The moment Spokane-based musician Jango starts performing, he feels alive.
Conflicting feelings of insecurity and strength race through his mind as he remembers that every performance is a chance to live in the moment, give the crowd space to rage or just feel something, he said.
“It’s the most humbling moment because there’s everything and nothing at the same time. The energy I send out is the energy they will receive. I just give in and I hope they take me in,” he said.
Jango will perform with Seattle-based band Elvis Batchild at Humble Burger in Moscow on July 10 for their final stop on the Northwest Show Run tour. Oregon-based artist Desolation Horse will also perform.
Admission is at 8 p.m., the concert starts at 9 p.m tickets are $10 each.
Inspired by the Pacific Northwest’s rock, punk, and EDM presence, Jango created his hip-hop sound — “controlled chaos” and self-expression at its purest, he said.
He believes it’s important to express himself uncompromisingly through his music, so his audience and fanbase, the Goons, feel encouraged to do the same. He wants people to be comfortable enough to scream or dance without caring about how they look, he said.
To be a part of the crowd and create an experience like the “coolest party”, Jango often crowd surfs or stage dives.
“Now I’m with you guys in the fucking crowd, I’m sweating with you guys, I feel your energy, then you guys throw me back on stage, and I’m taking that energy to go harder,” he said. “When I crowd surf, it’s really like a room check — a temperature check — like ‘how bright are we?'”
Jango dons a ski mask and crown and steps into his role as the King of the Nine on stage. Jango claims eastern Washington is “the 509.” The mask is a reminder that greatness can come from anywhere and anyone can be underneath and share their truth. It’s only up to them to do it, he said.
“As a person of color, I wanted to make sure this was portrayed without apologies,” he said. “I wanted to push the boundaries of what a person of color can do.”
Since the day he was born, Jango said his parents always sang and the radio always played neo-soul music or Jay-Z and 50 Cent. He also wrote songs with his younger brother and was on at least 20 of them before he wanted to record his own music, he said.
Now, Jango said hip-hop is starting to thrive in Spokane’s untapped music scene, and he hopes to defy expectations that it’s dangerous or low-quality. With his high-quality setlists and a full creative team at his side, he wants to raise the standard of the genre.
“We have so many people who believe in the vision that we’ve created here that it almost feels silly to fail,” he said. “We really created a platform for all of us to stand on. I would never look back.”
Rein Laik, Elvis Batchild’s singer and keyboardist, also feels connected to the audience. He wants to create a space where people can be themselves and escape their worries during this “tough time of life,” he said.
“We’re here because people come out to listen. We couldn’t do any of this without them,” he said. “It’s always about community and what we bring to the crowd [and they bring to us].”
The band likes to perform in smaller venues like Moscow because youth culture is invested in the performances, while Seattle folks are a bit jaded, he said.
In Seattle, Laik began his music career as a folk musician with just “three chords and the truth” playing open mics in high school, he said. Once, using a fake ID, he snuck into the Conor Byrne Pub, where Elvis Batchild later met Jango to attend Sunday’s legendary Open Mics.
About 10 years later, the five Elvis Batchild band members found each other through Craigslist and Facebook ads. Formerly known as Pretty Boy Floyd and Bad Camper, the band eventually changed their name to their current title, inspired by covers by sensational artists Weekly World Newssaid Laik.
After a performance in Bellingham and a drunken vote, Elvis Batchild was born. The decision was rewarded by a round of shots from a supportive bartender, he said.
In a tongue-in-cheek song named after the band, Laik said Elvis Batchild is working on the unreleased song “Batchild Escapes,” which follows the story of a half-bat, half-child who escapes from a lab and tries to make famous to become Hollywood.
“We sometimes feel like this little bastard kid who’s found his way into the scene and is working his way up the ranks, and we kind of enjoy that,” he said.
The band’s sound has evolved into psychedelic rock with modulating frequencies and layered sounds. Elvis Batchild experiments with R&B, punk and metal, trying to find her niche in the modern rock genre.
Elvis Batchild’s inspiration often begins by taking his free-flowing jam sessions and later turning them into concrete themes, Laik said.
“It kind of feels like the jam itself is the raw data,” he said. “Then you go and listen to it afterwards, and it’s almost like you’re decoding it; like you’re getting this extraterrestrial download from another place or dimension.”
According to Laik, music is a great way to meet others and spark conversations about justice, mental health and addiction, something Laik has explored during the pandemic.
In the band’s quarantine song, “Can’t Go Out (Can’t Stay Home),” Laik shared his experience opening up his apartment to people protesting George Floyd’s death in Seattle. The constant sound of helicopters flying overhead inspired a guitar that mimicked the sound throughout the song.
“[I’m hoping to] light these little fires [of conversation]. The fire of communication and love is unstoppable,” said Laik.
Jango also addressed his personal experiences with mental health in the song “Moonshine.” Suicide and gun violence were rampant in Spokane during the quarantine, leading to his turning to alcohol and affecting it in “beautiful and negative” ways.
He said his songs are like time capsules for different moments in his life, from expressing his pride at being a person of color on “Espresso” to leaving a lasting impression on his community on “Legacy.”
“It’s very special when you see people saying your words,” he said. “It gives me the kind of energy that makes me want to go harder, want to give them more, want to give them more of myself.”