By Bree Davies
By Emerald O'Brien
By Gina Tron
By Jon Solomon
By Drew Ailes
By Courtney Harrell
By Kyra Scrimgeour
It's a Thursday afternoon at 33rd and Blake, and the Flobots are at a screen-printing shop, talking T-shirts. A mere two weeks from their EP-release party, the clock is ticking. Gotta make sure shirts will be ready for the faithful fans they've amassed while barnstorming the Front Range this past year. There is much to discuss. How many shirts do you run on a first printing? How many for boys? How many for girls? Do you spring for the American Eagle-style shirts or settle for Fruit of the Loom?
Lead MC Jamie Laurie, aka Jonny 5, is on his cell phone discussing this and more with co-MC Stephen Brackett, while occasional lyricist Galen Shoe hovers over a computer, discussing the logo he made with a graphic-design artist who looks like he wishes the group had a better grasp of that whole time-money relationship. Viola player Mackenzie Roberts appears on the scene, and all promotional-clothing issues are combed over anew. Things get confusing, then suddenly clear as the pieces fall into place with surprising ease: The logo is positioned, the font chosen, numbers are crunched and discounts are kindly rewarded. In the blink of an eye, the group has gone from nearly leaving to rehash things to wrapping the deal with a nice little bow.
The Flobots might just be the exception to the old "Too many chefs spoil the stew" maxim.
The eclectic rap ensemble comprises a gaggle of talented musicians from various, even contradictory, styles who somehow manage to pull off a consistent, cohesive sound. Bop Skizzum frontman Andy Guerrero and bassist Jesse Walker anchor the group in a firm funk foundation, while the versatile drumming of Josh Kyser helps steer the ship toward hip-hop. Roberts's often haunting, always elegant classical viola serves as the stitching that holds many songs together, while Joe Ferrone's trumpeting peppers an already spicy meal.
The current lineup complements Jonny 5's diverse, intelligent lyrics. Nowhere is this more evident than on the Flobots' debut EP, Platypus. On "No W," for instance, the group strikes a funky, gather-round-y'all sound to match playful couplets such as "Unstoppable like a tropical disaster/Denver, Colorado, where the water boils faster" and "The crowd starts panicking/'cause they don't know how to act, like Anakin." Another song, "Handlebars," begins with a simple music-box melody that builds steadily before eventually exploding into a cacophonous catharsis of instruments, while J5 rants about the wasted potential of channeling creativity and courage into global destruction.
The range of styles and messages speaks to a wide audience, as evidenced by the fact that the group opened for everyone from Yo, Flaco! and Matson Jones to L.A. underground rappers 2Mex and the ShapeShifters -- and have found receptive ears across the board. The Flobots still have plenty of fans to convert, but now they're equipped with the right gear to do it.