. These guys seem to get better and better every time I see them perform, showcasing the sultry, soulful vocals of Michaela Amato and funky riffs of Steven Gilmore. In my opinion, it’s just a matter of time before the immense and limitless talent of this band, who isn’t far removed from high school, is discovered in full.
Following Chasing Pedestrians was action packed, in-your-face Brooklyn-based rockers Shinobi Ninja. It’s been a couple years since I last saw Shinobi perform, and to be honest, that might be a good thing. The energy they bring to the stage each and every night could easily result in unexpected heart failure. I’m convinced these guys have an IV of Red Bull (or maybe something more organic…) pumping through their veins.
Last up to the stage was Brody & Choch. The Charlotte brothers came out dressed in some questionable attire, but thankfully their spanx managed to keep everything in place. The duo was able to close out the night in typical fashion, mixing in their hip hop flavor across both self-produced and classic tracks.
I was able to catch up with the good people of Shinobi Ninja after the show to talk about past, present and future topics. See what they had to say below.
Shutter 16 (S16): You are a few stops into the 23 city Escape From New York tour, bringing the house down in Charlotte last Friday. How does it feel to be back on the road playing to your fans for the first time since the Gloom Doom tour last fall?
Duke Sims (DA): Very nice. This is when you tape up and enter the ball game. Touchdown kiddddddd!
DJ Axis Powers (AP): We love playing live shows and bringing our music to our fans.
Baby G (BG): Personally for me, I’m not a fan of touring in the winter. Of course, though, I’d rather be touring than working my side job!
Maniak Mike (MM): It’s like coming home to a loyal, doting girlfriend. Every night.
Alien Lex (AL): It feels great to play anywhere for anyone that’s into it and wants to party with us.
Terminator Dave (TD): It’s the spice!! We really hustle for every moment on tour and when we get out here, that’s the reward.
S16: You’re teaming up with local Charlotte hip hop act Brody & Choch for a good number of the upcoming tour stops. You’ve toured with them several times in the past few years, how did you first get connected?
TD: Giovani Gonzales from Kidnice Entertainment put together a show at The Evening Muse with us and Brody and Choch…they rocked! We dug their show and music. Then came the trees…the inside jokes, secret handshakes, and good times. Love those guys!
MM: We started rocking shows with those dudes a few years ago and our collective vibe was positive beyond measurement. We had to continue the party.
DA: They sent us a pic of them in bed holding hands. They were looking for brother love. That’s what brought us together. They were looking to bro bang switch.
S16: What’s the draw, both for Shinobi and your fans, to play with a hip hop act like B&C versus a more rock-oriented band?
MM: Diversity is the key to EVERYTHING. Just as long as vibes comply, we would share the stage with anyone.
AP: Brody and Choch have an amazing energy when they perform. It’s great to have tour mates that can bring it every time, whether they’re on before us or after us.
TD: A lot of our style comes from the “Boom Bap” golden-era hip hop influence and that’s a place where B&C really hold it down. They compliment our set and add to it! We can bring a different element than just hip hop or just rock, so playing with groups that are complimentary but not the same makes it a way better show.
S16: You guys call Brooklyn home, what’s the best and worst part about being in a band there?
BG: We love Brooklyn! Who wouldn’t want to represent Bk?! The thing about being a band from NY is that you have to compete with the big city. The city is congested with musicians, artists and bands that all want the same thing, to succeed.
DA: It costs a lot to live in NYC. There are a lot of bands, and people think all Brooklyn bands are hipster bands. That ain’t real.
AL: Brooklyn is the roots. But home, home is a state of mind. I feel at home crashing on a friend’s floor in NC, or eating pizza at L&B’s in Bensonhurst. It is what it is.
TD: The environment is the best…there’s so much culture and mixing of art, people, existence of all kinds of venues big to small within a small radius, tons of musicians and artists. It’s motivating to exist within all of this! It definitely gets you thinking about what sets you apart from the crowd.
S16: Looking back to 2013, what was the most memorable experience for the band?
DA: Releasing videos. Releasing material. 2012 was all about recording…it’s good to let the dribble drabble.
AL: Definitely the High School Nation tour on the west coast. We played in front of 15,000 people over the course of three weeks. Contemplate a mobile Warped Tour that shows up at your school, complete with bands and a legit stage. The kids were amped yo, they loved it. We’ve never been blessed with such an awesome opportunity before to play for so many amazing kids with great energy.
