Interview by Joseph Hett
Music Recall Magazine recently had the opportunity to chat with Forefeather and Amy Grace of Big Village Little City. In this interview, they speak about their beginning, new album, future and more!
For more information about BVLC, please visit www.bigvillagelittlecity.com
MRM: Who are your influences?
Forefeather: I grew up listening to a smattering of very different styles, being significantly younger than my brother and sister. I inherited a huge love for independent hip hop acts like Aesop Rock and Eyedea from my brother (largely due to us growing up in Minneapolis, he was really interested in what was popping out of the twin cities in the late ‘90s & early 2000s. Atmosphere and Rhymesayers entertainment held a big sphere of influence on every kid who grew up in the twin cities, even if they only remotely had an interest in hip-hop). I heard a lot of alternative rock and folk (Rusted Root, Jamiraqo, the Shins) via my sister, and a lot of older rock & roll, pop, and folk via my parents (the Beatles, especially, Simon & Garfunkel, The Rolling Stones). I, myself, fell in love with mainstream hip-hop and R&B in the early 2000s when my half-native-African cousin lived with us and introduced me to BET & MTV. This was when I was really ramping up in my own interest in music, and was also growing very close to my cousin. Seeing firsthand how important and healing these very-different styles of music were to people with such varied experiences (my siblings are more different from each other than I could imagine two people to be), convinced me that good music has an incredible power and potential to bring people together. That has a lot to do with why we try so hard to bring together very different sounds with BVLC.
Amy Grace: Early in my influences were performers like Cab Calloway and Louis Armstrong. I loved singers like Sarah Vaughn, Ella Fitzgerald, and Rosemary Clooney. I went through a Funk phase when I was a little older and got really into groups like Rufus and The Meters. Around that time I also got into bands like Rage Against the Machine and Primus. I’m definitely inspired by Jill Scott, Erykah Badu and Rachelle Pharrell. I also love Bjork and her utter creativity. She’s much more of a soul singer than people realize. Her videos have also always been super inspiring to me. I like a lot of different stuff.
MRM: Could you speak about your ventures before forming BVLC?
AG: I did a lot of Jazz and a lot of Funk. I was working with a few live bands performing all around the east coast and singing my original music with a backing band. I was also running a lot of music events around NYC.
F: I’ve had melodies in my head for my whole life, and have wanted to bring them to life in the real world since before I knew that was a possible career-path. I started creating and performing and built a reputation for myself in the indie rap scene of the twin cities, as well as on the touring circuit before moving to NYC at the end of 2015. I actually took a little time away from music to dig into practicing and teaching Kripalu-style yoga, which is another big thing I picked up from my immediate family.
MRM: How did you form BVLC?
AG: When we met our first conversation was about forming this band. We wrote some lyrics together and recorded a few songs by sending tracks back and forth to each other. I hit up some horn players I knew to add to the recordings and to start playing with us live. Our first performance was half show half jam session at House of Yes in Brooklyn. After that day we knew we had created something
F: I think BVLC was something that Amy and I both had in us before we met each other. I think a big part of why we first became friends is that it would be an opportunity for us both to put work into something we’d each had in mind, but weren’t sure exactly how it would look yet. And then our personalities just meshed so well. It was a very natural process.
MRM: For people not familiar with BVLC, how would you describe your sound?
F: We take the New Orleans inspired brass band sound and make hip-hop and pop with it. We make a point to experiment with different styles and genres, but it’s always grounded in NOLA brass and hip-hop, and always is driven by catchy, infectious hooks.
MRM: How does the jazz crowd in NYC react to your New Orleans flavored jazz sound?
AG: The Jazz crowd usually loves our sound because it obviously is based on a lot of Jazz elements. Since it’s also combined with a New York Soul and New Orleans Funk sound it appeals to many people. Whoever listens to one of those genres usually also identifies with the rhythms of the others.
F: Jazz heads love our shows because we’ve always kept us as a fierce priority to only work with instrumentalists who have jaw-dropping chops. Amy and I both love to improvise, and strongly believe in the magic of what different players can create together. We try to create as much unplanned ‘flow-state’ as possible in our performances.
MRM: Do you all play covers in concert? And if so what kind?
AG: When we do covers it’s usually of old Funk and Soul like Bill Withers or we’ll do a Jill Scott or Sharon Jones cover. We’ve also been known to cover Outkast.
F: It depends on the show, we used to play more covers than we used to. Lately, if we’re going to cover a tune, we try to put in the time and effort to really make it our own. We like to flip hip-hop and funk classics that we really love. Songs by anyone from OutKast to Jill Scott to Sam Cooke to Nelly.
MRM: What has been the weirdest/wildest thing that has happened at a show and/or while touring?
AG: I’ll never forget when the fire alarm went off during a performance upstate. Someone from the venue ran up to the stage and told me to tell everyone to get out since I was obviously holding a microphone. So I had to make the evacuation announcement. The weirdest gig we ever played was definitely at this kind of cabin venue. It was some kind of hunting lodge that had old strippers and young juggalos. Quite a night.
F: On the way back from a festival in West Virginia our tour van had the mother of all meltdowns right when we got back to NYC (at like 1am on a Sunday night). It went from a possible dead battery to a flat tire plus a completely fried electrical system. That was a rough re-entry. It was like “welcome back to NYC”. Our drummer also missed the last train to his home upstate by like thirty seconds.
MRM: Does your band logo have a hidden message? (It almost looks like a middle finger lol)
AG: Well that’s the first time I’ve ever heard it looks like the finger ha. It’s pretty much a visual pun. It depicts a city skyline inside a house-shape that would be found in a village.
F: There are at least four or five layers of entendre to the name as well as the logo. I’ll leave it up to y’all to figure those out.
MRM: What is your song writing process? I guess through jam sessions?
AG: It’s different for every song. Sometimes it starts with the lyrics. Sometimes it starts with a track of nothing but Forefeather beat-boxing. Sometimes it’s written together in the same room, and sometimes it’s a track that we send around and add our own stuff to. And yes, jam sessions definitely help with the writing process.
MRM: Could you speak about your recently released “Over The Weather” album? By the way, the slow burning “Between” and rocking “Lifter” are my favorite songs off of it.
AG: The concept of the title “Over the Weather” basically says you can’t control the weather but you can get over it. You can cry about the rain or put on a raincoat, grab an umbrella, and go into the storm. Once you get over the weather you can live over the weather, above the clouds where it can’t affect you. A lot of the songs’ content has to do with coping with the world we’re in, and finding like minded souls to celebrate with and live as best we can without being affected by negative surroundings, or “bad weather”.
F: I think most people would agree that this world has been in a heavy, dark, polarized place for these past few years. BVLC, and the OTW album in particular is essentially our prescription for how to get out from under the weather of times like these. It’s a pretty effective medicine, in my experience.
MRM: What’s up for 2019 with BVLC?
F: We’re continuing to grow and transform. There’s more music on the way for BVLC, as well as for many of the artists involved in personal ways. We’re very excited to keep building the movement together and supporting everyone involved creatively. Definitely keep your eyes out. There may be a podcast in the works. Definitely plenty more video content. We’ve got a lot of songs that I think keep getting better in quality, and will be headed into the recording space before too long. We’ve been working a bit on how to bring our love for improvisation and building community through creativity and music into the age of live streaming. I don’t want to reveal too much, but the jam session that we ran at a venue every month in NYC could make a jump to a more intimate, live-streamed experience early this year.