Talking with Shadowpact

LEO Weekly

Speaking with the members of Shadowpact, it’s easy to understand their appeal. Comprised of emcees Sleye Kooper and Modern Marvill, and producer Artemis the Archer, they are engaging and kind, which is reflected in their work. While it may not be an intentional aesthetic, there is almost no hint of that hip-hop braggadocio so part and parcel to the genre — replaced instead by an earnestness and passion for what they do, and backed by an undeniable confidence.

They got their start as you do, one foot in front of the other. Kooper and Marvill gravitated towards hip-hop in high school before meeting up with Artemis, gathering their skills along the way.

“I took my rap career from being drunk at high school parties to Dragon Ball Z puns,” Kooper said.

It escalated quickly. Since 2012, the trio has been performing and releasing records at a steady clip, including a string of singles, a full-length, an EP and some especially amazing sets.

“You look at our first show at Solidarity: It’s the same people dropping stuff. Dundiff. Touch. The scene really evolved at Forecastle. If the Louisville scene was a volcano, then that Mercury show was the start of that, then that Forecastle set is when it blew. What helped the scene evolve was the attention that the media [gave] after that Forecastle show,” said Marvill.

The members of Shadowpact have a deft handle on their pen, crafting some of the cleverest and pop-culture fluent rhymes in the game, a fun Easter egg hunt with each repeat listen. They know a clever turn when they hear one.

“Going into a Shadowpact track, we [only] curse a little bit,” Kooper said of their choice of words. “So our curse-to-verse ratio is already pretty low. I don’t know — when I curse, I want it to mean something. I’m not editing that shit out, because I put that shit in for a reason.”

That sharp wit cuts both ways. Sleye recalled a quick change made at a show that called for a little softer language: “So, we were playing an all-ages show, and this shit made me laugh mid-set, drop my mic, and walk off the set. On ‘No Comment,’ Devin goes ‘So I pooped on a loose leaf.’ We didn’t prepare for that. And I looked at him like, ‘You didn’t say this.’ I just died. I couldn’t breathe.”

That tension between pursuing art and keeping the lights on is very real for Shadowpact, and in limiting their time, it impacts their work.

“Some people look at it like, if you really love it, that would be success,” Marvill said. “Success to you would be to work off music. They might think that success is filling a venue. I don’t think that I will ever be 100 percent happy with a job. That’s our major goal — to be able to live off our passions.”

Forecastle 2015 Festival Review: Top 10 Sets + Photos



Photo by Ry Crist

Dr. Dundiff actually got his Forecastle spot by posting a bunch of YouTube pitches promising an epic festival performance. Hip-Hop is often known for its intra-genre competition, diss tracks, and beefs. Dundiff flipped this trope on its head and turned the spotlight on the entire Louisville hip-hop scene. The amazing gesture paid off and featured over 10 local hip-hop artists, including rising stars Jalin Roze, 1200, Bird Zoo, Skyscraper Stereo, and Jack Harlow. Each guest seized his opportunity and made a very loud statement that the Louisville hip-hop scene is bubbling up and ready to boil over onto the national scene. The cherry on top was a brief collaboration with the “mayor of Forecastle,” Jim James of Saturday headliners My Morning Jacket. Dundiff’s selfless set was not just admirable in concept; it also delivered beyond expectations. –Zach Hart


Our 8 favorite sets of Forecastle 2015

LEO Weekly


Parker Millsap
Every day the first set I caught stood out as one of my favorites. And on day one, Parker Millsap, an early-’20s-something that carves out wise-beyond-years Southern gothic folk, impressed me. I’ve known of him for a while and have always been pretty fond of his stuff, but live, he was even better, focusing on his more upbeat songs and using his fiddle player and upright bassist to keep the energy up. Some young musicians have trouble translating their solo roots music to the stage. Not him. On top of that, he has a voice that carries like Sturgill Simpson’s.—Scott Recker

Coming into the festival to a cacophony of dance music and blues-driven guitar rock, it was a breath of fresh air to hear Alvvays, if only figuratively given the brutally-humid Kentucky summer atmosphere. They had an airy kind of dream-pop feel that engendered a relaxing vibe of the sort that would have lent itself to sitting in a lawn chair, preferably with a fan on you, quietly nodding your head to the beat; maybe this is all just wishful thinking brought on by what I believe now to be a mild heat stroke. You could practically feel the cool Canadian air off their music, which I wish would have been a literal sensation. The lead singer kind of had a Maria Bamford thing going on, this fragile northern ego that seems brave in the face of overwhelming odds, of which there were many considering how many people were there. She was cool but aloof, but never off-putting in how she dealt with the crowd, and the band mirrored that easy stance.—Syd Bishop

