Flipsyde members sang `Somebody' during a rather dark phase in their career. But it's been limelight ever since the song was picked to promote the Winter Olympics, writes RAKESH MEHAR
There are many ways to climb to the top of music charts. You could slave your way up playing at clubs and back road bars till people like you enough to buy your music. You could sign on a record label with a smart marketing wing that gets your songs enough airplay for them to be burned into everyone's consciousness. Or you could write an infectious melody that embodies the spirit of the Winter Olympics. Which is exactly what Flipsyde managed to do.Ever since their hit single, "Someday", was picked by NBC to promote the 2006 Winter Olympics, this Oakland-based band, which performed in Bangalore earlier this week, just can't seem to get enough of the airwaves. "We were on tour in Europe when we first heard the news, and it just went over our heads," says Piper, one of the vocalists. "We just couldn't believe it because `Someday' was written at a dark point in our lives, when we trying to make our own light at the end of the tunnel." For the band, it seemed incredulous that such a dark song could represent something like the Olympics.However, conversations with Michelle Kwan and other stars of the Winter Olympics helped the band establish a parallel between the spirit of "Someday" and the story of these sportspersons' lives. "They push themselves all their lives for this one point that they can't even see clearly. It felt like we got to the Olympics ourselves," he says.
What has worked in the band's favour, catapulting them into instantaneous fame is their unique mix of musical styles. According to guitarist Dave Lopez, the thrust of the band lies in "breaking down the walls". Indeed, all the band members assert that has happened within the band too. "I've learnt things from all of them. I've been to Brazil and I know something about them, but I learnt so much from Piper. And I learnt things I never knew about Chile from Dave," explains DJ D-Sharp. Musically too, he adds, his universe has opened up thanks to his bandmates. "I never used to listen to rock, but with the band I've become more open to it. And Steve (Knight), I've learnt to appreciate a lot of singer songwriters like Jack Johnson." Ask the band what the resultant mélange is called, and they've got the label to end all labels. "We play slash (`/') music. It's an infusion of all musical styles - blues/soul/Latin/country/hip-hop/rock... We're tired of saying all that, so we call it slash music." What many fans also find interesting about the band is that the music comes laced with a heavy dose of political lyric writing. "It would be fun to just go to the studios and make club songs for parties. We do that sometimes because we like to party sometimes too. But most of our second album is going to be about the truth," says Piper.
Not just women and bling
Inevitably, the question of baggage comes up. After all, the band inherits all of the notions people have built around hip-hop over the years. But Piper clarifies that hip-hop isn't all about bling and sex. "There are a lot of artistes that don't talk about that. But video and radio stations only play the ones that do because sex, drugs and violence sell." But doesn't pushing the lyrical envelope have its consequences? "We're broke already. So we aren't really bothered," jokes Dave. The Dixie Chicks, a band that Flipsyde seems obviously to admire, gets thrown up as an example of the truth prevailing. "Now that the truth about the Iraq war is out, they're getting a lot of love, and they're selling millions of records," says Dave. The band has literally been doing the rounds lately, touring extensively through the U.S., Europe and Asia. And while vocalist and acoustic guitarist Steve Knight says that being on the road has mostly been about running in and out of hotels and airports, the band wouldn't trade in their experiences for anything. "It's been great, and we got to see the world. We got to play to some beautiful people in France. They didn't speak English, but they still recognised our energy. It was the same with Japan and Germany," says Piper. One of the high points of their tours has been working with other bands in the spotlight such as the Black Eyed Peas and the Pussycat Dolls. "The tours are great. They're like one big family thing," says Piper. Despite their incredible rise to stardom, the foursome makes it clear that they're in it for the long haul. After all, they say, there is so much room exploration in hip hop, which is still in its infancy. The rock opera is done. People have infused almost every element into it. But by adding latino to hip hop, we're taking it forward by going back," says Dave."We're not a fly-by-night band. We might not be on a big label, but whether the labels big or small we'll always be making our music," he asserts.