81355 (aka Bless): Indy Hip-Hop Heads Unite Their DIY Roots

Founded by three of Indianapolis’ brightest talents, 81355 (pronounced Bless) includes hip-hop pioneers Sirius Blvck, Oreo Jones & David Moose Adamson. Upon formation, the group quickly signed to 37d03d, the record label founded by Justin Vernon, Aaron Dessner, and Bryce Dessner and got to work in the studio.

They just dropped a killer new single, “Tidal Wave,” and sat down with Performer to chat about the group’s origin, collaborative DIY experiences and messaging for today’s indie artists. Keep an eye out for the debut full-length later this year.

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How did you guys get started, and what’s the hip-hop scene like in Indianapolis today? I’m actually from Indiana myself, and remember listening to Mud Kids growing up…

Sirius Blvck: That’s awesome. I started in Indianapolis doing poetry slams and things like that, then I started a hip-hop band. From there, I was in a punk band when I was younger, kinda jumped around, and then I started doing music under the name Sirius Blvck around 2012, put out my first tape, and I’ve been dropping consistently throughout the years, gaining my footing for the most part. Then we [81355] linked up for this record.

David ‘Moose’ Adamson: I’ve been into hip-hop since I first started listening to music, and I had little bands where we’d record music on tape in grade school, and some high school bands and then a band that put out some records on Asthmatic Kitty Records, which started in ’07 to 2011 or so. And then I did some solo stuff and started doing tunes with OJ, and then all three of us did a tune for one of Nick’s [Sirius Blvck] records.

81355 started officially last year, all three of us together.

How did y’all decide to hook up, did you just know each other from working in the same city?

Sirius Blvck: I linked up with OJ in 2014, we did a song on my record “Light in the Attic,” and that was the first time we all came together and worked on a track in full. It was just dope, it came out really good, and through the years we had always wanted to link up and work together in some way, shape or form again.

Our homie MK hit us up and said he had this idea that we should do a record together. And we had already thought of that a million times [laughs] so it all kinda just came together.

We went to record it…

Moose: That was last fall…

Sirius Blvck: …and we laid down eight tracks in three days, and it just went naturally. It all fell together and our engineer would just try to keep up with us. He did an amazing job, he did a lot of work on the project with us. From there, we went back into the studio and did three [more] songs in a day, and came out with “Tidal Wave,” our first single that we dropped recently.

When are you all releasing some more?

Sirius Blvck: A new single drops March 31st, and that’s gonna coincide with the announcement of the album itself — the first single will be “Capstone,” we just shot the video and we’re excited for it. We did a lot of crazy shit for the video, buried ourselves alive…it was interesting [laughs].

I went back and listened to a lot of your older stuff, and there’s so much diversity there. I was interested to hear what kinds of influences you all had and what do you listen to for inspiration?  

Sirius Blvck: I listened to a lot of Postal Service when I was younger, you know? I listened to a lot of Deftones, I loved Metallica when I was a kid. I’ve always drawn from different things, my mom was always bumping outlaw country back in the day, so I’ve always been around different sounds, in a way. I love Linkin Park and what people would call cheesy nu-metal stuff as well. We bump a lot of Korn [laughs].

Can you tell us what the hip-hop scene is like in Indianapolis?

Sirius Blvck: Indianapolis not a full metropolitan city. It’s always been in-between, we have as many cornfields [as urban areas]. The scene itself has so much untapped potential, we just haven’t had that opportunity yet. It may be timing, it may be a lot of different things, but there’s a lot of great hip-hop coming out of the city…

[Ed. note – Oreo Jones re-joins the chat after some Zoom difficulties]

OJ: I feel like we’re all cut from the same cloth in the DIY vein of things. I started in punk bands in high school — that was the thing to do in my hometown on weekends, hardcore shows. So that’s where I cut my teeth, kinda similar to the other guys where we were booking our own shows, playing instruments and navigating our own way by ourselves. When I moved here [Indianapolis] is when I got into hip-hop more extensively and discovered the whole city and the whole culture and scene here. It’s going pretty crazy right now.

What do you all feel like your parts are in the group?

Moose: I get things started off with some instrumentals and loops; that’s how we started this project, I sent over some things to OJ and Nick, and we kinda took it from there. That’s the jumping off place, and it was really collaborative from there. After that, we just got in a room together, writing, coming up with lyrics together. OJ and Nick come up with most of the lyrics – that’s how we’ve done it so far, just hammering away at it. Even in the studio, we were still making changes and updates.

Sirius Blvck: My role is to use melody a lot. There was a lot of collaboration [during the writing and recording]. Moose’s production on the record is in his own lane, so to speak, just the way he blends his sounds – sometimes there are different time signatures going on, it’s dope. As a rapper, it pushes you to think outside the box and find some new waves.

What kind of equipment are you using to write loops or make beats?

Moose: For a lot of the instrumentals on this record, I used some old drum machines. I have a Roland CR-68, a Maestro Rhythm King for some loops. I also used a Suzuki QChord electronic autoharp on the record, and I have a drum machine called the Dave Smith Tempest that I use quite a bit. It has some synthesizer capabilities that I use, like an analog synth engine that’s [on the record].

OJ: What’s interesting is that “Tidal Wave” is completely different than the rest of the record. Completely different. I feel like it’s definitely got more of an accessible pop flavor to it; the record itself is very original and organic and the sounds are out of this world. Moose does such a great job at creating these crazy-ass sounds that I’ve never heard before. I feel like we’re used to each other’s tendencies, having been on each other’s records. I know how Nick writes; he knows how I write. I know how Moose gets in the pocket, so I think the sound comes out like that too, almost like a sixth sense that we all home in on.

Do you see yourselves continuing with this project, or is 81355 a one-off thing?

Sirius Blvck: For us, we just started because we loved making music together and we had the opportunity to do something to this degree. From there, once we heard the record, it started to set in a little bit more what this could be. Michael, our manager, was super supportive when he heard the record. He just wanted to get it out to people, he really believed in the music.

We kinda knew it was something we wanted to continue doing.

 

You mentioned the whole DIY thing earlier, how does that work in a place like Indiana?

OJ: It takes work and time, but for us it started at a young age. So that mentality, that ethos has kind of been instilled in all of us for so long, even at this capacity with a team helping us, we’re so used to booking our own tours, doing our own campaigns with our albums, making sure our merch is straight. That’s always been a part of our DNA, I feel. We’re in a city that has a very small population of people who appreciate art and culture, so we almost have this chip on our shoulder where we have to go as hard as we can, 24/7

Sirius Blvck: It grew slowly but surely, and now our scenes are so integrated that hardcore and punk bands are on shows with hip-hop acts [all the time]. That’s just the norm. There’s always been that comradery, the DIY shit…why reach up for help for resources, when you could reach out? Everything and everybody we need to grow what we have is right around us.

Follow on Instagram @81355ing

Photos by Anna Powell-Denton

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