[OC Music Awards Interview] BLOK Primes The Psyche With Primal, Metaphorical GhettoTech
Celebrating its 10th anniversary, the OC Music Awards kicked off on January 4th with seven weeks of free showcases at different venues across the county. 35 local artists will compete for the titles of Best Live Band or Best Live Acoustic and a performance slot at the 2011 OC Music Awards, March 5 at the Grove of Anaheim. And, the voting is open now!
Taking a philosophical page from the postmodernist, pop artistry of American commercialism manipulators like Andy Warhol, [lastfm link_type="artist_info"]BLOK[/lastfm] further deconstructs this backlash against artistic dystopia, using the musical tools of the information revolution, subtle spiritual metanarratives, and a raw, primitive booty-bumping beat.
Stylish and visionary siblings, BLOK, are on their way to creating a new musical genre, as well as a sonic revolution, reminiscent of chimerical 1960s psychedelia, only using grungy pop, Detroit-style GhettoTech, and the absurdist electrostylings of musique concrète.
Upon superficial observance, a fashion-centric band with a hipster cult-following like BLOK could be viewed as pretentious, possibly even radically decadent or without metaphor and meaning. Thankfully, in the case of these fashion-forward siblings, they are extremely humble, warm, receptive, and uncharacteristically cerebral for young artists of their age. [pullquote quote="When people think we are making just dance and party music and things like that, you'll have to listen to the lyrics too and you'll recognize that it's a whole lot deeper. There's so much more there than just the beats and stuff like that. " credit="Jesse St. John"]
Part of this could be attributed to the fact that Damien Blaise, Gianna Gianna and Jesse St. John are siblings. And not only siblings, best friends who consider their mother (who drove them to the interview) as the fourth member of BLOK. St. John elaborated:
“Even when we’re not practicing or making music or writing or performing, we’re all just hanging out together. We all have the same interests, we’re all best friends…We’re really lucky.”
The first time I saw BLOK was long before the start of the OC Music Awards and I even had a phone video of them performing at the sold-out [lastfm link_type="artist_info"]Die Antwood [/lastfm]show at the Henry Fonda Theater. Not knowing who they were at the time and assuming they were a crunchy techno-rap, stylized performance art outfit from Europe, I checked the local Twitter musings, shocked to find out that BLOK was a local band with an almost-Eastern European flair.
Similarly to Die Antwood, BLOK has that kind of appeal that transcends not only musical genres and stylistic choices, but global markers. Their tripped-out, sleazy sophistication and dance-rap grind is also musically similar to groups like Die Antwood, [lastfm link_type="artist_info"]Major Lazer[/lastfm] and [lastfm link_type="artist_info"]Spank Rock [/lastfm]with less raucnhy hints of Detroit GhettoTech like [lastfm link_type="artist_info"]DJ Assault[/lastfm], [lastfm link_type="artist_info"]Disco D[/lastfm], and the [lastfm link_type="artist_info"]Detroit Grand Pubahs[/lastfm]. While musically BLOK could fit onto a bill with all these artists, there is something more metaphysical and philosophical in BLOK’s work that is sometimes devoid in what most deem as “dance” music.
BLOK is not going for strictly dance music, although they don’t mind if you dance. Blaise elaborates:
“We get a little bit pigeon-holed with dance music. Yes, we do music that you can dance to. Definitely. Without a doubt. But, that’s not the point of it. It’s not just supposed to be dance music. There’s a lot more going on. If we wanted it to just be dance music, we’d do that. We’re not trying to just make music you can get drunk to and just hang out to. Although, you can if you want.”
With the siblings seemingly agreeing with each other on everything, St. John continued Blaise’s thought:
“If you listen to the lyrics and stuff, when people think we are making just dance and party music and things like that, you’ll have to listen to the lyrics too and you’ll recognize that it’s a whole lot deeper. There’s so much more there than just the beats and stuff like that.”
While danceability is not their final goal as musical artists, one important aspect of a BLOK show is the way St. John and Gianna dominate the stage with their weirdly wonderful and tribal-robotic dance moves–especially Gianna who explained how she filters the creative force through her body:
“I have been dancing all my life in dance classes, but then I got tired of expressing the choreographer’s idea of art. Damien’s productions literally do that to me. If I hear a song that I like, I’m going to move however I want. Dancing is just moving your body to however it expresses through you, so I don’t know. However that is…I like to go crazy. I like to contort and stuff. Whatever the song calls for to me. It’s just expressing myself physically. It’s the subconscious going through me physically.”
How did this tight-knit family embark on this revolutionary creation process? Blaise said he started creating electronic sound by himself and eventually Gianna and St. John joined in.
“I’ve been making electronic music and I’ve been doing that for awhile, experimenting with things. Trying to break genre in all types kind of thing. Using things that aren’t instruments and incorporating that. Anything on this table, I’ve probably used something similar. I was doing that for a while, years, and eventually, I was like let’s start a live project kind of thing. I brought Gianna in at the beginning and then eventually Jesse said, ‘Yeah, I want to do it too.’ And I wanted him to do it from the beginning. When we all started to feel comfortable with the whole thing, I started incorporating bringing Jesse in more.”
