We wanted to take a second to draw your attention to something: The return of the Frederick Playlist podcast! First up in this rejuvenation is Ricole Barnes, local hip-hop stalwart and also leader of the band DaMood. Having recently finished recording three brand new songs, we world premiere one of those, “Gimme Revolver,” on the episode. In addition to that premiere, we also talk about why the band went on hiatus, what it’s like to turn 30 in hip-hop and how these latest three songs won’t be the only new music Ricole plans to release this summer. Below is an excerpt of the conversation. To listen to the episode in full, you can either click on the podcasts tab on this very website or download the Frederick Playlist podcast on iTunes or Google Play.
A year and a half ago, you and I came together because you were actually the first hip-hop artist to perform at the Weinberg Center. That was also the debut of your band. So, I’m interested in catching up with you and seeing what’s going on. You guys kind of went underground a bit. What have you been up to in the last year or so?
I’ve been very busy. I’ll start with the band. Our last show that we played publicly, before recently, was October at SkyStage. From that time to now, we’ve had a couple private events, but for the most part, we’ve been working on new music and recording. That’s where we’ve been since the start of February. We recorded three songs that we hope to release to the public in the next couple weeks. They were initially put together for the Frederick Music Showcase Volume 2, so we wanted to take the year to tighten up as a group.
Where have you been recording at?
Lady Of Sound Studios, which is off Route 26. A guy named Jason – he’s an amazing engineer and has a home studio. He’s friends with Chris Smith, our guitarist. They go way back.
Hearing a lot of your new stuff, it’s a discernible change for you. It is not the old Ricole that we are used to hearing. What influenced that?
I always tell people that hip-hop is the foundation, but hip-hop has never been just me. I grew up listening to – I was born in the ‘80s, so MTV was there. Van Halen, Duran Duran, The Police. As much as I was into De La Soul and Public Enemy, I was equally into that. It’s just that I took the hip-hop route because I was rapping better than I was playing guitar. But as I got older, I started to going back even further into classic rock. I’m a diehard Beatles historian. Led Zeppelin historian. I could tell you things the average person wouldn’t know. So, with how the record sounds now with a rock approach, it’s like, “Whoa, you totally went left.” But that’s always been me. When I put DaMood together, it finally came to fruition.
Where does the band sit now? How big is the band?
There’s officially six members. Vocals, myself. Keys, April. Drums, Beau. Bass, Dan. Electric and Acoustic, Chris. And horns, Ethan.
You guys rehearse once a week?
Twice a week.
So, even when you’re not giggin’ …
Twice a week. We keep that tradition.
So, it’s more like a group of friends than anything else.
At this point, man, it’s become a family. We spend so much time with each other. We just got back from New York for my birthday. A lot of them didn’t know each other before I put them together.
How long did it take for everyone to click, then? Do you think you were at your highest power at the Showcase, or has it grown since then?
The first rehearsal, it was chemistry. Initially, the chemistry was just spot on. A funny story – Dan, the bassist, I met him on accident. I was playing an open mic at Bushwaller’s. It was myself and another guitarist, Frank. We were playing over digital tracks. He goes up to Uriel, my manager, and says, “This guy needs a drummer; can I get on there?” Uriel looks at me, I don’t know what he’s saying, but I’m just nodding my head. I don’t know what I’m saying yes to and the next thing I know, somebody’s playing drums behind me and it’s Dan. I told him, “Now’s not the time,” and he gets up. After the show, he apologizes, and he’s like, “If you ever need a drummer, I’m there,” and a light bulb goes off in my head: “I do need a drummer because I’m trying to put together a band.”
Recently, you performed at The Thing with a solo set. How does that feel, whenever you’re out there without the band anymore? Does it feel naked when you’re not with them?
It does, but at the same time, I want to remind people that I still love rapping. I’m not abandoning that. It’s always good to get back to the essence of two turntables and a microphone. But it felt thin. I’m used to having this powerful ensemble behind me, with the energy, so going back to digital, it was like, “umpf.”
You have these three songs done now. Are you guys going to do anymore songs or are you just going to put out these three?
We have more songs in the stash right now. We just wanted to put these out now because with the hiatus we took from October until now, everyone was probably wondering what was going on.
Yeah, what was up with that?
At this point, we’re trying to take it to another level. So, we had to kind of evaluate certain things and get everything in place. This is a giant leap for us, putting three songs out. When people hear this, it’s going to be a totally different perception. As for why we took the hiatus, we just didn’t want to do anymore shows where we didn’t have music to give to people. That’s what it came down to. When we get this music out, we can push it and that can hopefully help get us to the next level.