By Davis Blount
Fresh off of being named City Weekly’s “Best of Utah” rap group, House of Lewis has an opportunity this Thursday to share the stage with Run the Jewels, one of the nation’s hottest newcomers to the rap stage. In preparation for their set, I had a chance to sit down with Chance Lewis and APT to talk about how such an unlikely group came together and what their plans are looking forward. You can catch them this Thursday, August 20th in Salt Lake at the Twilight Concert Series at 7 PM.
So tell me… How did House of Lewis come together as a group? Was it one big event, or was it more of a gradual thing?
APT: It was a slow burn, for sure… (laughs) There is one thing that I’ve never really known, Chance. For the longest time you were part of all these punk rock bands. What made you decide to switch over to rap?
CL: This sounds more serious than it really is, but I got really burnt out on looking for drummers. I was drawn to making music on my own, so I went for a genre where I could do every instrument that I needed to. Even in my pop-punk songs, they were always wordy and lyrical. I was really drawn to the wordplay of hip-hop and how you can say a lot more in a song. I started making rap music around the time that I met APT organically after having coexisted in the Provo music scene for like six years.
APT: Since before I had moved to Provo, I was writing rap stuff but never really performed. It wasn’t until a mutual friend of ours put us in contact. Chance was looking for people to come in and help him with a song called “Velour Girls.” We performed in October 2010 opening for Imagine Dragons at the Velour one night, which was the first time we shared the stage. After playing any show we could get, we started organizing our own shows and scouted for underground rappers who were doing the same kinds of things we were. It was hard to find people, because most people were just “bedroom rappers”: people who had never performed live, but they were putting stuff out on Soundcloud.
CL: Yeah, we kind of gathered them out of the woodwork and started to host our own “straight rap” shows. Eventually, we crossed paths with Donnie Bonelli, who had coexisted with us for years. He was a singer-songwriter who would rap occasionally.
APT: After seeing him rap a few times, I went up and introduced myself because there weren’t many other people who were rapping. He didn’t know who I was, so when I talked to him, he gave me the vocal equivalent of a polite pat on the shoulder. After he got back from California, we decided that we couldn’t be Chance and APT and Donnie, so we decided to go by the name “House of Lewis.” It had a lot of cool meanings to us, and it stuck.
CL: We started to curate these shows in Salt Lake where it was like “House of Lewis presents….” and through that we met Scott, aka Atheist aka Rhyme Time. Sooner or later, he started working with Chance on his album which led to him hanging out with us more until we were basically asking the question: “Why isn’t he an official part of House of Lewis?”
APT: It was pretty ballsy, to be honest… before he was even officially a part of the group, he had a line where he said “House of Lewis affiliate, come try us.” That’s just who Atheist is, though, he just has this youthful energy that brings so much to the group.
CL: DJ Skratchmo and DJ Chew were added into the mix while we were hosting our curated shows until eventually it was just this unspoken thing where they were our DJs. After Atheist joined in July of 2013, that was probably our most official addition. Since then, we have just been putting out our solo albums and are currently working on a collaborative album that we will be putting out this year.
APT: So that is our very long-winded and convoluted story of how we all came together (laughs). You think that after all this time, we would have a more concise story to tell, but unfortunately we don’t.
There are two interesting facets to your live shows that I would like to learn more about: First off, APT’s wardrobe. Has that come along organically as well?
APT: Yeah, so in the first video that I did with Chance I was wearing a blue Old Navy hoodie with long hair and a beard… I kind of looked like a Joe Schmo. Eventually I moved on to button ups with bowties but soon after that bowties were too done, so I moved on to the lock around my neck. For me, it’s just part of doing a show. Its like putting on a uniform, like “okay, this is what I’m doing now.” On stage, you are allowed to be weird and just cut loose, ya know? I feel like it has been natural and stuff that I have wanted to try, so I did it. I will think of something and say to myself “that’s stupid, don’t do that.” Then after a few weeks, I’ll think to myself “yeah, I probably ought to do that.”
CL: Basically the bigger the show, the more all-out we go. When we did Rooftop last year, APT wore the flower suit and the yarn suit, which are two of our more signature looks. For us, it is just a part of the fun. We consciously go out of our way to make our shows more fun and break the mold of what rap groups are supposed to do.
The other thing that I’d like to know about is the interesting use of percussion instruments. If I’m not mistaken, you all use a jawbone of sorts during some of your live shows…?
APT: (laughs) I actually broke that in our most recent set… yeah. I guess I was going a little too hard during one of the choruses.
CL: We have a friend named Gavin who is a percussion genius and for some reason or another has taken an interest in our stuff, even though he has no business helping us. He has like a Masters degree in music and seems to like what we do. Sometimes when we perform, he will loan out some weird stuff to us like goat toes or that donkey jawbone you saw us perform with.
Could you all give me some details on the Twilight Series?
CL: We are going to be performing this Thursday, August 20th, at the Twilight Concert Series along with Flying Lotus and Run the Jewels. We won this opportunity as part of a prize for being named Salt Lake City Weekly’s “Best Rap Group of 2014.” Part of the prize for that was opening at one of these shows and with awesome luck, we ended up opening for Run the Jewels. Run the Jewels is one of our favorite groups and we couldn’t be happier that we get to share the stage with them on Thursday.
John Lane of Festive People donated a question: “If House of Lewis had a collective spirit animal, what would it be?”
APT: (looking towards Chance) What if it was like a multi-headed hydra, ya know?
CL: ummmm…. Okay, sure. We are a “multi-headed hydra”.
Now, is there a question that you would like to donate to our next artist?
CL: How about this: “What have been some of your favorite local releases from this year?”
The Twilight Concert Series is already a great event, and with the addition of an unendingly fun group like House of Lewis, this Thursday is going to be a cant-miss. Get ready to get up, dance, and shake yo’ face as you watch this rap crew take the stage at 7 PM.
Unfamiliar with House of Lewis’s music? We’ve got you covered. You can stream EXCLUSIVELY a track off the group’s unreleased collaborative album, dropping soon. Stream the new House of Lewis song, “Gnarly,” below!