Local Current Blog

Artist of the Month: Doomtree

Doomtree in 2006. Photo by Chris Roberts/MPR.

The roots of Doomtree took seed sometime around 2001, when P.O.S. and MK Larrata decided to launch a record label/production crew. While the roster has changed between now and then, the most well-known Doomtree lineup has been in place for several years. It’s a seven-member musical arsenal of DJs, beat-builders, rappers, and producers: P.O.S., Cecil Otter, Lazerbeak, Mike Mictlan, Paper Tiger, Dessa, and Sims. Each member is a solo artist in his or her own right—and together, Doomtree are a well-oiled machine. Their DIY way of doing things, releasing their music on their own timeline and on their own label, has afforded them a loyal following and an independence which is often both envied and imitated.

When not recording or touring as a band, each member branches out and flexes his or her solo muscles with independent tours and recordings. They released their eponymous effort in 2008 as their first official album together, featuring the fan favorite “Drumsticks.” In 2011, their sophomore effort No Kings gave us the club anthem “Bangarang” and their recently announced third full-length All Hands will be released on Jan. 27.

Each December for the past decade, Doomtree have thrown their annual concert Blowout. Two years ago at the Blowout, P.O.S. became so gravely ill that he couldn’t take the stage and was rushed to a hospital. He’d been ill for some time, but around the release of his fourth solo record We Don’t Even Live Here, he could no longer ignore the challenge of his failing kidneys and had to cancel his upcoming tour. After an extensive search, a donor was found and Stef (P.O.S.) received a kidney transplant earlier this year.

This year will mark the tenth and final blowout—but that doesn’t mean the end of Doomtree! As we mark the tenth and final blowout, today Doomtree will be Blowing Out Local Current from noon until 6:00 p.m.!

Here’s some insider baseball for you. When we plan these Artist of the Month features, the host assigned to that band sits down and writes a brief bio that hits all the “main points” of a band’s career.

As a fan of Doomtree, I jumped at the chance to be the DJ who covered them for this feature! I have seen Doomtree play around 20 shows since moving to Minnesota—which sounds like a lot compared to other bands, but trust me, we probably have people on staff who have seen them 10 or 20 times more than I have. I’ve been to countless solo concerts as well. Admittedly, I am a total fangirl of this band! I have witnessed some of their highest highs and lowest lows. I feel privileged to have met each member of their crew. One of the highlights of my career was bringing Doomtree to the stage at Rock The Garden in the summer of 2012 as they became the very first hip-hop band to perform at the festival.

When they released their career-spanning photo book, I relished when it came in the mail and slowly leafed through it. I saw many, many faces I knew, but there were some strangers throughout the book, as well.

When I sat down to write this bio, I kept running into contradicting stories about when and how the band got together. In a recent interview, Mike Mictlan talked about meeting P.O.S. for the first time—but I didn’t know exactly where to begin in writing this. So, I “phoned a friend.” I contacted Dessa and asked if she thought the gang would be willing to sit down with me for an hour and talk about the beginning of the band. A few weeks ago, the band joined me in the Current’s studios for a very relaxed chat about their formation, the highs and lows of their career, their new record All Hands, and some of the people closest to them.

Throughout this chat you can hear the close-knittedness shine through. They finish each other’s sentences, they have about a bazillion inside jokes, and Cecil Otter is perfectly happy not talking 99% of the time! Originally, I just wanted them to answer the “how did you guys get started?” question—but it evolved into so much more and devolved into chaos, all at the same time. It’s an hour-long conversation with 6/7 of Doomtree that’s like an inside look at the band. If you’ve ever just wanted to be a fly on the wall while these guys chatted, here’s your opportunity!

We recorded this Nov. 12, the same day that the band received their final artwork for the new record All Hands, and I felt privileged to take a peek in advance. We agreed that I wouldn’t leak the name of the record, so we agreed that I could air this interview on the 14th. But then the band went and unveiled that info. So I guess I’m free to do the same! Keep in mind, while taping we assumed that this would be released after the blowout—you’re not in a time machine!

  1. Listen Barb Abney interviews Doomtree

Previous Artists of the Month:

January 2013: Andrea Swensson on Dan Wilson
February 2013: Barb Abney on Low
March 2013: David Campbell on 12 Rods
April 2013: Bill DeVille on the Jayhawks
May 2013: Lindsay Kimball on the Hopefuls
June 2013: Steve Seel on the Hang Ups
July 2013: Jon Schober on the Soviettes
August 2013: Mark Wheat on the Suburbs
September 2013: Mac Wilson on the Replacements
October 2013: Walt Dizzo on Charlie Parr
November 2013: Andrea Swensson on Information Society
December 2013: Andrea Swensson on Sounds of Blackness
January 2014: Jay Gabler on Lookbook
March 2014: Jim McGuinn on Jeremy Messersmith
April 2014: Ali Lozoff on Lifter Puller
May 2014: Mark Wheat on Atmosphere
July 2014: Jay Gabler on Prince
September 2014: Bill DeVille on Trampled By Turtles
October 2014: The Current staff on Bob Dylan
November 2014: Mark Wheat on Cloud Cult