Gig Seeker Pro


Tacoma, Washington, United States

Tacoma, Washington, United States
Band Hip Hop Alternative


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This band has not uploaded any videos



"133 1/3: Hip Hop Is Dead. Long Live Hip Hop!"

by Mark Thomas Deming — December 4, 2009

How Tacoma’s Revengers (and countless others) will save rap.

I’m looking at the cover of Scraps on the Badlands, the powerful debut disc released last month by the Tacoma hip hop group Revengers. There is little color in the art created by Seth Broman, a.k.a. Grym, just shades of gray and brown. A field of stumps stretches toward a bleak horizon: a barren hill, clouds, a flock of black birds. In the foreground, hands reach out from the remains of slaughtered trees. It is as though people are being swallowed. Or are they being born?

The picture could have accompanied “Wrapping Up,” a recent essay by New Yorker pop music columnist Sasha Frere-Jones that declares, “Hip hop is no longer the avant-garde, or even the timekeeper,
for pop music. Hip hop has relinquished the controls and splintered into a variety of forms.”

The hip hop landscape Frere-Jones describes is like the clear-cut on the cover of Badlands, a vast pillaged plain. Manifest destiny is manifest. The West has been won and lost. Many of the victors have retreated to the safety of dance beats and anodyne rhymes. The rest are left to form a new order. “The top spot is not a particularly safe perch,” Frere-Jones writes, “and every vital genre eventually finds shelter lower down…or moves horizontally into combination with other, sturdier forms.”

Hip hop has begun to “atomize”; the conquering forces are disbanding. But Frere-Jones is wrong to assume this will be rap’s demise. It could very well be its salvation.

New movements in American music trace a predictable arc from infancy to maturity, passing through four major stages: insurgence, acceptance, decadence and then either fragmentation or entrenchment. Those that become entrenched — jazz and blues, for example — stop appreciably advancing, choosing the rear guard over the avant-garde, protecting and preserving the ground they’ve gained while waiting for their Ken Burns film. Those that fragment — the way rock did, most notably — disperse into smaller alliances to advance on myriad fronts: emo, prog, punk, metal, folk-rock, lit-rock, roots-rock, power-pop. The twenty-first century avant-garde isn’t a battalion lining up, lowering bayonets and charging. It’s a loose collection of guerrilla bands lobbing grenades from the bushes, each with its own agenda.

Hip hop, having blinged itself silly in a period of decadence to rival any in music history, now finds itself facing fragmentation or entrenchment. Jay-Z, whose new album, The Blueprint 3, is used by Frere-Jones as an example, seems to have chosen, at least for now, to seek shelter in reliable formulas. Others, such as Revengers, are forging ahead on the indie model. They are the bodies hatching from the wreckage to gather the scraps on the badlands.

Revengers, truth be told, are as much an indie band as a hip hop crew. Their stage show features guitar, bass and drums — no turntables, synths, laptops or hype men. Founding members Dustin Iacobazzi Riecan, Dale Coleman and Eric Quinn, who are joined onstage by guitarist Mason Hargrove and drummer Jeff “Hammer” Berghammer, grew up together in the middle-class haven of University Place, about as far away from the ’hood as you can get. On Scraps on the Badlands they reference the Clash and Black Flag, as well as Tom Selleck, Wheat Thins and the Battle of the Somme. Riecan’s beats are as likely to sound as much like Motörhead as Motown, and when I ask what they listened to growing up, Coleman tells me, “Oh man, we listened to Weezer and Bjork!”

But Badlands is a hip hop record, with all the urgency and immediacy that marked the peak of the form, if not always the sense of style. Riecan’s compositions swing from the sublime to the severe — the gorgeous piano runs of “Badlands” sparring with the chunky power chords of “Bone River” — while Coleman and Quinn rhyme like they’re out to settle a score.

