Atmosphere, Eyedea & Abilities and Attracted To Gods. 7pm Saturday, Aug. 15. $25-$30. Paolo Soleri Amphitheater, 1501 Cerrillos Road, ticketmaster.com
Indie hip-hop duo Atmosphere is on the road for its When God Gives You Ugly tour, which stops in Santa Fe Saturday, Aug. 15. The reason behind the outfit's rhymes, Slug, kept from a meal of fish tacos just long enough to fill SFR in on Atmosphere's freebie EPs, alcohol's relation to the economy and the future. See the full interview below.
The new tour is also for the rerelease of God Loves Ugly?
Not really. I didn't really want to rerelease it myself; I was kind of against it. I understand why [it was rereleased] because I always had fans saying ‘I can't find that record anywhere.' But to me it's like, fuck, go download it. When we first put that record out, we went on tour for it but we didn't really have the opportunity to explore a lot of the songs on that record. There were only three or four songs on that record that we were doing live. Because literally a year later we put Seven's Travels out. By the time I could actually get my hands dirty with God Loves Ugly, I had another record coming out. As far as the live show, God Loves Ugly got lost in the mix. I took this as an opportunity to pitch some of the songs on that record I had never played before and start teaching 'em to the band and figuring out ways to do them. What we noticed was how well a lot of the songs fit with the [When God Gives You Lemons, You Paint That Shit Gold] record, as far as key or the color of the song or what kind of overtone there was. So we decided to build a set out of the two records combined. Me being, the corny idiot that I am, I said, ‘Let's call it When God Gives You Ugly' as a means of mashing together the two titles.
Is this at all a tour for the free EP, Leak at Will?
No, not really. I tend to not really tour the free stuff that we put out. To me those are just little Easter eggs: You don't eat them, you just find them.
Are the stakes any different this tour, having just dropped a free album?
The songs on the free EP [fifthelementonline.com/leakatwill] are not as personal as I prefer to do in a live setting. The free EP was put together—there's not a single really personal song on there. The closest could be the song about drugs and there's no way in hell I'm gonna get on stage to do a song about drugs—it's not what I'm trying to push. It's cool that kids can hear it, but I don't want them to see those songs as part of my identity, as much as they are, ‘Hey, here's me and Ant having some more fun.'
How come you don't put anything personal on the free albums?
When we get together to make a record we're gonna put out for free, it's like, ‘Hey, why not try to mess around and do some stuff you wouldn't normally do on your actual, important majorly distributed album, blah blah blah. There's a difference between the Atmosphere that the powers at be want to sell you and then the Atmosphere that I slide on the side. With an official Atmosphere record I usually have something that I'm trying to communicate, whereas with all the other little side shit, they're just for fun.
You often use the same or similar narrative tropes. How do you make sure those narratives are still moving or fresh?
I don't even know that we would claim that we do. The thing about me and Anthony is we are both kind of in awe that we have a career doing this. We know that what we're doing in the basement is just us being us. So, for people to make a big deal about it and fuss over it is kind of weird to us. Because I'm not that artist that's trying to push the envelope. I'm not that artist that's trying to figure out how to touch a million kids. I'm just being myself and people are accepting it.
But out of the issues you keep returning to, is there any one you think is most important, even if you're not trying to reach a million kids?
Better living through better decision making is what I'd like to see on my gravestone. In essence a lot of my songs are about that because that's what my trip has been in my life: slowly figuring out how to have a better life through better decision making while still feeling happy.
You've never espoused the self-aggrandizement common in mainstream hip-hop, but you fall under that umbrella anyway. Where do you see yourself in the hip-hop world?
I don't know. I don't know. I'm just this guy who loved rap as a kid too much. I was a nerd. I was a rap nerd. I still see myself as that. I still see my self as a fan more so than as an artist. As an artist, I'm just trying to stay true to the school of hip-hop that raised me. I'm trying to make KRS1 proud. I don't know where I see myself in the world of rap. I guess I'm just an advocate.
Does being an advocate pay the bills?
Oh yeah. It pays bills for about 25 people now. That's the best part. This vehicle that me and Anthony created now has been able to bring literally 25 of my friends into the fold. That's probably the best part of it.
In a Tampa Tribune interview you said that you guys haven't really felt the recession. Does that have to do with owning your own record label?
I would say it's that as well as the line of work we're in. When I go to work, it's at a place that sells alcohol. Even in a recession, alcohol sales go up. In a club, in a bar—that's where we perform. Even in the Great Depression people were still figuring out ways to get faded. I think during troubled economic times, people still set aside money to get fucked up and to enjoy art. If musicians are complaining about the recession, it's probably just a technicality. It's probably because the bus they have to rent is more expensive than it was. I don't care about this shit. If we gotta come in a van, we come in a van. At the end of the day, I don't really need a whole lotta money to live off of. I've got my life to a pretty simplistic, well-managed, well-budgeted lifestyle for me and my wifesies.
Me and Murs finished another Felt record a couple of weeks ago. Hopefully that will come out in November. I don't know for sure; I haven't been given a date yet.
Does it have a name?
They're always tributes to different actresses; I'm not really allowed to tell you yet.