The members of experimental hip-hop groups Kill the Vultures, No Bird Sing, and solo artist Kristoff Krane are certainly no strangers to cross-pollination and collaboration. Not only do many of the members perform together in the improvisational group Coloring Time, but they frequently guest on each other’s albums and show up to support one another at gigs.
So it was no surprise, really, when they groups announced that they would forming a new collective, or that they would be appearing together on a new track. It’s a natural progression for this collection of forward-thinking, genre-defying artists, and the first track they have recorded as F to I to X (pronounced simply “fix”) hints at a bright future for the freshly minted project.
First listen: F to I to X, “Fix”
“I think a big part of it was, at least from my perspective, the influence of Mike [Larsen, a.k.a. Eyedea] and his vision,” explains Krane. Before developing a solo career, Krane released a series of albums with his group Abzorbr on Larsen’s imprint, Crushkill Recordings, and he says the legacy of that label heavily influenced the decision to forge this new collective. “For me, a lot of the connections that I have right now and knowledge that I have about the scene and what’s happening in the scene was because of him. So from my perspective it’s a big part of filling that, but also, without that, I feel like it was bound to happen because there is such a common string as far as our intentions as artists and our taste and how we present ourselves and what’s important and what we value.”
Though each of the three groups has their own distinct style, there are definite aesthetic and creative similarities between Kill the Vultures, No Bird Sing, and Krane’s work, not least of which is a willingness to throw out the rule books in favor of plumbing the depths of the unknown. “We all like to push boundaries musically,” says Alexei Casselle, who raps in Kill the Vultures as Crescent Moon. “As far as the songwriters go, I think it’s very stream-of-consciousness style writing. You see us at our live shows, it’s going to be like super honest, in the moment, not trying to sell you anything or any kind of illusion; this is just pure, raw expression.”
Casselle’s Kill the Vultures bandmate Stephen Lewis (a.k.a. DJ Anatomy) agrees. “Everyone in this crew is so open-minded to trying anything that feels right or that works that you end up just with these limitless, sort of permutations and possibilities of sound,” he says. “You end up pushing it so far and bringing in so many different ideas that eventually it feels like it’s just happening. Whatever you want to try and needs to happen in that moment is just happening, and everything is on the table.”
“What we all care about is an actual evolution of thought,” says Joe Horton, MC for No Bird Sing. “Even if you think about the metaphor we’re using of boundary pushing — it implies that people had really restrictive boundaries and then over time there’s a progression… I think with us, the real thing that we’re all trying to do is to take those boundaries and kind of untangle those knots and deconstruct those things so we can all actually be free. And that’s a serious thing that has serious implications for our world.”
The group of artists hopes that forming a collective will further kick open the door for cross-pollination between the groups. “I think once we kind of put a stamp on something and we make it official, it encourages more collaboration between everyone,” says Casselle. “I just see it like building a shelter for everyone to be under.”
“A lot of what this collective has been about from the start is taking some of these webs and spinning it around, taking some of these relationships that have been longstanding in the arenas they’ve been in, and bringing them to a whole new place,” adds Horton.
As for the name? “It’s not easy to name an experimental hip-hop collective, despite what you may think,” jokes Casselle. The group settled on F to I to X (also written F I X) because of the word’s dichotomous definitions: “meaning to repair something, but if you look at it in the drug term it’s also the thing that can destroy you, so it’s kind of like the double-edge sword,” Casselle says.
In addition to their new track, the F I X members will perform the new song and individual sets as Kill the Vultures, No Bird Sing, and Kristoff Krane at the Triple Rock Social Club tomorrow night, Friday, August 17. Find more info on F I X here.