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Rise Up

Denver's alternative hip-hop band Flobots discusses using music for non-violent protest and listeners supporting the projects they believe in



f you haven't been keeping up with Denver-based alternative hip-hop band Flobots since their popular hit single "Handlebars" debuted in 2008, you've been missing out. In addition to creating topical, catchy alternative hip-hop jams, the Flobots have taken to the streets to organize grassroots trainings—using music as a tool for revolution.

"In the year in between 'The Circle in the Square' and 'No Enemies,' we actually made an concerted effort to do a lot more grassroots organizing work and protest work," Stephen "Brer Rabbit" Brackett says. "I think if we ended up staying a little too far out of the trenches, our lyrics would be coming from an academic place rather than a lived place. Most of the lyrics that we were coming with were direct stories or experiences from people in the trenches that we'd been with."

Brackett also says that countless books and movies went into the stew when creating their latest hip-hop-meets-rock album. Hip-hop, he says, has always been a sort of pop culture reference art form.

"As much as we worked on the Flobots album, we also worked on specifically gathering protest songs and training people on how to use music in protest, specifically as a way of promoting non-violent discipline," Brackett says. "What we started looking at was that, 'Oh! There's a very real reason why past movements have used music so effectively."

"One of the beautiful things we've found when you get together and you're singing a song of mourning or anger or hope with 200 people, it's an emotional argument. Right now, I feel like we as people, regardless of whatever side we see ourselves on, are far more persuaded by that. When we hear 200 voices singing in the same emotional place, even if we don't agree, I feel like we're always more receptive to it, when it's a group of people doing it in one accord, with integrity. I think that's one of the things that the arts do. If you pair your message with beauty, it can, many times, penetrate the noise of the world."

The Flobots have also taken the album release process to the streets, using Kickstarter to raise funds for their next two albums, including the latest one, "No Enemies."

"It is so, so nice to have the pressure come from people who really believe in you and really want you to do something great, as opposed to a label whose biggest concern is to make money," Brackett says. "We sit down with a whole new intention when writing a song or playing the piano. It's a pressure, but a good pressure, a transparent fan-base kind of thing. I think I'd have difficulty going back. Through Kickstarter, people can directly support those projects that they really believe in. I think that's the way it should be, the way it once was."

Through music, the Flobots continue their quest to bring people together and feel less alone. Brackett says when they perform live, genres and categories disappear, and it's all about the vibe you build together.


Friday, Oct. 6. 9:15pm

Bend Fall Festival

Oregon Ave. at Bond St., Bend.

No cover.

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Anne Pick

Music Writer | The Source Weekly

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