Discovery: Champagne Champagne
Seattle, Washington has produced some of the past year’s most buzzworthy hip-hop acts: Sub Pop’s Shabazz Palaces, TheeSatisfaction. On the verge of the same fate is Champagne Champagne, a three-piece comprised of lead MC Pearl Dragon, his inimitable sidekick Sir Thomas Gray, and beat wizard extraordinaire DJ Gajamagic (also known as Mark Gajadhar, former drummer of proto-hipster-hardcore band, The Blood Brothers). Part sonic angularity, part body-pleasing four-on-the-floor simplicity, this party-ready equation of sounds and beats is laid into with massive attacks by the group’s lyrical faction. Having recently released their Private Party EP on French label Platinum Records, Champagne Champagne is currently blazing across the United States on the Vans Warped Tour. On a day off from the road, they phoned in from their air-conditioned hotel room to talk about their musical past, present, and plans for a radical future.
AGE: “In our prime.”
HOMETOWN: Seattle, WA
LOCATION: Middle America, on tour.
FIRST TIMES: Gajadhar: I had never played a Warped Tour, or been to a Warped Tour. The musical genre of most bands on Warped Tour back when I was a kid—bands like Pennywise or NOFX—that wasn’t really what I was listening to. Actually, I did love NOFX. But we’re talking about bands that I wasn’t into… in a parking lot… in the heat.
PERSONAL PREFERENCE: Gajadhar: Built to Spill, man. Or Pavement. I would have been going to Lollapalooza to see Helmet, and Pavement, and stuff like that.
GETTING THE PARTY STARTED: Gajadhar: [The Blood Brothers] broke up in December of 2006, but we didn’t announce anything until March. After we announced the final, official breakup, I met Pearl around August of that year. I was actively trying to find MCs to work with. I was talking to Travis [McCoy] from Gym Class Heroes, but that didn’t go too far, because his band became huge. So, I actually met Pearl at an Erasure show at The Moore Theater in Seattle. My buddy, Terry [Campbell] was coming through town with his band, Young Love. He hit me up, and asked if I wanted to kick it. So, I asked him if he knew any MCs, and he said his buddy, Pearl was coming down to hang out. So, that’s how I met Pearl: randomly, backstage at the Erasure show.
SIR THOMAS GRAY: Gray: At first I just was hyping. Pearl came to Mark and was like, “I don’t feel comfortable up there without him.” And Mark was like, “Well, your boy’s crazy.” Pearl said, “I swear to God—just get to know this guy—it’s okay.” He just kept saying it was going to be okay. And it was okay! We had a conversation a year after I joined, and they said, “Hey man, you gotta start writing songs.” And then, I was really a part of the band.
FRANÇAIS: Gajadhar: We released the latest record in March in France, through this label called Platinum Records. It’s a very small label. If I were to compare it to something here, it might be similar to Suicide Squeeze, or something like that. I think Pearl just posted a bunch of shit of their Facebook page. They were like, “Hey, cool tunes!” And we were like, “You like that? Check this out.” And, we just kept sending them stuff, until they were like, “Damn, maybe we should put you out.”
BUSINESS, MAN: Gajadhar: Major labels are very irrelevant at this point, but I feel like a label can help. We don’t have the funds to hire a publicist, or the resources to get our record distributed to certain stores. Yeah, we could find a distribution company, but who does that responsibility fall on? Our manager? One of the guys in the band? I would rather spend my time writing music, and enjoying what I’m doing, rather than figure out distribution, publicity—all that stuff. But I also think a band can exist perfectly well without any kind of label support.
ROLLINS’ WAY: Gajadhar: Getting in the van and touring has been the most beneficial thing to our band. We’ve only opened up for bands. We’re kind of just trying to steal other people’s crowds. That’s been the best way of getting ourselves out there. Because, with the Internet, you can get out there, but how are you gonna get people to you? And we’re not the most Internet-savvy people. When we were pushing our bands when we were younger, we would go out and tour and play shows. It seems like the hip-hop scene in Seattle is just now getting that. I think that’s why it seems like a lot of people are coming out right now. The only people that really toured before were like, the Old Dominion guys—like, Onry (Ozzborn) and them. I mean, other than that, there was nobody in Seattle that was touring. We’re definitely not the first people in the world to tour in a Dodge van, but I feel like all of our friends were like, “Wait, you’re gonna go out on tour with this punk band, STRFCKR?” And we were like, “Yeah, we’re just gonna drive around in our van.” And they were like, “Huh…” You gotta do what you gotta do.
THE EMERALD CITY: Gray: Seattle has a lot of rappers, and a lot of hip-hop bands. It has always been like that. The people we grew up rapping with in middle school bands, or rapping with at Westlake Mall, selling CDs with—that whole sort of graduating class of people, are now kind of on.
FUTURE FOREVER: Gajadhar: We get home on the 6th of August, and head out on a US tour after that. Then we’re going to Europe for about a month. And we’re working on a second EP that should be out before we go to Europe. I’m literally recording it in the bus right now.
FOR MORE ON CHAMPAGNE CHAMPAGNE, VISIT THEIR WEBSITE.