Rogue Sound around town

Meet some unknown veterans of Boulder

P.J. Nutting | Boulder Weekly

There was a time when college bands were real bands with real instruments. It’s hard to believe if you live on the Hill and see DJs every weekend, but things used to be done sans laptop and it was awesome, better, back when the most expensive drum machines sounded the most like a real drummer; lately, the exact reverse is ideal, and drummers work hard to sound just like drum machines.


Rogue Sound is a band that wants to do it all. They’ve definitely given it a try over the last 10 years of collaboration — performing at more than 25 bars and venues across the Front Range, and with more than 20 appearances at the Fox already, the collective has had a lot of opportunity to give some new things a try.

On Sept. 16, opening for hip-hop experts Zion I, they are more than ready to show the Fox that rhymes can be delivered with real instruments. That merengue can be pretty fly dance music. That bossa nova and reggae dub fit pretty tight together. That a whole lot of Rogue Sound things could happen.

Drummer Matt Smart and guitarist Mingus Fine formed Rogue Sound in 2000 and waded through lineups and style trials until a strong ska and reggae rhythmic backbone emerged. Things got more serious in 2004 when Smart and Fine recruited regular help on horns from Andrew McNew. Now that new “core” members Otis Lande on bass and Tonie G on vocals are tightening all the knots, Rogue Sound has evolved into a hiphop collaboration that never has been, and likely will never be, defined by any single group member or artistic vision.

Boulder is a small town, and swimming in a small pond has taught the members something about keeping it fresh. Guest musicians can sometimes run the number of on-stage performers up to eight or 10 — it all depends on who’s around.

They recently played a show at the Boulder Draft House and recruited a somewhat spontaneous horn and drum section for the gig. And despite the sudden collaboration, the band fit right in on the dance floor next to the DJ, Red Lion.

“We have lived in the same town playing this music for 10 years,” Smart says, “and the only way that we can keep doing that is to switch it up over and over and over and over. That’s probably why we have such a big sound, always just involving so many different musicians. You can’t just have the same songs and expect people to keep coming back.”

That’s the beauty of hip-hop. You can sample pretty much anything, and as long as the drum thumps and the bass blasts, you’ll have a full dance floor.

Rogue Sound describes itself as somewhat bilingual. Either from the years that Smart spent living in Mexico or the proficient lyricism of Tonie G, the band has a taste for musical styles south of the border. It’s not uncommon for a band with roots in reggae and ska (or hip-hop, really), but Rogue Sound is really not afraid of it. Kumbia, merengue, banda, Mexican ranchera music, todo está bien.

The upcoming show at the Fox will showcase Rogue Sound in its element, and it also presents a chance to show what they can do after a decade of cutting their teeth in bars all over Colorado. They have opened for diverse, international acts such as Kool Keith, Eek-a-Mouse, Granola Funk Express and the Rebirth Brass Band, and with a variable, capable sound to support any of the above acts, Rogue Sound is more than able to compete with Zion I’s intelligent production and positive vibrations.

For Fine, “It’s actually meaningful because Zion I is like growing — they’re getting huge — and it’s positive hip-hop.

“Good music,” Fine continues, “means good dancing, good dancing means good loving, and everybody needs some good, sweet loving.”

On the Bill

Rogue Sound opens for Zion I at the
Fox Theatre on Thursday, Sept. 16. Doors at 8:30 p.m. Tickets are $20.
1135 13th St., Boulder, 303-443-3399