GRAND ANALOG
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GRAND ANALOG

Toronto, Ontario, Canada | Established. Jan 01, 2008 | INDIE | AFM

Toronto, Ontario, Canada | INDIE | AFM
Established on Jan, 2008
Band Hip Hop Soul

Calendar

This band hasn't logged any future gigs

Sep
15
GRAND ANALOG @ The Delancey

New York, NY

New York, NY

Sep
14
GRAND ANALOG @ Friends and Lovers

Brooklyn, NY

Brooklyn, NY

Aug
21
GRAND ANALOG @ Riverfest Elora 2015

Elora, Ontario, Canada

Elora, Ontario, Canada

Music

Press


The search for the perfect beat never quite reaches an end.
Canadian group Grand Analog dig deeper than most. The band's extensive career has traversed hip-hop, funk, and reggae, a dexterous rhythmic engine that trawls through the record racks on a daily basis.

New single 'Love Is Battlefield' matches a classic reggae beat to hip-hop flourishes, and it will appear on their next EP (due out in Autumn).

Grand Analog's Odario explains: "'Love Is A Battlefield' is a song I wrote about the city itself; and one's love & hate relationship with that city. Most dream chasers fall in love with a city before migrating to it, then find themselves fighting to maintain that adoration as adversity, everyday struggle and the inevitable heartbreak takes toll."
The video was shot in the historic Kensington Market located in down-town Toronto: "I wanted to shoot a video that reflected the inner city, but also felt like the Wild Wild West (I have a long time love affair with old Western films)... Kensington Market was perfect for that." - Clash Music


Play Too Much: Tell us a little bit about the song?

Odario Williams of Grand Analog: I wanted to write a song about the city itself, and one’s love & hate relationship with that city. Most dream chasers fall in love with a city before migrating to it, then find themselves fighting to maintain that adoration as adversity, everyday struggle and the inevitable heartbreak takes toll. I felt the grittiness of a 70’s dub/reggae vibe fit the theme of the song perfectly, so I brought some lyrics I wrote to the band and we found the perfect beat to my city soundtrack.

PTM: I know your from Toronto but this video and song definitely made me think of the city I grew up in, New York City. I meet a lot of transplants who come this city with a rose colored perspective and sometimes it’s hard for me to still see the beauty in it – but you’re right, that its about fighting to maintain that adoration. Where was this video filmed?

OW: The video was shot in Toronto’s historic Kensington Market. Ironically, the Market is usually bustling with local characters, tourists and street entertainers. In this clip I wanted to use the Market as a backdrop to my lyrics (almost like a painting); but I also wanted to show the quiet eerie side to the legendary mad Market that the locals don’t normally see. The video was shot in one day… 6am and 6pm. We had to work quickly as Time, and Mother Nature, waits for no man.

PTM: Thats awesome! The video is really beautiful. How did you come up with the video concept?

OW: I was adamant about keeping the concept simple. I wanted to shoot one specific city scene, as opposed to numerous city scenes (we even kept Toronto’s famous CD Tower out of the video). And I knew that Kensington Market had the right look and feel to carry the visuals through using one location.

PTM: What was the hardest part and most fun part to film?

OW: We started shooting at 6am, which means my alarm was set that morning for 4:30am. That was difficult because I usually go to bed at 4am! It was fun to shoot while delirious and strung-out on McCafe coffee. The sun was gorgeous that morning. I remember our director shooting against the light, not being able to see me, but encouraged me to keep performing (giving me a thumbs up), confident the results would be sugar sweet.

PTM: There is nothing prettier (and more epic) than someone backlight by the sun! Who do you want to shout out for helping make this video possible?

OW: A shout out to director Jason Cipparrone, who’s love for photography & art made this video clip a special one for me. Also, I’d like to shout out our drummer, TJ Garcia, who is absent from the video because he attended his mother’s birthday dinner instead. I thought that was sweet. - Play Too Much


Toronto hip-hop collective Grand Analog have been doing their thing for close to a decade now and have opted to celebrate their many years together with a new compilation release. Featuring older tracks and some reworked material, their Roll Dub Soul Rap (A Collection) drops October 8.

A press release notes that the crew have collected tracks from their full-length LPs for this forthcoming compendium, all the way from Calligraffiti numbers like "Simmer me Down" through to singles from 2013's Modern Thunder ("Howl (Like Wolves)," "Wild Animal Print"). Scattered throughout the 15-song set are guest appearances from artists including Shad, Maylee Todd, Saukrates and more.

Added to the release is a Muneshine remix of "Heart the Lonely Hunter," which also features guest vocalist Ashleigh Eymann.

Though it's noted that Grand Analog flirt with textures of rock, dub and soul, and collaborate with a wide range of artists, the band point out that their roots will always be hip-hop.

"Hip hop, as a culture, has always been the foundation for our song-writing process," the band's Odario Williams said in a statement. "As a genre it's both malleable and influential, and allows me to experiment sonically. I also find inspiration in Toronto, as I depend on my surroundings for ideas. It's these genre bending experimentations and outside influences that define Grand Analog's sound that come together so naturally."

You'll find the full tracklisting to Roll Dub Soul Rap and a video for "Wild Animal Print" down below, as well as a few upcoming Ontario dates.

