First off, please give us a short back story of the group…
We initially started with two. Freddy and Tony had been close friends and been creating music together since 2001. Around 2006 we decided to venture out on our own from the group we were previously a part of, but we had it in mind to create a live hip hop band completely unique with an honest life-giving message. At that time we did a show and were one of the opening bands for another live Hip Hop band that was doing extremely well at the time called Berto Ramon. After the show I went out with a couple of guys from the group to eat. One of which was Moe. Berto Ramon split sometime in 2008 and all the way in 2009 and we still couldn’t find the musicians to create this band we desired to create for so long. Via the wonders of social media, myspace of all places, we got in touch with Moe one day about our vision for the band (then called the Offnotzoidz) and he was on board. It took a bit but soon former Berto Ramon bass player David Opio joined in our practices, Moe’s good friend Chi Can came along to play the keys and occasionally the violin, and finally completing our 6-piece band in May, 2010 was our drummer Jason Alamo, a friend of Moe and Opio’s. Oddly everyone of us but Chi Can all went to the same high school with only Freddy and Tony actually being good friends at that time. We probably could’ve got the ball rolling a lot sooner.
Is there any significance to the name St. Bagu?
St. Bagu is the patron saint of never growing up. It actually means Sucks To Be A Grown Up which has a double meaning. First of all, the monotony of work and paying bills is not very appealing to anyone. But also, as a child we have great dreams of being heroes and changing the world. St. Bagu is made up of grown ups but we hold on and will not let go of the dreams and desires to change the world. Christ points to having faith like a child and we strive to maintain that.
You guys are from Chicago is there a good overall music scene there? How about for your style specifically?
Chicago is a large city with a very large and diverse music scene. There are many musicians and artists. The problem is that there is still a lot of segregation in it. Even in the hip hop scene there is much segregation. These are also “lines” that St. Bagu fights to defy.
Describe your overall sound…
Our overall sound is still developing. We’ve been a band for only one year and so far in our first EP alone we did Hip-Hop meets quirky jazz, arena rock, something of a dance rhythm and piano ballads. If it’s a healthy marriage of styles and sound I think we’ll shoot for it as long as it fits into our current project. Our full length right now we’re working on called “Crash/Boom” has a bit of a darker vibe than the “Lines” EP. This is due to the idea behind the album being one of there being a time for everything. Mourning, dancing, highs, lows, laughing, crying, or in our words Crashes and Booms. With lyrical content touching on these our music is intended to make you feel those various polar opposites be it high energy and speed or high emotion-filled ballads. We are enjoying evolving as artists.
Who are your bands biggest influences musically and lyrically?
Just like most people in today’s world, we all grew up listening to and being influenced my a variety of styles of music – from hip hop to rock, salsa to jazz, Victor Wooten and Mos Def to Arcade fire and Slash. We seek to blend all these styles within hip hop to create something brand new.
I first ran across you guys a while back and purchases the “Lines” EP. Was that your first release?
The “Lines” EP was indeed our first release. It was honestly a leap of faith project. We just decided to push forward at a time when we didn’t even have committed musicians. A lot of the “Lines” EP was written by myself, Freddy, and Moe before the other musicians even came to round out the group. In fact on that EP we used friends of ours as studio drummers as our actual drummer Jason had yet to even join us at that time. That said we are very proud of that release and think it was a good introduction to the unique sound we are trying to create.
What kind of reception did it receive?
The EP was received very well. It’s a good sign when not everybody you hear from has the same favorite song. It means each individual song connects with someone in a different way. We have heard every single song mentioned as a favorite from various people. We’ve heard how a song like “Simple” has impacted someone’s life and we’ve heard how a polar opposite like “You Look Nice” just makes them feel good. Obviously we’d love to say it sold millions, but it was received well by those who were willing to have a listen.
Where did you record that EP?
We recorded the Lines EP at Studio Chicago. It’s definitely a real cool set up and high quality place to get a great clear sound. From there we sent it out to an engineer and musician in Tennessee named Chris Bevins and he did a phenomenal job mixing and mastering it for us from across many states.
Was that the same studio you recorded your latest EP “While We’re Waiting”? Tell us about that project and how it compares stylistically to the “Lines” EP.
Our new EP, “While We’re Waiting” was not recorded at Studio Chicago but rather with a group called Indago Productions. Our drummer Jason is a part of that team. This latest EP has a completely different identity from the “Lines” EP. In fact it’s mostly Indago produced instrumentals, with some live bass from Opio laid over the tracks. The idea was we only had 6 songs to show for ourselves to the world and the full length was going to take quite a bit to complete at the artistic quality we’d like, so in the meantime what can we do to release new music while we’re waiting? Jason created some instrumentals with his team, we got another contribution from Freddy’s brother Sal “DJ Poor” Bustamante. We wrote and created something quick and inexpensive to help hold ourselves and our listeners over all the while giving them a completely different sound they didn’t get on the “Lines” EP. This is more of a Hip-Hop EP than a Hip-Hop fusion EP.
What is the reasoning behind releasing “While We’re Waiting” for free?
The idea behind giving this EP away free is to give a gift to those who have committed to supporting us and our vision. It also obviously could potentially expand our audience as a free download of an unknown band is a lot more appealing than one they’d have to pay for. So anyone reading, share it, it’s free, you won’t be robbing us it’s all good!
Any significance to the title?
It’s a series of songs to hold you over as we prepare for our full length debut “Crash/Boom”. It’s also the soundtrack for the various waiting periods in your life. Whether it’s for the bus, in traffic, or something deeper within yourself. They don’t say patience is a virtue because it’s easy. Patience is tense and silence only adds to it. What are we doing while we’re waiting?
