Although it sounds strikingly similar to annual The Cranberry Festival in Warren, Wis. -- the largest cranberry festival in the world, allegedly -- Milwaukee's The Cranberry Show isn't quite as wholesome
Skate-punk indie rappers Arcane and Young Focus are the voices that make up the hip-hop duo known as The Cranberry Show (we'll get to the name's explanation later) and they are creating some of the freshest music in Milwaukee at the moment.
If you ask them, they'll boast that their act -- full of zany stage antics, silly rhymes and addictive beats -- is "the dopest show in the world." But the good news is, these guys don't take themselves quite that seriously. They are the kind of guys who would name their debut album "Sex and Pencil Shavings" -- a couple of goofballs who know their way around a catchy hook.
They compare their particular brand of hip-hop to an open relationship with a woman. "We get to roam and play the field but she's the gal you come home to at the end of the day," says Young Focus.
It's actually quite a fitting analogy. Their savvy sense of experimentation and innate ability to mashup sounds has landed them a spot opening for Def Jux darling Aesop Rock.
"Sex and Pencil Shavings" drops Aug. 31 and The Cranberry Show is scheduled to perform Sept. 5 at Washington Park. The Put Down the Guns Festival, now on its sixth year, also features performances by local artists Prophetic and Blizz McFly.
OnMilwaukee.com caught up with Arcane and Young Focus to chat about life as The Cranberry Show.
OnMilwaukee.com: How long have the two of you been making music together (or individually?) How did the collaboration begin?
Arcane: We have been doing music for about two years together now, but we've been friends since middle school.
Young Focus: Yeah, I actually started off as a solo act and Arcane was my hype man. But one day a local producer by the name of 40Mil gave me an upbeat hip-hop instrumental to do a song to and I asked Arcane to lay a verse on it. His verse didn't suck ... it was actually pretty ill so we formed a life partnership, but not in a two-guys-marrying-each-other type way; a rap type of way.
OMC: You describe your music as "alternative hip-hop." Why does that label mean to you?
A: To me, it gives us the opportunity to play around with all types of sounds, hooks, themes and vibes to the music without having to be this or that. It's just different. It's alternative.
YF: Yeah, it's like dating a girl named "Hip-Hop" with no strings attached. We get to roam and play the field but she's the gal you come home to at the end of the day.
OMC: You are currently unsigned -- do you hope to change that? If so, are you looking to work with a local label or is the plan to go national with "Sex and Pencil Shavings?"
A: If the right deals comes then we'll take it, but we are far from looking for a deal.
YF: I agree, I think record deals are overrated, unless we're getting a hardy number.
OMC: What is your opinion on Milwaukee's hip-hop scene? Is it thriving? Supportive?
A: I personally like a lot of Milwaukee's music. I think it's thriving on a national level. It's a lot of Milwaukee artist taking the right steps and getting noticed.
YF: It seems to be getting better, although we are still very behind the major markets. So I'd say it's thriving but its still in the beginning stages. I don't know about the support, though. It seems like everybody wants to be the first act to "blow up" but we can blow up as a city if we actually came together.
OMC: Tell me about your name choice, The Cranberry Show.
YF: Well, we knew we wanted "show" in our name because we live our lives like a funny reality show -- and we knew we wanted to be known for our shows, meaning our live performances. The "Cranberry" part came in because cranberries clean out your system and we think of hip-hop as a system that we're trying to clean out with good music.
OMC: Speaking of good music, your debut album, "Sex and Pencil Shavings" drops Aug. 31. Where can we find it?
YF: Well the lead single off our album is a song entitled "Gurlz Like." That can be found on iTunes, Amazon.com, Zune and pretty much where ever else you can download music. As for our album, it will drop on all those places I previously named, and we will have hard copies in the form of drop cards.
OMC: What's next for The Cranberry Show? Tour? More records?
A: We are actually planning a very important tour right now. Can't let the cat out the bag just yet but it will be major. Also, we will be releasing our second official video in late September and dropping a mixtape Nov. 25. But currently the focus is on this project. "Sex And Pencil Shaving" Aug. 31. Make sure everyone buys 31 copies.
OMC: We'll do our best.
OnMilwaukee.com staff writer Julie Lawrence grew up in Wauwatosa and has lived her whole life in the Milwaukee area.
As any “word nerd” can attest, you never know when inspiration will strike, so from a very early age Julie has rarely been seen sans pen and little notebook. At the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee it seemed only natural that she major in journalism. When OnMilwaukee.com offered her an avenue to combine her writing and the city she knows and loves in late 2004, she knew it was meant to be. Around the office, she answers to a plethora of nicknames, including “Lar,” (short for “Larry,” which is short for “Lawrence”) as well as the mysteriously-sourced “Bill Murray.”