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No empty chairs
Hip-hop-flavored rockers Flint Eastwood shape rap into band-driven live music.
The guys in hip-hop-vocals, rock-rhythms band Flint Eastwood kicked around a few names before settling on their tag. Two alternates? A Kid Named Flint or In Like Flint, with the Flint coming from the last name of the quintet’s rapper/lead vocalist, Malik Flint.
The band — Flint along with Marcus Meier on guitar, Tyler Inmon on bass, John-Michael Harper on keyboards and Philip Cottingham on drums — formed in the fall of 2011 with the plan of recreating Flint’s hip-hop as rock music while keeping Flint’s rhymes and self-produced beats.
After playing their first live show under Flint’s solo moniker, MP the MVP, Cottingham was talking with his mother, telling her how the band had started because they were playing Malik’s music, and that they “were thinking of keeping Malik’s name somehow.” She said, “How about Flint Eastwood?”
Now, this didn’t happen at the same time, but around then, perhaps the same day or maybe a day off, a co-worker of Inmon’s had the same idea: Flint Eastwood. The next time the band was together at the recording studio they use, Verse 8 Records in Alexander, Cottingham told the band what his mother had said. Inmon then told them what his co-worker had said. That settled it. Flint Eastwood would be this new creation.
Let’s not call Flint Eastwood a rap rock band. That description is weighed with too many negative connotations. (Limp Bizkit, anyone?) You could call Flint Eastwood alternative hip-hop. Or indie rock with hip-hop vocals. Meier usually tells people the band’s sound is “Rage Against the Machine mixed with Kid Cudi.” That almost nails the band’s sound, except the music is not quite as hard and furious as Rage’s. Flint Eastwood’s music is more post-rock. A heavy rock sound with soulful hip-hop. A little atmospheric or arty. Think Tool. Or Explosions in the Sky. Or, as Flint says, the band’s music “dances on the edge of hip-hop and rock beautifully.”
That’s the sound one hears on their EP Hometown Glory, a six-track recording released this July featuring tunes such as the doom-laden-minimalist-march-with-a-thrashing-ending “Cheers” and the uplifting, synth-powered rock of “I’m On.”
Flint Eastwood started in a Bryant High School classroom in the spring of 2011. Meier was substitute teaching. Flint, a senior, told Meier he needed a couple of band members for an upcoming gig with his hip-hop crew Weekend Warriors. Meier and Cottingham had been members in ambient rock group Inner City Lights, but the band had taken a two-week break that became a permanent break in late 2010.
Meier and Cottingham agreed, and there was a one-off gig in Conway in June for this version of the Weekend Warriors, and then nothing, until Flint asked Meier later in the year about recording some guitar on his solo song “Hustle.”
“I’ve always done solo music, and I was shaping into more of making live music,” Flint says. “I had a talk with a classmate of mine that didn’t like rap music because it doesn’t have live instrumentation on it. ... For someone to tell me that’s the reason they don’t like rap music — I thought maybe I could change that.”
Cottingham soon joined Meier on the songs, and Meier reached out to his cousin Inmon and Inmon’s former bandmate John-Michael Harper.
“[The songs] were pretty much straight hip-hop songs over beats that I had produced,” says Flint, a self-described “military brat” who moved to Arkansas from Colorado in 2008. (All the band members attended either Benton or Bryant high school.) “But since Marcus can make the melodies on his guitar, it moved to us making something brand new.”
“I would play Malik’s vocal melody on my guitar and just write around it to make sure that he could still sing or rap the same way,” Meier says, “but the music would be different.”
Beyond Flint, the rest of the band had only a passing interest in hip-hop music, but each was curious. “Being a drummer, hip-hop beats are just awesome,” Cottingham says. “It’s kind of tribal. I like a lot of R&B, but hip-hop, especially if you go to a club, it’s simple but powerful.”
The then-unnamed band was born from these new interpretations of Flint’s tunes. And after writing rock music for Flint’s rhymes, the outfit started playing live, adopted the Flint Eastwood name and decided on re-recording Flint’s solo tracks as a Flint Eastwood EP. The band entered Verse 8 Records in April and recorded the rock/hip-hop mash-up.
Hometown Glory, released in July, also features local hip-hop artist Epiphany on “Swangin’,” but the band has been working hard on their full-length debut, a nine- or 10-track album that is currently untitled. Whereas Hometown Glory was the four musicians of Flint Eastwood recreating Flint’s music, the new record is “more band generated,” Meier says. “It’s Flint Eastwood.”
SEE THE SHOW
Flint Eastwood is the opening act for a Thursday night concert at Juanita’s that features headliner Big K.R.I.T., the Mississippi hip-hop artist promoting his Live from the Underground album. Fellow Mississippi hip-hop artists Tito Lopez and Big Sant are also on the bill along with Houston hip-hop artists Slim Thug and GT Garza. The doors open at 8 p.m. with the show starting at 9 p.m. Tickets are $20 in advance.