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Music | Beat-Boxed In: Salt Lake City’s Deadbeats stay relevant under the radar

By Ryan Bradford
Posted // January 9,2008 - To say that Lance Saunders is a busy guy is an understatement. “There are actually three of me,” he says, slyly aware of his uncompromising inertia. “It comes in really handy if I’m acting like an asshole one night—later, I can just say, ‘Hey, that wasn’t me.’”

If the public had easy access to cloning technology, I might actually believe him. Apart from being a full-time contributor to SLUG magazine and running the door/bartending at The Urban Lounge, Saunders is also involved with this year’s biggest local-music story so far (all 10-ish days of it): He’s the new co-owner of Salt Lake City’s flagship all-ages venue, Kilby Court—but you already knew that, right loyal reader?

Saunders is also in one of Salt Lake City’s most criminally overlooked rap groups Deadbeats—a fact that may elude even the most diligent City Weekly readers as we play catch-up on our lax coverage of the talented trio. Their elusive reputation actually informs the first question I ask Saunders when we meet over coffee. A two-part question, actually.

“We stay under the radar because we change a lot. And we have fun,” Saunders says before pausing to mull over a cup of coffee. The visibly-caffeinated Saunders speaks with a natural-lyricist’s stamina, but there’s nothing unfocused about how he talks about Deadbeats—and his pauses let me catch up while he chooses his words carefully. It’s not that I’ve asked a hard question, but in a masterful-linguist tradition, he’s found a way to answer my two-part question with one answer.

hspace=3hspace=3Why is Utah hip-hop generally so aggressive?

“The air’s thinner up here,” Saunders half-jokes. “It takes more energy to get your point across. But seriously, there are a lot of rappers that are very serious and sometimes that’s how it should be. It’s pure conviction—they believe in what they’re saying. I really admire that.”

Make no mistake; Deadbeats are aggressive. The trio (Saunders, Drew Livermore and Davie Compton) spew words with more style and intensity than you’ll likely find at a slam-poetry reading. Throw those words over background tracks that are equal parts horror and noir, and you end up with the aggressive-yet-inclusive music of Deadbeats (named more for the horror aspects of the music rather than the general rapscallion nature of its members).

Let me clarify: Why does the Utah hip-hop scene seem so aggressive, and how do Deadbeats achieve such a distinct sound? This is a potentially loaded question because it throws out suppositions about not only hip-hop, but Utah hip-hop—a touchy subject for many local loyalists. Saunders finds the problem lies not with individuals, but with an overreaching division that prevents diverse artists from gaining strength in numbers.

“There are a lot of ego-driven bands out there,” he says, warily. “There’s no collective. In the rock & roll circuit, there’s more of a community. But there are a lot of rappers that like to stay in the bubble, who, say, won’t go to a rock & roll show. They don’t understand that good music is good music.

“That’s actually how we stay relevant and stay under the radar: We promote,” Saunders continues. “We’re not afraid to play with a [indie-rock] band like The Tremula; that’s how you get crossover fans. Other rap groups only want to play with rap groups, which leads to elitism, which leads to territorialism. We don’t want to stay in that bubble. We stay under the radar because we change a lot. And we have fun.”

For proof of this, look no further than Deadbeats’ latest release Seizure Songs. The album finds the boys refining the established/mastered horror themes from previous album Recycled Obituaries, but Seizure’s 11 tracks are more relentless and focused than Obituaries’ 20 sprawling numbers. “The song structures aren’t all over the place, and there are more story-oriented songs,” Saunders says. “It sounds like movie scores—more methodical. We paced ourselves with this one, instead of just throwing everything into the pot.”

So, will the coinciding release of their best work and Saunders’ acquisition of the popular Kilby Court give Deadbeats some sort of rap monopoly in Salt Lake City? His short answer is “No,” but … well, there’s always a but.

“I keep music totally different from business,” he says. “But what if an opening act won’t show up? Who’s to say that I wouldn’t throw Deadbeats on the bill because we’re right there? It makes sense. It’s a good outlet for those fans that can’t watch us at the Urban Lounge all the time. And it’ll help us refine our live act, because a lot of rap shows are, well, boring to watch.”

“I probably said a lot of things I shouldn’t have,” he says near the end of the interview, then waves off the thought as quickly as it came. The future of Salt Lake City hip-hop is too bright for him to mince words.

DEADBEATS CD RELEASE @ Kilby Court, 741 S. 330 West, Friday Jan. 11 @ 7 p.m.

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Posted // January 30,2008 at 10:19 who are you to say that other hip hop artists dont wanna preform with Deadbeets? STFUnnfuck your pussy hip hop! We want that agressive dark shit!!!!!!!!


Posted // January 26,2008 at 02:17 It doesn’t make sense because its an overzealous statement and a weak attempt to make him and his bandmates seem like he’s going against the grain and has some kind of special unseen perspective on local hip hop that most people don’t have. He tries to point out what makes a hip hop artist an elitist, yet the context in which he uses that term is within a comparison of hip hop artists who perform with ROCK artists as opposed to hip hop artists who DONT perform with ROCK artists.nnI think statement was made mainly out of frustration that the majority of CASUAL local bar and club attendees who are looking for HIP HOP AND a good time DONT want to vibe out to dark, gloomy shit. That really only works IF you as an artist has established a concrete fanbase for that particular kind of HIP HOP and are able to make shows appeal to that certain fanbase. Artists like Necro and Jedi Mind Tricks DO have that fanbase and are able to flush out fans of that particular style by their names alone.nnJust because the majority of hip hop artists wouldn’t want to do rock shows or be set up with a gloomy act doesn’t mean that they are elitist. Its like Atmosphere can do well at a Vans Warped Tour show, but would a group like Little Brother do as well at that show? NO. So if Little Brother doesn’t do a Vans Warped Tour date (especially in UTAH), that doesn’t necessarily make them elitist. If other local hip hop artists don’t want to perform WITH the Deadbeats, it most likely has to do with the clashing of styles and more importantly, the clashing of fans of different STYLES of hip hop. And I think it would be safe to say that, in terms of HIP HOP fans--fans of dark, gloomy shit in a live setting are a minority. Is that the other hip hop artists’ fault? No. Again: does it make them elitist? No. nnNonetheless, I still praise the Deadbeats for making decent Hip Hop of their particular style, and wish them a lot of success.


Posted // January 10,2008 at 06:06 Other rap groups only want to play with rap groups, which leads to elitism, which leads to territorialism.nnThis doesn’t make sense.