Roll Dub Soul Rap (A Collection):

1. Howl (Like Wolves)
2. Electric City (ft. Shad)
3. Around This Town
4. Rap Sheet (ft. Saukrates)
5. Everyday Always
6. I Play My Kazoo
7. Heart The Lonely Hunter (Muneshine Remix) (ft. Ashleigh Eymann)
8. Simmer Me Down (ft. Tynisha Goddard)
9. Take It Slow (Faces and Places)
10. I'm On Fire (ft. Maiko Watson, Len Bowen)
11.Wild Animal Print
12.Touch Your Toes (ft. Kiyomi)
13. Her Daddy (Don't Like Me)
14.The Great Rhyme Dropper (ft. Shad)
15.Trip The Life Fantastic (ft. Maylee Todd, Len Bowen) - Exclaim


These guys take their name very seriously, drawing from classic influences of the later 20th century and using all analog gear to create a very modern interpretation of classic music genres. This is all undoubtedly funneled through the guise of a hip-hop band, but in truth, Grand Analog is careening with influences that go far beyond rap music.

They are pretty much everything live instrumental Hip Hop should be, a true amalgam of musical genre’s resulting in boundary crossing Rock-Hop or Rap N Roll. They consist of Bass, Sax, Drums, Two turntables and a microphone, all the band members are all exceedingly versatile, as is demonstrated through their fluid performances from song to song, using rock, funk, reggae grooves, dub lines and some pretty sweet jazz breakdowns to their MC’s benefit.

Not often does one encounter both a parka and fedora incorporated into a hip hop MC’s ensemble. Odario Williams is an exception to this rule. He literally had command over the audience as a maestro does his orchestra. My favorite moment was when they played the song ‘I Play My Kazoo’, without a kazoo, because why the hell not?

Grand Analog has been hitting the stage since 2006 and has been growing ever since. I first discovered them because of their track ‘The Great Rhyme Dropper’. They will be playing SXSW in the coming weeks, so stay alert. Grand Analog has the scent of greatness on them. This is how live rap is and should be done. Plus their recordings ain’t bad neither. - Toronto Music Reviews


Toronto, ON based Hip Hop group, Grand Analog is made up of a collective of seasoned record collectors, musicians and self-described beat junkies, including Odario G Williams, Warren Bray, Ofield K Wiliams, Alister Johnson and TJ Garcia.

The group has released a fifteen song retrospective album entitled “Roll Dub Soul Rap” which is a collection of tracks from previous releases, and also includes a never before released remix. The band decided to release this album to celebrate their 8 years as a group.

This is a release that is sure to please existing fans of the group, and also new listeners. For me, this is the first time listening to Grand Analog and I thoroughly enjoyed the tracks from the first song, “Howl (Like Wolves)” which has an infectious beat, to the eleventh track “Wild Animal Print” which consists of a very busy sound, but that being said had my feet moving and kept me interested.

I would say that my favourites of the album were “Her Daddy (Don’t Like Me)” and “I Play My Kazoo”. Both of these tracks are upbeat, and showcase the talent that Grand Analog possesses.

Rating: 4/5 - Canadian Beats


In this digital age, musicians and producers look to digital means to create their music. The process has become easy: everyone with a laptop has the ability to write and create music and throw it online.

However, according to Odario Williams, rapper and front man of Toronto’s five-piece hip-hop outfit Grand Analog, authenticity is lacking in these new ways of making music.

“The digital era was at a great height, and a lot of music was being made on computers. We just wanted to create an ode to the old way of doing things,” says Williams on the inception of Grand Analog.

Grand Analog was formed in 2006 after Williams moved from Winnipeg to Toronto to pursue acting. An avid music fan, he worked in a record store where he met the future members of the band. Band members include DJ Ofield Williams, drummer TJ Garcia, keyboardist Alister Johnson and bassist Warren Bray.

“We talked about a project that would merge everything from The Clash to A Tribe Called Quest,” says Williams. The group’s numerous musical influences include reggae, R&B and rock ‘n’ roll, adding to what Williams calls a “unique hip-hop style.”

Grand Analog blends live instrumentation (including bass, keys, drums and vocals) with electronic production.

“We’re a live hip-hop band, and that’s what we represent. We do include a lot of the current techniques in our mix as well,” says Williams. “But, there is no plug-in, button or filter that can get that true analog sound.”

Grand Analog has released three full-length albums, including Calligraffiti in 2007, Metropolis Is Burning in 2009 and Modern Thunder in 2013. Several music videos have accompanied the releases. “Howl Like Wolves” shows Williams as a motivational speaker who gets arrested because he was robbing people behind their backs. In their latest video for “Wild Animal Print,” the band builds a portable karaoke booth that they push around Toronto. Random, happy fans are depicted singing along inside the booth.

In terms of new material, Grand Analog has been releasing singles for a new album that will be dropping late this spring. The aforementioned “Wild Animal Print” is from War Paint, an album that continues along their characteristically fun loving trajectory.

