RDGLDGRN is a three-piece go-go influenced indie pop/hip hop act you should be listening to if you happen to like making your ears happy. They blend a relatable charm with a penchant for creating catchy and affecting jams that deftly straddle the line between rock and rap in a way most Nu-Metal acts only dreamed of. Their genre bending works so well because of how natural it is. There’s none of the clunkiness generally associated with rap-rock fusion. Sometimes their songs sound like rap tracks that happen to be performed with a live band, reminiscent of The Roots on Phrenology, and others, they’re a legit rock and roll outfit who happens to have verses full of sharp, defiant rhymes. That they tie this entire aesthetic together with perfectly pop hooks and smart subject matter is just a bonus.
When I first head about RDGLDGRN, they were a four-man group called The Five One. Each band member called themselves a color, Blue, Green, Red and Gold. It wasn’t just a gimmick or a passing phase. Each one of the colors represented a way of life for them. They dress predominantly in varying shades of their chosen color. It makes for a striking branding, but its origins were less “be seen” and more “be true to oneself.” The band members and I shared some high school friends. Truth be told, I was pretty predisposed to liking their music. Here was a bunch of guys from my hometown (Reston, Virginia, what what) finding a way to squeeze pathos from X-Men references and creating working for the weekend anthems for starving artists. They called Washington, DC the “District of Colossus.” Finally, the DMV area had some homegrown talent I could champion to friends! I no longer had to pretend I wasn’t bored with Wale! Somewhere along the way, amicable creative differences led to a split. Blue continues to make exciting music as Blue Five-One, and the remaining colors rebranded as RDGLDGRN. Their first salvo under the new name was LP opener “I Love Lamp,” an Anchorman nod disguised as a delectable summer jam with a tightened and more streamlined sound.
The single garnered the attention of Rock Legend/Supremely Nice Person/Possessor of Fantastic Hair David Grohl, who would go on to provide drums for the entirety of their debut LP, as well as Neptune and Virginia bred icon Pharrell Williams, who worked on the track “Doing The Most.” These big guests (among them indie femcee Angel Haze on the raucous “Lootin’ In London”) helped to get the band some buzz on the blogosphere, but they arrive on this album a fully formed musical presence, not just hypebeast catnip or Plus Ones with Potential. The confidence and charisma they possess is no more evident than on standout cut “Million Fans.” “Dudes say I make songs for the culo / Girls ask me “what the hell they mad at you for?” / Same reason they was mad at Menudo / I get girls and rap nerds watch Naruto.”
Green’s lyrics outline a very familiar twentysomething plight: the artist with bills to pay and student loan debt, scrawling ideas in a notebook from inside a cubicle on his lunch break. They’re able to craft poignant musings on life, love and art out of video game references on tracks like “Power Ups” without the cloying, pandering inclusion of an mc chris or the dubious racial insecurity of a Childish Gambino. “Bang Bang” and “All I Got Is Now” recall N.E.R.D. on seminal Gen-Y album In Search Of… and personal favorite “Stranger” houses a propulsive, fist pumping hometown anthem that temporarily transforms them into Beltway Bruce Springsteens. They sound just the right amount of radical with lines like “You can’t change the world from writing songs, but I have civil rights because of a microphone.” Red’s riffs and Gold’s dulcet backing vocals come together to provide such a slick ambrosia that is endlessly replayable. Few releases this year achieve so much with so little, deceptively simple construction paired with an inimitable aptitude for breezy and inspiring choruses.
It’s an incredible debut and it’s pitch perfect for the dying days of summer, with it’s sun drenched melodies. If you find the time to squeeze in any last minute cookouts before Autumn takes us, you could do a helluva lot worse than this for a soundtrack.
I asked Green a few questions regarding the album and mercifully, he found time to answer them while the guys are out on tour.
DG: What was the recording process for the LP like? Specifically, was there a particular vibe or set of themes you were consciously aiming to present, or did it come together more naturally?
Green: There definitely was a theme when it comes to lyrics and overall point of the record and far as sonically we were going for a distinct uniqueness that is natural for us but wanted to accentuate it with this record.
DG: Has the way you write and record music changed since touring more heavily / “rebooting” from being The Five One?
Green: Pretty much the same thing as always. Three of us in front of a computer with guitars, keyboards, and samplers, mixing and mashing ideas.
DG: Was it daunting or nerve wracking working with guys like David Grohl and Pharrell? I’ve seen a lot of sound bites about how David Grohl is from the area, so he’d understand the Go-Go influence, but not much has been said about Pharrell and the N.E.R.D. influence.
Green: Pharrell was just like Dave in the fact they were supremely humble for their status because they’re genuinely good people. Also he knew everything about Go Go.
DG: Is a conscious choice made to find the right balance between the rapping and the sung vocals? In this post-Drake climate, a lot is made of rappers who also sing. Does that factor into the way the songs are composed, or is it more of a gut thing you follow?
Green: Its a gut thing completely. We make the music and if it calls for a verse it calls for it to describe the consciousness of the song, make it a little less ambiguous. That’s the best thing about rap.
DG: What sources (be they musical or otherwise) had a big influence on this LP in particular?
Green: Football (soccer not American football.) That’s our biggest inspiration for this record.
RDGLDGRN’s self-titled debut from Fairfax Records is available digitally or at your local record store.