Switching directions and Eyedeas

Local rapper Eyedea abandons hip-hop for a new indie rock group Carbon Carousel

Megan Kadrmas

You might recognize the lead singer of Carbon Carousel, but like that long-lost childhood friend you bump into at the show, you won’t be able to place him.

Maybe it’s because Michael Larsen used to run in very different circles.

Larsen, better known as Eyedea of the hip-hop duo Eyedea and Abilities, is fine with these awkward moments as fans of his past musical life try to figure out why someone who opened for Wu-Tang Clan is leading a rock band.

He just wants these fans to give it a try.

“In the words of Brother Ali, ‘it’s actually not all that different,’ ” Larsen said.

Since Larsen stepped out of the national spotlight in 2005, after gaining much attention as a freestyle battle champ (winning the notable Scribble Jam in 1999 and HBO’s Blaze battle in 2000), he has been working with a different sound – rock.

Carbon Carousel joint release party with Abzorbr
WHEN: 8 p.m. Friday
WHERE: 7th Street Entry, 701 First Ave. N., Minneapolis
TICKETS: $5, 18-plus, www.first-avenue.com

Although the shift from hip-hop to rock might not make sense to fans of either genre, it was an easy transition for Larsen.

“I was just kind of sick of saying so many words and being so descriptive,” said Larsen. “So I started singing, so I didn’t have to say as much.”

The switch might have been natural for Larsen but the transition was not easy for him. Rumors about heroin use swirled around his improvisational Midwest tour with Face Candy. Larsen said fans e-mailed him saying he was dead to them.

“I felt like I was finally telling the truth and everyone was calling me a liar,” he said.

The experience and wisdom he gained during his time as the “Next Big Thing” are helping him with his new musical ventures and starting a new label.

“Rock bands are self-loathing,” said Larsen. “But coming from hip-hop, it’s like you make a record and you sit and you sell it hand to hand. Like, ‘Hey, this is the best shit since water.’ “

His band, Carbon Carousel, is musically diverse, with a rapper-turned-singer vocalist, a jazz drummer, an eardrum-shredding guitarist and a rock-hop bassist.

All of these ideas and sounds blend into the group’s new split single with local rock-rap group Abzorbr and the re-release of their album, “The Some of All Things.”

The music holds no trace of hip-hop. Instead, the new single, featuring three songs by the group, shows their indie-rock versatility.

“Savior Simplex,” an inverted exploration of savior syndrome, is dirty and angsty, with Larsen’s gritty vocals sounding Cobain-esque over the track’s wailing guitars.

The group almost does a one-eighty on “Sunspots,” which Larsen explained is about an acquaintance who died in Iraq. The track is quiet, simple and very sad. The beat is slow and the sound is stripped down, leaving Larsen’s vocals, which hold up surprisingly well, at the forefront of the track.

Eyedea and Abilities fans might not like Larsen’s new gig with Carbon Carousel, but, if anything, he’s learned to make himself happy and let others think what they will.

Slowly, over the past two years, Larsen has found something that he at least can call beautiful.

“Either the world isn’t going to accept this beauty I’ve found, or it isn’t beautiful.”