“We love music, and we love to perform and we don’t take things too seriously,” concurs Williams. “Hip hop is the foundation, but we do try to elevate from just throwing a hip-hop show.” - Beatroute


Ask 12 people what their favourite track is on Grand Analog’s third album and you’ll get 12 different answers. That’s because each has its own distinct flavour. Take the Latin brass on Lion Head, the reggae vibes on Unbearable Lightness, the rap-battle-worthy verses on The Great Rhyme Dropper featuring Shad, the summerlicious warm groove of Sly & the Family Stone-esque Howl (Like Wolves), the stunning female vocals on retro synth-poppy Heart The Lonely Hunter. Yet there’s a thread that holds it very much together. Warren Bray’s ever-present funky bass? Yes. And certainly frontman Odario Williams’s rhymes, which make him both modern-day Toronto sociologist and bigger-life-question navel-gazer.
Organic, funk-laden rap ’n’ roll. Does it diminish the album to say that everyone will like it – hip-hop heads, vinyl junkies and current pop radio fans alike? It shouldn’t. The album doesn’t blend and water down influences, it sharpens each flavour with delicate execution, making for a very satisfying meal.

Top track: Heart The Lonely Hunter feat. Amanda Balsys - NOW magazine


Odario Williams has been writing rhymes for as long as most of us have been listening and due to this, nearly every lyric on his band’s third disc sounds as natural as freestyle, yet as prepared as poetry. Opener “Lion Head” somehow manages to drop nods to Neil Young and Burton Cummings without sounding like anything an ex-Winnipeg resident has ever produced, while “Guys and Girls” holds the most pep you’ll get outside of cheerleader practice. There’s layers in the music and production that 90% of hip hop doesn’t have the attention span to swim through and that sets this disc apart in major ways. The slew of guests - from Saukrates to Shad and Amanda Balsys - are essential but don’t take away from the cohesion of the final product. It’s the record you’ll want to sweat along to in the dying days of summer. - Uniter


Even if the band can’t quite figure out how to define its sound, Grand Analog’s not going to disappoint in their visit to London Thursday.

The hip hop band fronted by Odario Williams on vocals, Warren Bray on bass, Alister Johnson on keyboards, TJ Garcia on drums and DJ Ofiel d Williams are at Call the Office with Two Crown King.

They’ve just released Modern Thunder, an album the band produced itself (Bray and Catalist) and already catching rave reviews.

This is a band that touches on just about all music genres, from R&B to jazz, soul, reggae and rock delivered hip hop style.

“We’re in a day and age where it’s difficult to describe our sound,” said Williams in a telephone interview.

“That’s what made this record so easy to make. Everybody brought their own influences to it from Afro-best to jazz to punk rock. It really was a crazy mix of stuff. Every song has a hint of what someone’s been listening to at that time.”

Williams said the show they’ll be bringing “is quite interactive.”

“We tend to go a little, uh, off-road a lot, which some might call improvising and we just call a lack of rehearsing,” Williams joked.

“We’re really just a bunch of guys having fun. We don’t even know when the song is going to end.”

Modern Thunder is the band’s third album, preceded by Calligraffiti (2007) and Metropolis Is Burning (2009).

Three years in the making, described as “an array of infectious soundscapes” with collaborations ranging from Shad and Saukrates to Maylee Todd and Len Bowen, Williams said he hopes it defines what this band is all about.

“We really took our time with this one,” said Williams. “It’s well seasoned.” - London Free Press


The daily album today comes from Grand Analog, a Canadian hip hop band formed in 2006 and fronted by Odario Williams. The group brings together aspects of many genres, and focuses on live instrumentation rather than relying solely on loops and samples. This is the group’s third release, as they gear up for a tour to promote the album.
Modern Thunder opens with “Lion Head”, a dub/ska influenced track that serves as a proper introduction to the album. There is a lot going on here, between the percussion, multitude of instruments, breaks and samples. It’s busy, but it keeps the track really moving. “Rap Sheet” follows, oscillating between chorus, dub, and minimalistic beats, an ode to the future.
“People People” is a frantic track built around a quick bass line with a retro rock chorus and more snares than you can shake a stick at. There is a ton of the 80s in this track, in all sorts of ways. A lot of the vocal work is catchy in a Macklemore way, minus the cheese factor. Grand Analog plays well with timing and metaphor, and keeps things articulate for the most part. “Guys & Girls” is an ear grabber right off the bat and goes a little heavier on the funk than a lot of the other tracks, which works well.
“4am in Parkdale” has that we’re robbing a bank bassy jazz feel, and adds a hit of funky soul for good measure. Feels a little like “A Day at the Races”, done a notch chiller. “Wild Animal Print” is an electro funk piece that has a sick, grooving beat. Many of these tracks are a bit quirky, but they have that stickiness that puts them in your head and tells you to play them again. The album closes with “Unbearable Lightness”, a beatrock meets dub track, swimming in metaphor.
If you like the Macklemore/J5 vibe but are looking for something that strays a bit from the norm, Modern Thunder is your album. Great instrumentation, a solid dub influence, and a little bit of funk make Grand Analog more than your everyday hip hop band. Pick up a dozen solid hip hop tracks here, and for only seven bucks. - The Daily Album


Life can be unpredictable. As much as we try to plan for every possibility, new curve balls are constantly being thrown at us. Perhaps we should simply embrace the uncertainty of it all and clutch every moment we experience. This is precisely what the Toronto/Winnipeg based Grand Analog does on their forthcoming album Modern Thunder, due out August 20.

There was no overarching plan for the album other than to musically capture different moments in time. As a result, we are treated to a glimpse into the lives of frontman Odario Williams and his comrades, all within the context of the band’s signature heavy dose of deep grooves, catchy hooks, and flowing, spunky rhymes.

