Busdriver: “Kiss Me Back to Life”
Rapping since age 9, LA art rapper Busdriver (born Regan John Farquhar) has had nearly a quarter century to develop his distinct style and lightning-fast delivery. He’s been known to break rules and defy hip-hop conventions, but his latest release, Beaus$Eros, is perhaps his strangest yet — a blend of beats and avant-garde pop.
Centered on both personal and professional failure, Beaus$Eros (“bows and arrows”) is more emotionally intense than the socially conscious rap he has produced for years, and it comes across in his strange, sweeping croons that come to the fore on this record. Delivered with Belgian producer Loden’s epic, pulsing beats, the result is unlike anything we’ve heard from him before — and it’s undeniably catchy.
“Kiss Me Back to Life” almost entirely forgoes hip hop as a hook-filled offering for the dance floor. But if you’re searching for the Busdriver that you know and love, you still have a bit in “NoBlacksNoJewsNoAsians,” where he spews cryptic, politically charged lyrics with his signature auctioneer-like delivery.
ALARM recently caught up with Busdriver to discuss the new direction as well as the trials that have come with releasing Beaus$Eros.
Beaus$Eros is a very personal album. Without prying, can you explain the failure/anti-cupid theme?
Lechery, cowardice, and other predictable personal pratfalls of mine dissolved my relationship with my fiancée. As a result, disappointment in myself and clinical depression became the theme for a year. And all of that was poured into most of the album.
When did you realize that you wanted to go poppier with this material?
It naturally progressed into that direction. My producer and I just lost ourselves in the songs and were careless enough to turn those songs into the album.
You faced a lot of hardship before this album was released. Can you describe the challenges that you faced and how they impacted this record?
I don’t know if I’d call it true hardship; no one lost a limb during the pre-production or anything. But it was tougher this time out.
I had to reevaluate how I approached labels. I had to decide if challenging my listeners — more than they’d maybe like me to — was a good idea this time out. And on top of that, I had to trudge through financial ruin and the aforementioned personal problems. It definitely stung, but…I learned a great deal.
What prompted your slowed-down delivery (and additional singing) on this album?
Those were the arrows in the quiver that I felt complemented my and Loden’s ideas best. After doing 10 Haters with Nocando as Flash Bang Grenada, I felt that it made sense to emphasize moodier and less rap-intensive vocals. In an age where flawed singing deliveries and heart-on-sleeve songwriting is widely accepted, it was probably my last chance to do such a thing. This record is almost like my Take Care…as much as I may regret saying that later.
Why did you choose to work with Loden?
He’s fantastically good at what he does. What impresses me is how diligently he works to maximize a song’s ambitions without just flashing production trickery wherever possible. I needed that level of maturity because I wanted the synergy between the vocals and production to be indelible.
Is it true that you two never met or spoke together live during the recording process? How did you manage to achieve such synergy on this record?
Yes, it is very true. We met once and hung out for 30 minutes about 7 months after the record had wrapped. Besides that, our relationship is a traceable thread of E-mails, tons of demos, and what became Beaus$Eros. I think it was all about trust and working hard to make each others’ notes on any given song come alive. A high level of mutual respect was key in working so removed from one another.
Does Shirt, your collection of poems written during this album’s mixing process, relate thematically to Beaus$Eros? Or is it only related to the cities where you mailed shirts for the promotional sale?
It’s related to my state of mind after Beaus$Eros. I felt more unhinged after finishing Flash Bang Grenada’s 10 Haters, the yet-to-be-released Physical Forms album, and then Beaus$Eros, and needed some kind of cathartic release to shed the respective restrictions of each of those albums. Luckily, I stumbled upon the opportunity to write Shirt. As it turned out, it acted as a much-needed springboard for my next batch of songs by simply injecting a new sense of joy in writing for myself.