The record doesn’t sound like a debut but rather the fully realized vision of mature artists, which in fact it is. Coleman, Quinn and Riecan were previously members of Biznautics, a popular and locally influential crew that they formed in high school, and which had ten members at one point during its six-year run. Since Biznautics broke up in 2005, the trio has endured a string of challenges that lend the record unmistakable, if indescribable, weight.

“We like to think of it as celebrating desperation,” says Coleman.

That desperation was compounded when longtime friend and legendary sound man Tom Pfaeffle was shot and killed outside a motel in Twisp, Washington, last July. He had recently finished mixing and mastering Badlands, which Riecan and Quinn recorded at home. Riecan estimates Pfaeffle spent forty to sixty hours working on each track.

“This record sounds the way it does because of him,” says Quinn.

It sounds like payback, both demanded and offered.

The back cover of Scraps on the Badlands shows a wagon track tailing off in the distance. There’s nothing out there.
Not yet.
- City Arts

"Beat poetry dirges"

Revengers reveal an album of doom, gloom, and love for Tacoma
By Rev. Adam McKinney on November 19, 2009

For those who know me, it should come as no surprise that I’m not exactly an expert on rap. I enjoy some of it, sure. Mostly, rap that appeals to me is attached to music that would be compelling regardless of whether its accompanying vocals are rapping or singing — pop music, I guess. That’s my own cross to bare. I just can’t enjoy rap unless it’s pop in disguise.

That being said, Revengers are not pop. They’re also not rap, really. I’d call it beat poetry dirges. Depending on what song you hear, the dominant influence may be as varied as heavy metal, avant-classical or country. What remains a constant, besides the rapped vocals, is the dark haze that hangs over the band’s first full-length album, Scraps on the Badlands, which will be officially released this Saturday at Hell’s Kitchen. Every song on the disc sounds transmitted from wind-blown plains and abandoned barns that lay under an orange sky.

Doom and gloom seems to be the prevailing theme of Revengers. Speaking with Dale Coleman, one half of Revengers’ lyrical and vocal team, he notes Tom Waits as an influence. Suddenly it all makes more sense. Tom Waits’ continued exploration of nightmarish scenes in his music can suddenly and certainly be heard on Revengers’ debut album, but the group’s musical influences don’t stop there. “Everyone in Revengers has a really diverse musical background,” says Coleman. “We were never hip-hop kids, so to speak. My favorite bands are The Clash, Tom Waits, Henry Rollins, Johnny Cash and the Pixies. We always wanted to be honest to ourselves. It sounds a little different, I guess, because we’re a little different.”

What distinguishes the album far more than the music is the lyrics. Scraps on the Badlands is almost an hour long, with almost each song stretching past five minutes — some past the eight-minute mark. All the songs are finely sketched studies in grief, fear, uneasy bravado, and violence. They vacillate between character studies; exercises in style; and what sound like painful, furiously scrawled journal entries. It’s never easy figuring out what’s autobiographical and what’s pure fiction, nor should we be so presumptuous to assume. But it’s gripping nonetheless.

The album is surrounded by loss, as Coleman informs me. Its producer, Tom Pfaeffle, died over the summer in a freak accident. Since the early ‘90s, Pfaeffle had been an important force in the Seattle music scene. “I always equate his name to one of the silent heroes of the Seattle scene,” says Coleman. “We consider him [an honorary] Revenger, and the album is dedicated to him.”

As if that wasn’t devastating enough, Pfaeffle’s death came just two weeks before Danny “D-Child” Cline’s passing. Cline was a former member of Biznautics, the group that spawned both Revengers and Nasty Left. “It hits you like a ton of bricks,” Coleman continues. “That’s a lot of what our record is about, is standing your ground in the face of hardship and not getting beaten up by the world, so we kind of had to live by that.”

Besides their haunting music and poetic words, Revengers have also won me over by their pride in Tacoma. “That’s also what our record is about,” says Coleman. “It’s about the city of Tacoma — just a love letter, or maybe a ghost story about Tacoma.”

