VIDEO: Chris Faraone interviews MC Exposition of Audible Mainframe
It doesn't matter how popular you are at any given high school; if you move to a new town — unless you have sexy twin sisters who are willing to fellate the football team — you'll be starting on the first rung of the social scaffold. The same goes for regional guitar-and-rhyme heroes. Audible Mainframe may have been Ferris Bueller here in Boston — where, before leaving for Long Beach two years ago, they easily sold out midsize venues on short notice. (They play Harpers Ferry this Friday.) But in California they had to inflict more than a few swirlies before they could mack on cheerleaders.
"I won't lie — for a while it felt like we were spinning our wheels," says Audible frontman MC Exposition of the relocation. "Even if we had a gig at a dope-ass club, it would suck because we didn't have a lot of fans out there yet. About a year ago it got bad — we were at the lowest point we'd ever been. Gigs started slowing up, our buzz wasn't growing, and we'd only recorded three songs for a new album. Then we won the [Long Beach District Weekly's] battle of the bands, and that changed everything."
Since forming in 2003, Audible have conquered sound bouts with relative ease — particularly if you consider that they've always been a socio-politically aggressive hip-hop band jousting with traditional rock outfits. In 2004, they won the WAAF battle in Boston; soon after, they were chosen to have their debut album released by the student-run Emerson Records. (They're also a current Top 10 finalist in the Airwalk/Spin Magazine Unsigned Hero contest.) The resulting effort, Framework, positioned them as the region's leading organic hip-hop act — a reputation cemented by their phenomenal live shows. At one point Slick Rick even tapped them as his tour band. But none of that meant spit beneath the palm trees.
"You have no idea how tough it was to leave Boston," Expo told me two years ago. "Do you know how hard it is to find a Sox game on television out here? But it had to be done; there was nothing left for us at home — no matter how much we all hate the Dodgers."
I meet Expo outside Central Square at the People's Republik — a spot where he's spent many off-stage nights draining drafts. Things have changed at his favorite watering hole; though his bartenders are still around, his choice beer isn't. "You don't have Newcastle anymore? Damn." No big deal, but the absence of his sweet nectar reminds Expo how long he's been gone.
"It feels like we've been in Cali for longer than we have," he says. "There have been so many phases. Before we won that battle last August — and the $10,000 prize that came with it — we were close to blowing this whole thing up." He means blowing up in the bad sense. "We didn't realize it at the time — all we thought we needed was some money — but we needed the encouragement, too. Me, personally, this is what I do, and I'll be doing it forever. But a lot of the other guys are older and graduated from college — it's in them, but they have other options."
Their victory led to widespread attention; that gave way to OC Weekly coverage and a relationship with a well-connected LA publicist. For the past few months, they've been opening for House of Vibe — a live boom-bap institution with a rotating cast of musicians who lace backdrops for everyone from Chali 2na to Suicidal Tendencies. Audible's studio game is also back in full swing; with a refreshed line-up — Johnny on drums, Lethal D on guitar, Walt Walters on bass, DJ Special Blend on turntables, and D. Miller on keys, MPC, and trumpet — they recently finished Transients, a testimonial hit parade that should give them enough juice to continue doing what they do best for some time.
"The more I analyze the record industry, the more I realize that you have to make money on the road performing — and we're good at that," says Expo. "It seems that these guys with hits on the radio don't do shows, so if their next single doesn't pop, they're done. Look at the dude who wrote 'This Is Why I'm Hot.' What the fuck is he doing right now? Not to disrespect that dude, but I'm just saying that I'd rather be me than him."
AUDIBLE MAINFRAME + THE RE-UP + BUSINESS FOR PLEASURE + THE U.N. | Harpers Ferry, 158 Brighton Ave, Allston | August 21 at 9 pm | $10 | 617.254.9743 or www.harpersferry.com