Passionate. Precise. Pensive. Prolific.
When Lovelight the Messenger (one half of the hip hop duo Split/Brain) sets his eyes on a goal, he pursues it until the result exceeds everyone’s expectations. Honing his craft through dorm recordings and small-scale performances at the University of Montevallo, Lovelight seemly came out of nowhere to guest with Chris Fogg at the 2013 Secret Stages and was honored as one of Jeremy Burgess’ seven highlights of the festival’s first night. Lovelight refuses to waste his own time as well as the time of his listeners and gets straight to the point in every lyric. He can switch from tongue-in-cheek to brutally honest in a half second. With a Bandcamp page boasting four “name your price” releases (including two mixtapes and a 10-song debut record) in less than two years produced, recorded, mixed and mastered by Zac Upton (aka Upton Sinclaire, the music-writing half of Split/Brain), the group brings a lot to to the diverse Birmingham music community.
Lovelight will perform at Bottletree on Thursday, September 12th.
Chris K. Davidson for You Hear This?: Your bio spoke about your original hatred of rap. What changed and brought you to where you are today?
Lovelight the Messenger: Yeah, I hated rap and pretty much the whole hip-hop culture when I was young. I just didn’t understand it and didn’t like the sound. Kanye West changed that for me. I admit, when he first came out with “Through The Wire”, I hated that. Then he dropped songs like “Slow Jamz” and “All Falls Down”. I was thinking, “Man! This guy is trying to make me not like him!” But at some point he released songs like “Touch The Sky”, “Heard Em Say” and “Jesus Walks”. I loved those songs, especially “Jesus Walks”. One day I was in the gym and saw his video for “Can’t Tell Me Nothing”, and I just knew I had to remake his entire song into a song about food. That’s how I started rapping, by doing parodies. But I loved his sounds. I eventually made a horrible mixtape with a Wal-Mart microphone on my COMPAQ desktop, and the rest is history.
YHT?: What is the significance behind the name Split/Brain?
LM: Upton Sinclaire and I decided to join forces. I knew we needed a name to complement the fact that we are so different, yet complement each other musically. He ran across the term “Split Brain” on Google, which is something like a procedure to help combat epilepsy. We use it as a play on words to describe our different musical upbringings and sounds to make one cohesive, musical “thing”.
YHT?:Your music does not rely on typical hip hop beats and standards, but dives into the more experimental side of composition. Was that your vision from the beginning?
LM: Yeah, it kind of was. I knew I didn’t like “average” hip-hop sounds growing up. We wanted to bring something kind of fresh to the table.
YHT?: You’ve recently put out another mixtape that gained a tweet from Imogen Heap. Describe that experience.
LM: That junk was crazy! Like, you don’t even understand. I love Imogen Heap! When I was in high school, I thought of plans to like infiltrate the “world of famous people” in order to meet her and marry her! No joke. But it was like 11:30 p.m. or something one night, which means the sun was like rising in London or something. I saw Imogen tweet an “Audioboo” about her upcoming album. I just love hearing her voice, so I tweeted at her saying, “I just want to look her in her eyes. I love her.” Within minutes, she responded saying she was going on tour and I could meet her then. She tweeted me again saying she was listening to my music! She typed out the link and everything! I couldn’t believe it! She tweeted me again saying she bookmarked it for later. Dude, I was floored. She liked it. I love her.
YHT?: You performed at Secret Stages in August. How do you feel that has helped you break into the Birmingham scene?
LM: Secret Stages changed the game! That was my first real show. I met so many people involved with the hip-hop scene. That’s how I got this show coming up at Bottletree. Its also how I got invited to The Circuit, which is the biggest local hip-hop event in Alabamam i in October. I can’t wait to work with the people I met. Performing there just let a bunch of people know that I rock.
YHT?: You have a specific pre-show ritual (at least from what I’ve seen in the past). Describe that for us.
LM: I guess you could call it that. Man, I just like to jam out, so much! Before my performances, I don’t even like listening to my own music! I listen to the most hype, loudest, head-banging hip-hop I have, and I just go crazy. I jump around while mouthing the lyrics. I dance awkwardly. I flail my arms and shake my head violently. People see me and think I’m absolutely insane, I know they do. I’ve long since stopped caring. I just know that my performances are super high energy, and you can’t go from zero to over nine thousand just like that. I gotta dumb it down though, because sometimes it takes me hours to perform, and I’m just going nuts hours before my show and I’m really tired by my first song on stage.
YHT?: Last question for you, why give the album away?
LM: We decided to give the album away for a couple of reasons. One reason is no one outside of Montevallo knew who were at the time. Even people in Montevallo didn’t really know our potential or what we sounded like in regards to an original project. I felt like no one was going to buy it for like $5. Plus, people just like free stuff, especially music. It’s an awesome feeling to hear an artist you just discovered and like a lot, and find out that all of their music is free. Personally, I like it when I don’t have to debate whether or not to illegally download your music. We also make music very fast. I just have that ability to write songs as fast as like 20 minutes, and it still be awesome. So we’re not worried about a lack of material. Most of that 10-track album was made in two weeks. The entire 17-track mixtape was made in about three weeks. Both released in one summer. People don’t do that; its crazy.
On September 12th, Lovelight the Messenger will perform with a variety of local artists (including the aformentioned Chris Fogg and DJ Tanner), opening for out-of-towners Homeboy Sandman, Open Mike Eagle and Random aka Mega Ran at Bottletree Cafe. Doors for this 18-and-up show open at 8 p.m. Tickets are $10 in advance and $12 at the door.