Pittsburgh-based pop/rock/indie/hip-hop duo BBGuns has released their album Help Yourself, and it’s a bright, flavorful shot of summertime reverie. Filled with chunky beats, infectious vocal lines, and clever rapping, Help Yourself is a huge sugar rush of music that never really goes out of style, presented in a fresh and colorful way.
I had a chance to catch up with with JP, one half of this dynamic duo, our conversation started just as we were both getting off work one afternoon. BBGuns had just participated in a 24 hour livestream.
Gray Lee: Do the people at work know you’re a secret rap star or do you keep it on the down low?
JP Pitt: Some do but I try to keep it discrete haha. It's a double life for sure.
GL: Same here. I have an alias and everything. My boss knows I play music and hes always trying to out me to people. I’m like. No.
JP: Yeah, especially doing something with hip-hop in it it feels weird. I don’t wanna be judged as ‘that rapper guy,’ when I mostly sing, anyways.
GL: How was the 24 hour livestream?
JP: It was a marathon but not as hard as you think
GL: Very nice! So youre doing a bunch of shows to launch the album?
JP: We got a few weekenders in July out of town but that's all right now. A lot of Pittsburgh region festivals as well. Had more dates planned but had some bad luck with stuff falling through
GL: Dates are so hard to set up
JP: Yeah especially seems to be for us. We do a lot of D.I.Y. here, but other scenes aren’t as open to mixed genre bills. We run into a lot of “too indie for rap”, or “too rap for indie” and it can be frustrating.
GL: Do you find yourself having to really go into detail explaining what BBGuns is to a venue to try and overcome their aversion to mixed genre acts?
JP: Sometimes we flub it a little. Tell rap promoters we just rap, and tell rock oriented people we do indie pop. I feel like we can go with almost anything other than heavy music but at the same time never gonna fit perfectly.
GL: True. It’s a shame that venues are so focused on selling tickets/drinks that they are afraid to book an act that they can’t promote to just ‘one group of people.’ There are a few upstanding D.I.Y joints in upstate SC, so I hope you guys make it down here one day.
JP: Yeah we have yet to venture further south than Maryland and West Virginia but would love to.
GL: It’s a unique sound, to be sure, and right away the album reminded me of other blended/mixed genre acts that I’ve been into for a long time. Right away, I was thinking Deltron 3030, and my wife listened to it and - right off she was saying definitely Gorillaz.
JP: Yeah as far as influences Damon Albarn is our music dad. Mixed genre artists are what I personally tend to gravitate to. Joel has a deep hip-hop foundation but as we've got older hes branched out a lot as well. Gorillaz, Blur, Primal Scream, Del, Brockhampton, Kid Cudi, Beck, even stuff that gets flack like Sublime & Linkin Park set the precedent at an early age. Can’t forget Massive Attack either.
GL: I love Massive Attack. Y’know people give Sublime flack now but we were all playing the hell out of that when we were kids
JP: I had a simultaneous Brit-pop and trip-hop phase a handful of years ago. It was a fresh mix of genres! And the hooks were catchy.
GL: I totally got into Tricky, Dizze Rascal, and Phi Life Cypher for a while.
JP: Dizzee Rascal is that dude. But yeah, I love the marriage of hiphop sampling and rapping with dance music and indie styled vocals. I feel like rap and rock have mostly intersected in cheesy ways, I feel like theres alot of uncharted territory there.
GL: It shows in the new album. Pretty much every track is exactly that perfect mixture. And every chorus is catchy earworm magic.
JP: Thank you!. That's the formula for sure.
GL: Also, I really was struck by the energy level of the album as a whole.
JP: Yeah I think with our styles of rapping, our strengths are most present in higher bpms. We love rapping to break beats. One of our main collaborators Charlie Scott was a boombap guy first but also was making more disco house on the side which we found out we enjoyed making songs with even more.
I think with the heavy influence of trap, the instinct is to go slower these days, so it’s refreshing to return to those old bpms. We've always had trouble with trap beats cause you either rap slow or your rapping double-time like Eminem, and neither really plays to our strengths.I was really into the stone Rose's at the time we started hanging with Charlie.
The dance break beats with Beatlesesque vocal structures and funky guitars and it was a good guidepost for us. And there are definitely some Beatles references in the album. I can think of the one on "One Piece" off top for sure.
GL: Was that the Come Together line?
JP: Haha yup.
GL: Another line that really stood out to me was there was a place where you guys say something like we aren’t going back to 90s style we are just playing good music and you’re the one who left that style behind. (Paraphrased greatly here)
JP: Oh yeah that was actually Moemaw Naedon who had that line about 90s style. He features with Hubbs on the last track.
GL: I really enjoyed the message of Visions.
JP: That one is a bit more on the nose than others. Wasn’t sure how it would go.
GL: I think it would be easy to preach on the subject of our over-dependence on technology, especially phones, and instead it comes off as more a personal reflection of “Look what I’m spending my time on! I need to change my habits!”
JP: That's how we try to be with any kind of social commentary. Its self-reflective and we are all apart of the machine in one way or another.
GL: I wanted to ask about this great cover art. What led to the popsicle?
JP: The popsicle was designed by John Muldoon and Anika Ignozzi local Pittsburgh artists. I saw it out and about knew it fit the album title perfectly. Help Yourself is about self care, but also self indulgence and the fallout of too much.
GL: Killer! That art is so vivid it just jumps. Really is perfect for the sound - lighthearted, high-energy, bright
JP: For sure.
GL: I want to thank you for taking the time to talk about the album. Really enjoyed it! Looking forward to what you guys do next!
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