Interview with RPM: DC’s Trippy Hip-Hop Band Stakes Out Their Kingdom

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Restoring Poetry In Music, (RPM)  is not your run of the mill hip-hop band. The DC-based quartet combines funk, blues, jazz and the right touch of psychedelia to create their own infectious and sophisticated brand of songwriting.  Their new single “Box of Fire” is propelled by a groove guitar hook laced with spacey synths and trippy backing vocals. We spoke with vocalist and multi-instrumentalist Jason Moore from  Arlington, Va.

Weeping Elvis: How did RPM get started?

Jason Moore: We started out about ten years ago with my cousin and me but it really came into being as a full band with some friends of mine at James Madison University.  RPM today is me, Aaron Gause, Pat Fritz, those have been the core members and now our drummer Jon Laine.

WE: Tell me about the new album.

JM: It’s called Kingdom of Fireflies and it’s our third album. It should be out this fall. It’s being released by Tripwire Music. There will be a digital release and physical copies will be out too.

WE: How has your songwriting evolved?

JM: After I came back from doing the whole hip-hop label thing (I’ve been signed to three hip-hop labels) in 2007, I didn’t want to record anything for the next couple years. I just wanted to practice playing music. That transformed into me taking guitar lessons from Pat, that’s what he does for a living. I started learning Pro-Tools and how to make beats and I then really got into blues music, like Muddy Waters and John Lee Hooker- just a guitar and a singer. I started taking vocal lessons to improve that element of it (our writing). Once we started working on Kingdom of Fireflies those elements started to come out. Pat is very blues derivative too so it was a natural fit.

WE: How did “Box of Fire” come about?

JM: One night Pat and me were planning on having a couple of drinks but I was two hours late because I was hanging out with my ex-girlfriend, who I didn’t want him to know about, because everyone says I shouldn’t be dating her. (Laughs) I finally got there and he was really pissed at me, he said, “Whatever man, I have this guitar riff, but I can’t remember it because you were so late.” He played the guitar riff for “Box of Fire” and I was like “dude that’s so bad ass.” I started writing and at first it was more sung, and then Pat said, “You should rap two of the verses and let Aaron finish it out.” Then Jon Laine, our drummer came in and suggested we record it live, so what’s on the final version is actually a half live recording of everybody playing together, so it was very collaborative.

WE: I love the song, especially where you guys take it in the end, it’s very dreamy.

JM: The whole album is very spacey, so that song kind of brings it (the album) into focus. Amongst us we feel like it’s a hip-hop Dark Side of The Moon and we’re really interested to see how people take to it. It’s not your average hip-hop album.

Thanks to Jason Moore for taking time to chat with us. Checking out more on RPM here.

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Pat Ferrise grew up loving ”the punk rock” and “new wave.” His years at one of the nation’s top college radio stations ultimately led him to a 15-year run as music director of alternative music icon WHFS Washington/Baltimore. Rolling Stone magazine named him of the most influential programmers of the 90s. He’s recorded two albums under the moniker Trampoline for the now defunct SpinArt label. He lives in Baltimore and takes no credit for writing this bio.