With the release of his latest project Nxghtcrawlr today, Sirius Blvck cemented his position as one of the most important and brilliantly creative artists working in Indianapolis. Since issuing his full-length solo debut Smoke in the Trees in 2012, Sirius Blvck has amassed a discography of unparalleled merit in Indianapolis hip-hop. Nxghtcrawlr builds on Blvck’s past victories, while moving into bold new territory.
Nxghtcrawlr is cinematic in its scope and ambience. Blvck’s longtime musical collaborator Bones of Ghosts has produced a stunning set of darkly ambient compositions that provide a note perfect foundation for Blvck’s introspective meditations on life. Bones’ intoxicating soundscapes achieve an orchestral quality, while staying firmly rooted in the deep bass and hard-hitting beats so crucial to hip-hop tradition.
Lyrically Blvck remains a hip-hop outlier, eschewing the tired themes of materialism, violence and misogyny that bog down so much radio rap. Instead Blvck focuses his oratory on grappling with the existential angst and depression that life too often throws down in our paths. Conversely Blvck never neglects to celebrate the small victories of life and the simple joys found in the camaraderie of friendship. As evidenced on previous releases likeYear of the Snvke and Light in the Attic, Blvck’s words stretch beyond mere lyric into the realm of poetry, while the tone of his delivery continues to unleash a wild and magic energy.
In this critic’s opinion, Nxghtcrawlr is the most fully realized hip-hop album to ever emerge from the Indianapolis scene.
I caught up with Sirus Blvck on the eve of Nxghtcrawlr’s Halloween release date.
NUVO: Sirius, I really appreciate you making time to speak with me. I’m a huge fan of all your work, and before we get into your incredible new LP Nxghtcrawlr I want to ask a few questions about your background. It’s my understanding you were born in Crown Point and spent your early years growing up in the Region.
Sirius Blvck: Yeah, I was born in Crown Point and grew up in Gary. I lived in the same house for a decade of my life. I moved down to Indy when I was 14 with my mom, and my five brothers and sisters. I've been down here ever since. Indianapolis is home.
NUVO: I read a really awesome fact about your time growing up in Northern Indiana. In third grade you entered into a poetry contest where you got to meet the great children’s book author, poet and songwriter Shel Silverstein. That must have been an inspirational moment in your life.
Sirius Blvck: Yeah, I wrote a poem called "Too Many Chores" and it was picked for an honorable mention in this kid's poetry magazine that my teacher sent my poem into. They ended up picking it, and he did an appearance at the Gary Public Library. I got to meet him. I got a signed copy of Falling Up and got a picture with him.
It was crazy. That was like my idol. I grew up writing poems from the time that I was six or seven.
NUVO: So as a kid were you thinking "I want to be a writer," or "I want to be a musician"? Did you have any idea of what you wanted to do with this talent you had?
Sirius Blvck: I just knew I wanted to write. I wrote short stories all the time. I had characters. I wrote my own Matrix spin-off series. I was always writing. Then I got into music when I was around twelve or thirteen and started writing raps. From there it just progressed.
When I was 15, my mom was working with a woman named Tasha Jones on an after-school poetry program for kids. My mom got me and a couple friends in it and we formed a group called the Write Me Project. Tasha showed us how to write our first contract. She bought us our first Mari Evans book, and Langston Hughes and James Baldwin. She put us on game to a lot of things.
After the Write Me Project ended I started getting back into music again.
NUVO: The first time I remember hearing about you was through your work with Indian City Weather. For folks that don’t know, Indian City Weather was essentially a six-piece rock band and you were one of the vocalists in the group. Was that the first major music project you were part of?
Sirius Blvck: Indian City Weather was the first thing I invested all of myself into musically. We started making music together when we were sixteen or seventeen and it snowballed from there. We put out two records, Leather Lungs in 2009 and Flesh and Spirit in 2012. Those are my dudes. We made some really awesome music. I still work with a lot of them today.
Indian City Weather is what got my name out in the beginning. That's how I met Oreo Jones and Grey Granite and Jay Brookinz through them contacting us to open up the Gateway 2 show. Indian City Weather was the catalyst for everything really.
NUVO: What was the process of leaving Indian City Weather and shifting into the musical identity we know today as Sirius Blvck?
Sirius Blvck: I think it was just Indian City Weather slowing down a bit. We were getting older and developing our own lives outside of music. We couldn't spend five days a week together and play two or three shows a week anymore.
