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Animal magnetism

Local band re-imagines hip-hop

By Cindy Filipenko

Who: Animal Nation with Josh Martinez and Mat the Alien

Where: Moe Joe’s

When: Wednesday, Dec. 6

Animal Nation is two extremely clever local guys who have taken hip-hop and shaken it free of its baser elements. If you’re looking for lyrics laden with “bitches” and “hos” you’re not going to find them here. Instead, what you’ll get is intelligent lyrics and witty musical sensibility that they call Nutella-Dinner-Hop.

“We just say Nutella-Dinner-Hop because it's fun to say. Having fun rules,” says front man Steige “Tall Man” Turner.

Originally drawn to hip-hop because he felt it was one of the few genres where people actually listened to the lyrics, Turner says he’s expanded his listening choices to include rock and indie rock. The melodic qualities of musical styles are clearly apparent in the band’s debut release, Selfless Mind Indulgence .

Animal Nation’s pseudonymous monikers are about the only thing the band has in common with gangsta hip-hop.

“I quickly realized that there was a direct correlation between number of records sold and the stupidity of your name. I just figured that if I managed to pick a name that was even dumber than ‘50 Cent’, ‘The Game’ or ‘Lil’ Anything’, than I would immediately start selling more records than them,” laughs Tall Man. “It has nothing to do with the fact that I’m 6'6”.”

Band mate Mike Armitage’s stage name had a somewhat more painful evolution.

“My last name is Armitage so people have been calling me ‘Army’ since I can remember. Then I kept hurting my shoulder and was always in a sling so it was ‘One-Arm-itage’ for a while. Then I got my heart broken by a girl and developed an extremely hard outer shell for protection. I thought that it was only fitting to evolve into ‘Armadillo Slim’.”

Intelligent lyrics, bluesy names, samples of Bert and Ernie’s Sesame Street conversations, a CD cover that’s a furry’s wet dream, what more could you want? Beer? Animal Nation will give you that, too.

“We’ve given away kegs of beers at our last three shows. It’s a nice thing to go home with,” says Armadillo Slim.

The aforementioned cover of their debut CD, Selfless Mind Indulgence , features the guys dressed in mascot outfits rocking out in the woods — albeit on a garbage pile.

“Errioto, a friend of ours, actually thought up the National Geographic cover concept. After that I just couldn’t get it out of my mind that we had to pose on top of a heap of trash in animal outfits playing instruments. I think it came out pretty good,” says Tall Man.

The album itself also came out “pretty good”. Comprised of 17 tracks laid down in the guys’ joint abode , the largely self-produced Selfless Mind Indulgence is reminiscent of the type of progressive hip-hop typified by performers like Jill Scott or Erykah Badu.

“I’ve never made that comparison, but I could see how our music can relate to those artists more than most hip hop artists these days. It’s very listenable and often mellow without an abundance of profanity. I know a lot of non-hip-hoppers that are into Animal Nation for those reasons,” says Armadillo Slim.

Recently signed to Rallytime Records, Animal Nation will be embarking on a tour of the Pacific Northwest in the spring. In the meantime, local audiences can get check them out on Wednesday, Dec. 6 at Moe Joe’s featuring Vancouver-based hip-hop artist Josh Martinez going solo.

“I’ve been a fan of Josh Martinez since I heard his work five or six years ago. It’s cool to share a stage with someone like him who has been doing this for 15 years. He puts on an amazing live show, he’s full of energy and we’ve got the best DJ in town, Mat the Alien, on the deck — that’s a band in itself.”

See this band, buy their CD, it will help them pay the $100 fine slapped on them for putting up posters advertising the Martinez show on a couple empty store fronts in the village.