Since their first mix tape, 2009’s Better Then McDonaldʼs, Oxymorrons have been on the forefront of combining every genre of music that has inspired them into one project. We spoke to vocalists/brothers Dave “D” Bellevue and Ashmy “KI” Bellevue about their latest single, “Brunch,” the band’s various influences and how they tackle them, and the pros and cons of being independent.
Like you guys, I like hip-hop music, but I’m into rock music as well. Your music serves as a bridge between those two genres. What were some of the records that influenced you?
Dave “D” Bellevue: We kind of grew up listening to it all. It wasn’t a hip hop first thing. In all actuality, it’s always been an alternative split for us. Growing up listening to eclectic music from my dad, so one of my favorite bands is Queen. Coming up listening to Blink 182, Linkin Park, all those guys. That was always a thing for us. My older brother was heavy into hip hop. He was signed to..what was that record label?
Ashmy “KI” Bellevue: I think it was Elektra.
D: He was more of the hip-hop guy that we grew up around. He grew up listening to Onyx and The Lost Boyz. We got a lot of hip hop in that space, but there was always alternative rock. When we started making our own music, it was pretty much a no-brainer that it would happen because that’s naturally what we listened to.
KI: I can remember being a little kid and watching some of the music videos. Looking at Nirvana‘s videos. Looking at the “Enter Sandman” video that those were some of the things that pulled me towards it. Being a little kid and not knowing exactly what it was, but the influences have always been around us since we were young.
D: Yea, seriously. I remember the “Unforgiven” video was one that I watched a lot. There was always something pulling in that direction, so we just followed our hearts.
Hip Hop now has basically melded into every genre – a little bit pop, a little bit electronic music. It’s literally in every DNA. Do you feel like this is the right time for Oxymorrons to be in?
KI: Definitely the time right. We are called Oxymorrons for the fact that we blend genres and do whatever we want. Music is, especially from an urban standpoint, dabbling in different genres. From jazz to all the things that you touched on. That was our mission statement from day one.
D: It wasn’t a progressive thing that’s happening now for us. We’ve always been this way. We were this way when it wasn’t cool to be this way. When it wasn’t understood to be this way. We’ve been this way since our very first mixtape. If you can find it anywhere online, it’s called Better Than McDonalds. Now seeing that it’s more acceptable to be genre fluid, you get this where you can be who you want to be, do what you want to do and it’s accepted now.
KI: Timing has met us. That’s one of the things managers and A&Rs that we worked with have said through our process, “your time is coming. You just have to stick it out.” A lot of bands that started out with us that were doing a lot of different things gave up. I’m not saying it’s a bad thing because it’s not easy, especially when you try to make something lucrative. Not everyone gets to make money off of their music. We weathered the storm the entire time and right now we are in this moment where it all makes sense.
You have a song like “Asleep” where in the beginning it has a rock part that is reminiscent of Gym Class Heroes and then in the middle, the 808 drops into the rap part. What goes into making an Oxymorrons song?
KI: Each song has it’s own situation and own story. For instance, when we were working on “Asleep,” when we got to the studio, it was like “hey I wonder if Nirvana did a Baltimore bounce record?” When it comes to lyrics, my brother and I might have a song idea. “Hey, I have this idea,” and then go back and forth with that. When we go to the studio, we put it all together.
D: It’s funny you say Gym Class Heroes because we toured with them. Travie is our really good friend. He’s on our song, “808 Clap,” that was on Soundcloud before we transitioned doing things on Spotify and Apple Music. They put us on one of our really big tours like Lupe Fiasco. Travie put us on a tour that helped up break ground. We’ve just been busting our ass and doing what we do. When we’re blending those genres, that’s exactly what you are getting. We come in to how we feel and build a record.
KI: “Brunch” is a big celebration record. It’s almost indicative of what the Oxymorron brand is. Is that song showing where you are going with the Gateway Drug project?
D: “Brunch” is a subtle taste of what the Gateway Drug project is going to sound like. It is an anthem. It’s about liberating yourself. Being yourself 100%. Without having to care or adhere to any boundaries. With Gateway Drug, your going to hear some heavy shit that sounds like metal. You’re going to hear everything on Gateway Drug.
KI: The premise of Gateway Drug is that when we toured the country, we heard “oh dude, I’m not really into rap music, but I love you guys.” Or “hey, I’m not really into rock, but I love you guys.” People get to test and taste other genres based on coming to our shows. They start to give other genres a chance, especially when it comes to rock and hip hop. That’s why we consider ourselves the “Gateway Drug.”
Considering that the current time that we are living in, things tend to be very polarizing. In the age of Trump, I’ll say..