We were all developing our own lives outside of the band, but I still wanted to make music. We had a 24 channel Alesis mixer and I borrowed it for a month and started recording my own demos. From there I started working on my first mixtape Smoke in the Trees.
NUVO: You've released a number of mixtapes and albums under the name Sirius Blvck. Before we get into you new LP Nxghtcrawlr I want to ask you about a couple tracks from your back catalog of music, tracks that I think are classics of Indiana hip-hop.
The first tune I want to ask you about is “Running On Fumes (What A Year It’s Been)” which is the lead-off track from your 2014 LP Year Of The Snake.
Sirius Blvck: That is a really special song to me. At that point my grandmother had just passed, she was one of the closest people to me in my family. That was not very easy. I had just gotten out of a bad relationship. It was not a dark time, but a dreary time. Bones sent me that beat, and I went in on it. It turned out good.
NUVO: You just mentioned the producer Bones of Ghosts. You have a special relationship with this musician. He’s been the exclusive provider of beats for four of your albums, including Nightcrawlr. Tell us about your connection with Bones of Ghosts.
Sirius Blvck: Running into Bones is a funny story. It's crazy what the internet can do. I had one of his instrumental beat tapes from around 2009. It was called Use Your Ends To Choose Your Friends. It was mostly just jazz samples, very different from what he's doing today. I thought it was awesome so I decided to try to find him online. I found his Twitter; he had like 16 followers. I wasn't sure it was even real, his profile picture was something off the wall. I sent him a message: "Yo man, I really like what you're doing. We should collaborate." He sent me back five beats. I recorded to them and sent him the demos back, and he sent me five more. We kept doing the same thing and then we had Ancient Lights pretty much.
He's been in California for awhile now. But he's originally from the U.K. That's where he was born and raised. He's kind of like a hermit. He sticks to himself and just makes music. He doesn't collaborate with a lot of people.
He's so talented. Us linking up was like the stars aligning, man. We're four albums in now, I'll always collaborate with different people but it always be me and Bones. That's my dude, my musical soulmate, man. He just fucking gets it on another level, man. He feels the music from a different place, and it shows. Especially on this new record Nxghtcrawlr. He's just channeling some other worlds. He's on some shit.
NUVO: The next song I want to ask you about is ”Yung Vultures" from your last record Light In The Attic. That’s my all-time favorite Indianapolis hip-hop song. The lyrics sound very philosophical to me, tell us about ”Yung Vultures."
Sirius Blvck: I was about to be a dad, and I felt like I was a man and getting older. But at the same time still feeling like a part of the youth. It was kind of like the song of me transitioning from a boy to a man.
You know, "The youth is on fire" man. The youth control the future. When I look at Indianapolis hip-hop and the movement we’re building here and this new foundation, it's something that's going to set a fire. It's a new fire being started. It was just kind of a picture of everything I saw at the time.
NUVO: There’s one more track from Light In The Attic I want to mention, that’s “Tribe Quest” featuring DMA and Oreo Jones. Again, this is one of my all-time favorite Indianapolis hip-hop songs.
Sirius Blvck: That's still one of my favorite tracks, too. I got the beat and I instantly knew what I wanted to do with it. Bones killed it. DMA is on it, he does the vocoder part at the end. He's one of my favorite artists and I was super stoked to get him on the track.
I started writing that song after a night on acid. I was roaming the Square and the hook kind of started coming to me. I started that track that night and then woke up the next day and I was like, "Oh snap," and I finished it.
NUVO: Do you normally start your writing process in that fashion, writing the hook first and building the rest of the track around it?
Sirius Blvck: It always starts with the melody. Sometimes it starts with hook, and sometimes it starts with a cadence and I'll kind of fill in the blanks from there. Usually I'll hear a melody first.
NUVO: “Tribe Quest” features Oreo Jones who is one of your colleagues in the Ghost Gun Summer collective. Oreo has been a major driving force behind this new movement of Indianapolis hip-hop which includes artists like you, Drayco, Flaco, Ejaaz, Poindexter, Mathaius Young, and so many others. How do you feel about being part of this rising generation of artists here in Indianapolis?
Sirius Blvck: There is a really awesome new movement of artists in this city that all have potential and eventually will break out of the city and the state, no doubt. You have people like Flaco who tirelessly work on their craft and who are continuously putting out great records. Drayco as well. I feel like it's to a point now that people can't ignore it. I see it happening more and more. Blogs outside the city are starting to pick up on different artists and it's starting to move outside the city. There's a lot brewing here right now. There are so many amazing artists you can't even begin to name them all.
