Alt-music fans familiar with Fort Lauderdale's Bleubird know the local MC releases his fresh blend of music through Fake Four Records, and some may know that label is headed by Connecticut's genre-twisting Ceschi. It's not often South Florida is treated to a performance from the multitalented songwriter in charge.
The guy who grew up on New England hardcore sees little difference between the attitude and style of hip-hop and DIY punk. He's got a hard-on for giving crowds the most original, authentic product possible, whether it's in the form of a handmade CD package or a soul-searching, eye-opening bit of lyricism.
To get his point across, he fuses hip-hop beats and a full-range of instruments with a folk-like approach to songwriting. We caught up with the Fake Four mastermind as he sat back seat in a van with tour mates Crunk-Witch -- a husband-and-wife duo making electro-chiptune-bass-heavy jams that are kind of hard to explain but definitely awesome -- in preparation of his upcoming show at Laser Wolf on Tuesday, February 3.
This is no ordinary tour for Ceschi. He just came out of the hardest trial of his life, both literally and figuratively. The label head just got off a year of parole, following a four-month stint in prison after being convicted of a "fake marijuana charge." As he tells the story, a guy he thought was his friend got caught driving with 100 pounds of weed, and when the cops found him out, the so-called buddy said it all belonged to Ceschi. He drove the cops right to his front door.
"I let him in to use the bathroom," Ceschi says. "Next thing I knew, ten cops had guns to my head, threw me in the snow, and threatened to arrest my entire family."
After protesting and asking for a lawyer a dozen times with no response, Ceschi was persuaded to give a forced confession and take the fall. He was sentenced to 18 months but released after four thanks to a Connecticut program for nonviolent offenders without serious rap sheets. It was a hard time in his life, no doubt, but the result is "the most autobiographical album" of his career.
"[Broken Bone Ballads] is the product of waiting through three years of court, going to prison, getting out, analyzing freedom and the idea of finding freedom anywhere you can," he says. "I hope people can relate to it even if they haven't experienced a similar thing. I think that's part of the idea of talking about freedom, the analysis of freedom. It's important to realize that freedom only goes so far within the state. In jail, it's very clear-cut how little freedom you have. You see the boundaries of freedom. But when you get out, sometimes you don't realize there are many boundaries to freedom out here."
For Ceschi, turning in the finished album was "a relief."
"Just expressing the things on that record, just getting them out to the world now finally through this medium, it just feels amazing," he says. "I'm happier than I have been in a long time because of it."
If making the music was therapeutic, his triumphant return to the road after years of trial, imprisonment, and subsequent parole has given the artist that final piece of the pre-jail puzzle.
"I was nervous that I'd lose fans over this thing, and it just seems like it's actually strengthened my career," he says. "I just appreciate being able to do this and this year especially being able to travel wherever I want -- except for Canada and England. They won't let me in."
Ceschi wrote a lot in jail -- not necessarily songs but lots of poems and journal entries. When he finally got out, he turned bits of those writings into many of the songs we'll hear on the new release.
"If there's anything good about prison, it's that chance to meditate," he says. "You honestly get to confront yourself in a way that doesn't happen out here. The world moves so fast out here. Sometimes we don't take that time."
Even some previously written songs gained new perspective, like "Bite Through Stone," one of his personal faves on the LP.
"It was an acoustic song I wrote about seven or six years ago," he says. "I feel like that one song, especially that way that it's on the record, it represents almost everything I do better than any other song I have. It's a funk song with punk elements and hip-hop elements, and lyrically, it deals with totally surreal political ideas. It's about frozen babies waking up during a revolution, and it's a story, but it's obviously all about that concept of freedom and finding freedom."
Broken Bone Ballads was produced with help from Ceschi's Canadian friend Factor. As with albums in the past, they traded ideas, Ceschi laid down live instrumentation, and friends chimed in with horns, accordion, banjo, and the like. There's tons of bass guitar throughout, some sample-based stuff and synths for good measure, and when it was all said and done, a bunch of old acoustic jams from the past decade or so were transformed into something bigger than himself.
"This one felt like almost a band album," Ceschi says. "Everything on the record is fleshed out."
When Broken Bone Ballads gets its official release in April, Ceschi is going all out. He's got four official release parties planned and a tour with a full ten-piece band in the works. He's ready to bring his music to life in a way fans have never before seen, but he's not getting ahead of himself. He's staying focused on the tour at hand, happily playing house shows and old punk venues across the country. Tuesday's show will be no different.
"Even though it's heavy topics, we will have fun," he says. "I haven't been here in years, so I'm really excited. I get to play some shows with my good friend Bleubird. I really like playing Florida, and I don't do it enough, so maybe this will change that."
Laser Wolf's intimate space is the perfect place for Ceschi and Bluebird to get their house-show feel in a public spot. The Fake Four guys are all about communal spirit, and without a stage, there's nothing more communal than beer and bass music. Don't be shy; Ceschi wants you to jump right in, sing along, and dance the night away. His music is a celebration of the room. It's no one-man show.
"I like feeling like this is our show," he says. "I'm about the experience of doing it together. Why else do a show? You can just listen to the record if you're not going to participate."
Follow Kat Bein on Twitter @KatSaysKill.