The program is diverse by design. Unlike their previous efforts Calligraffiti (2007) and Metropolis is Burning (2009) which had preconceived lyrical themes before the songs were written, for this project Williams had his crew create assorted instrumental soundscapes and based his lyrics on what he heard.

“I wanted to see the song,” he states. “I let the music decide what the song is going to be about.”

The record reflects this organic writing process that Williams describes as “effortless.”

The fact that Grand Analog is a live hip hop band, and one of Canada’s finest at that, plays a large role in the group’s identity. The relationships between Williams and his DJ brother Ofield, bass player Warren Bray, keyboardist Alister Johnson aka Catalist, and drummer TJ Garcia are the foundation that drive the group’s creativity. Williams relies heavily on the varied influences of his band mates who come from very different musical backgrounds.

“If you put all those ingredients in one pot,” he says, “you’ll understand why you have Grand Analog.”

Modern Thunder opens with the triumphant, afrobeat-infused “Lion Head” which is an apt opening and reintroduction to the band after a four year break from recording. Williams jubilantly raps, “It’s been a long time / a toast to a new beginning / I feel good ‘bout the skin I’m in.” The song features punchy horn and vocal lines à la Fela Kuti on top of unrelenting hip hop drums and percussion.

“Modern Day Fool” reveals the precarious nature of every day life in contrast with the opening track. Williams explains that during the production of the album, “any given day could have been any given thing.” On that day, it appears that Williams was feeling a bit more introspective. In the song, he raps, “I’m just a modern day fool, cool, social recluse / just a walkin’ contradiction / mother nature on the loose.” His rhymes float over a syncopated riff played on the guitar and bass and is broken up by Andrina Turenne’s bluesy, soulful hook. Williams’ carefully crafted lines throughout the album demonstrate the complexity and emotional depth of life ranging from total self confidence to self reassurance to loneliness.

Upon hearing the music for “The Great Rhyme Dropper,” Williams envisioned a superhero rapper.

“There’s only one person I had in mind to do that with me,” he said.

That person is Canadian rapper Shad, who trades boastful, effortless verses with Williams on the track. The chemistry between the two is palpable as they organically flow over the propulsive, driving funk beat and afrobeat-style horns. - Forget The Box


Modern Thunder, Grand Analog’s third album, finds the troupe refining the qualities that made them a unique entity in Torontonian hip-hop: laid-back and articulate rhymes, eclectic and extensive genre-mashing, and cool sounding analog instrumentation. The track’s tight funk/soul/old-school hip-hop rhythms and well-placed horns pack a punch, and a stocked roster of guest artists (Maylee Todd, Shad, Saukrates) seal the deal. Grand Analog is hammering out their own brand of hip-hop, accessible without relying too heavy on the hooks – as many of their peers tend to do to broaden appeal. While no shows are listed after this past week’s album release party, listeners will be clamoring for them as this album gains traction. - New Canadian Music


On third album Modern Thunder, Toronto, ON-based Grand Analog have refined the fusion of their live band aesthetic and straight up hip-hop approach into a satisfying, cohesive synthesis. On previous efforts Caligraffiti and Metropolis is Burning, the group's approach favoured a band backing-up the feel-good vibes of group MC Odario Williams. There's nothing inherently wrong with that, but Modern Thunder sports a far more integrated and interconnected sound and approach, signalling significant artistic growth. Afrobeat-tinged lead track "Lion Head" nods to the past before serving subtle notice of the group's musical reboot. Meditative entries like the dusty "Rap Sheet (This Day On)," featuring Saukrates, and the rapid-fire "The Great Rhyme Dropper," featuring Shad, will appeal to the heads, but the group's versatility is also leveraged. Cognizant of their wide appeal, Grand Analog attempt to ensure that they don't cater too slavishly to pop sensibilities. On most occasions, they are successful, especially with the Native Tongue-feel of "Howl (Like Wolves)" sounding like a ready-made concert closer and bonus track "Trip the Light Fantastic" utilizing a shimmering Maylee Todd cameo, to excellent effect. The group also retain their experimental and adventurous edge, combining funk and Afrobeat vibes on "Wild Animal Print," while still remembering, in inimitable Grand Analog fashion, to incorporate reggae into the proceedings on "Unbearable Lightness." - Exclaim!