BG: We got to open up at SXSW for George Clinton and Erykah Badu! It was such a great experience.
TD: Opening for George Clinton at SXSW…yeah that’s the highlight of my year, maybe my life! Sharing the stage with one of my idols made me feel like a rock star!!
S16: Any crazy fan experiences you can recall from the last year?
TD: Our homie Guicemann, who we met on tour a couple years back, made us these prototype custom Shinobi Ninja kicks this past December. We decided to make a run of them together and take them on tour with us and they’re selling man!! It’s a new era when fans like Guice can make such a difference in our band’s life.
MM: Yes, but they’re X-rated, and if I told you those fans would be very mad.
DA: Our lawyers have advised us to not answer that question.
S16: A new music video was just released this past Friday for “One Time For The Radio,” the third single off the long anticipated Escape From New York album. Your fans want to know, when is the album going to hit shelves?
MM: Soon. The barrage will start soon.
AL: May 2014. We have two more albums coming out this year too.
DA: Probably May for Escape From New York. A couple months after that, we’ll drop Return From…and a couple months after that, we’ll drop Artistic Visions. We’ve got three albums for you by year end, maybe more. We already released an EP this year called The Chronicles Of DAB & Friends. Peep that.
S16: You plan to release three albums in 2014…that sounds pretty aggressive! What’s the idea behind this, are all of them going to be full-length albums?
DA: Escape From New York and Return From… are together, it’s a double album. Artistic Visions was recorded in the last two weeks of 2012 after recording the double album all year. It’s completely different.
AL: Yes, they are all full-length albums. After spending a year writing and recording the double album, we went back to the studio and freestyled a record live, which we called Artistic Visions. The album features Baby G on piano for the first time. We wrote, arranged and recorded a new song in the studio, every day for five days with a four hour time limit due to scheduling. One song even has myself on piano and Duke Sims on bass. We plan to release that album in late 2014.
MM: Bands these days should be focused on quality, consistent output. We make our own records and this is how we should always be living…always creating, always releasing.
S16: You guys have been independently doing your thing for a long time now. If you had to guess, will we see Shinobi Ninja signed to a record label by the time 2015 rolls around?
TD: That’s a good guess man! Being with a label would be great…it’s a goal of ours to find a situation where we can have enough artistic freedom necessary to be ourselves and the resources to swing the bat in the industry.
AL: If I had to guess, whether or not we are signed, we will be doing our thing. It’s always nice to have extra hands to help, being that we are independent and do everything ourselves, but the goal in life is always to make progress and stay true to your essence and that is the path we will take.
DA: Hard to say. We will definitely have a World Series ring by then, regardless. We have a championship team. If Baby G has to sit out the rest of the year due to steroid use then we’ll have to find a replacement. G-Rod!!
S16: What else should fans expect to see from Shinobi in 2014? Any plans for another west coast tour?
AP: A lot of touring and new music in 2014.
TD: Yeaaaaaaaaah buddy! We’re going on a full national tour 6/5 – 7/13…west coast dates 6/17 – 6/24, Portland to San Diego. Salty road dog style! Stay tuned for the full schedule in March/April.
DA: New art. New things. New merch. New rings. More stunts. More blunts. Shinobi Ninja. 2014. The year of the Ninja. Brooklyn. Rock hood!!!
MM: NATIONAL SUMMER TOUR!! STAY TUNED!!!!
Upcoming Shinobi Ninja Tour Dates:
Date Venue City
2/26 Empire Bar and Lounge Wilmington, NC
2/27 Rockshop Fayetteville, NC
2/28 Live Bar Greenville, NC
3/1 Klocker’s Myrtle Beach, SC
3/4 Sky City Augusta, GA
3/5 Smith’s Olde Bar Atlanta, GA
3/6 Loggerheads Charleston, SC
3/7 Union Arts DC Washington, DC
3/8 M Room Philadelphia, PA
3/17 Susquehanna Selinsgrove, PA
3/19 Junior’s Chicago, IL
3/20 Up and Under Pub Milwaukee, WI
3/21 Nomad World Pub Minneapolis, MN
3/22 University of MN, Morris Morris, MN
3/26 Mac’s Bar Lansing, MI
3/29 VooDoo Brewery Meadville, PA
4/26 Move Music Festival Albany, NY