Don’t Talk to the Cops party with a reason.
It’s after midnight at the Baltic Room on a recent Saturday and the packed place absolutely reeks. It’s an auspicious odor that rarely occurs in Seattle, a densely nuanced mélange of sweaty bodies, good weed and spilled booze that can only be called funk.
“It smells like Bourbon Street at 4 am,” someone rightly declares.
This atmosphere has been wrought in honor of Don’t Talk to the Cops, the year-old trio celebrating the release of its second album tonight. Calling Let’s Quit an album, however, is generous. Its 32 minutes (about as long as the band’s show here will be) add up to a single, extended inside joke, a spastic slurry of ironic come-ons, dangling punch lines, slang and curse words barked over humming synths and skuzzy electro beats. The band exists in that Venn-diagram sweet spot occupied by the likes of the Beastie Boys and the Ramones, where stupid and smart intersect and yield something utterly, irresistibly pure. Without much effort, Don’t Talk to the Cops is more punk and more hip-hop than any genre band to come out of Seattle in years (does anyone remember the Saturday Knights?).
The proof comes with the performance. It starts at 12:15 a.m., the dancing at 12:15:15. Grinding—everyone, without exaggeration, is grinding on someone or something, friends or strangers or inanimate objects. Hysterical with movement and innuendo, people look to each other for an excuse or rationale, but the answer is onstage, where BlesOne, the lanky MC; emecks, the short MC; and Larry “El Mizell,” the burly DJ, bounce and rap and scream like b-boy Looney Tunes. They’re as overcome by the music as the crowd. Together, over the next half-hour, everyone achieves a sort of debauched satori.
And then, suddenly, it’s over. The band exits the stage to hellacious cheers. All that lingers is the smell.
A few days later I’m talking to the members of Don’t Talk to the Cops at Shorty’s in Belltown. Right away, I ascertain the intelligence and love behind the noise. Turns out emecks and Bles—her real name is Megan; his is Kip—are engaged. This is a band that embraces its audience by first embracing itself.
Your music is the most endearing “fuck you” I’ve ever heard.
Bles It’s more like, fuck you, we’re gonna do what we want. If you don’t like it, fuck you. If you don’t agree with it, fuck you. Because the problem is, you’re the only one not having fun.
Larry We want a total break from orthodoxy to capture everything we’re excited about. It’s afforded us a lot of freedom. We don’t have to worry about fitting into any kind of tradition, be it Bles’ b-boy background, or Megan’s dancer background, or Seattle hip-hop. And because of that, people don’t box us into any subset.
Bles We don’t wanna become bitter about music. We love music and we wanna keep making it and the only way you’re gonna do that and have true happiness is if there’s nothing in your brain. If you think too much about, “What format does that fit in and where can this go?” that will change the sound. And we wanna be totally honest.
I’m not gonna lie to you: We didn’t write almost anything on the album. We make it up. And half of it is one take. We want what we’re saying to be real reactions, real things we’re trying to express in the moment. It’s like when someone tells you a story, and they’re like, “Oh man, the dude said this joke, and then the other dude said that, and everyone started laughing! Ah, man, you had to be there.” We’re trying to record being there.
Larry No matter how dumb it is, there’s real emotional content because it’s from an experience.
Bles It’s getting people involved with the story. We’re not trying to create anything new, we’re just trying to create something different.
Tell me about the band name.
Emecks The name came about when John T. Williams was shot and killed.
Bles Two blocks from our house! We used to see that dude every day. Nicest, gentlest dude ever. We don’t make politically charged music, but we did think it was an awesome idea for us to put a statement in our name. It makes people uncomfortable, it brings conversation.
Emecks Our music doesn’t project anything anti-cop or anything.
Larry But don’t talk to them. Because in our experience, there’s nothing positive that’s ever come from talking to a cop. In a city like Seattle, with the fucking police force everywhere right now, I think people can relate.
Bles We’re creating this music at the same time this shit is happening outside our window. And that causes some of the friction in our music.
What else causes friction?
Larry Being broke.
Bles I feel like music is being painfully sucked of its essence. We’re losing all the real emotion and honesty.
Larry Neighborhoods are changing. Everything is getting corporatized. It’s all tied in and the cops are the foot soldiers of it. Those cops take different forms in different industries, you know? Our name is in line with all of that.
Emecks Our rage is on stage. We’re not angry, but we’re letting it all out.
Above: Emecks of Don’t Talk to the Cops performs at the band’s February 2012 CD release party at the Baltic Room. Photo by Nate Watters.