NUVO: So let’s jump into your new LP Nxghtcrawlr. You sent me the album last week, and it’s a hard album to digest quickly. There are 13 tracks on the record, and every single track is excellent. I couldn’t skip ahead to the highlights because every track commands attention, and every track is essential to the flow of Nxghtcrawlr. I never had the urge to fast forward while listening — in fact, I found myself rewinding several times because some of the hooks are so addictive that I wanted to hear them again and again!
I think it’s a totally brilliant record from every angle. The lyrics and the production are exceptional. So huge congrats on this album. Are you happy with how it turned out?
Sirius Blvck: I'm immensely happy with it. Bones and I put in a lot of work in for this record. This is the first record where I didn't instantly go with my gut. Nine times out of ten when I'm writing and I'm in the zone, when the pen hits the paper [snaps finger] I know that's it. I don't second guess it. This is the first album where I was second guessing what I was putting down.
But I came to realize it wasn't me second guessing myself, it was more-so me not settling and wanting it to be better. I rewrote and revised, and rewrote and revised for the first time ever on a record. I think it paid off, because we came out with some of the best stuff we've ever done together.
NUVO: When we were talking before the interview you mentioned to me that Bones kind of challenged you with the production he created for this record. You said the beats he was sending you were different from any of the work you'd done together before.
Sirius Blvck: Yeah, when Bones sent me some of the instrumentals I was unsure about a few of them because they were so different from anything I'd ever heard before. It kind of threw me off at first. Not in a bad way, but it was new. We had kind of developed a good outline together from the first three records, but we threw everything out the window with a lot of these tracks. Bones just said, "Trust me. This is what we need to do. If you do this it's going to be something fresh." So I trusted him, and it came out good.
NUVO: A lot of the tracks on Nxghtcrawlr really stretch out musically. There are some very far reaching sounds on this record. It's just a fantastic sounding record sonically and musically.
I want to ask you about a few specific tracks off Nxghtcrawlr that stood out to me. Let's start with "Ride Around" which is the first track you released off the album.
Sirius Blvck: I wanted to write a song that talked about the whole process of writing the album and what that's been like. I also wanted to have a song where I told people they were going to ride around listening to the track, just as like an affirmation. (laughs)
NUVO: Tell us about ”Black Magik”, which I found to be a very compelling track lyrically.
Sirius Blvck: That’s one of my favorite tracks off Nxghtcrawlr. The first verse takes place at a party. Just looking around at everyone, being lost in the trance of it all and realizing you don't need anything but yourself. That's what the "Black Magik" is. It's really about removing negative people and negative energies from your space and trying to shine in your own ray.
NUVO: I have to ask you about "Static Rain," which appears in the middle of the record, and feels sort of like the centerpiece of the album. That track left a huge impression on me. It’s an ambitious track musically and the hook you wrote is unforgettable. It gives me chills every time I hear it.
Sirius Blvck: “Static Rain” comes from a dark place. It's kind of about depression. You know, the static in the rain is the white noise in the brainstorm. Like falling from cloud nine and self-medicating. It comes from a dark place, but it's a beautiful song. "Static Rain" is one of my favorite songs that I've ever written.
NUVO: The last song off Nxghtcrawlr that I want to mention is ”Me, Myself and All My Friends”, which is placed near the end of the record and is probably the most optimistic composition on Nxghtcrawlr.
Sirius Blvck: That's one of my favorite tracks from the album. I feel like I've said that about every song. [laughs]
NUVO: Well there are a lot of great songs on this record, so I think you can get away with it! If you had a bad record I might not believe you.
Sirius Blvck: "Me, Myself and All My Friends" kind of encapsulates the last year of touring and writing and recording with my friends, and all the changes that have occurred with losing people and gaining people. I like that one because in the hook I talk about all of things I'd love to do by myself, but at the same time I also want to do those things with all my friends.
NUVO: I assumed you were talking about your Ghost Gun Summer crew on this song. Or are you speaking in more broad terms?
NUVO: You've been touring throughout the United States with your friends in Ghost Gun Summer. I know you recently did a tour of the West Coast, and you've made some trips into the South. How is the Indianapolis hip-hop sound being received around the country?
Sirius Blvck: I feel like everyone that we tour with and all the Ghost Gun dudes individually are just really good artists that make really good music that can draw nationally. Whenever we tour we work hard, and I feel like we're good performers. So we give a good show. It's always received really well and people always want us to come back.