Experimental hip hop and R&B is coursing through VAYNS. The project combines the talents of two genre-busting locals, Botzy (Culture Cry Wolf) and vocalist/producer MunQs. Each song off their self-titled EP -- which features guest spots from Ashley DuBose and Sophia Eris -- was created in the moment, and their progress has been just as spontaneous. Saturday's performance at the Best Love is Free is their first, and could be their last.
Gimme Noise caught up with Botzy and MunQs (real names Adam Botsford and Corey Lawson, respectively) before their show at First Avenue to see what drew them together to create the project and to discuss the Best Love is Free.
Gimme Noise: How did this collaboration come together?
Botzy: Personally, I have been a fan of MunQs for a long time and had wanted to collaborate for a while. I had a sense that our vocals would work well together, but my schedule was always too crazy to properly reach out. Towards the end of the summer, I recall a few nights that the universe aligned us together. After that, it was all systems go!
MunQs: Totally. I had seen Botzy perform numerous times, and the energy he brings is infectious. Once we were finally able to chisel out a week to make stuff, it came together pretty naturally.
Gimme Noise: You say that what you have cultivated in VAYNS differs from both of your prior projects. Why do you think so?
Botzy: My approach to VAYNS was to intentionally not focus on an approach. I tried to not overthink anything, and have as few barriers as possible between my brain and mouth. Plus, Corey [MunQs] and I were building entire songs -- production, structure, concepts -- all in one evening. All of these things created a unique end product, in my personal opinion.
MunQs: This was different for me in that I was able to focus solely on making the instrumentals (and singing the occasional hook). Beyond that though, really I think this sound is just kind of like our common ground. It's where his words and my sounds meet.
Gimme Noise: Why do you feel this need to stretch outside your musical boundaries? Do you feel like this is a constant need?
Botzy: I push myself in everything I do and always try to take on things that will assist in my growth as a human, as well as an artist. VAYNS pushed me by connecting the two -- the artist and the human. One of my best, and sometimes worst, traits is my drive, so it's safe to say this is a constant need for me.
MunQs: I think the only way for me to be happy making art is by constantly trying new things and taking new approaches. If I ever get stuck making the same thing over and over again, knowing me, I'll probably get really bored with it.
Gimme Noise: How do you feel you grew with this project?
Botzy: This project brought me back to my roots. Everything was recorded on our own equipment and in our living spaces. I had forgotten that I could create anything at any moment; this was huge. I'll always remember VAYNS as the project responsible for breaking down my walls -- in the best way imaginable.
MunQs: From a compositional standpoint, I think VAYNS reignited my focus on rhythms. It's had me actually zoning in on how people move when they hear a certain pattern and seeing how I might be able to emulate that. It's provided yet another method of understanding music and how it communicates with the listener.
Gimme Noise: You have featured a couple of strong female musicians (Ashley DuBose and Sophia Eris) on a few tracks. How do you feel their contributions changed the feel of the songs? Was it written with them in mind?
Botzy: Every VAYNS song was made on the spot, and in the moment. So the songs featuring Ashley and Sophia, it's just as much their song as it is ours. I'm talking production, concept, recording -- they built these songs with us and less about being made with them in mind.
MunQs: Sophia and Ashley were amazing to work with. They are both so damn talented and chill and just beautiful humans. We wouldn't have been able to make these songs without them.
Gimme Noise: Any favorite tracks off the album?
Botzy: I can't pick a favorite. The VAYNS EP is something to be consumed as a whole, in my opinion.
MunQs: Haha. I'd have to agree with Botzy on this. I think the narrative structure of the EP kind of requires it being listened to as a whole. [page]
Gimme Noise: Why choose The Best Love is Free to debut the act? What can we expect to see at the show?
Botzy: It made a lot of sense to myself and MunQs. VAYNS is a piece of art to us. It wouldn't feel right setting up a CD release show, and all the normal stuff. Instead, we wanted to create a once in a lifetime experience to share with Minneapolis. Our performance at the Best Love is Free may very well our first, and last -- we are unsure right now. We do however have a great performance setup -- lots of theatrics. Ashley DuBose and Sophia Eris will be joining us on stage for their collaborations. We will be backed by Broc Lammers on drums, Druby Soho (of Culture Cry Wolf) on bass, and Matthew Vannelli (Van Stee/MunQs) on guitar. Overly excited to share that moment with y'all.
MunQs: Botzy's pretty much summed it up. I'm like prom night stoked for this.
Gimme Noise: Who you are most excited to perform with for TBLIF?
MunQs: Allan Kingdom is probably who I'm most excited to see. I caught him at the Triple Rock a few months back, and downloaded Talk to Strangers the second I got home that night. His instrumentals and rhyme style are really intriguing to me. I'm stoked to see where his career takes him.
Botzy: I'm pee-my-pants excited over two performances: K. Flay and False Teeth. My support and rapper crush for K. Flay is no secret; she was my date to #TBLIF back in 2012. False Teeth is the newest project involving Matthew Sandstedt, aka The Best Dressed Man in Minneapolis. False Teeth has a release coming out in March that I've been lucky enough to listen to in advance - so I'm particulary excited to see the songs live.
Gimme Noise: Do you have anything special collaborations planned for that evening? (Or is that a secret?)
Botzy: Let's just say that if you download the EP, you might get an inkling of what we have planned. If you haven't, go download it for free.
Gimme Noise: It's a little bittersweet that this will be the last TBLIF. Why did you guys want to be a part of it? How do you think VAYNS embodies the spirit of TBLIF?
MunQs: I think it makes a lot of sense for us to play TBLIF. The VAYNS project was born out of a very similar idea. Make some music with your friends. Share it with your friends. Support your friends.
Botzy: I completely agree. I have a lot of emotions about the fifth and final TBLIF -- understandably so. It's an event that started out with hand burned CDs made in the basement and taking place at the Nomad, all the way to giving out free vinyl and taking over First Avenue and the 7th Street Entry.
We exposed out-of-state emerging artists like Jellyfish Brigade, worked with Macklemore & Ryan Lewis at the budding of their career, and even paired music with visual art giving a spotlight to local talent such as Katie Kroeck.
One could even go as far as saying the Best Love is Free assisted in documenting the Minneapolis music scene over the past five years, with videos like "The Cypher" that spotlighted superstar Lizzo long before her work ethic and talent snowballed into a successful career. TBLIF was an established home for emerging artists and a source of free new music for fans. That's a lot of work put in by myself, my closest of friends, countless heartfelt supporters, and most of all, this community and the artists that exist in it. It was an absolute honor to have the same people responsible for this event -- Polkadot Mayhem -- be the ones to release our VAYNS EP -- and also give us the opportunity to perform.
VAYNS will perform at First Avenue for The Best Love is Free on Saturday, February 15, 2014 with Astronautalis, K. Flay, Allan Kingdom, Psalm One, Symmetry, and False Teeth.
18+, $15 adv, $20 door, 8 pm
Free CD with entry. Free "Best Of TBLIF" Vinyl to the first 200 attendees.
Purchase tickets here.