The illusion of the music critic is that they know everything about all the cool things ahead of time, but insomuch as that applies to Houndmouth, that just wasn’t the case. It’s not that I didn’t familiarize myself with the music, but just that it was a little outside of my wheelhouse in terms of things that might pop randomly on my iPod. Catching them Friday night, I get the hype, even more than talking to their delightfully-friendly guitarist on the phone a few months back. They were a sight to behold, with at least what looked like 8,000 people there to show that kind of hometown support. Their homespun Americana seemed well-earned and sincere, the sort made by folks that just want to tell a good story through song and that they did well. They had some tender moments of the sort that you have to earn, those kinds where you somehow manage to get that many people to settle down while you play your music, which is a remarkable feat in and of itself and a testament to their prowess as performers.—Syd Bishop


Mariachi El Bronx
This was the set for me where I had no expectations going in because I’ve never had the chance to listen to any of their records, but after a friend talked them up, I went to see them. And, when you just stumble on a set and it happens to be great, that’s one of the best experiences you can have at a festival. Clean and cohesive, Mariachi El Bronx — a side project of the L.A. punk band El Bronx — made it obvious that they’ve been playing music together for a while. And with a charismatic frontman who knew how to work the crowd, it was one of the most memorable sets of the weekend.—Scott Recker

Dr. Dundiff and Friends
Dr. Dundiff is a boss producer and as a result of his work has garnered him a number of supporters in the local hip-hop scene. His solo productions are remarkable works of art, a pastiche of jazz and R&B sounds in a manner befitting Stones Throw or Def Jux alumni. Dude knows what he’s doing is the point, so when he brings in the Smoke Shop Boys — the live band that he drums for — it’s going to be undeniably awesome. And it was. This wasn’t just the output of one artist, but a showcase for Louisville hip-hop as a whole. That love and care for everyone involved was apparent from start to delightful finish, whether that involved Shadowpact, 1200, Touch AC, or anyone in between. As a person who has willfully not thrown up the W at a Wu-Tang show (they aren’t the boss of me), I can’t say I am usually moved to crowd participation, but I’ll be damned if a day later I still feel compelled to throw my hands up.—Syd Bishop

Twin Peaks
In the middle of day two, I was ready for some rowdy slacker punk and Twin Peaks delivered. A band that seemed to have dropped and broken all of their collective give-a-fucks, Twin Peaks blazed through a set packed with waves of distortion, jangly leads that were just the right dose of sugar and Mick Jagger-like vocals that always stayed smooth and collected, even on the edge of out-of-control. One of the few bands of the weekend that sounded significantly better live than on record, this was easily one of the best sets and certainly one of the most fun.—Scott Recker


Twin Limb
I’m not sure that there is a band that resonated with me more at this Forecastle than Twin Limb, although there were many that held my interest. A power trio, Twin Limb manages a delicate balance between pre-orchestration and free form goodness; they seem to use sequencing with an equal fervor to live play. The thing for me though, is that they have a laser focus on just writing great music, and don’t seem to give a shit about how they get to that point, be that with computers or acoustic instrumentation. They were a remarkable thing of beauty live, a lithe amalgam of visceral accordion riffs, gentle guitars and triggered drums, all the vehicle for the wonderful vocals. Twin Limb exemplifies the best in Louisville music and do so with a style and grace uniquely their own. For my money, they’re set was one of the absolute best in town, and I only hope that their star keeps rising.—Syd Bishop

White Reaper
Easily one of the most anticipated sets from the weekend, White Reaper delivered exactly what you would hope for. Singer Tony Esposito was all punk fury and youthful sneer, as the band ripped through their set with a breakneck pace that matched the intensity of their music. Their set started off easy enough with someone I didn’t recognize announcing the band, before jumping into the crowd and clobbering audience members in his path, while the band launched into “Cool.” White Reaper are a picture of American cool, of not giving a shit or more precisely in giving just the appropriate amount of a shit in everything that they do, which is primarily directed at just kicking out the loudest jams possible, stacked with the catchiest, most hook-laden riffs around. There was an unforgiving heat during their set, with virtually no shade to be found and any sort of breeze a distant memory, but they still made you want to get off your ass and move.—Syd Bishop

Time delays, hometown heroes and The War On Drugs: Four writer’s recap day two of Forecastle

LEO Weekly

Syd: A slow heat death suffocates us all. The air is a squalid mess and respiration is more like drinking than breathing. The hippy kids there aged high school to maybe-not-high-school are drinking and smoking like it’s their day job, which, given the fact that it’s summer, it might be. All I know is that it’s hot and humid out, and by the time I arrive I feel like I need a shower. Apparently everything is running a little behind. I didn’t know this, because that would imply that I can access their website via my mobile device, or that there was any kind of announcement posted anywhere else, be that digital or physical. This is good news, as my 4:00pm arrival time now means, is that I have an opportunity to meander a bit before I catch Dr. Dundiff and Friends, now scheduled to slay at 5pm. I find the media tent and disappear two bourbons; life’s been good to me so far.

