Subsoil brings brand of psychedelic hip-hop to Buffalo
Experimental hip-hop group plays downtown at Dinosaur Bar-B-Que
The dance floor at Dinosaur Bar-B-Que in downtown Buffalo was misleadingly empty when Subsoil started playing, but as Saturday night progressed, more and more people came into the restaurant to break down to the band’s laid-back tunes.
Subsoil is a genre-bending hip-hop group that fuses the sounds of ska, funk and rock to create an auditory experience unlike any other. The group is known for its high-energy live performances and won “Best Live Act” in 2010 from Rochester’s Insider/Metromix Magazine.
Patrick Busch, a junior biochemistry major, had no idea who Subsoil was before Saturday’s performance.
Even after arriving at the bar and listening to the band, Subsoil’s strange genre-mixing style of music made it hard for Busch to distinguish whether the band was a true hip-hop group or not.
Despite not being able to identify the band’s genre, Busch said the concert was a great way to spend his Saturday.
The band’s vocalists/rappers, Moon.Roc (Mooney Faugh) and Laz Green, take pride in making people double-take when listening to their music.
Their goal is to not be put into a box and to ultimately stand out, the band said.
The hip-hop duo performs and records with a bass guitar, guitar, drums and keyboard.
The Roots were a huge influence for Faugh and inspired him to form a hip-hop group that uses live instrumentation, he said.
To help materialize their musical vision and presence on stage, Faugh and Green utilize the local talent of Rochester and Buffalo.
Adrien D’Angelo, a UB graduate, plays bass guitar for the group. Before Subsoil, D’Angelo was an editor for The Spectrum’s arts desk, an audio technician for the Student Association and a bass player in UB’s Jam Club.
D’Angelo went back home to Rochester to focus more on music and his skills as an audio engineer.
He met Faugh when he saw him freestyling at a Roc City Pro Jam concert in Rochester.
D’Angelo was working as audio technician at the time and ran into Subsoil on multiple occasions in various concerts and jam sessions.
Eventually, they decided to work together.
Faugh said working with a live band has helped him realize that when vocalists rap over any type of music, they make it hip-hop. Using this logic, any genre of music can be under the umbrella of hip-hop if someone is rapping.
This is what pushes Subsoil to constantly push boundaries within hip-hop and experiment with the different influences they’ve had when growing up.
Working with a live band gives Subsoil an energy in their live performances that creates a new life for their studio recordings.
At first, Faugh and Green had to get used to performing with a band and one of their biggest challenges was trying to be heard over the instrumentation during their shows.
Like many fledgling groups, Subsoil struggled to keep a band together as members came and went.
After 10 years, Subsoil has been able to maintain a stable roster of musicians who travel across the country and play alongside acts like Action Bronson, Jean Grae and Afroman.
Another important aspect of the band’s live performances is their ability to improvise and freestyle songs in the middle of a show.
“The crowd wants to see the music being made,” Faugh said.
The band has an idea of what they are going to play when they rehearse, but they like to keep the show less structured so they can come up with things on the spot.
The band’s keyboardist, Ted Ladwig, brings past experiences and different influences into Subsoil, which contributes to the loose nature of the band.
When it comes to song topics, Subsoil likes to keep things serious but from a satirical standpoint.
Songs like “Wage Slaves” are meant to get people to think about or to notice something, instead of changing their opinion.
Subsoil is a hip-hop group at the core but its music ventures off into many areas, which may be why first-time listeners like Busch can’t seem to make sense of the group’s sound.
It may be a testament to the band’s true strength that it doesn’t stop listeners such as Busch from enjoying the show.
Faugh said while he believes hip-hop is heading in the direction of live instrumentation, he doesn’t wish for his band to ever explode into mainstream popularity.
Instead, Faugh and Green are seeking a small cult following of fans that enjoy their music simply for what it is – not for the genre or non-genre stigma attached to it.
The group is currently preparing to release their album Decompositions.
Alex Pennington is a staff writer and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org