Crunchy Kids embody crunchiness in everything they play, do, eat and breathe. Living that lifestyle allows the quartet to engage in daily debauchery, like the time they went crazy on St. Cloud State’s college radio station.
“We said ‘Investigate 9/11’ into the mic when they told us we were off the air, and we totally weren’t off the air,” keyboardist Eric Mayson said. “It was a Minnesota Lottery advertisement that said, ‘If you won the lottery, what’s the first thing you would do?’ — ‘Investigate 9/11!’”
The band formed in 2010 when a group of MSU Mankato classmates moved to Minneapolis after finishing college. Most members played together in a group called Parallax in Mankato, which bassist Eric Burton described as sounding like “311, or some shit like that.”
Listen to either of Crunchy Kids’ albums, and the sheer musical and personal chemistry of the squad is evident in their introspective, irony-free hybrid of rap, R&B and prog rock. Their debut album, 2011’s “Crunchy Kids,” is raw and messy, yet it highlights the brilliance each musician brings to the band.
“Mint,” released in 2013, was more realized, thanks to the tutelage of local beatmaker Big Cats (Spencer Wirth-Davis). With Big Cats, Crunchy Kids honed their sound and worked to make it more organic and less evocative of the endless loop tracks that dominate modern hip-hop. This evolution
progresses further on their untitled new album, a vinyl and online-only release due later this year.
“We recorded the first eight songs we came up with,” drummer Marcus Skallman said about “Crunchy Kids.” “I wouldn’t say that we had a theme or we weren’t discussing genres or influences. We were figuring each other out, just kind of messing around.”
While Crunchy Kids weren’t looking for intentionality or genre-specificity in their music, they wanted a consistent sonic palette based on complex, dazzling sounds. Big Cats was just the guy to turn to. Known for his organic, four-hour long jam sessions, his forte is his ability to capture and condense a moment of human emotion and spontaneity and turn it into 16, 32 or 48 bars of music.
On “Mint,” Big Cats’ influence is audible. Crunchy Kids embody the throwback sound he and so many other local artists love, but they stand apart due to their use of modulations and harmonics.
But top-notch melodies and harmonies can only take a group so far, and Crunchy Kids don’t coast on them alone. Part of their success is due to rapper Slim Chance, who strikes the perfect balance between being bombastic and subdued. He began rapping as a teenager in the suburbs, and his love for wordplay led him to pursue a creative writing degree in college.
“Anything can lead to a verse or a hook or a concept,” Slim Chance said. “Sometimes it comes [with] the music, and sometimes it’s eight bars that wrote itself while I was sitting in traffic.”
Slim Chance shifts from micro to macro observations in his raps and switches between the two with ease. He expounds on the darkness of everyday life, yet manages to make light of it through optimism and inventive humor.
“Chance has a really cool way of taking a moment in time, like hanging out on the patio with [Doritos] crumbs, but expanding on that, to like ‘Doritos were made by migrant workers’ —expanding into this big world where he can analyze different things and bring it all back down to ‘I’m just eating Doritos,’” Mayson said.
Between the beats and the witty words, Crunchy Kids steer their sound toward the left field of the rap game. The tunes force the listener to engage; they’re not repetitious party bangers or chill-out background music, despite the foursome’s party hearty nature. Rather, Crunchy Kids’ anthems are head-bobbers with deeper meanings that leave audiences thinking after a live performance or an afternoon listening session.
“Part of rap isn’t always supposed to be a steady line that will take everybody from the same place to the same place,” Slim Chance said. “There should be tangents; the listener should be bringing a lot to it.”