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Richmond, Virginia, United States | Established. Jan 01, 2008 | SELF

Richmond, Virginia, United States | SELF
Established on Jan, 2008
Band Alternative Indie




"PhotoSynthesizers Are Back From The Cosmos To Apollogize"

Apollo, the Olympian deity, is associated with being the god of numerous aspects of our society: music, philosophy, truth, healing, prophecy and obviously the sun. All of these items could also be associated with the genre bending act known as Photosynthesizers. Whether they were traveling through the cosmos forging songs or just deciding to make an appearance once in a blue moon during their absence in the RVA scene, it seems they will permanently be dropping their flag down in Richmond with their debut album, “Apollogy.”

Why did the 11-year old band finally decided to drop their first album after so long? “It just felt right. We’ve gone through so many transitions, and there were some periods of time where we thought we weren’t going to make it,” said Maurice “BarCodez” Jackson, the bands emcee. “Apollogy” is fueled with eclectic themes and double entendres that tie together everything from technology to the human condition, love, art, and politics, and usually all these themes are incorporated in one song. The album name and cover art can be connected to both the Greek god and to the spaceship that went to the moon in 1969. There are also 11 songs on the track, which is another nod to the moon landing.

BarCodez Jackson, guitarist Josh Bryant and keyboardist Wade Puryear’s band has constantly rotated different members over the past few years, which probably has fueled comparisons to the Roots, something that BarCodez would like to avoid. “I feel we were being typecast in a way. Anytime you’re going to be a band and have an MC and singer in it, people are going to compare you to the Roots, Erykah Badu or the Fugees. It’s not like they don’t have influences on us. They do. We also like Radiohead, we like Björk and all of these other influences. It’s just so funny how like everyone tried to nail you into a genre because it’s easily digestible. I don’t know. Nobody listens or eats one thing you know,” BarCodez stated.

Currently, the other associated members are Billy Nguyen on the turntables/MPC, Matt Groves on the drums and Laura Ann Singh, Toniraye Moss, and Macy West on vocals. With so many different band members from different musical backgrounds, and the band not being defined as a hip-hop group, you’d think things would get complicated when trying to finalize their sound.

“The process is ever changing. Maurice may have a random idea that sparks something. Wade may have something he’s working on, and the collaboration takes it somewhere. One of us may write the song out and talk through what it feels like. The most important thing about us working together is the sum of our parts as a whole. It may require us scrapping one thing or running with some piece of it. I thoroughly enjoy and cherish that,” said Bryant, the band’s guitarist.

Style wise, Barcodez has a flow that is impossible to mimic. The tempo isn’t too fast to keep up with, but he doesn’t take breaks in between his rhymes. He perhaps has too much to say and not enough time. Barcodez covers pressing topics as a gateway to larger themes that highlight the divides our country faces, such as the dismantling of Colin Kaepernick’s career and school shootings. As an African American male, Barcodez makes sure he keeps his music true to himself, which of course is about the black experience. But he also extends the struggle to what it means to be an American and even further to what it means simply to be human.

“Hoed Us/To The Cold/Crush

Gold Rush/To The Coal/Dust/We’ve Been Undermined

Neighbors Dye Tribes/Divide/Racial Diatribes


These are lyrics from Terms and Agreements, the opening track of the album. The song itself basically speaks on the hypocrisy of our culture and how we cherry pick certain (some) pressing matters but completely ignore or have disinterest in the suffering of certain groups and the loss of human connection. Terms and Agreements is really a song about society and its many oppositions, and for me to tell you what it’s about is I would have to tell you why it’s not about. For me it’s about everything: from women’s rights, social economics to art,” said BarCodez.

Madbox Made’s Matt West directed the Terms and Agreements video, the only one for the album so far. It features Barcodez speaking in a town hall with focus on actress Akiba Robinson, who is the only attendee. She goes crazy over what the speaker has to say and also the surrounding attendees’ reactions— or lack thereof— as they understand this as the norm of our society.

“Apollogy” isn’t all a coded message that takes several listens to understand, as Barcodez shows a more vulnerable side of himself in No Rams. In this song, he speaks of his strained relationship with his father. Another cut from the album, Humano, is a soothing Latin pop song sung by Laura Ann Singh. Surprisingly, these were two of three songs they decided on before creating the rest of the album. “Apology” was a recurring theme that we were going through. Early on we kind of had this rule book where if the records couldn’t address the tone or apologize, we weren’t gonna put it on the album,” said BarCodez.

The album release party was held at Northside’s new hot spot, Fuzzy Cactus, and was a good testing ground to see how the album would go live. “It is so fun to see how each of us brings our own element to how it is done live. This album was built primarily between myself, Maurice and Wade. Laura Ann Singh came through and blessed us with some amazing vocals as well. But it was important for the live performance to really reflect each of our tastes and strengths. So far so good!” said Bryant.