The good doctor and company are all that you want them to be. I can’t say they’re more, or that I was in love with their set entirely, as the sound was, like the ground after last night’s rain, a little muddy. That’s not good news since I posted up near the sound booth, where folks ostensibly should have a good sense for what is and isn’t working for the crowd. Too many of the rappers present — which were most of them from Louisville, at least — didn’t seem to use their microphone voices and rap into the mic. It’s a unidirectional device and you have to coax sound out of it, at least if you want to project. It was either that or the sound was just rotten. Either way, it made the whole set fall just a little flat for me, but only just a little. Highlights included up-and-comers Shadowpact, Dundiff collaborator Touch AC, and the mighty 1200; it was one for the books one way or another.

In the interim, I caught a number of other bands. Broncho and Twin Peaks both held down the chimy indie rock shreds at the WFPK tent, with Twin Peaks especially standing out. Cherub put on a delightfully danceable show that owed more than a little to Prince. I wandered over to catch The War On Drugs, and they were as reminiscent of ’80s Springsteen as I recall, which I process as neither good nor bad.

My night ended up splitting my attention between Sturgill Simpson, and My Morning Jacket. Simpson plays a traditional brand of country that definitely has no qualms with its outlaw status. MMJ made an enormous sound that filled the air all the way to Crescent Hill. It sounded to me that they played a lot off their new record, which is always nice as evidence of a band proudly forging ahead. As the headliners, they were given a wide berth, and ended up with an enormous amount of space to fill, which they did admirably. That space was filled with a beautiful noise soaked in the natural reverb of the Ohio River, perhaps perfect in every way as an attribute to their music. It was an ideal close to the evening.

by John Miller
by John Miller

Scott: The festival gates didn’t open until after 2 p.m., something that I have no sympathy toward Forecastle for. It’s a major music festival that’s been around for a while now and storms happen. Figure your shit out. Have a contingency plan, so people don’t pass out in line waiting for you to open behind schedule, which one person did. Now that that’s out of my system, I’ll move on to the good: let’s talk about Mariachi El Bronx, Twin Peaks and Sturgill Simpson.

Mariachi El Bronx was the first set of the day that I saw. A side project of the LA punk band The Bronx, Mariachi El Bronx just twists mariachi music into their west coast punk sound and it’s great, both in terms of concept and energy. This might be the best book of the festival, having them play the opening slot on Saturday.

Twin Peaks was the epitome of the kind of band that’s essential for your middle of the day pick-me-up punk, dealing in a fuzzed-out slacker punk that gave preference to distorted hooks and Mick Jagger-like howls. Easily one of the best shows of the day.

Kentucky native Sturgill Simpson’s voice carries better than any I’ve ever heard at a festival. I was by the taco truck, two football fields away from Sturgill when he started and I could hear his barroom ’70s-style country completely clearly. He’s someone you should see every time he makes a trip into town.

Twin Peaks by Nik Vechery
Twin Peaks by Nik Vechery


The good: Lower Dens, The War on Drugs, Dr. Dundiff
The bad: N/A
The ugly: Stifling heat

That feeling when you realize you might be old.

Music festivals are great at making you feel old even when you’re not, for so many reasons. Watching really young kids go apeshit for some EDM dude who sounds like Prince after getting hit by a TARC bus you’ve never heard of is one of them (his name may or may not rhyme with Terub). The other is the physiological effects. The heat, the long periods of standing and lack of sleep because you also went to the late night shows… it all hurts, man! Festivals are hard. Why do I do this to my body, which is my temple? Why do we? I’ll explore that at another time.

The woman out there is feelin’ me though, as she fainted from heat while waiting outside festival grounds when the gates were held for 45 minutes. Because of last night’s Biblical smiting of Sam Smith via freak storm, the crew had extra work yesterday morning and pushed My Morning Jacket’s soundcheck back, and in a packed festival day, that set the domino effect in place. As a principle, I don’t cover Jacket shows because, speaking of apeshit, Louisville loses their minds so vigorously and unequivocally when it comes to that band that I feel it’s everyone else’s place. I’m good here. It was nice hearing “Gideon” though, I like that song. Some of my photog friends were admonished for snapping some shots of the early afternoon check. Bummer, but I get it. Image control, fam.

