With its first major label release, 2008’s Remind Me in 3 Days, The Knux immediately got touted as one of the most innovative and different-sounding new acts in hip-hop.
There was only one problem with that sort of talk.
The two brothers that make up The Knux — Kentrell “Krispy” Lindsey and Alvin “Joey” Lindsey — don’t consider themselves a hip-hop act at all. In fact, in a mid-November phone interview, Krispy says he and his brother don’t have much use for labels at all.
“We’re just artists,” he says, before drawing a comparison to describe his vision for The Knux. “I mean, Prince did all of it. Prince did the super, super [rocking] stuff with guitar solos. He did so much that was R&B. He did soulful stuff. He was a funky guy. So we saw ourselves the same way, I guess … or even as a band like Radiohead that would change every album. We’re like them because we see ourselves as artists.”
The Knux’s new CD, Eraser, should further the idea that Krispy and Joey don’t want to be tied to any particular musical style.
The first CD had a strong hip-hop element, but it was liberally cross-pollinated with soul (“Daddy’s Little Girl”), funk (“Parking Lot”) and rock (“Bang! Bang!” and “Roxanne”). The Knux also made considerable use of electronic textures and instrumentation on songs like “The List” and “The Train” — a sonic signature that set the group apart from the vast majority of hip-hop acts.
But Eraser is another animal altogether.
This new CD brings out the rock side of The Knux’s sound — to the point where it’s difficult to consider Eraser a hip-hop album at all. The programmed rhythms and electronics and hip-hop elements (including rapped vocals) of Remind Me in 3 Days are still there, but they play second fiddle to the rock sound that defines Eraser.
That much is apparent with the first vocal track on the CD, “She’s So Up,” an energetic tune that is driven by its hooky guitar riffs and harmony-laden chorus. Several other songs, such as “Maniac,” “Beautiful Liar” and “Razorblade,” also bring some big riffs and plenty of catchy hooks.
“This is the kind of record we’ve always wanted to make,” Krispy says. “Even when we were like teenagers we always thought of making this kind of record, a very heavy, guitar-heavy record, where you can feel the guitar and not just hear it. … It’s very aggressive and it’s guitar-heavy, man, live drums. That’s how we sound live, so I felt like why not make a record where we could play all of the songs live?”
The ability to move easily between musical styles didn’t happen by accident for the Lindsey brothers. In fact, it’s an outgrowth of how they were raised growing up in a rough-and-tumble area of New Orleans.
Their music-loving mother made sure her sons experienced a range of musical styles growing up, including funk, R&B, soul, pop and rock. Along the way, Krispy and Joey also got well acquainted with rap and hip-hop.
Early on, they knew they wanted to not just write and play music, but to have it be their career. After Hurricane Katrina hit New Orleans, the brothers headed for Los Angeles, and it didn’t take long for the duo to get noticed.
After flirting with signing with Atlantic Records in 2005, the Knux signed to Interscope after getting the label’s assurance that the group would have creative control over their music. That sort of artistic freedom is apparent on Eraser, which, like the first CD, was essentially self-produced and written by the two brothers, and clearly takes some commercial risks by playing up the rock influences of the Lindsey brothers.
The actual sound of the music isn’t all that’s different about Eraser. Joey says he took a different approach with his songwriting for the second album.
“A lot of it was written on an acoustic guitar,” he says. “Before it would be [started] on programming and then we would write a song [around the rhythm track]. But a lot of the new songs were written on acoustic guitar.
“Personally, I think songs just sound better on acoustic,” Joey says. “If it doesn’t sound good on acoustic, it’s probably not a very good song.”
Considering one of the goals on Eraser was to do songs that could be recreated live, it’s no surprise that Krispy feels the live lineup (guitarist/ vocalist Joey and keyboardist/vocalist Krispy are joined by a drummer, bassist and second keyboardist), coupled with some triggered sounds, can bring The Knux’s music to life on stage.
“A lot of bands just have never had the same feel as the songs on the album,” he says. “So we decided to make an album that would sound good live when we played it live.”