Richmond will be seeing more of the art of Photosynthesizers as they are obviously not the “new group” in town. “We feel like we’re at the start again at the starting line. Cause like, like people kept running, people kept running when we took a hiatus. You know what I’m saying? So like we got to catch up.”

Photosynthesizers has one upcoming show for the Hail Sagan science and art themed event at Gallery 5, a part of the monthly First Fridays along with Goldrush. - Alchemical Records

"PhotoSynthesizers Debuts New Visual 'Terms & Agreements' For Their New Album Apollogy"

The wait is over – Photosynthesizers is back. One of Richmond’s most popular bands is returning with a new album titled Apollogy. “Terms & Agreement” is the debut video from the new project.

“Terms & Agreements” kicks off our new album Apollogy, exploring the written and unwritten terms we agree to as individuals and society. “Terms” serves as the album’s first single and an introduction to Apollogy’s search for the self among our relationships with each other, as well as to the conditions in the world around us.”

The video is directed by Matt West and starts actress Akiba Robinson. - The Cheats Movement

"12 Bands You Should Listen To Now"

Live hip-hop band. A fantastic singer, a skilled lyricist and a tight band. What else do you want? Oh yeah… creative material. CHECK. - Paste Magazine

"Best Richmond Hip-Hop Artist 2013"

P.S. voted by readers for the third year in a row as the Best "Hip-Hop" Artist or Group in RVA. - Style Weekly

"Best Richmond Hip-Hop Artist or Group 2012"

P.S. voted by the readers as the Best Hip-Hop Artist or Group for the 2nd straight year! - Style Weekly

"Photosynthesiers Best Hip-Hop Artist or Group 2011"

Photosynthesizers were confident their music would catch on. “We knew there was a different vibe to it,” bassist Michael “Mikemetic” Williams says. That vibe got mad props from none other than Snoop Dogg, for whom they’ve opened twice, and who can be seen on YouTube being serenaded by Samsun. This summer the group will play First Avenue in Minneapolis, the legendary venue from Prince’s “Purple Rain. - StyleWeekly

"Photosynthesizers Best Music of 2010"

This seven-piece group of rockers meet beatboxers seemed to have come out of nowhere and by combining the music elements of electronic, hip hop and soul-school, delivered some of the most memorable songs and live shows of 2010. -

"That One Song: Word Of Mouth"

If you were to place the Photosynthesizers in a police lineup and ask somebody to pick out the seven co-conspirators … well, good luck. “Usually you see people playing together with a similar style,” producer and guitarist Josh Bryant says. “I feel like we all have completely different styles and tastes and attitudes.”

What started as a traditional rap duo, with Bryant and MC Maurice “Barcodez” Jackson, has grown into a live hip-hop ensemble. And while the Roots helped make live instruments fashionable for the DJ culture, Photosynthesizers stray closer to Gnarls Barkley with their mash of soul and electro.

Without an official manager, it can be tough to coordinate seven band members, including vocalist Samantha Hewlett, drummer Nick Tharpe, bassist Mike Williams, keyboardist Wade Puryear, and DJ Philip “DJ Manifest” Nguyen. For this interview, Style Weekly managed to reach one, Bryant, who stressed that a firm belief in Photosynthesizers as a group, rather than individual personalities, keeps them on point.

“We feel as though we have something that is not being heard or seen,” he says. “And we are all very excited and willing to put in the work to make it happen.”

Style: So tell us about that one song… - StyleWeekly

"Spotlight: Photosynthesizers 101 Tronic SoulMachine"

In a cookie cutter era of hip-hop, where one sound dominates the industry, a little known group from Virginia fights to buck the system and show the world that there isn’t one sound to rule them all. Samsun (vocals), Barcodez (vocals), Mikemetic (Bass), J.Bryant (guitar), Nick Tharpe(drums), Wade Puryear (Keys) and Dr. Data (turntable-synthesizers) a.k.a the Photosynthesizers, created there own genre of music, eclectically fusing hip-hop, rock, spoken word, and synth, creatively dubbing it Tronic Soul School. They’re infectious and multi-layered sound portrays so much more than music, it reflects on a lifestyle of passion and the pursuit of your dreams. It’s also like nothing you’ve ever heard before. - 99.3/105.7 Kiss



PhotoSynthesizers was formed by guitarist Joshua Bryant and emcee Maurice "BarCodez" Jackson of Richmond, VA. The duo revels in defying definitions and expectations, artfully blending elements of rock and hip-hop that look to the past as much as the unknown future. Bryant’s instinct for complex layers of instrumentation serves as a perfect complement to Codez’s mind-bending use of language and rhyme, constantly questioning the status quo. 

PhotoSynthesizers consists of BarCodez on lead vocals, J. Bryant on guitar and vocals, Wade Puryear on keys and synthesizers, Billy Nguyen on turntables and mpc, Matt Goves on drums, and additional vocalist, Laura, Singh, and Macy West. 

Band Members