It’s not hard to read all of the iron and blood — the smoke and steam — that permeates Scraps on the Badlands as a surrogate Tacoma, or to hear that frantic rap as the collective internal dialogue of Tacoma’s citizens. Tacoma lives most of the year under low skies, and maybe it takes a band like Revengers to really put it on paper.

I realize now I haven’t made this record sound like much fun. The truth is, it’s enthralling — a truly surprising album that manages to upend every expectation. It rewards multiple listens, which is surprisingly rare, and it appreciates over time. As I mentioned earlier, Revengers will be holding their CD release party at Hell’s Kitchen this Saturday. It’s the second to last weekend before Hell’s Kitchen makes the move downtown, as if you needed another reason to make it out.

But how ‘bout one last reason?

A group with as much integrity and invention as Revengers doesn’t come along very often. Let them rap, for you, their dust-soaked dirges.

[Hell’s Kitchen, with Blanco Bronco, Trip the Light Fantastic, Saturday, Nov. 21, 5 p.m., all ages, $10 cover includes new Revengers album, 3829 Sixth Ave., Tacoma, 253.759.6003] - Weekly Volcano


Scraps on the Badlands:
1. Badlands
2. Bloody Knuckles
3. Bone River
4. The Gallows
5. The Premises
6. Fenced-In Centipede
7. Tire Yard
8. Slow Burn Rails
9. The Iron Fields
10. Hawkriders
11. Stonehenge



The wind is blowing. You’re on a hill somewhere. Or in a canyon. Or on a plain. Or on the roof of an abandoned building. The sky is dark. It’s twilight. No, it’s noon, but feels like twilight. The view is brutal. Wreckage. Nature reclaiming nature. A piano chord is played. Now another, and another. Music, beautiful and cruel, swells from some hidden place. You see their shadows before you see them…Revengers.

From the very first sounds of the home-recorded Scraps on the Badlands, it’s clear Revengers’ debut is no ordinary record. It’s a vision. A haunted vision. Fed by something. Something you can’t see or name. Something you just know. It’s despair, but it’s not despair. It’s anger, but not anger. If a word contained sadness, rage, hope, acceptance and relentlessness, then we could call it that.

Call it masterful instead.

The first time I saw Revengers was in a giant tent outside a bar in their hometown of Tacoma, Washington – just south of Seattle. It was cold. It was raining. Huge puddles swelled in the gravel lot outside. It was a sad occasion: a memorial for a fellow musician, with over a dozen bands slated to play. The crowd hugged and cried and laughed. Whiskey was served in plastic cups.

I’ve now forgotten many of the bands on the bill, but not Revengers. When bassist and composer Dustin Iacobazzi Riecan kicked off the set, with emcee Eric Quinn tearing off a trademark, hard-hitting verse, I impulsively wormed my way to the front of the crowd. And when co-frontman Dale Coleman bounded to the stage, leapt to the mike and joined Quinn on a chorus, I knew I was seeing something new and important. Joined by Jeff “Hammer” Berghammer on drums and Mason Hargrove on guitar, they looked like an indie band, raged like punks, and sounded like a hip-hop crew.

When writing a column about Revengers for City Arts Magazine a few weeks later, I thought back to that night. It was quintessentially northwestern – dark, strange, and yet somehow inspiring – just like Revengers. Revengers bridge the Seattle area’s prominent indie rock and hip hop scenes like no other act, combining exquisite songcraft and powerful, inventive rhymes with the muscle of a crack live band. And like the best of both genres, they embody the region’s weird soul.

Coleman, Quinn and Riecan got their start in Biznautics, a locally legendary crew that they formed in high school, and which had ten members at one point during its six-year run. Since Biznautics broke up in 2005, the trio has endured a string of challenges and tragedies that lend Scraps on the Badlands unmistakable, if indescribable, weight – despite nods to Tom Selleck, Pabst and Wheat Thins.

“We like to think of it as celebrating desperation,” Coleman says.

Here’s to celebrating Revengers.

-- Mark Thomas Deming