INDIANAPOLIS — The name is pronounced "Bless", but the band name Bless appeared to already be taken. So some veteran Indianapolis musicians who were performing together as an official group for the first time got creative.
"I was thinking about that word because I had a son recently, and I was looking for a word that expressed being thankful for life, even though it's tough sometimes," said David "Moose" Adamson, percussionist/beat creator for 81355. Look at the numbers closely, and you see 'Bless.'
The musicians have actually been on the same stage in a variety of forms many times over the last decade. Emcees Sirius Blvck and Sean "Oreo" Jones have long been active in hip hop in the city, as has Adamson - working under more than a few pseudonyms (his current one is Sedcairn Archives). But it was while live music was sidelined during the pandemic when they talked seriously about a new collaborative effort; one that culminated in the May 2021 release of 81355's debut album "This Time, I'll Be Of Use."
"It was the state of where we all were mentally and artistically", said Jones, who says he mostly avoided music during the early months when most of us were locked down in our homes. "It kind of happened organically, with the state of the country, and politically and (the music) started bubbling out."
When the band members started playing samples for each other, there originally was no expectation that it would develop into a full blown album. "I think it's something we always wanted to do, but we just were waiting for the right moment to make it happen," said Blvck (pronounced Black). "Once we got in the studio and started recording, it just happened naturally. We knocked out the whole record in three days."
"A lot of 2020 went into this record," said Dimitri Morris, guitarist for the band. "Hearing it after they sent me the downloads, there was a lot of general catharsis from what I know of these guys. I've been playing with Sean for nearly a decade at this point, so there was a definite level of knowing where I fit in pretty easily, which is very rare — that does not come very easily."
You'll hear a wide range of musical styles and beats on "This Time..." - from an up-tempo Bossa Nova beat to start the first track "Capstone" to more traditional hip hop stylings of "Maroon" and "Anointed" to the electronic beats of "The Void." "I like to mix the old analog drum sounds with modern sounds," Adamson said. "But I think overall musically, I think we all have a lot that we add to the songs, as far as arrangements and lyrics."
The band has also made videos for three of the tracks, including one for title track "Capstone" that features Oreo, Sirius and Moose getting buried alive. And it's not CGI.... that's real dirt being tossed on them. "We really went in on it. We dug a huge grave. Everything you see there was very intricate, because we were buried under tons of dirt," Jones said of the video directed by Pace Rivers.
81355 is taking Naptown hip hop across the country. They kick off a tour on their home turf at the Hi-Fi Indianapolis Wednesday April 20 at 8:00pm. After making their way around the U.S., they'll wrap up their tour with an appearance at Indy's first WonderRoad Festival at Garfield Park in June.