What is hip-hop for a Guyana-born, Winnipeg-bred Torontonian?
People-watching from the window bar of a downtown coffee shop, Odario Williams is careful with his words, distilling years of thought into a few sentences.
“When I was making this record, I was under a big magnifying glass about what a rapper is and what a rapper should be,” says the frontman for Toronto hip-hop band Grand Analog.
“A lot of my writing was based on that. I have 10-year-old cousins who tell their school friends I’m a rapper, so they come knocking on my door and I’m just in a regular pair of cut-off Levis and a T-shirt, and they say, ‘He doesn’t look like a rapper.’”
Hence, Rap Sheet, the Saukrates-featured second track on Grand Analog’s third album, Modern Thunder (Shadow Cabinet), which examines the connotations and stereotypes associated with the genre.
In the tune’s most memorable line – or maybe just for red-faced journalists – Williams says of Grand Analog’s music: “You call it genre-bending, I call it condescending.” It’s an adjective, he says, unfairly reserved for rappers.
“If a country singer adds anything to the music, they won’t get that tag. It’s just what they’re doing.”
And Williams has been doing what he’s doing for a while.
He moved to Toronto from Manitoba in 2006 to advance his acting career. Having previously fronted the hip-hop group Mood Ruff in Winnipeg, though, he was quick to jump into the music scene, too.
“I wasn’t looking for a producer. I was around great players and great songwriters, so I was looking for band members,” says Williams. “If anyone else thought that only the Roots should be doing that, that’s bullshit.”
Williams worked with GA’s bassist, Warren Bray, at a record store. He found keyboardist Catalist through the studio he was recording at, called The Hive. Their drummer, TJ Garcia, is a multi-instrumentalist and singer who fills in all the gaps. Williams’s brother Ofield, the band’s DJ, still lives in Winnipeg but comes in for special occasions like Modern Thunder’s upcoming release concert at the Drake.
“There’s not a lot of hip-hop live bands out there, and I’m proud to say we’re doing our own unique thing,” says Williams. “We don’t sound like the Roots. We sound… I don’t want to say Canadian, because we don’t know what that means.”
Does it mean eclectically influenced?
“I guess so, but we’re naturally like that. That’s why I say genre-bending is condescending, because it makes it sound like something I’m trying to do. But my dad’s a reggae DJ, I grew up with punk rockers in high school, I dated singer/songwriters and went to rap shows with my cousins. That was my life in Winnipeg, Manitoba.”
Williams sighs and shrugs. This issue is far too deep for a 45-minute conversation, and Grand Analog is opening for De La Soul in a few hours. He has to jet.
“That’s the joy of the whole thing – spending my life trying to figure out the sociology and the psychology behind hip-hop.”
Here’s hoping he doesn’t figure it out for a while. Maybe a few more albums’ worth. - NOW magazine


So clear this up for me - is it the Green Room or the Salon Vert? Or is it a point of contention? Those who say it's the Green Room, yell 'Green Room'..." so began Grand Analog's front-man Odario Williams, jumping right into his high-energy participatory hip-hop/funk/reggae set from Analog's second album, Metropolis is Burning. "We're just getting warmed up," he claims with genuine excitement. With shades of rock and humourous odes to recognizable jingles like "I Want You Back" by Jackson 5, Grand Analog mixes catchy tunes, exceptional on-stage charisma with a healthy love for music.


Last night's performance at the Green Room (I yelled 'Salon Vert') marks Analog's second appearance in our city, after Pop Montréal last fall. They were preceded by The Thania & Emelie Band, a young trio of female performers from, what I gathered to be, Vanier College. Their strengths show great potential for the budding performers (both singers have beautiful voices, and can casually switch from violin to piano to flute). With a fairly early 9pm start, the Room was filled with friends and acquaintances who carried the band through some awkward stage silences and occasional blips. Regardless, a worthy start for what will hopefully be a fruitful music career. Their sound: sort of a Jenn Grant meets Feist. Their goal: be on a 2012 iPod commercial.

Next up was main draw Grand Analog. DJ Ofield Williams smoothed the transition from indie light to Marvin Gaye-inspired beat before brother Odario (lead), Alister (keys) and Damon (guitar) joined him on stage. Hailing from Peg City (Winnipeg), the Analog began as a small collective of music lovers. Their love of the medium is apparent in their wide influence. While they can best be described as a rap'n'roll group, mixing the poetry of hip-hop with the harsh strum of rock ("I Play My Kazoo"), they also draw on ska, soul and reggae ("Take it Slow"). And he does indeed play his kazoo on stage.

Odario Williams wants to share his love with the audience, which is why so many of his songs involve and necessitate audience participation. Before playing "Not Enough Mondays/Crunch" he instructs the audience on what and when they should sing along. Before playing his closing "Her Daddy (Don't Like Me)" he insisted that each portion of the room move to the beat. And you have to give it to him - he does NOT stop moving; so much so that some photographers have found it difficult to pin him down for a decent live-act shot. When Odario starts sweating, we start sweating - and it feels great.
- Midnight Poutine


Grand Analog have been getting a lot of critical acclaim tossed their way for their album Calligraffiti and rightfully so. Front-man Odario Williams, who has been a pivotal figure in Winnipeg’s hip-hop scene as a member of Mood Ruff, seems totally at ease working up a cold sweat in this eclectic new project and hitting the stage with a DJ and a band featuring a bunch of well-respected musicians, they continued their streak of tight live shows. While the entire set was impressive, the loping reggae strut of "Around This Town” deserves a special mention as it manages to sound even better live than it does on record. - Exclaim magazine


Grand Analog from Winnipeg was right after, and in my opinion, are hip hop at its finest. A DJ, bassist, drummer, emcee and a keyboardist that looks like Frank Zappa are what make up this band that combines R&B, reggae, rock and jazz into their performance. The stylings of this group were refreshing, especially their own version of A Tribe Called Quest’s classic, “Electric Relaxation.” Having a live bassist makes a hip hop show complete; especially if your bassist can put on a clinic like Warren Bray. Lead singer Odario Williams is a lighthearted spirit that pumped much energy into the performance. There was a point where he took out a kazoo and played the trumpet sample in the song that the band was playing on his kazoo. Funk is definitely back, but Grand Analog makes it seem as though it never left. - Lithium magazine


Winnipeg's Grand Analog aren't your typical hip hop outfit; mixing beatboxes and turntables with live musicians and incorporating elements from funk, reggae and rock with true sincerity, they've earned the distinction of being one of the few decidedly non-jazz acts to be invited to play the Toronto Jazz Festival.

