Guante talks new acoustic project, A Loud Heart
Guante: I've always really liked the idea of acoustic hip-hop, because that forces the subject matter into the foreground. It's not just about the big beats. Acoustic music, almost by nature, is more lyric-oriented. I'm a big Bruce Springsteen fan and a big Lauryn Hill fan; I think Lauryn Hill was really the fulcrum for this project. Neither of us sound anything like Lauryn Hill, but just that idea of doing acoustic hip-hop that was just very substance-oriented, but still pretty at the same time, still fun to listen to, not just someone strumming guitar and someone rapping. It has a pop flavor to it as well.
Gimme Noise: How is the writing process different for these songs versus your more traditional rap material with Big Cats?
Guante: I think it was more challenging myself to write songs that were deeper and better than anything I'd written before. If I had any type of manifesto, it's that it's better to say something complex using as simple language as possible than it is to say really simple stuff as abstractly as possible, and I feel a lot of Twin Cities underground hip-hop does the latter.
Claire: The thesis for the whole project was to make music how people used to listen to music, gathering around the record player and really actively listening to music. Have the activity be listening to that music and not just have it be in the background.
Guante: That's "Just a Song" in a nutshell. The difference between weather and climate. The difference between passive listening and active listening. I think that relates to passive songwriting and active songwriting too. Claire brought to the table a bunch of song ideas, little hooks and bridges and lyrical samples written, and I would either write stuff based on what [she] had or find something I already had and make it fit.
Claire: I think, "Illusion of Movement", if you had to have one song that kind of represents [us]... It's the take-home song, because it kind of has everything. We share very similar political beliefs, and we truly believe in change, and I think it's interesting that this album just happened to be in the works forever and we just happened to not get our shit together to get it out until now, but also it happens to be coming out at a very volatile, very exciting and interesting time politically.
Guante: The songs are explicitly political, but none of them are anthems. When "Illusion of Movement" was written for the first time, it's not just a love song, it's supposed to be about reaching for something and chasing after something, even when the odds are against you. Struggle, basically. If you look at the past three or four years of my career, both the spoken word stuff that I've done and the music, I've done a lot of love songs and love poems, but I don't know if I've ever written just a straight-up love song. They're always metaphors for something else, because it's a perfect entry point to talk about an issue. Almost anyone can relate to a love song. That gets you into it, but when you're there, as a writer, you have the freedom to push people in other directions and make them think about other things.
Gimme Noise: Even though rap and spoken word are so tied to one another, this project almost brings out the spoken word element of your music more-so in its relationship to folk music.
Guante: What we're doing aesthetically mixes hip-hop and folk, but even culturally, this is still very much a hip-hop record, even if there aren't drums, even if there aren't pounding basslines. The attitude in it, and the idea of doing it yourself. Improvisation, not in the songwriting, but just in the idea of putting this together. That stuff is very hip-hop. [Being a spoken word artist], you learn really quickly to make each word count and really care about how each line builds upon the previous line. I think its been a blessing to be able bring that into songwriting, because I've been doing both for 10 years. To see how they've kind of dovetailed at this point in my career is really cool.
Come see A Loud Heart play this Friday, November 11th, 2011 at Honey (205 East Hennepin Avenue, Minneapolis, MN 55414). The 18+ show runs from 7 to 10 PM. Admission is $7, and the new album is selling for $10; cover your door fee and cop the album for $15.