The release by Dekagon Records this week of Red Wedding marks the official end of an era for Archetype, the longtime Lawrence hip-hop pastiche pair. Producer Jeremy Nesbitt (aka Nezbeat) is building beats in San Francisco, and MC and lyricist Isaac Diehl (aka iD) has turned his attention to rock, playing bass and guitar. Good for them, bummer for the rest of us. Red Wedding, with its dizzy samples, live instrumentation and thoughtful backpacker rhymes, is one of the most exciting hip-hop records to float out of the area in years. The Pitch recently checked in with Nesbitt and Diehl.
The Pitch: Red Wedding is just now coming out, but you finished it awhile back, right?
Nesbitt: Yeah, the recording was done a couple years ago. It was a situation where it was kind of the right place at the right time. We'd always wanted to make a record with all our friends on it, and we had access to a studio in Lawrence with all this badass equipment and all these great musicians.
Parts of the record are samples and beats you made, and parts are live in the studio?
Nesbitt: Right. The band was Jerett Fulton on drums — it was Jerett's studio — and then Ryan Wurtz on guitar and Jake Hiersteiner on bass. And Tyler Jack Anderson sang on a track.
Diehl: We'd played live shows as Archetype, and we wanted to incorporate the live-band element into this one. Jeremy would give me beats and then take it to the studio, where we'd track drums to most songs, and guitar and bass, and then later intersplice it all. Every song on Red Wedding has elements of live stuff on it, but it's not all the way through. It chops in and out.
Nesbitt: I mixed it so that it's hard to tell what's what, whether the guitar is live or sampled.
Is there a progression in Red Wedding that you see in terms of what Archetype has done previously?
Diehl: The main difference with Red Wedding for me was, I named all the songs first and then approached everything else after, based on the title. So with the title track, I really liked the image I associated with the words red wedding. It's kind of dark but not morbid or anything. And I just liked the way the words fit together. And from there, I went through the beats Jeremy had made and found one that fit with the vague imagery I associated with those words. And then I started to think, What is a red wedding? And I spit out a few lines, and it grew into this story about a drug addict who's dying and a prostitute who's dying, and they find each other in their last moments and latch onto each other as company, so they don't have to die alone. Once that crystallized, it just kind of wrote itself.
Nesbitt: Earlier Archetype stuff had more jazz and soul on it because that's the music I grew up with. Then it evolved into more electronic beats, more synths and shit like that. The new one is darker, I'd say. Darker samples. But really, it's usually just me searching through whatever records I have in the immediate area.
Is there an overarching sensibility or vibe to Archetype that you see as distinctly your own?
Diehl: Jeremy's beats have this very specific sound that no other hip-hop producer has around here, or maybe anywhere. He uses drums like they're real instruments, not just a drum machine. It's very musical. He's always had a vision of what good beat music sounds like. For me, I think my subject matter is disparate from what other hip-hop artists talk about. It definitely has the same elements but lots of times a different subject matter. I don't want to sound hoity-toity or anything, but I think it can be more poetic than a lot of other guys. Not that I'm some fuckin' genius or anything. I just think that I tend to pay more attention to how words flow together and how those words lay on the music. You know, I'm not a punch-line rapper. I'm not trying to say the cleverest thing or describe how cool I am or say the best put-down. That's just never been where I'm coming from. I grew up on rock music and was turned onto hip-hop because I liked the poetry aspect of it.
So this is, for sure, the last Archetype record? What's next?
Diehl: Yeah, this is it. We've played together on some other, more rock type of arrangements, but nothing as far as hip-hop. I'm sure, in the future, we'll hook back up on hip-hop stuff, but it won't be like Archetype.
Nesbitt: I wanted to break out of the Midwest for a while. Isaac and I grew up together. We've been doing Archetype for, like, 11 years or something. I'm collaborating with some friends out here; working with a South African singer, Nomisupasta, doing some electronic, experimental beats for her; trying to do more uptempo and downtempo stuff, as opposed to the usual 90 BPM hip-hop speed.
Diehl: I've been writing a lot, stockpiling material. I'm starting to play with a band here, just a garage-project type of thing. Nobody's really around to give me beats anymore, so I got an eight-track and started learning how to play instruments myself. I'm kind of going back to the start in a way, starting over.