Formed in 2001 at South by Southwest, The Chicharones are composed of MC/songwriters Sleep and Josh Martinez and have been making music on their own terms while forming a legion of fans who love their brand of sonic hip hop. From rocking shows of nearly 10,000 people, to sharing their music with world-famous video games (NBA2K, Grand Theft Auto, Need for Speed 2), The Chicharones continue to push the boundaries of not only hip hop, but music in general. I got a chance to sit down with the Portland-natives when they came in to town to play the Vans Warped tour at the Luxor fairgrounds recently to talk about life on the road and why the guys do what they doÖ
Brjden Crewe: So with you guys being as busy as you have been lately, were you excited about bringing the new music on the road?
Chicharones: Absolutely. We’re really excited to showcase the new Swine Flew record for everyone. Having an opportunity to play for so many people, in a festival as big as the Vans Warped Tour is a huge opportunity for us. And weíre excited to smash.
BC: Utah, Nevada, and Cali in a matter of a week’s time. How was the experience playing in three different cities and moods?
CR: Utah was a blast! It was our first day and we got the whole gang together and met some great people before smashing our show. Vegas was also a blast. We stayed up late night, lost some money, and killed our show as we melted in the hot sun (laughing).
After Vegas, we popped our tire, the wheel caught on fire, and we were forced to switch out of the tour bus, get a UHAUL and a 15 passenger van, and drove thru the night to our show.
Cali has been all over the place as we travel up and down the state like a yoyo. Cali is much more hip hop-familiar so the crowds contain a lot of heads who are excited about seeing us play at a festival like Warped.
BC: So what was your experience in each city and how did the crowd react to the music?
CR: We got to SLC (Salt Lake City) just in time to get on the stage, fashionably late, ready to get busy, and more than a bit confused. The crowd was smaller but just as hype. We met some new friends who are well connected in the Warped Tour world, and it brightened our spirits.
Denver we missed. Our bus broke down though it was fixed, just not in time to make it to the show on time.
We had a two day layover in Vegas, and we hit the town hard. It was 125 degrees off the blazing blacktop but by the time we hit the stage at 7pm, it was a little cooler, but we mostly spent this day hiding on the bus, taking shifts hiding from the heat and looking to drink more water. The crowd was apprehensive at first, but by the end of the first song they were feeling it.
As we left Vegas, we blew out a tire, and it caught fire, leading to a 4 day nightmare of logistics and unplanned expenses. We made it to Irvine, CA late, at an abandoned military airport, which was officially considered a park, so you couldn’t smoke on its grounds even though they were made up entirely of concrete and asphalt. The crowds are growing larger now that we are in Cali.
We arrive in Pomona, with our bus still not fixed and rocked it. We made it to San Francisco, still without our bus, so we drove through the night to make our next show on time. We are all dazed and confused from the struggles, and limp into the day not sure what to expect with a scattered crew that is performing well beyond their peak capacity with Kevin Lymon, who is the founder of The Warped Tour, catching the act. He loved us!
BC: Could you tell a difference in vibe and energy with each city?
CR: Not really. Generally the people are there because they want to be there. They tend to stick around to see us, have a good time, and get some dancing in.
BC: What is it about Swine Flew that’s different from your past efforts?
CR: Itís more musical. There aren’t any samples and the production is full of live layered instrumentation. We also brought in guest vocalists on some of the songs. It serves both of us as the sum of all our efforts thus far and all the learning we’ve done throughout the process. Itís older, wiser, but feels fresh and brand new.
BC: Are there any collaborative disputes creatively between you two that disrupt musical projects and if so, how are they solved?
CR: Our creative process is one long winding dispute. It gets resolved in whatever way we can in order to accomplish the greater good, usually over a game of Putt Putt (aka Mini Golf). We’ve concluded that as long as both of us are mildly unhappy with the end result, we’ve made a good compromise.
BC: (laughing) Gotcha! So describe the sound and style of the Chicharones for new fans of your music.
CR: With influences from the Beach Boys to the Beastie Boys, the Beatles to the Beatnuts, The Chicharones have created a musical masterpiece that speaks to all generations. This is musically mature music that engages the emotions, showcases the growth of the songwriters, but doesnít stray too far from the unique joie-de-vive the Chicharones have always brought. Itís the music for the adult youíve become, and the kid that lives in your heart.
BC: Lyrically, who are some of your influences?
CR: Pharoah Monch, Drez from Black Sheep, Redman, Pharcyde, Lenny Bruce, Beach Boys, early DooWop music, British Surf Rock music, Hunter S Thompson, Sports, The News.
BC: As far as the sound and production, who were some of your influences on this album?
CR: Frank Ocean, Meyer Hawthorne, Gnarls Barkley, B.O.B., Kings of Leon, Outcast, Black Keys, The Weekend and Martinez is a big Drake fan (theyíre both from Canada)
BC: Does the opportunity to do live shows/events make being away from Portland more difficult or is it a welcome getaway?
CR: Leaving behind our families is extremely tough, but this is what we’ve chosen to do. Itís like a medieval torture device that pulls you from both ends and splits you in half. It can be really hard on the mental state, but we’ve been doing this a long time. This is not our first rodeo, and we happen to look good in a pair of size 32 Wranglers. We enjoy playing for people everywhere but itís definitely hard being gone from home for a long chunk of time.