Indie-rap superstar Ian Bavitz (aka Aesop Rock) just released an album with longtime collaborators and colleagues Rob Sonic and DJ Big Wiz under the group name Hail Mary Mallon. Their name, along with their debut, Are You Gonna Eat That?, reference Mary Mallon, aka Typhoid Mary, the cook who infected dozens as a carrier of typhoid fever in the early 1900s.
The album is the first Aesop Rock offering to be released on Atmosphere MC Slug’s label, Rhymesayers Entertainment. And that’s because the Def Jux label, which had put out Aesop Rock’s last three records, went on hiatus last year. Instead of mounting some kind of backpack hip-hop Lollapalooza for the current tour, Bavitz instead decided to share the bill with friend and anti-folkster Kimya Dawson. First coming to prominence with Adam Green as part of the New York hipster folk collaborative the Moldy Peaches, Dawson’s profile was significantly raised with the inclusion of eight of her songs on the platinum-selling Juno soundtrack. While some might not be ready for a night of hip-hop and folk, both Bavitz and Dawson told me recently that they’re having too much fun to care.
Scott McDonald: How did you guys get together?
Ian Bavitz: We shared a couple e-mails over the years -- mostly me just giving her a shout to thank her for her music as a fan -- but with no real intention of collaborating. Eventually, I was helping get the 900bats blog off the ground and I thought I'd reach out to see if she'd ever want to contribute. She was in the middle of recording her new LP in Berekely, Calif., and I live in San Francisco. We met up, hit it off, and I ended up working on some of her album, which was beyond exciting for me. We decided to start a separate group project together as well, and she lent some vocals to a couple of tracks on my next solo record.
Kimya Dawson: He e-mailed me a few times, and then I asked him to make a beat for my new record. We met when he came down to the studio in the Bay Area where I was recording. We realized we had a lot in common and became buddies really fast.
SM: Can you tell me a little about Hail Mary Mallon?
IB: Rob Sonic, DJ Big Wiz, and I have been friends and tourmates for many years. We know each other well and have collaborated on each other’s solo works. We always spoke about doing a record together, and the timing just felt right. I think Rob and I have similar sensibilities when it comes to rhyming, and the ideas just kinda started pouring out once we actually buckled down to do the record. We're also big fans of including scratching on our records, so including Wiz was a no-brainer.
SM: Was it an easy transition from Def Jux to Rhymesayers?
IB: We were prepared to just sloppily push this record out ourselves, so having RSE step in with some interest in not only releasing it but getting it out there in time for the tour we were already booking was awesome. They pretty much let us do what we wanted. Between them, Coro who did the artwork, and Alex Tarrant and Justin Metros who shot five videos for us, it was just an awesome effort by everyone -- one I am very thankful for.
SM: Kimya, I know you released a children’s album, ALPHBUTT, a couple of years ago. Any chance you’d do a follow-up?
KD: My daughter Panda and I have been coming up with lots of ideas for new songs for kids!
SM: Any plans to make some more music with Adam?
KD: No. I am really focused on my new solo album getting released and this new group with Aesop and being a mom and trying to tour. Adam and I haven't written together in probably 10 years. And I think it's been almost two years since we've even seen each other.
SM: How is the tour going? People digging the juxtaposition of styles?
IB: This tour has been fantastic. The juxtaposition maybe catches a few people of guard, but overall it's been really well received everywhere, and we're all having a blast. I think both of us are gaining some new fans, and when speaking to the people every night after the shows, they seem genuinely excited about what we're all doing in both our solo sets and shared time onstage. It's been great.
KD: I love this tour. There are maybe a couple people each night who are clearly there for one or the other of us and aren't feeling open-minded enough to pay attention to both acts, and that is totally fine. At any show there are people who are just there for one band. But for the most part, everyone has been so cool, and we all get along so well, that it has just been a really incredible experience. There hasn't been a night where I haven't had people come up to me and hug me and thank me, and tell me they had never heard me before. That is really cool and means a lot to me.