You may not be too familiar with the name Rench, but if you haven’t heard Gangstagrass you’re missing out. Rench is the leader of Gangstagrass and also the musical visionary behind a sound that – if the name Gangstagrass didn’t give it away – marries hip-hop and bluegrass music to create something truly one of a kind. With Rench’s direction, the combination of rappers and banjo slingers works surprisingly well.
Now the front man is branching off to release his own solo project with his new LP Them’s The Breaks, which drops on April 7th. The album continues in the same vein as Gangstagrass but finds Rench relying on his own vocals and instrumentation as opposed to working with different rappers and instrumentalists. For the most part, the album packs the same punch as Gangstagrass too with songs that are as much about throwing down as they are about a good time jamboree. One thing that is different is that whereas Gangstagrass dwelled more in bluegrass and Appalachian music, Rench’s solo material is better described as honky tonk hip-hop.
Today Glide Magazine is excited to premiere the new video for one of the album’s most cranked up anthems, “Boomerang”. With its catchy chorus (“gotta have that twang”!) and heavy hoedown beats, you’ll be as pumped to dance along as all of the people in the video.
Reflecting on the song, Rench has this to say:
I like the occasional song that is like a mission statement. The line “it’s gotta have that twang, come back like a boomerang” went through my head and didn’t go away, and eventually I got into the idea of that as an anthem in that pop song kind of way where it doesn’t need to make sense, it’s better if you don’t think about it, its just a short declaration that you either feel or you don’t. And it filled a spot I wanted to hit on the album that would focus on simple funkiness, a counterpoint to the more concept driven stuff on a lot of the album.
Watch the video below and read our interview with Rench:
The obvious question here is, why release a solo album at this point when Gangstagrass is pretty well known and has a solid following as a unit?
Besides creating Gangstagrass, I have a lot of ideas as a producer, different sounds I want to explore – and I went for about eight years just focusing on the Gangstagrass stuff because of its exposure but during that time I was having ideas for honky-tonk songs that wouldn’t really be Gangstagrass tracks. It got to the point where I needed to scratch that itch and release some of my solo stuff again rather than have all this other material pile up in secret! The truth is, I have more ideas for songs and albums than I have time to make them, but some of them I just gotta get out there.
Can you fill us in on your recipe for “bang and twang”?
Thats a term I like to use for my sound because those are two elements that anchor what I want to hear – the heavy thumping hip-hop beats are the bang and the countrified sounds are the twang. Whether its emcees and bluegrass players for Gangstagrass or turntable scratching and pedal steel guitar for Rench, the recipe is finding a balance where I can showcase how those two elements can integrate and enhance each other, turning into something new in the process.
How does your writing and recording style change when you are doing things as a solo artist as opposed to working with rappers and a group of musicians?
The main difference for me in doing things as a solo artist is following a particular inspiration all the way through from start to finish, especially in songwriting. My production and recording doesn’t change all that much, but the space to have an idea for a whole song and really follow it through is an important outlet for me. Songs like “Mugshot” or “Forty Dollar Dress” or “Milwaukee Honeymoon” are examples of songs where it was about fleshing out a concept in a way I wanted it without compromise. I can be pretty particular about that stuff. I’m particular about production as well, but folks I collaborate with in Gangstagrass let me have the reins when it comes to that. The collaborative songwriting for Gangstagrass is more of a fun experimental thing where I know going into it I’m going to let someone else take on part of it. Like rappers coming up with verses for songs, or Dan Whitener writing a song and taking the production on from there, it can be nice to be hands off and just appreciate what someone else is bringing to the table. For my Rench songs though, it gives me a chance to follow a vision and just execute it as my own concept.
Doing this solo, what’s you process like for writing and building each song?
The process is like scratching itches. Song ideas occur to me on a regular basis, sometimes just a song title or a particular line, and it rattles around in my head until I am compelled to finish the thing, extrapolating from that one seed idea. In a way, it’s kind of like finding a few dinosaur bones and figuring out what the animal must look like from there. You can’t just find the bones and not try to imagine what the whole thing would look like. Once I can’t resist anymore, I have to sit down and just brainstorm the rest of a song from the one line or title, just to create a whole piece, and sometimes I have to scrap most of it and go through a lot of revisions from there but at least I have the outline then. Other times it just feels like it flows logically from the original idea once I sit down to figure it out. Other times I have to drink the blood of a chupacabra and run through the Mojave desert wearing gold sequin hot pants just to get it done.
Given the current and dire political climate of the world, have you had to rethink how you approach art in any way?
I am a pretty political person and I have done some very political songs. When those didn’t start the revolution I decided I might as well make some more subtle stuff about life and love, but I can’t help putting some digs in at our economic system. After the election it was clear we are really down the rabbit hole as far as a political moment and people feeling really overwhelmed by the situation and I had just sent off the masters on the rollicking album of mostly party songs and love songs with a truck driver theme. So I wondered if I should be putting out some serious reflections on the sad state of affairs. But then I remembered I did that ten years ago when I released “Life In Mean Season” so screw it, that’s already there. Maybe it’s not time to wallow and be introspective, let’s party for our rights and just get out there and try to solve this thing with people and power and have some funky jams while we are at it. But I have made a point to talk more about some issues at live shows and get involved in more direct action, which I used to do a lot more. And I’m not alone in turning to that. I’m looking forward to a resurgence in mass movement to push for racial, gender, and economic justice, for a society where we take care of each other. It feels crazy right now but I see big things in store for the years ahead – the fightback is just waking up. I can’t say I have figured out exactly where an independent, not so famous musician fits into that, but I’m gonna wing it for a while.