I don't write about hip-hop very often for a variety of reasons (chief among them the fairly obvious fact that I am Noisey's heavy metal editor, and everyone else on staff is extremely good at doing so), but here we are again, because I've been given the opportunity to debut a new project from one of my favorite artists. I've been a fan of Sage Francis since I was in high school, sprawling out on the floor of my best friend's living room trying to parse the lyrics for songs like "Makeshift Patriot." That post-911 screed against the "War on Terror" has a political bite which jibed neatly with what the Dubya-hating punk bands we listened to were screaming, and lit the first spark of a realization that things were not as they should be. I went to my first protest the same year I discovered Sage Francis, and as the artist himself has continued to grow and notch successes, that early spark his words lit in my adolescent consciousness has since turned into a burning flame (so thanks for that, man).
His latest project, Epic Beard Men, is a collaborative effort with an old friend and comrade. After a decade of sharing stages with one another, Epic Beard Men sees Sage Francis formally join forces with longtime friend B. Dolan—a prolific hip-hop artist, activist, screenwriter, and composer who also hails from Sage's Providence, RI hometown, and is signed to Strange Famous Records, the label Francis founded in 1996. According to Francis, "I've been touring pretty steadily with B. Dolan because we work well together and he's a bad muffucka. It got to a point where I didn't really want to bring him on tour because it didn't feel appropriate to always have him as the opener with me as the headliner. So, even though the 'Epic Beard Men' group name started off as a joke, we decided to put our solo careers on hold and make it a real thing."
The duo's first release, Season 1, is a funky, whacked-out, chiptune-sprinkled acid trip through the two men's combined technicolor consciousnesses, with quicksilver flows and out-there beats. It's far lighter, punchier, and dare I say goofier than their respective solo work, which tends to veer darker and more fraught. The sunny vibes make sense given that the group's motto is "This is supposed to be fun, for fuck’s sake.” (They also namedrop death metal in "Not Ur Uber," so there's our metal connection sorted)
Season 1, was produced by Le Parasite, and will be available from Strange Famous on March 2, 2018 as a free download via the label's Bandcamp page. The EP will be available on a variety of formats, and is accompanied by a playable, Streets of Rage-style web game.
"Neither of us has really worked on an album with another rapper before, so there's been a considerable learning curve—lots of give and take," Sage Francis told Noisey. "Some of the songs on Season 1 were written and demoed over two years ago, and there are a lot more in the chamber. Although a few of these were supposed to be on the album we're planning for October, it was important to show the range in our approach and, most importantly, give people the songs that are going to be fun to perform live. Personally, I'm just thrilled to share the stage and trade vocals with a monster performer. I wasn't too thrilled with the prospect of continuing to push the Sage Francis solo thing on the road after...you know...19 years. This is a rejuvenating period for me. My sexy has returned. Everyone's going to eat it and like it."
"This project has certainly been an ill undertaking," B. Dolan added. "We started with a shared apartment in Edinburgh and a list of song concepts written on a pizza box and taped to a wall. We're ending two years later, having collaborated with a slew of rappers, musicians, engineers, artists, directors, and video game developers along the way. Figuring out a shared approach to making and presenting music was harder than either of us expected, after a decade of doing our own things side-by-side... The result is not the kind of album either of us would have made on our own though, and I'm happy about that. As solo artists we both tend to make darker and more personal material. This right here is the sound of our goofy ass friendship; all our weirdest thoughts and conversations over a couple years, in the form of rap music. I'd shoot it into space in the cassette deck of a car that was strapped to a rocket for no fuckin' reason, but that would be wasteful. "
Listen to Season 1 below, and get your mitts on a physical version here.
Catch Sage Francis and B. Dolan on tour:
3/5 - New Haven, CT - Cafe Nine
3/6 - Brooklyn, NY - C’Mon Everybody
3/8 - Baltimore, MD - Metro Gallery
3/9 - Richmond, VA - Strange Matter
3/10 - Philadelphia, PA - Kung Fu Necktie
3/11 - Long Island, NY - Amityville Music Hall
3/13 - Boston, MA - Middle East Upstairs
3/14 - Portland, ME - SPACE Gallery
3/21 - Salt Lake City - Urban Lounge
3/23 - Boise, ID - Treefort Music Fest
3/24 - Spokane, WA - Emperor Room
3/26 - Seattle, WA - Chop Suey
3/27 - Vancouver, BC -Fortune Sound Club
3/28 - Portland, OR - Star Theater
3/29 - Eugene, OR - WOW Hall
3/30 - Arcata, CA - Miniplex
3/31 - Petaluma, CA - Mystic Theater
4/1 - San Francisco, CA - Elbo Room
4/2 - Redding, CA - The Dip
4/12 Tallahassee - The Wilbury
4/14 Orlando, FL - Milk District (mini-festival)
4/15 Dunedin, FL - Dunedin Brewery (free)
4/19 - Gainesville, FL - High Dive
4/20 - Mobile, AL - Merry Widow
4/21 - New Orleans, LA - Santos
4/22 - Baton Rouge, LA - Spanish Moon
4/24 - Houston, TX - White Oak Music Hall Upstairs
4/25 - Dallas, TX - Dada
4/26 - Austin, TX - North Door
4/27 - San Antonio, TX - Paper Tiger
4/29 - Scottsdale, AZ - Pub Rock
4/30 - Flagstaff, AZ - Green Room
5/1- Las Vegas, NV - Bunkhouse
5/2 - Pomona, CA - Glasshouse
5/3 - San Diego, CA - Soda Bar
5/5 - Long Beach, CA - Toxic Toast
5/6 - Santa Barbara, CA - Velvet Jones
5/7 - Los Angeles, CA - Union
5/12 - Hilo, HI - Hilo Town Tavern
"More dates to followed in Asia, United Kingdom, Canada, followed by US cities we missed!"
Kim Kelly is chasing sea lions on Twitter.