THUNDERHEIST with PLASTIC LITTLE and DOUGIE BOOM at the El Mocambo (464 Spadina), Friday (May 11), 7 pm doors. $12. 416-777-1777. Rating: NNNNN
I'm talking to Thunderheist (aka MC Isis and Grahmzilla) just as they're basking in the glow from their previous night's show in NYC. It was their debut appearance in the Big Apple, an odd booking that saw the electro-rap duo performing alongside a bunch of soul singers.
"It was scary the number of people who were singing along, and it seemed like a lot of them had come just to see us," an excited Isis recounts. "It was so weird to see people in a city you've never played singing along."
It might not seem that odd that an audience is familiar with a band's material, but keep in mind that Thunderheist have only been together for six months, and they don't even have an official release beyond the self-released EP they've been selling at shows.
As much as they don't want to be known as a MySpace band, it's hard to imagine the Montreal/Toronto duo's career blowing up so fast had they been forced to depend on traditional avenues. Apparently, Internet hype does translate into flesh-and-blood audiences.
Even their formation took place online: the Toronto-based Isis and the Montreal-based Grahm first connected via the Internet, and they still record by e-mailing files back and forth. The original plan was for Grahm to write some hiphop beats for Isis's solo album, but the focus quickly shifted to the eclectic synth-heavy electro-bass party rap for which they've since been celebrated.
While still very much based in hiphop, it's enough of a departure that both were apprehensive about how it would be received by that scene.
"I'm not intentionally dumbing down my lyrics or anything," says Isis. "It's more about having fun and not overthinking the art form. I got to a point where I was getting bored with my own stuff. I would go to do these shows and all these people would be digging it, but nobody was really moving. I'd get off stage and they'd swarm me and stroke my ego to shit, but it was boring.
"With Thunderheist, by the end of the night I'm drenched in sweat, everybody is uselessly drunk, it's debauchery and it's exciting. I'm 21 years old. It's all about rave-rap -- I just want to party."
The backpackers who aren't feeling her current lighthearted direction will be happy to hear that she's not done with traditional hiphop yet and is currently working on an album for Do Right along with upcoming Thunderheist singles and a full-length. The hope, though, is that the greater hiphop scene will acknowledge the undeniable energy behind these new sounds.
"We're on the cusp of something new, fresh and exciting. Hiphop is about to go through a really crazy transformation, but we need the old jaded purists to co-sign, and I think some of them are starting to get it."