"In this day and age, we're comfortably an eclectic mix," says front man Odario Williams from his new home in Toronto. "If you think about hip hop today, hip hop in 2008, in general, that definitely doesn't fit in a jazz festival; it should be in a club somewhere... but I think we're an exception to the rule. We're very much into musicianship and melody and I think that's what resonated with the jazz fest staff. Can't speak for them, but that's my assumption anyway."

Having a very broad interest in diverse forms of music, Grand Analog gets a wide array of invitations to perform. "We've played indie rock events, we're doing a reggae festival one day and a funk festival another day, opening for a punk band, done it all," says Williams. "[Winnipeg punk outfit] Propagandhi asked up to open for them but we couldn't do it because we on the other side of the country at the time. Really sucks, but I really appreciated them reaching out and asking us to do that."

Watching the band live, Grand Analog's well balanced mix looks like child's play. Perhaps it has something to do with Williams being the son of a reggae DJ and being open minded about music in his youth.

"I used to be teased for the circles that I kept" he remembers. "Like my basketball buddies would tease me for hanging out with the punk rock kids, and my punk rock buddies would tease me for hanging out with the nerdy [kids] ... it's funny; I had a perfect upbringing - at the time I didn't know how perfect it was, until later I figured it out.

"The school I went to, everyone called it a skater school - a lot of punk rock going on through there - and me and my basketball boys, all we listened to was hip hop. That's what I grew up with, all of that. And I dated singer/songwriter girls; that just sealed the deal."

His unique approach to making music gives his band a mark of distinction in a world slowly coming around to the idea that hip hop can actually be musical. "I think there's a big chunk of people that like hip hop and want to like hip hop but just can't find something to appreciate, and I'm actually in the same boat," he confesses. "There's a lot of hip hop right now I'm just not digging."

But Williams remains optimistic; in his mind, there is hope for the future, with a decidedly local twist: "Canadian hip hop just might fill that void internationally. I totally think so."
- Blog T.O.


Grand Analog can't be pigeon-holed into one musical genre. Incorperating elements of hip-hop, rock 'n roll, reggae, dub, blues, and even a bit of punk rock, there's a lot of musical flavour to experience. Having played the South by Southwest festival in Austin, TX twice already is pretty impressive for this young collective of Winnipeg and Toronto musicians, and it's a testament to how engaging their live show is. There are certainly examples of hip-hop using live instrumentation -- The Roots and k-os instantly come to mind -- but it's not something you see everyday, and when the musicians are on, it makes for an incredible live experience.

ShowbizMonkeys.com had the chance to talk with emcee Odario Williams to talk about the history of the band, what makes them tick, and the state of hip-hop in general. With their new album, Metropolis is Burning, hitting the stores this week, it feels like Grand Analog is on the verge of breaking huge. The material is certainly there.
- Showbiz Monkeys


There were actually two acts after midnight, but I only had the pleasure of seeing the one. Grand Analog, my main interest in the showcase, took the stage over at midnight and totally flipped the vibe. They took the stage with horns, drums, a DJ who emceed some songs, keys, a bassist, and main vocals. Together, Grand Analog represents a fusion of conscious hip-hop and reggae, with jazz sensibilities, all tied together by one of the most incredible, energetic, and charismatic front-mans I’ve had the pleasure of watching. Odario completely lit up the audience with his personality, and smooth, soulful lyrical delivery. - Salacious Sound


Canada is known for its indie rock giants, but last night at CMJ’s Canadian Showcase, Grand Analog, a four-piece from Winnipeg, proved Canada has more than one genre in its bag of musical tricks. With dub beats, rock riffs, samples of real instruments and laidback, clever rhymes, they captured the essence of the hip-hop golden age while maintaining a distinct rap-hop flavor of their own.

Frontman Odario Williams oozed electricity, grooving around the stage in a gray fedora and crouching low and eye level with the audience when in flow. At times Williams busted into reggae rhythms, like for their final song of the night “Take it Slow,” a crowd favorite, while for other songs, like “Electric City” or “Magnifico,” he adopted a tougher rap cadence and honest, hard-hitting lyrics.

During the course of their 40 minute set, Williams played several roles. He was a rastaman, a rapper and then a poet. At the conclusion of songs like “I Play my Kazoo,” the beats faded out and Williams broke into unaccompanied spoken word. These moments were eerily quiet except for Williams’ smooth, forceful voice. As he stared into the audience, his back hunched, clenching the microphone, you got the sense that you were no longer experiencing just great music but meaningful art.

Grand Analog provides chill, get-up and move music, skillful rap and substance, a combination you’ll be hard-pressed to find in other bands
- MTV Iggy


Just like his metropolis, Grand Analog also tosses rules into the fire. MC Odario swiftly moves from heavy rock guitars kicking in on "I Play My Kazoo," to slow, breezy reggae on "Take it Slow (Spaces & Places)." This sophomore album is like turning a street corner in a foreign town---you never know what to expect next, but it's revitalizing. "Light So Bright," a pounding electronic collaboration with Cadence Weapon, could also describe these kings of Canadian hip-hop. - The Coast magazine


Together since 2006, Grand Analog epitomizes what it means to hone your craft. They have been performing at various clubs across Canada for years, and their latest disc, Metropolis Is Burning is truly the perfect example of what this crew can do.

