ACL Feature: Psychedelic hip-hop band shares advice for aspiring artists

When asked to describe their genre, Jonathan Graves describes Corbu as a psychedelic band, inspired by mid-70’s Pink Floyd and set to hip-hop beats. The band is comprised of singer and multi-instrumentalist Jonathan Graves, his creative partner Amanda, and drummer Todd Hoellerman. Corbu has been touring the past few weeks with their idols, English Indie band, Bloc Party, playing their debut album “Crayon Soul.”

HILLTOP VIEWS: How did the band get together?

GRAVES: Todd and I played together in a friend’s punk band. Our friend left the band, and we decided to keep going. Amanda, who had never played a chord of music before, always gave us great suggestions.

AMANDA: He was very able to translate my non-music characteristics and descriptions of things. For example, I told them that one song was too solid and it needed to be more feminine.

GRAVES: So at some point I just started calling her my manager, so I could bring her to meetings. Then after that we had to play live, and I was like, why don’t I just teach you how to play keys? Now, two or three years later, she’s playing multiple chords at one time. She has a great ear, so it makes it easy.

AMANDA: It was so hard to learn, but something in me really wanted it. It’s good to push yourself always so you can know you can do new things, and learn and grow.

HV: Where do you see your music going from here?

GRAVES: Everything is a reaction to a thing you did before. I always wanted to make this space record, and now that it’s out of my system, I want to make an electronic record, maybe something that is more social and outward. We have been talking about making more electronic beats that are still human and still played by hand. We are working to become more synthetic and extroverted than our last album. I feel like your discography, your career, has a track list too. It’s fun to think that ‘Crayon Soul’ is Track 1 for us.

HV: St. Edward’s University is a school filled with creative souls. Do you have any advice for young musicians and artists pursuing their passions?

GRAVES: I guess be honest with yourself. A lot of people look at their work and they think ‘It’s not good enough.’ Sometimes this immediately flips over into ‘I’m not good enough.’ I experienced this, and I had to ask myself ‘what’s not good enough?’ I had to be honest with myself about this question and then just work on it and get better.

None of your heroes came out fully formed. Everyone has made a lot of bad stuff you’ve never seen. Everything you hear from us in our best hits. There are tons of terrible ideas, including ideas that seem good but never really come into fruition. You have to realize that this is the case with everybody else.

AMANDA: Yeah, and if you’re really into someone, talk to them. It doesn’t matter how big they are or how many fans they have. Send them a message and maybe you’ll hear back and you’ll learn about something you really want to be. Don’t be afraid to ask for help, even when you’re in the very beginning stages, and you haven’t been playing tours. Don’t ever be afraid to ask for something you need or want. You have to create opportunities for yourself.

HOELLERMAN: Almost anything is attainable if you’re willing to work for it. It’s just asking yourself how long you are willing to work and how much pain you’re willing to withstand throughout the process.