Everything starts with mom. It was their mom who fed Kentrell “Krispy’ Lindsey and Alvin “Joey” Lindsey, professionally known as The Knux, an eclectic musical diet as they were growing up. On the menu were generous portions of funk, classic rock, R&B, and the coolest of pop music. Part of her maternal goal was to develop the musical palettes of her boys, to make sure they developed a taste and appreciation for all types of music. But she also wanted to spark their imaginations so they could see the world beyond the tough New Orleans streets where they were growing up.
“We were blessed to have a mom who was super open-minded,” says 27-year-old Joey, the younger of the siblings. “She was the whole reason we got into playing music and everything,” he continues. “We discovered Jimi Hendrix through her – Hendrix, the Doors, and all that cool rock shit. That was ‘cause of her. Part of why she got us so deep into music was to keep us out of trouble. She was like ‘You can be in it but don’t be of it. Just ‘cause you in this shit don’t mean you gotta do what everyone else is doing.’”
What everybody else was doing was by-any-means-necessary surviving that could have lead the Lindsey boys onto a whole different path in life had they followed suit.
“We could’ve been amazing gangsta rappers,” laughs 30-year-old Krispy, the more loquacious of the brothers, “’cause we really lived that life. But we chose to go another route.”
It wasn’t just their mom’s influence, but also the gumbo of New Orleans’ music and cultures that molded the duo. New Orleans is one of the few places in America where the dream of the melting pot is also the reality. Its fusion of African American, Native American, European, and Caribbean influences, traditions and practices has produced a dynamic, centuries-deep culture unlike any other in the country. One of the strongest components of that culture is its unwavering love of music and its reflexive fostering of musical talent.
“I would say that young people in New Orleans are probably the most musically inclined, musically trained in America,” says Krispy. “Like, they’re actually classically trained musicians. Everybody else makes a big deal out of knowing how to play an instrument, but in New Orleans everybody can play and everybody can read music. It’s not a big deal. That guy standing on the corner selling weed might actually be the best trumpet player you’ll ever hear. When we first started out, everybody in the industry was shocked that we play our own instruments. But the thing is, our music programs were the only things that weren’t suffering down there when they made all the budget cuts and education roll-backs. One thing about New Orleans is that they kept the music programs really strong.”
Their music educations paid off when they left home for Cali, where they wrote and produced their ’08 debut CD Remind Me in 3 Days. On that collection of songs, grime covered beats provided the foundation for idiosyncratic tracks like “Fire (Put It in the Air)” and “Cappuccino.” The brothers pushed rap left-of-center in a way it hadn’t been since the heady days of its first golden era, and they did it with eccentric wordplay and verbal backflips off high-wire funk grooves. Fan favorites like “Bang Bang” and “Daddy’s Little Girl” planted New Wave inflections and skittery guitar lines inside a vibe of southern-fried experimentation that evoked the Dungeon Family. Remind Me retrieved fun and experimentation from the dust-bin where hip-hop had tossed them, and it quickly won the Lindseys a devoted cult following. It was the soundtrack to an off-the-beaten-path nightclub where the air was pungent, the girls were fly, and the air was crackling with possibility. The dress code read: Be dope but don’t try too hard. It was the “how did I get here” party you never wanted to end.
With their follow-up, Eraser, which they also wrote and largely produced, the two sidestepped the dreaded sophomore slump by returning to a basic principle of hip-hop. “It should open your mind rather than close it,” says Joey.
But with the culture and rap music having “hit a wall,” in Krispy’s words, the brothers dug deeper into their own record collections and formative years for new inspiration. They tapped the influence of Hendrix, A Tribe Called Quest, Beck, LA-based ‘80s cult band Dramarama, and British and American New Wave. The result is dazzling. Electro/techno drum patterns and keyboard programming are juxtaposed against blistering hard rock guitar; sinewy bass-lines pulse beneath hip-hop inspired breaks, and old-school rock star swagger fuels it all. There’s been a measured shift in tone, a fine-tuning of focus. The very first words you hear on the new disc (coming after an instrumental intro that sounds like the score to some sci-fi futuristic dystopian Western) are, “So I said fuck it… / now, have you ever met a girl who turns your world into a playground?” From there you’re taken on a fast-moving, witty, biting journey through the war of the sexes in which no one has the upper hand.
“When we started recording,” says Krispy, “we had a clear vision of what we were going after, what we wanted to create. I had a bunch of songs and he had a bunch of songs, and when we brought them together they all seemed to be about relationships with women, how women are so complex. They’re these beautiful creatures who can bite you at any time.”
Though lyrics pour out in a magnetic stream of consciousness over grooves that, at various times, evoke everyone from the Clash to Tears for Fears, what quickly emerges is a narrative about the tensions and differences between what men and women want from a relationship, the ways in which the perceptions of each gender might be wildly askew from reality. Songs like “Beautiful Liar,” “Queen of the Cold,” and “Maniac” are acid-tipped odes to gender battles.
“Eraser is about that tension,” says Krispy, “this tug of war. You get it from two different angles. You get this almost bitter version of Joey that wasn’t on our last album. On that one, we talked about doing a lot of psychedelics, smoking a lot of weed. I pulled some of that back so we could have a balance, so the art Joey was bringing me could be perceived in the right light. The songs he was bringing me had to be presented properly. As a producer, I felt his contributions should take precedence over me saying some funny line. His thoughts were just flowing and I was spending twelve hours in the studio to get it right. The art that he was giving me was so epic and so vivid.”
They co-produced “Dead World” with their creative cohort, John “Abba Zabba” McClain, and co-produced “Fame-Us” with Blake Miller from Moving Units. In addition, they worked with singer Natalia Kills (on “1974,”) Jack Davey of indie darlings J*Davey (on “I See Stars”) and fellow alterna-spirit Kid Cudi (on the single “Run.”) All these co-producers and collaborators are heavyweights in their own right but fear of being overshadowed wasn’t anywhere near the Lindsey brothers’ list of concerns.
“In our world,” laughs Krispy, “when we do songs with other people, they come into our world. And that’s where we want our audience to be.”
Trippy, funny, shape-shifting, foreboding, sexy… ERASER is like no place you’ve been before. Buckle up.