- Colorado Springs ex-pat Joseph Lamar is planning to release 11 EPs over the course of the next year.
Conceptual works are always outliers in pop music, but they basically exemplify the adage of "no risk, no reward." There's a reason why, for example, people still loudly sing the praises of The Beatles' later, more experimental works and Kendrick Lamar's dense, literate To Pimp a Butterfly is topping many best-of-2015 lists, while the vast majority of low-risk, feel-good music born of sheer commodity is forgotten mere months later.
One artist certainly unafraid of stretching the boundaries of content and form in pop music is Colorado Springs native Joseph Lamar, who recently announced his ambitious new undertaking, Project 11:11. A multimedia series featuring eleven EPs to be released in three phases over the coming year, the first three-EP phase is set to be released physically and on iTunes around March 2016. However, the first of these EPs, an 11-minute, 11-second suite entitled ...of the young and stupid, was recently unveiled — when else? — Nov. 11, and is available at josephlamar.bandcamp.com.
So, you might be asking: What's the deal with all those 11s, and why go to all this trouble instead of a standard LP release format?
"I have a fascination with sequences of [the numeral] one," says Lamar, "And most of my favorite albums are conceptual, ambitious LPs. The ArchAndroid, Songs in the Key of Life, Purple Rain, Abbey Road. Project 11:11 asks the question, can I do a mini Sgt. Pepper rock opera-type shit in less than two minutes? Yep, and I will!"
While the concept itself may sound a bit audacious, it's nothing compared to the delightfully wild music that Lamar harnesses: ...of the young and stupid is a manic ride, a smorgasbord of boldly disparate style features. While certainly eclectic, Lamar's music never sacrifices the immediacy and hooks of good pop music, as it winds its way through Prince-esque neosoul, hip-hop beats, psychedelia, sunny blasts of British invasion harmonies, industrial noise, 8-bit chiptune synthesizers, and chamber pop harpsichord before ending with a sudden gunshot.
All this madness is led and offered cohesion by Lamar's vocals, which, while filled with raw soulfulness, also bring a hint of refinement that wouldn't sound out of place on a theatrical stage. This dichotomy, along with the great diversity of the music, reflects Lamar's winding musical background.
"As a kid, my grandfather was a pastor, so, naturally, I spent a lot of time in the church choir. At church, I was always singing and playing the tambourine, drums and keyboards, under the tutelage of Jack King. I'm pretty much a certified heathen these days, but it should be noted that some of my first songs were gospel songs. Though at least 99.99 percent of my latest works wouldn't make it through the back door of the church house without catching a sidelong glance from a lady in an oversized church hat."
Lamar also absorbed a wealth of more secular influences in his youth, including Michael Jackson, Powerline, the Neptunes and sundry classic soul, R&B and rock artists. He later went on to study vocal performance at the University of Denver.
"I dropped out," he says, "so I could make dope shit, like Kanye West or Mark Zuckerberg."
Lamar, who at this point is still living in Denver, describes his songwriting and recording process as experimental. Songs can start from nearly anywhere.
"My songwriting process is pretty sporadic. Sometimes it starts with lyrics; sometimes it starts with a chord progression. Other times it starts with a beat, a color, a news article, an experience, a phrase, a melody or a fat joint. Often, ideas are popping into my head as I go along, so I jump around recording MIDI, live percussion, vocals, and adding effects until the song is complete. Sometimes I record several songs at once. I have a Beatles kind of approach — just try shit and see what happens. On 'Whatever Dude' from ...of the young and stupid, for example, I recorded the lead vocal line screaming into a plastic bucket I dumpster dived for."
With that, Lamar jokes that he might have revealed too much.
While you await the first full installment of Project 11:11, you can catch Lamar at Denver's Skylark Lounge on Jan. 7, joined by "goth melodica" band Gothsta and hardcore act The Filth.
"I'll be doing songs from phase one of 11:11 and running amok in the bar," Lamar promises.
In the meantime, as December rolls on, you can keep yourself warm by sampling these upcoming local shows:
At the Black Sheep on Dec. 16, you can catch long-running New York hardcore-turned-thrash band Agnostic Front, joined by Pueblo's Haj Paj and the impressively pedigreed local punk act 99 Bottles.
Dec. 18 brings rapcore quartet Hed PE and nu metal Michael Jackson devotees Alien Ant Farm to Sunshine Studios, supported by LaRissa Vienna and the Strange, Goatsilk, Colorado Noe and Distant Warning.
The same night, Dec. 18, local country-western troubadours the Flying W Wranglers hold their annual holiday show at Stargazers Theatre.
Lastly, the Triple Nickel is celebrating its 10th anniversary this week with two shows featuring owner JJ Grueter: He'll be playing bass with Drag The River on Friday night, and then taking the mic for a Nobodys live performance and video shoot on Saturday.
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