SoulMatters had the opportunity to speak with the group’s leader, Odario Williams, about Grand Analog’s music, hip-hop and the creative process of putting it all together. Although Metropolis has been out since last year, the disc is truly timeless. Tracks like “Take It Slow”, “Stir Crazy” and “Electric City” remind you of why hip-hop is arguably the most eclectic and ever-changing genre on earth.

It is difficult to pigeonhole this group. They are not just hip-hop; they are soul; they are reggae/dub; they are funk. And, they are not just a studio crew. A Grand Analog live show is like no other, but don’t let me sway you, here’s Odario in his own words.

SoulMatters: Metropolis is Burning has an incredible edge to it, I love it. “I Play My Kazoo” for instance, has an awesome rock n roll meets hip-hop vibe but then other tracks, like “Take It Slow” has a total reggae vibe. How would you describe this album?

Odario Williams: Rap'n'Roll and Dub'n'Soul was the initial definition of our sound when we started back in 2006. Nowadays we've been simply calling it the “Grand Analog” sound. We are on the quest for something unique. It's the result of constantly trying to play with our parent's favourite melodies and make them our own. Record digging and experimentation is a delicate art form within itself.

SMM: Back in the day, hip-hop collectives were a dime a dozen, today, there aren’t as many, why do you think that is?
OW: I think there are twice as many actually. Hip-hop has now moved back to the original underground level where you have to search for what you're looking for diligently. If you think about it, you can probably count on your hand the amount of actual rappers topping the Pop charts. Everyone else, including some of our favourite rappers are now categorized in niche markets. I'm often surprised how many albums by hip-hop legends have come out in the last couple of years and I never hear about the release! But to answer your question, I feel the death of the “Independent Hip-hop Label” has a lot to do with it. The days of Rawkus Records, Tommy Boy, Loud Records, Bad Boy and others have disappeared, and so did all those artists as a result.

SMM: As a group, what do you bring to a live show that takes the album to a different place? What makes a Grand Analog show different to a Grand Analog album?
OW: On stage we can jam for as long as we want! I can do twenty minute kazoo solos and, no one can tell me nothin'!!! We like to explore our previously recorded material on stage and improvise when space and time permits. The live show actually solidifies us as a band too. Timing is everything. Timing and communication are key on stage.

SMM: I love that Grand Analog really is representative of various regions in Canada; it’s not just a Toronto crew, if you know what I mean. How would you describe being a Canadian hip-hop group? Or, do you not necessarily think of yourself in that way?
OW: Well, the essence of hip-hop culture comes from reppin’ where you're from, almost more so than where you're at. So, even though I don't live in Winnipeg aka Peg City these days, I still represent it. But we as a collective are also on a musical mission that is without a birthplace. I was born in Guyana and my crew were all born in various places. That really is the definition of Canada. I think Canadian emcees all sound noticeably different because of it.

SMM: “Stir Crazy” is a solid tune, for real. Who is singing the hook on that track? Tell me a bit about that track.
OW: The soulful and talented Maiko Watson sings on “Stir Crazy”. We've known each other since we were kids in Peg City. She's my favourite female vocalist in Canada. She's a Taurus like me; she's also stubborn like me so watch out...there's no stopping her! Aside from that, I met Martin Perna, the saxophone player, a couple years ago. He plays for the mighty Antibalas crew as well as T.V. On The Radio. We vibed immediately and started brainstorming what was supposed to be a disco infused version of “Stir Crazy” into a flavourful afrobeat style hip-hop romp. I love how it turned out.

SMM: What do you say to all those cats who say that hip-hop is dead?
OW: What! They need to catch up on the many variations of this worldly culture we call hip-hop. They may not understand that hip-hop is a culture, not just a genre of music. The music aspect is changing as we speak, and it's vibrant as ever. Every country has their own version of hip-hop. It's bigger than hip-hop!

SMM: If you had to pick one thing about hip-hop that you absolutely love, what would it be?
OW: The documentation. The photos and the literature. I still get excited sifting through old books about hip-hop culture in the 80s and 9 - Soul Matters


There's nothing in the first seven seconds of Metropolis is Burning, the second full-length album from Winnipeg outfit Grand Analog, that indicates to the listener that this is a hip-hop album. There are no snapping snare drums, no booming bass, no mic-checking from the MC. There's not even one lonely DJ scratch. Instead, the album's opening cut "Play My Kazoo," opens with the rising wail of a heavily distorted guitar and then crashes into a dirty sounding drum beat. And yes, the song features an actual kazoo, too.

The rest of Metropolis is equally unorthodox, with the band channelling everything from psychedelic rock to classic soul to dub reggae, and according to Grand Analog front-man Odario Williams, that's at least partially out of necessity. The old way of making hip-hop - chopping together elements sampled from old funk and jazz records to make new instrumentals - hasn't been viable for a while, says Williams. He and his band-mates (bassist Warren Bray, guitarist Damon Mitchell, keyboardist Catalist, and Odario's brother DJ Ofield Williams) are just looking for a new way of doing hip-hop.

"[People are] trying to preserve something that almost isn't there anymore. Hip-hop is in a tough spot right now, because sampling has almost come to a complete halt," he says. "The reason we love those albums from the mid-'90s and before is because it was open season for jazz and funk loops, so the lifestyle included the record digging and the MPCs... but when sampling came to a halt, it put hip-hop in a chokehold. It left people wanting that sound that you can't get anymore.

