Two Asheville-based bands recently completed recording new albums, and both are celebrating the release of those projects with live shows. Electro-soul group RBTS WIN commemorates the release of its fourth album, Sensitivity Kit, with a performance at The Grey Eagle on Friday, Aug. 25. Hip-hop artist Foul Mouth Jerk debuts his latest effort, Scofflaw, with a Saturday, Aug. 26, show at Isis Music Hall.
Try a little tenderness
The RBTS WIN trio – synthesist Javier Bolea, vocalist/synth player Cliff B. Worsham and guitarist Josh Chassner – makes modern, electronic-based dance music. But the band, a Moogfest fixture, draws upon some very old-school influences. In addition to a strong hip-hop sensibility (“Javi and I caught the initial wave of hip-hop music,” says Worsham), the group’s sound is informed by the work of “spaghetti western” film scorer Ennio Morricone.
“In my production of music, I draw heavy influence from Italian movie scores and Italian dance music of the 1970s and ’80s,” says Worsham. The combination of those seemingly diametrically opposed styles is part of what gives RBTS WIN its distinctive sound.
“We had always leaned upon hip-hop music,” says Worsham, “So, for us, it was a natural crossover that we could go back and forth between chillwave and a more aggressive hip-hop record like Dap City [a 2015 collaboration with Rapper Shane].”
“We love exploring and working with other artists,” Bolea says, “working with rappers and other vocalists. And Cliff’s doing a lot with different psych-rock bands and heavier bands. Pretty much everything we do will have our stamp on it; we’re just trying to have fun and have as much output as possible.”
Many artists operating in the electronic dance idiom focus on a trance or jam aesthetic, but RBTS WIN places a higher value on song craft. “We’re songwriters,” says Worsham. “We’re not well-trained musicians. We’re attracted to all instrumentation, but never really focus on one thing. So, instead, we play at a bunch of instruments.”
In some ways, RBTS WIN’s musicians work more in the role of producers. “We just have the ear for putting it all together,” says Worsham.
The new album, Sensitivity Kit, is a major departure from the group’s previous release. Worsham explains that 2014’s Palm Sunday “was a sample-based album. But this record has no samples; it’s all us playing synthesizers, guitars, bass, whatever. Every instrument you hear is us. I even played drums on some of the songs.”
That human element characterizes the band’s live shows, too. “We don’t want to be the same-sounding band every time you come to see us,” Worsham says. “We like to switch it up and surprise people.”
Sensitivity Kit is RBTS WIN’s third full-length release, and it’s also the third to be released on vinyl. A limited-run pressing will be available simultaneously with the digital and CD versions. “Vinyl is really nice because it’s such a permanent format,” Bolea says, “and it’s such a great way to display the visual side.”
‘Leftover ham and PBR tallboys’
“‘Scofflaw’ is a Prohibition-era term for someone flagrantly flouting the more petty crimes,” says Michael Capra, aka Foul Mouth Jerk, of his album title. Scofflaw is a collection of party songs and more political ones.
“I’m hiding a political stance under some party sh*t,” Capra says, “because I find that a spoonful of sugar helps the medicine go down.”
Wait, Foul Mouth Jerk is quoting Mary Poppins? “That’s what’s hot in the streets, man,” he says with a chuckle. “Mary Poppins.”
The Scofflaw project began as a series of phone calls between Capra and local muralist and rapper Gus Cutty. At the time, Cutty lived in San Francisco. “That Thanksgiving, I flew out to San Francisco,” Capra says. “We had dinner at Gus’ apartment and then spent the next two days eating leftovers and recording the whole album. So Scofflaw was made over leftover ham and PBR tallboys.”
Recently, Capra has been working on new tracks with Asheville-based production collective Evil Note Lab. The product of those efforts will be Foul Mouth Jerk’s next album. Still, Evil Note Lab will play a major role in the debut of Scofflaw. “Since I sit in on their weekly set at One Stop, we figured a cool way to release the album would be to do it with them,” Capra says. “It’ll be a mix of, ‘Here’s the newest project,’ and ‘Here’s a sneak peek of what’s coming in the next year or so.’”
Improvisation is a hallmark of Evil Note Lab’s musical approach, and that lines up well with Capra’s methods. “When I perform with them, improvisation is a huge part of it,” he says. “Because all of what they’re doing is completely off the cuff, it’s actually really amazing to watch.”
Capra likens the experience of collaborating onstage with Evil Note Lab to a jump-rope game of double Dutch. “They ebb and flow,” he says. “One moment, there’s so much going on. And then other times, they strip it right down to bare bones.”
Spontaneity is also key to Foul Mouth Jerk’s own musical aesthetic. “I approach things more in the style of the early 1970s days of hip-hop,” he says. “Back then, the MC was not the front man; MC was a hype man for the DJ. So, when I find those little breakdowns, I might just do a hook a few times and then jump back out.”
Though Capra puts a great deal of effort into his rhymes, when it comes to live shows, it’s about dancing. “And you don’t want to bog down dance music with thick, really wordy verses,” he says. “I drop verses here and there, but mainly I just try and find the spot where I fit in,” he says.
In a live setting, like the release party for Scofflaw, Capra says, “the vocals are really the hype man for the music.”
WHO: RBTS WIN
WHERE: The Grey Eagle, 185 Clingman Ave. www.thegreyeagle.com
WHEN: Friday, Aug. 25, at 9 p.m. $10 advance / $12 day of show
WHO: Foul Mouth Jerk
WHERE: Isis Music Hall, 742 Haywood Road, www.isisasheville.com
WHEN: Saturday, Aug. 26, at 9 p.m. $12