Louis Picasso and The Gallery have made a grand gesture with their newly released live album. Several gestures, really.
First and foremost, the Ypsi-based alternative-rap ensemble wanted to give something to their fans. They wanted to give something to music-lovers everywhere, truth be told. Because it’s been a rough year, and we need something that’s as potently cathartic, invigorating, and ebullient as these six tracks, fusing shredding rock guitars with atmospheric pianos, live drums with sequenced beats, sweetening harmonies and catchy melodies with ferocious rhymes. It’s a musical mural that is designedly combustible — and that’s the intention, to ignite a sort of cleansing fire and start the forthcoming year afresh, but to do so loudly, and to do so valiantly.
“We’ve been talking about doing this for a long time,” said Gholston. “But the timing never worked out. I’m a huge believer, though, in everything working out — that it’s all going to happen when it needs to happen.” And that finally happened on September 27, when the band, including several auxiliary members, assembled at Willis Sound. Each performer safely spaced out and set up in a ceremonial-esque circle, facing each other with the ability to see one other and even look right into each other’s eyes, which augmented the energy that’s captured on the recording.
“This album is a farewell to the Behind the Paintings series,” said lead vocalist/lyricist/producer Louis Picasso. Themed around his moniker, Picasso, the Behind the Paintings releases were deeply candid and vulnerable. The reveals were articulated with raw emotion and exorcised the singer/artist’s strife from a past relationship. Over the course of that time period, though, Picasso (aka Louis Gholston), started assembling a full band around him for live performances. So, another impetus for this live album was to represent past songs via studio recordings that featured every single member of said-band, The Gallery.
“And that was key,” said Antonio Cooper, keyboardist and backing vocalist for The Gallery, “being able to feel the chemistry that’s between everyone. You’re able to hear that. You’re able to feel it.” The process of creating this album, Cooper continued, “has put everyone in a new headspace. This feels like our debut album.” As stated, Louis Gholston has released a handful of albums and singles already, but The Burning Canvas feels like a proper Gallery album. “We found ourselves putting way more energy into this. And we all started realizing just how much we’ve been through together.”
“We’re all one big family,” said DJ Fame, who not only helped out on the decks but also aided in production on Burning Canvas. The album was created in one day, and then mixed/mastered the following day. DJ Fame describes the process as feeling like, “when you’re heading in for what’s going to be a 9-hour shift that feels like it’s going to be a long time, but it just blew right by. We haven’t performed in so long, and I just had fun the whole time. It may have even been the most fun thing I’ve ever done. The way we spread out, it felt like we were all around a giant bonfire.”
“We tried to do everything we could to make it feel like you were in the environment of a live concert,” said Cooper. “It sounds like the same energy you’d get (from a live Gallery show).”
DJ Fame (aka Ramon Johnson) concurred with Cooper that it does feel like entering a new headspace. It feels like the culmination of one phase of their collective’s artistic arc, as well as an opportunity to hear some of Gholston’s most popular songs from previous recordings bulked up by the full band.
Gholston is also the leader, or “Captain” as Cooper put it, of the multimedia production company known as Hiiigher Minds. “We tap into everything from event curation, photography, videography, engineering, public relations, design, teaching, learning, community health,” said Gholston. “We’re the middle man between the big businesses and the ‘weird’ artists, whether they’re dancers, musicians, painters, any type of art, and we don’t take any cut from it.”
Hiiigher Minds enlists several creatives from the community and acts as a hub of connection, linking up artists to develop their craft or network to collaborate. Similarly, Gholston essentially scouted and then motivated the artists that comprise the band, The Gallery. Cooper has played keys since he was 10, and Johnson has a background in musical theater and high school band (as well as a familial lineage in DJing). But both described meeting Gholston as a sort of activating-moment; a spark of encouragement, and an invitation to build something together. It’s likely a similar story with everyone who’s come into the Hiiigher Minds collective, as well as The Gallery.
And when it comes to both Hiiigher Minds and The Gallery, one of their strengths is the diversity of their skill-sets and styles. Not only do they have DJs, keyboardists, singers, web designers, graphic artists, and so much more, but these are all uniquely creative folks with distinctive tastes and backgrounds. And that’s partly why it’s futile trying to apply a formal ‘genre’ to a band like The Gallery. Whereas the root of their music might be hip-hop, there are so many other sensibilities added to the table. Even with just the sampling of Cooper and Johnson, you’re bringing in influences like Paramore, Mack Miller, Fallout Boy, and Kanye West, with a few other pop-balladeers to boot. But all of this goes into the mix and they find harmony.
“It can be hard to find people who genuinely believe in what you do,” said Gholston. “I have genuine brothers and sisters; even people who’ve left the band are still like brothers and sisters. You’re family. These people trust me, and the way I work; they trust the vision, they trust my direction, all of it. And when it comes to getting it done? They execute. They don’t give me any doubt…”
“… And I don’t even know if this will make it into the article, but shoutout to everybody,” said Gholson “Dom, Jack, Steve, Ian, Brooke, AP, Jezreel Santos, Sativa, Chelsea, Willis Sound, and also Traxside Recording Studio and Understatement Images.”To keep up-to-date and informed on what Louis Picasso and The Gallery are up to, be sure to follow them on Facebook.