"Now, these cats are trying to find anything else. They're running to the electro kids for something, running to the rock cats for something. You can either see it as a mess or see it as something beautiful, because they're trying to find a new way to make this hip-hop thing happen."

Williams, who now splits his time between Winnipeg and Toronto, isn't alone. He points to a growing number of artists, both underground and mainstream, who have tracks featuring live guitars as proof that the time is right for their multi-faceted sound. The challenge, according to Williams, is to integrate new sounds without making it sound like a gimmick.

"I wanted to experiment with a way to make the guitar work with the drums," he says. "In some of the American rap that uses guitars, the guitars sound way too much like Nickelback. It's a bland rock guitar that doesn't work."

The guys in Grand Analog aren't naïve enough to assume that everyone will like their new vision of hip-hop, one that borrows psychedelic rock riffs and reggae bass lines as well as funky jazz breaks. But Williams says that hip-hop purists, the ones who are inclined to see inclusion of new influences as "a mess," are living in the past.

"Whenever someone comes up with something, [they say] 'Well, it's not pure hip-hop,"' he says. "Well, that pure hip-hop has done its day. I would love to sample some Donald Byrd, but that motherfucker would sue my ass!"

Williams says that those who would criticize Grand Analog's sonic experimentation should remember that hip-hop is a way of making music. "Hip-hop is a lifestyle, it's not a sound. It's given birth to many sounds." - Exclaim magazine


Discography

Calligraffiti - LP (2007)
Metropolis Is Burning - LP (2009)
Modern Thunder - LP (2013)

Roll Dub Soul Rap (A Collection) - LP (2015)

Love Is A Battlefield - EP (2016)

Photos

Bio

Grand Analog is a group of record collectors, musicians and self described beat junkies. You can easily find any of the GA crew DJing at various clubs around Toronto. The Grand Analog sound is a beautiful mess of rap 'n' roll, dub 'n' soul.

Each personality in this collective brings something unique to the table. Odario and DJ Ofield blame their father, a reggae DJ from the 80s, for cursing them with the love of music, bass and trouble. Warren Bray is the secret sauce on bass and lover of film soundtracks; TJ Garcia trips the light fantastic behind his drum kit and Aubrey McGhee coaxes the electric sound out of his saxophone.

The band’s critically acclaimed albums, “Modern Thunder”, “Metropolis Is Burning” and “Calligraffiti”, boast an infectious array of soundscapes. Their current retrospective album, “Roll Dub Soul Rap (A Collection)”, features guest artists ranging from Saukrates, Shad and Asleigh Eymann to Maiko Watson, Len Bowen and Maylee Todd. The band's new album that they are recording now includes collaborations with Posdnous from De La Soul and the Mad Professor (Massive Attack/Lee "Scratch" Perry).

Grand Analog's restless feet inspire an extensive touring schedule. The live show adds soul to the bloodline along with frequent stage jams and off the wall spontaneity. Over the last eight years, Grand Analog has left its mark on prestigious showcases and festivals such as SXSW, Reeperbahn, the Great Escape, CMJ, Pop Montreal, the Halifax Pop Explosion, JunoFest, Mondo NYC and CMW plus shows opening for the Roots, the Herbaliser, K-OS, Big Boi, UB40 and Kardinall Offishall.

There have been over 45 placements of Grand Analog songs in films, television and commercials including such U.S. television series as 90210, Criminal Minds, and NCIS Los Angeles as well as feature films like Lowriders starring Eva Longoria. 

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Press quotes:

“On third album Modern Thunder, Toronto, ON-based Grand Analog have refined the fusion of their live band aesthetic and straight up hip-hop approach into a satisfying, cohesive synthesis. The album sports a far more integrated and interconnected sound, signalling significant artistic growth. Cognizant of their wide appeal, Grand Analog attempt to ensure that they don't cater too slavishly to pop sensibilities. On most occasions, they are successful, especially with the Native Tongue-feel of "Howl (Like Wolves)" sounding like a ready-made concert closer.” Exclaim! Magazine

“Ask 12 people what their favourite track is on Grand Analog’s third album and you’ll get 12 different answers. That’s because each has its own distinct flavour. Take the Latin brass on Lion Head, the reggae vibes on Unbearable Lightness, the rap-battle-worthy verses on The Great Rhyme Dropper featuring Shad, the summerlicious warm groove of Sly & the Family Stone-esque Howl (Like Wolves), the stunning female vocals on retro synth-poppy Heart The Lonely Hunter. Yet there’s a thread that holds it very much together. Organic, funk-laden rap ’n’ roll. Does it diminish the album to say that everyone will like it – hip-hop heads, vinyl junkies and current pop radio fans alike? It shouldn’t. The album doesn’t blend and water down influences, it sharpens each flavour with delicate execution, making for a very satisfying meal.” NOW Magazine

“Grand Analog is a live hip hop band and one of Canada’s finest. Although many would put them somewhere under the umbrella of hip hop, Grand Analog has many sounds and cannot be pigeonholed into any one category. Regardless of its genre label, Modern Thunder deserves to be listened to by anybody who can relate to individualism, introspection, partying, city life, midnight munchies, vinyl on the deck, sex for breakfast, relationships, heartbreak, hookups, and sunshine.” Forget The Box

Band Members