Do you have other material written that wasn’t recorded for this EP?
We had an intro we were working on for “While We’re Waiting” that we scrapped. Somehow the song “Hey” was always the perfect intro song all along and we were just overworking ourselves. We had another song produced by a friend of the band’s we were working on called “Happy Days” but for whatever reason we didn’t get it to sound how we wanted so we put it to the side.
Any future recording plans set?
Our future recording plans are a lot closer to being our present recording plans. We have about 8 songs already complete for the “Crash/Boom” LP. So ideally we’re going to start recording these within the next month, as we continue to create another 10-15 songs. We want to have a good number of songs to select from so the 12-14 tracks that round out the LP are our most solid to date. We hope to have the LP completed by the end of the summer.
Let’s talk about your songwriting process. You have a pretty eclectic sound for a hip hop group so how do you go about creating a new song?
The songwriting process varies. Some times it depends on when the muse strikes. For example Tony wrote a song called “Ego” for the WWW EP without a beat to start. He just wrote lyrics. Now in most instances as an emcee he waits to write lyrics till there is music. Other times Freddy or Tony will have concepts or song titles hit us, we’ll take them to the band and they’ll play the music fitting of that idea and then we’ll write. Occasionally Jason will make a beat we’ll end up translating as a live band. Some times Opio comes with a bassline we’ll work around. As stated earlier Moe did much of the music arrangement on the “Lines” EP. A song we have called “Count to Infinity” was a piano line Chi Can played that caught our ear when we were in China. To sum it all up I it just goes back to whenever and whoever the muse strikes because there honestly isn’t just one way we write songs.
What are some topics you discuss on “While We’re Waiting”?
On While We’re Waiting you’ll hear content ranging from the fruits produced by egos, to diligent battles to maintain an active faith, to narratives on Chicago’s two seasons (hot and cold), to calls to consciousness, to epiphanies, and all the way to thankful reflections on our first year as a band.
What lyric stands out most to you on the album?
It’s difficult to pick one lyric from the album that sticks out. We really are proud of the concept and writing on “Seasons”. However if just one lyric we’d have to go with the chorus lines in “Time Freeze Moment.” The lines are as follows, “These are the moments that freeze/ When time stands still and the momentum swings/ And I can’t help but abandoning me/ To stand in awe just to stand in awe.” This one sums up a realization many of us have come to that God works a lot more effectively and effortlessly than we do.
St. Bagu appears to be a part-time thing for now. Would you do this full-time if the opportunity presented itself?
Yes St. Bagu is not our only line of work as of this moment. However to answer if we’d like this to be our full – time gig, HECK YEAH! You have no idea how badly we want that. We’ll gladly take donations too.
Are you guys actively seeking label support or do you prefer to stay indie?
Currently we are not fully seeking label support but that’s not to say we only want to stay independent. We’re open to working in any setting that will benefit our careers without compromising our vision and creativity. Whichever best allows us to maintain the latter while providing for our families and freeing up our time to more effectively establish our cause, we will go with.
Pick 3 active current bands/artist you’d like to tour with.
We’d like to tour with any 3 bands who are great company, and great artists. We know that’s a cop out but honestly we’re open to any great combination and the only band we could name drop due to our tremendous respect for them is Switchfoot.
Do you consider St. Bagu to be a ministry or just a band made up of Christians?
Whether St. Bagu is a ministry or just a band made up of believers in Christ, I really think boils down to one question. Does St. Bagu minister to you, the listener? If we do then in that instance I guess that’s ministry. But ultimately we don’t function with the idea to be the traditional understanding of ministry. We are a band of flawed people who’s only hope is found in the grace of Jesus Christ, but our method of communication is just conversation and wherever conversation takes us. Our songs are us being ourselves, sometimes goofy and nonsensical, others honest and lamenting, and then others mentioning an essential part of who we are, our faith. We can’t be ourselves while neglecting those parts of ourselves. Ultimately we are simply attempting through art and our lifestyles to truly love people while also playing hopefully excellent creative music.
What are a few things you’d like to accomplish with the band?
We’d love for our music to inspire people. We’d love to accomplish being full-time musicians. We’d love to partner with people and organizations we believe in the mission of to truly give our best at changing the world. As naïve as that sounds to some, consider us children then because we honestly believe we can do that. We’d love to succeed on a level that would also open more doors for artists with great vision to use their craft to inspire others. I’m sure this list will grow.
What is the overall purpose of existence of this band?
Our purpose as a band is to accomplish those things above without compromising the health of our families in the process. We just want to be known as a blessing. That would be an honor.
Share at least one major positive and one major negative about the current state of the music industry?
One positive in the music industry right now is that independent music is becoming more and more popular and I there’s a bit more freedom to make a living doing music now without compromising your artistic integrity. Make a living, not be rich of course. One negative, the commercial radio content and the glorifying of the empty pursuit of fame, money, and sex. It’s sad actually and honestly much of these empty songs we hear annoy us. When the listener chooses to invest their support and money in something of substance and value instead, this may change the approach of record labels. Until then that soulless, lifeless, green piece of paper somehow talks.
Anything else you’d like to share with our readers?
Our final comments are simple. Thank you for this interview. Thank you for taking the time to read. We ask that you’d take a listen and if you like, and if you believe in what we’re doing, please share with everybody you can. You can stay updated with us via Facebook, Twitter, or our web-home www.stbagu.com . Until we meet again, we encourage you to live intentionally and abundantly! THANK YOU!