We toured the country during the election, so we played in red states while that was happening. We get it and the funny thing is, if you talk on the positive end, we know the standpoints of some of the red states and what is important to those people. One of the key things for us is that America’s government consistency divides us. The system isn’t really designed to help anyone but the top tier and with that, we fight each other because it’s designed that way.
We’ve been taught to be that way for so long. Trump just played to what’s important to them. It’s not so much that he was going to help them. It’s very easy to get people to vote for you when they were very underrepresented and misunderstood in many different spaces. It was easy for Trump to manipulate that side of the population. “Hey, I’m going to give you all this, so vote for me.”
The Oxymorron fan base is very diverse. Did that open you guys up to see all the strands of division?
D: Oh yea! Codfish Hollow, Iowa. We have a huge fan base there and didn’t know. We thought that was going to be a completely different experience and they showed nothing but love. Then, in places like Tennessee in festivals we were booked for – we were told we weren’t “American” enough and got kicked off the festival. There’s a lot of different examples of what you can actually go through. Somethings are parallel, somethings are “wow, I can’t believe this is happening.” When your out on that road in this cities, you literally see it all.
I would consider an act like you that includes so many different genres and plays to all fan bases to basically embody what America is or is supposed to be.
KI: That’s what we would have thought too. We don’t cater to anyone. We just make music. We just do what we do and if you love it, gravitate to it. We don’t care what you look like or what you do. As long as your a good person
You guys made a playlist of Spotify to raise awareness for mental health. Especially with figures like Chester Bennington and Chris Cornell, the issue of mental health has been prominent in music lately. I’m sure Oxymorrons’ music has helped people. Are you guys more aware of mental health?
D: I’m extremely aware of mental health because my best friend took his life. It’s not a coincidence that we are pioneers and going that way. One of the first songs that got press recognition from us is a song called “Alone” shortly after he took his own life. That was in 2013. I’m a speaker for a lot of different conferences. I work with the Jet foundation. That will forever be a staple of the band. Right now, it’s getting attention and I love it, but it’s not just a moment for us. It hits home really hard.
KI: It hits home for us to the max and I believe that, now in society, stress is a normal thing. People are just taking it very lightly, so I’m happy that it’s being broadcasted around.
Being a musician in this current state, money isn’t being made like it was in the past. It tows the line between being amazing and stressful. Oxymorrons are a lot about community and supporting other artists. How do you strike a balance?
D: We tend to do a lot of different things. Music has not been the driving force for what we do. Obviously, it’s absolutely necessary. It’s something that we don’t heavily focus on, but we do make money off of what we are doing. We also have side jobs. I do marketing and consulting for a lot of companies when we aren’t on tour just to make sure we are cutting even. We’ve been having really big years and finding a lot of opportunities in sync. We understand the privileges that we do have as a band and that’s why we build a sense of community.
KI: “Hey, if you guys need something, we’ll help you out. We can connect you to someone who can make your video a little cheaper. I got you. We can do shows together and put you on the bill to make sure you get paid.” We’ll do whatever it takes to keep music going. The problem with the music business, especially the industry, it takes full advantage of the music but doesn’t realize that the main component are the creators. Everyone gets paid before the creators. That sucks because at the end of the day, none of this would be functional if guys weren’t creating good art. Executives need to understand that the reason the music business is hurting is because it became non-creative focused. Everything else became the focus other than the creative things that they are selling.
There’s two different things in music now: there’s the big corporate machine and then you have the indie artists. Bigger artists are electing to go indie because they have that control. It goes to you guys. You’re creating good art so it almost sells and supports itself.
D: What a lot of people don’t understand about the new indie wave that it’s not..I wouldn’t necessarily say that signing with a major is a bad thing. I think artists need to analyze who they are, what they want, and what system means to them. From there, make the decision based on what works for them. As soon as you make music not a hobby and a career, there are tough decisions you have to make. Being indie is very difficult. It’s not as fun..people like to point out Chance the Rapper. “Omg, he’s indie. You can do it.” Chance’s father is also one of the biggest political figures in Chicago. Chance comes from money. Not to say that’s a bad thing because Chance makes fantastic music, but the average person can’t do what Chance does because they don’t have that opportunity.
KI: It’s not like you can pop up and say, “I’m going to do this,” and that’s it. You need some sort of team, structure, or some sort of capital as well. At the end of the day, it is a business. You need money to back up your machine.
D: Exactly! That’s the only fallacy I see with the pushing of indie. You have to push the actual message and that’s what we do. We tell guys that it’s been blood, sweat, and tears. We’re still kind of not where we want to be, but we know how fortunate it is to break the ground that we’ve done.
Photo Credit: Oxymorrons Facebook