Three years ago, Los Angeles by way of New Orleans duo the Knux (brothers Kentrell "Krispy" Lindsey and Alvin "Joey" Lindsey) arrived with its Interscope debut, "Remind Me in 3 Days..." the album, reached No. 23 on Billboard's Heatseekers Albums chart and was embraced by critics, landing on many year-end best-of lists. But the project, a potent hybrid of hip-hop and post-punk, was also met with confusion -- years ahead of Lil Wayne's rock experiments and with a sound that fell outside of many fans' preconceptions of either genre, the Knux failed to connect on a massive scale. A label reshuffling followed and on Sept. 27 the Knux returns with its second full-length, "Eraser," this time through Cherrytree/Interscope.
"If someone is making top-quality, envelope-pushing, maverick music, I have to get behind it," Cherrytree president Martin Kierszenbaum says. "['Eraser'] makes me feel like the first time I heard the Clash. When I listen to it, I hear elements of hip-hop, punk and rock, but they're not blended together--they're living organically next to each other."
Rap-rock hybrids are nothing new, but the Lindseys, who grew up playing in New Orleans marching bands and produce all of their own songs, have always been about more than a mashup for marketing sake.
"Regular hip-hop albums are produced scatterbrained because they're just trying to get a single," Kentrell Lindsey says. "When you go in and try to create a concept, like Lady Gaga's 'The Fame' album... you come up with something more consolidated and more vibey."
"Eraser" is certainly that. An amalgam of the brothers' interest in bands like Thin Lizzy and ZZ Top and their love of what Kripsy calls "rap-y singing" a la Madonna's "Justify My Love," the 13-song collection is poppier than the group's debut, and packed with quicker, catchier and potentially bigger hooks.
So why rap instead of sing? "There are a lot of songs [about] women," Lindsey says. "Joey has a lot more emotional stuff; my stuff is more sexual, physical. Hip-hop helps us both be ourselves within the song."
With monotone basslines reminiscent of Joy Division, as on the track "Razorblade," and '70s guitar wails, as heard on the lead single, "She's So Up," it's clear the Knux is onto something. "We love just straight-forward rock'n'roll," Lindsey says. "We wanted to do that even more on this album--make the guitars really hot, just build the melody lines really simple."
To Kierszenbaum, it's the tension of that mix that makes the Knux work. "They are on the cusp of introducing a [new] sound," he says without hesitation.
The group's new single, "Run" featuring Kid Cudi, made a splash when the video, depicting a day in the life of a New York model, was released during New York's Fashion Week. But Kierszenbaum is convinced that the key to making the Knux blow up will be getting the act in front of the fans.
"It's going to be very much about their live performance," he says. "They can be mainstream [if] we take the time to expose them and organically grow it. [They're] making genre-pushing, boundary-pushing music that's absolutely in the realm of pop music, which I think can appeal to a very big fan base. Is it going to take a minute? Sure. Did it take a minute with Lady Gaga? Absolutely. So I'm not afraid."
Accordingly, the Knux, who will appear on "Late Show With David Letterman" on Sept. 28, plans to spend the majority of the coming year touring.