Sloppy Joe, Funny Biz and Steakhouse are three emcees and musicians that make up Boulder-based hip-hop group Whiskey Blanket. The trio plays a free show at 9 p.m. today at Ghost Ranch Saloon.
- Friday, April 29, 2011, 9 p.m.
- Ghost Ranch, 56 7th Street, Steamboat, CO
Steamboat Springs It’s been eight years since Funny Biz, Steakhouse and Sloppy Joe were handing out homemade CDs of politically-inclined hip-hop tracks at parties at the University of Colorado Boulder.
Now older, wiser and more seasoned, the trio of twentysomething Boulder residents that make up Whiskey Blanket have allowed their hip-hop horizons to broaden.
“As we’ve developed we’ve realized we’re not just writing political songs or just party songs,” said band member Joe Lessard, a.k.a. Sloppy Joe. “Now we want stories of individuals that maybe represent something larger.
“It’s more about a personal struggle that people might be able to relate to.”
The group returns to the Ghost Ranch Saloon for a free show at 9 p.m. today, promoting their late-2010 release, “No Object.”
Whiskey Blanket convened in 2003 in Boulder when Lessard fell in love with the beats coming out of Steven Pampel, a.k.a. Steakhouse’s, beat machine. Jordan Polovina already was working with Pampel, also feeding off the producer’s sounds.
All three of them came from a classical background, and when they made their foray into hip-hop, none of those traditions were left behind, adding the distinct effect of string music intertwined with deep bass.
Pampel, the group’s producer and turntablist, also has a recording studio in his house where the band has recorded its three studio albums. He plays keyboards, as well.
Polovina plays the cello, beatboxes and raps.
“You might see me play the cello and beatbox at the same time,” he said. “People really like that.”
But don’t ask him to beatbox dubstep beats: Whiskey Blanket’s style doesn’t seem to roll with the recent trends in electronically produced music.
Polovina said he was inspired to start writing rhymes by artists like Atmosphere and Sage Francis — rap music with spacious beats, sparse samples and meaningful lyrics.
“I think we all fell in love with the rhythmic, melodic aspects of hip-hop,” Lessard said.
Lessard, who raps and plays violin, has produced one major challenge for the band in touring and practicing: his schedule is the toughest to work around because he also plays the fiddle in the bluegrass band Head for the Hills.
For him, alternating between hip-hop and bluegrass has become a fluid transition.
Not only does he rap in his bluegrass band, he’s also captured a lot of interest from his more folk-oriented colleagues; Elephant Revival’s Bonnie Paine contributed some vocals to “No Object.”
“I think we’re like the perfect hip-hop group for those kind of people,” Lessard said.
“Yeah, we reach a large audience,” Polovina added. “People who like gangster rap like us, and people who like bluegrass like us.”
And both music cultures have something in common — partying up a storm at live shows.
“The people-watching from the stage is the most hilariously rewarding part of our job,” Polovina said.
Because the group has been watching crowds go crazy since those first house parties on The Hill in Boulder, they know how to egg on the crowd with their own acrobatics, including a move where Lessard jumps off Polovina’s back.
“That’s the reward, is seeing people go absolutely crazy about our music.” Lessard said. “And it feels really, really good.”
— To reach Nicole Inglis, call 970-871-4204 or email ninglis@SteamboatToday.com