St. Paul hip-hop heavies Heiruspecs end their hiatus

Band set to jam once again with new album

The van flipped onto its side, leaving the bandmates dangling from their seatbelts. Though the van was proclaimed totaled by AAA, they were told they could still try to drive it. McPherson drove them the rest of the way home, he says, shaken by what could have been a much more serious accident.

"There were very few injuries. Chris's back got cut up a little bit from glass. We drove home with no mirrors on the van at all, and I remember being in shock and immediately just being really glad that nobody died."

With their touring van totaled and the band members feeling fried, it became blatantly obvious that it was time to take a break. "We crashed the van, and it was like, okay, this is what we are going to do next," says Leggett. "And then we all got really busy doing other things."

Heiruspecs: drummer Peter Leggett, MC Muad'dib, MC Felix, guitarist Josh Peterson, bassist Sean McPherson, keyboard player deVon Gray
Nick Vlcek
Heiruspecs: drummer Peter Leggett, MC Muad'dib, MC Felix, guitarist Josh Peterson, bassist Sean McPherson, keyboard player deVon Gray
The current lineup of Heiruspecs performing this year (top) and back in 2002 (bottom)
Enrico Fuente, top; courtesy of Heiruspecs, bottom
The current lineup of Heiruspecs performing this year (top) and back in 2002 (bottom)

The band spent the better part of two years in recovery mode, playing together sporadically and only recording a handful of demos. With no new album in sight, they parted ways with their manager and their label, and McPherson has taken on most of the administrative duties himself.

"We stopped having management, so I started assuming some of those things," he says. "Artistically, it felt like a break, but it was also the start of some figuring out how to handle this band without some of the support of a label."

 

THOUGH THEY LOST THE administrative assistance of their label and manager, returning to life as an independent band gave Heiruspecs the opportunity to go back to moving at their own pace. The band wasn't active for the majority of 2006 and 2007, but its members certainly didn't rest on their laurels. Leggett toured with Mason Jennings, while McPherson, Peterson, and Gray played with everyone from Martin Devaney to Jessy Greene to Big Trouble. To say that the members of Heiruspecs are deeply entrenched in the local scene is an understatement.

"They've been part of the growth and sustenance of the Twin Cities hip-hop scene almost from the very beginning as a band," says Sean's brother Steve McPherson, who has played guitar in the group off and on since the late '90s. "But if you look at bands that members of Heiruspecs have played in or gone on to play in, you can see just how deeply they're woven into the music scene here: Martin Devaney, Ela, Black Blondie, Acoustic Beatdown, Big Trouble, Supreme Privacy, Fog, Poor Line Condition, HeatdeatH, Mason Jennings, Kid Dakota, and many others. This isn't to say that Heiruspecs is responsible for those bands, but it does point to just how tapped into the scene they are as a band, and what a diverse set of skills the members have brought and continue to bring."

"Dating back all the way to high school, when we put out our first tape—even then there was a small collection of bands that all shared members," says Devaney. "And that obviously has only gotten larger. We always joked back then about the Heiruspecs family. There's still a sense of that. The family tree gets larger every year."

Members of Heiruspecs say that even though they have spent time apart, their work in other bands has allowed them to explore other genres and styles and, ultimately, to return to the group as stronger musicians.

"While we were away we were all staying very busy, musically," says Leggett. "And playing together and not playing together is going to strengthen what we're able to do."

"For balance's sake, it helps that all of us are in other bands, and it helps that a lot of us are in the same other bands," says Peterson. "I definitely think playing in other projects, for me at least, informs Heiruspecs."

Now that the group has spent some time apart, they say they are ready to come back stronger than ever. The band has spent the majority of 2008 writing and recording new material for their first full-length studio album in four years. Heiruspecs will be released next Friday at First Avenue. The album is a testament to the band's new mentality of collaboration and cohesion. Songs swing tighter than ever before and display a vast array of influences without seeming fragmented. Their first single, "Get Up," starts with a catchy guitar hook and expands into an epic, thunderous chorus, with Felix riffing on life in a divided nation; "Change Is Coming" invites Dessa (of hip-hop crew Doomtree) to trade verses with Felix as the band lays down a funky R&B groove; and "Sunshower" is downright poppy, with a guest chorus by Semisonic frontman Dan Wilson.

Heiruspecs finds the band in a promising position, and the album showcases some of their best work yet. Even the fact that the album is self-titled seems to speak to the way the band has reclaimed its identity. After all the ups and downs of their 11-year career, Heiruspecs have mastered the art of not only sticking together as a group but finding a balance that allows them to stay both happy and productive.

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