When the Kickdrums play the Grog Shop on Friday, it will be the hip-hop producers' first show in their old hometown since their debut album was released a couple of months ago. Now based in the hipster hotspot of Brooklyn, Alex Fitts and Matt Penttila have temporarily shifted their interests from producing, remixing, and DJing to playing beat-driven, groove-oriented indie rock.
"We don't have any creativity constraints or somebody having the last word over us," says Fitts (pictured, right). "We can do whatever we want. It's a lot more fun and rewarding making our own songs than making a beat and sending it off to an [agent] somewhere."
Like their production work for Kid Cudi, 50 Cent, and John Legend, the music the Kickdrums play on Meet Your Ghost is stuff you can dance to. But unlike some of the production they've done, they didn't have to deal with irritating artists breathing over their shoulders in the studio. "We get hit back all the time, and they don't know what they're talking about," laughs Fitts. "'Can I get some horns on this hook?' Man, horns are not gonna sound good on this."
Fitts and Penttila shipped out of town two years ago. Since then, they've kept busy producing, remixing, and making mixtapes (they recently released an excellent pair tied to the Coachella and Lollapalooza music fests). They also produced "Stereo," a track for buzz-making Cleveland rapper MGK's major-label debut, due sometime early next year.
"It would be amazing to have the first single be 100 percent Cleveland-made — we did the beat, him rapping," says Fitts. "The song is insane. It's going to be killer." Need another reason to check out the Kickdrums' show this weekend? They're selling a limited-edition "coming home" hat made by the cool (and awesomely Cleveland) company I Love the Hype. They're producing only a hundred of them, so get there early.
PARTY DOWNTOWN: Got anything planned for Saturday, September 3? You do now: Jakprints' Jak of All Trades fest takes place right behind the printing company's building HQ on Perkins Avenue — and it might be the coolest thing happening downtown Labor Day weekend. Starting at noon, bands (almost all of them composed of members of Jakprints' hipster-heavy staff), DJs, food trucks, and free beer will be flying all day. Meanwhile, Jakprints' designers will show off their work in a special exhibit. Best of all, it's free and family-friendly, so bring the kids for a spin at the skate park. Access is limited to those who RSVP by this Sunday at jakprints.com/joat.
LIGHTEN UP: Singer-songwriter Zach's new album, Luminosity, is all about finding light within the darkness. He recorded it to help get through a long, gloomy winter here. On Friday, he'll release the record at the Gothic Building in downtown Akron. Zach promises a festive affair, which will convert the bottom floor of the building into a "Luminosity Experience." That's code for dress in bright clothes and bring glow sticks. So if you're into wearing black and being all depressed and shit, perhaps you'd be better off curling up with a bad book.