Lower Dens kicked off the day, thankfully at the Ocean Stage under the bridge. They’re not an act appropriate for a sweltering afternoon that felt, to quote my main dude Rob Thomas, “seven inches from the midday sun.” The moody and nocturnal disposition of Nootropics and even moreso on their latest, highly cinematic Escape From Evil deserves a bit more ambience, but Jana Hunter and company took care of business. They stuck pretty close to their synth-heavy latest effort, exposing a whole new audience to Hunter’s resonate, incandescent vocals. “Company,’ toward the end of the set, provided Forecastle with probably the festival’s lone true blue blast of krautrock.

Later at the same stage, Dr. Dundiff was the local hero. Continuing the tradition started by The Pass in 2013 and continued with Jalin Roze last year, Dundiff did it right – get all your dang friends in a supergroup and throw the smorgasbord on stage. And so he did, rounding out his left-field full sound brand of hip-hop with members of 1200, Touch AC, the aforementioned The Pass, and oh hey, Jim James too because why not?

My personal favorite moment was The War on Drugs. I swear to the Baby Jesus that this is not meant to sound braggy or like a discarded line from LCD Soundsystem’s “Losing My Edge,” but last time I caught them, supporting Slave Ambient in early 2012, was in a 200-capacity all ages, no beer room in Bloomington with Sharon Van Etten (who also played last year). Now Adam Granduciel is fielding myriad Chaco-branded beach balls in front of thousands at the Mast Stage. Though a lot of the subtle, shoegazing-informed textures that answer the question “what if Bruce Springsteen blazed really good ganj” got lost in the festival atmosphere, the songs of Lost in the Dream were a gorgeous accompaniment to the fading sun on the choppy Ohio River. They had me feelin’ some kind of way last night.

I’d also be remiss to not mention that ILoveMakonnen is really awesomely stupid. I loved that set, and I’m confident in believing that guy is self-aware. It was so incredibly dumb but really fun. Also, King Tuff, another self-aware artist, greased up Headliners during the Forecastle Late Night Show in all the right ways. Catch him this evening!

My Morning Jacket by Nik Vechery
My Morning Jacket by Nik Vechery

Zach: While the blistering heat tried to win Day Two of Forecastle 2015, a few bands somehow overcame the exhausting conditions to put on a great show.

Lower Dens from Baltimore had a beautifully restrained set and at times my dehydration was mixing with the bands dreamy guitars…putting my mind in a desert oasis mirage state at the Ocean Stage.

The best surprise set of the day also happened at the Ocean Stage as Dr. Dundiff and Friends displayed the wide range and talent of the Louisville hip-hop scene.  Dundiff’s friends included Jalin Roze, 1200, BirdZoo, Jack Harlow, and too many more to name.  Backed by a full band and with a surprise appearance by Jim James…Dr. Dundiff showed that one of the best sets of a major festival doesn’t have to be a huge name.

My night started to hit its high point with two much needed wind down, chill out sets.  The War On Drugs and Sturgill Simpson couldn’t be more different in the way they sound, but both acts had this calm beauty to them and showed off why Forecastle is so special.  The festival offers a diverse array of genres which challenges the festival crowd to go outside their comfort zones and enjoy all walks of music.

Local hip-hop artists threw the biggest 502 party on Forecastle’s smallest stage


LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) – While big name acts like Sam Smith and My Morning Jacket brought in the crowds at Forecastle this year, it was the little Ocean Stage tucked under the interstate that packed in Saturday’s most surprisingly raucous crowd.

Local hip-hop artist Dr. Dundiff worked hard to get himself into the lineup at Forecastle and he brought as many friends with him as he could.

Billed as Dr. Dundiff and friends, the Doctor was joined on stage by the who’s who of local hip-hop acts – many of whom he produces.

Everyone from Shadowpact and Touch AC to Jalin Roze and Bird Zoo – including 1200 Music, Bonez KY and Smoke Shop Kids – packed on to the small stage to drop verses and, basically, put on a big party in celebration of Louisville’s underground music scene. Beach balls, water guns and a hot pink wig added up to one of the better shows we saw all weekend. There’s something about a bunch of guys having a good time on stage that really catches on with an audience.

Of course, everyone was bound to have a good time when local hero Jim James took the stage to join the party. Simply finishing the set adding some backing vocals – the energy was electric and there probably wasn’t anyone happier than Dr. Dundiff himself who gave Jim James a big hug at the end.