A new generation of rap rock music has hit the airwaves in the form of afterschoolspecial. Hailing from San Diego State University, Dan aka Dan (emcee), Jaimie (vocals), Brian (keyboard), Keane (guitar) and Todd (bass) first got together while at school, but soon took their talent and creativity to a professional studio. After several years of touring and recording up and down the West Coast, the group was nominated for Best Hip Hop at the San Diego Music Awards. Dan, also a coordinator for the San Diego Asian American Film Festival, shares some insight on how the band is embracing their newfound rockstar-dom while also managing to stay true to their roots.
How would you define your style of music?
Rap/rock or hip-hop/alternative. Everyone in the group has different backgrounds in music, and I think that really plays into the sounds we create. Everyone draws on their own experience from punk to blues to classical. It’s been a blessing and a crutch in that we can all bring something new to the table, but it also makes it more difficult to decide on our sounds.
Do you each draw from your respective cultures and ethnicities?
Our cultures and ethnicities definitely help shape the music we create and the type of band that we’ve become. However, it doesn’t define us in anyway. What I mean by that, and I think a lot of other Asian American musicians (or even those in other fields) would agree, is that there are obvious influences in what we do and the songs we create. We will never sell our selves on just being an Asian-fronted group. We want to produce great music first and let that speak for the band. This way, the music can be more accessible to as wide an audience as possible.
None of the songs are about being Asian. However, we agree that the reception from the community has been very positive and we’ve been able to meet some amazing contacts and play a lot of great shows that are culturally based, which has allowed us to reach new audiences we wouldn’t otherwise been able to meet.
Where do you draw inspiration from?
We draw inspiration from other like bands, such as Linkin Park, Gym Class Heroes, and Flobots. I usually listen to groups like this before we play a show or before we write new music. It works out for me, because I listened to music like this before the band, so I was already prepared with the type of sounds we wanted to create.
What makes you all good role models?
Are we good role models? [laughs] I’m not sure if we’re the best role models, but I do think that we work very hard at what we do and there may be a lesson somewhere in that. On the Asian American level, I know that there are very few Asian Americans in the limelight (whether it be actors, politicians, or musicians). We could go on and on about socially and culturally why this doesn’t happen, but simply, it’s good to have people out there with similar cultural backgrounds representing.
What are your thoughts about the Asian representation in the music industry here in the US?
We’ve talked about this before with some other artists and the biggest issue of what’s holding us back is our own community. Because our community is so segmented — Korean, Filipino, Chinese, Cambodian — we find that oftentimes it’s difficult to bring everyone together to support everyone else as a whole. We’re too involved in what our own segmented community is doing that we can’t see the greater good in coming together to support as a whole. I think that this is changing, though, with everyone mixing and mingling in younger generations, and that by the time our children are teenagers, race won’t be as much of an issue.
Stay tuned for afterschoolspecial’s next big project — they’ve promised to keep us in the loop about their upcoming album!