St. John agreed and continued, saying:
“We’ve always been making music and I’ve been singing and stuff like that. Then we started to incorporate it all together and this combination , this project with these songs has really struck a chord. This is the one that’s really built momentum. But we’ve always been doing it. Making little songs and stuff.”
BLOK has a pivotal influence in the Southern California art and fashion scene, partly due to their open-minded attitude towards art as a whole, or what Gianna would deem as ”expressing yourself in every facet possible pretty much” and St. John would reiterate as being “something that is of equal importance to us.” Blaise elaborated on his sibling’s sentiments:
“It’s a culmination of pretty much anything you can think of with our personalities. It’s kind of all of that together…It’s trying to incorporate as much as possible that’s positive in different genres…Into one cohesive project that’s still communicable to people that don’t know that much about music or don’t know that much about fashion–which is most people that have their one thing that they like.”
“I’m not saying it’s not good, but there’s also all these other things that’s you’re ignoring that exist. You can put them together. Combine, experiment, grow basically.
“We’re trying to help people still be able to grow in a time when music is more about the monetary gain than ever…Everyone’s getting discouraged. And all their genres are getting worse. So, it’s like, trying to reawaken in people that you can still be creative. Still use the modern tools, the modern concepts and everything, and still do something that you can be okay with morally, creatively…Basically, not compromise as much as possible and still be relevent…That’s kind of the constant struggle-slash-goal all day, every day.”[pullquote quote="Whatever it is you think you need to do, you shouldn't have to...You still should fight for what is original, what's true to you." credit="Damien Blaise"]
Blaise and BLOK say that art is art, no matter what tools you use and the artistic should not limit themselves in terms of creative potential, or even when under scrutiny from society. They also consider themselves an example of creative freedom to disenfranchised youth who might deem their wild ideas unacceptable to the public eye, or what Gianna would describe as “that there’s no character. It’s all genuine, true, real. Every facet.”
“Every medium is still a medium. Every medium should still be treated as not only artistic, if you’re not being artsy you are not fully using a medium to it’s potential. And a medium can be a song. A medium can be one string on one guitar. A medium can be whatever array of colors you have on a canvas. It can be whatever, you know.”
“It’s not really fair to all the people that don’t have the materials that other musicians have. There are a lot of people that have these great ideas that don’t have the physical opportunity. They’re not around people that have studios…If I were to take our opportunities that we’ve gotten and not do everything I can to communicate to people freedom and creativity, it’s not fair to all the people who have these free creative ideas who don’t have the opportunities.”
“That’s part of the thing too. It’s showing people that you can be who you are. It doesn’t matter…Whatever it is you think you need to do, you shouldn’t have to…You still should fight for what is original, what’s true to you.”
“I believe that people who do things that are truly creative from themselves, it helps children. If there’s a child that hears that and knows that they can be ok with a part of themselves that no one else is acknowledging, that’s literally the best I can do as an artsy guy for the future.”
St. John smiled and nodded, summarizing the end goal of BLOK in five simple words: “Open doors and open minds.”
[lastfm link_type="artist_info"]BLOK[/lastfm]-“Jungle Dog Fang Hell”
The 2011 Showcase Series runs every Tuesday night, January 4 -February 15 with stops at:
Jan 4 – Detroit Bar
Jan 11 – The District at Tustin Legacy
Jan 18 – The Gyspy Lounge
Jan 25 – The LAB
Feb 1 – Tiki Bar
Feb 8 – The Gyspy Den of Santa Ana
Feb 15 – The Slide Bar
Five Showcase Series finalists in each live category will then move on to the Showcase Series Finals.
Feb 24 – Best Live Acoustic Finals, Fullerton Museum
Feb 25 – Best Live band Finals, The Galaxy
2011 Best Live Band winner will receive a performance slot on the four Southern Califonia Vans Warped Tour stops!
Night Six of the OC Music Awards Showcase Series featured nominees for Best Live Band on Tuesday, February 15th at the The Slide Bar.
READ MORE INTERVIEWS ON KROQ.COM FROM SHOWCASE NIGHT 6 BANDS:
Friday, February 11th- Fiction Reform
Saturday, February 12th-We Are The Arsenal
Sunday, February 13th-Stereofix
Tuesday, February 15th-Echo Echo
You have the power to send one Showcase artist to the Best Live Acoustic Finals and Best Live Band Finals.
Cast your vote and enter to win a massive prize pack from the OC Music Awards partners (To be Announced). Voting will begin on December 27 and will be open through the last Showcase on February 15. The votes will be tallied and the band with highest score will automatically move on to their Series Finals! Click here to vote
LEARN MORE AT: OCMUSICAWARDS.COM