After the Smoke beat out two other groups in the Billboard.com vote to become the finalist in the southeast region. The band has now hit the road to Las Vegas where they will play against the other finalists head to head at the May 18 Battle of the Bands concert. The ultimate winner will appear on the 2012 Billboard Music Awards. In addition to the Battle concert, your views to this page, and to the band's roadtrip videos (playing now below!) will contribute to a social score that influences who will win. So come back here often to follow the journey and to help After the Smoke win the Battle.
After the Smoke is a Tallahassee hip-hop duo who says they're the 'most progressive' band in the competition, but they're 'just regular guys that make music.'
Describe your sound and your audience in your own words. It's basically just relevant to our times and our culture. I would deem it as nostalgic futurism. [Our audience] is like us. It's people who fight for activism and change. I would say free thinkers all across the board -- politics, social-economic issues, music, fashion and cultural connoisseurs.
Tell us about your first gig ever -- just how awkward was it? It was tight. You think you are the sh-t so you go up there and do your thing even regardless if the music is good or not. For the first performance we were like, we're tight. Leading up to your first performance, you feel a little bit of nervousness, like a ball of excitement and nervousness, but when you are on stage it is your personal outlet. You're looking out at a sea of faces and you're just like wow this is tight -- to entertain and to be able to have people connect with your artwork.
What's the strangest thing anyone has ever said about your band? Probably that we're different and weird. I actually do find that strange because I feel like we're not that different -- we're just representing a group of people that aren't being represented. So that's probably the strangest thing.
Why should you win this competition? I think we are the most progressive musically. I think we have been able to build a basis of supporters in an organic and expedient way by utilizing the Internet and using the artwork… I think our fans base, the people who support us, they're really involved not just in the music but the creative process, our thought process, our way of art, style, fashion. They're involved in all different tiers, different ways of linking to us. I think that's why we should win. Plus the music is awesome.
What's your next project? [Our new EP] "Ferris Wheels." Much like our live performances, it's growing. I think on our previous project -- we are consciously disjointed on purpose but I think we are making a conscious effort to bring all the clumps together to be more cohesive. Whereas the other projects were like a constant stream of consciousness, this one is going to be a very cohesive project from beginning to end.
What's the weirdest thing to ever happen to you on tour? I think the craziest thing is fans coming asking for an autograph. I think that's weird as hell cause we're like regular guys that make music. The craziest thing is that we live in Tallahassee and we've had fans that discover us online and they didn't even realize we live in Tallahassee so they think we're touring and coming back to our hometown, like, "I can't believe you're finally here." But I'm literally on campus right now, just walking around.
If your band had to come up with a plan for total world domination in the next 10 seconds, what would it be? I think the first step would be getting nominated for the Billboard Battle of the Bands, winning for our region and then winning the actual BBMAs. I think that is the first step to our world domination plan -- which is actually already in process. It's funny you ask. Everything's going according to plan.
Peace and love to everyone. Thank you for everything. I think it's definitely the fan base that got us to this point. We couldn't have gotten to this point without our Tumblr fans, local fans and everyone who has grown with us. We love them.
Interview by Sarah Maloy
After the Smoke Members:
Rob Coin Anthony X²
After the Smoke's Bio:
A Tallahassee hip-hop band that incorporates elements of funk, rock, electro and psychedelia, After The Smoke was formed at Florida State University by Rob Coin and Anthony X². While currently unsigned, ATS has been featured in Vice, Complex and other publications, and has also been featured on MTV's The Seven as "Artist of the Week" and recognized as "Freshman Artist of the Week" by MTVu.
In 2011, the duo released a free album, "White Girls & Red Velvet Cake," that generated much attention for the group, amassing roughly 60,000 downloads worldwide in a few months. ATS also takes a DIY approach to other aspects of its art, including video production and merchandise design. With more than 52,000 followers on Tumblr and tens of thousands of likes and followers on Facebook and Twitter, ATS has focused on this social network to promote its work and engage its fanbase.
ATS plans to release its own full-length, "Ferris Wheels," this summer, while Anthony X² contributed to the 2011 Fonzworth Bentley-presented album "C.O.L.O.U.R.S."