Local hip hop, rock artists represent PNW sound

Jango, Elvis Batchild will perform in Moscow on Sunday



Jango will perform unreleased music with an “in your face” and “Black rockstar” quality on Sunday.

FRANKIE BEER, Evergreen news editor

The moment Spokane-based musician Jango begins to perform, he feels alive. 

Conflicting emotions of insecurity and strength race through his mind as he remembers each performance is a chance to live in the moment, giving the crowd the space to rage or simply feel something, he said. 

“It’s the most humbling moment because there’s everything and there’s nothing at the same time. The energy that I give off is the energy that they will receive. Imma just give myself, and I hope they receive me,” he said. 

Jango will perform with Seattle-based band Elvis Batchild on July 10 at Humble Burger in Moscow for the last stop on their Northwest Show Run tour. Oregon-based artist Desolation Horse will also perform. 

Doors will open at 8 p.m., and the concert will begin at 9 p.m. Tickets are $10 each. 

Inspired by the rock, punk and EDM presence in the Pacific Northwest, Jango created his hip hop sound – “controlled chaos” and self-expression in its purest form, he said. 

He feels it is important to represent himself unapologetically through his music, so his audience and fanbase, the Goons, feel encouraged to do the same. He wants people to feel comfortable enough to yell or dance without caring what they look like, he said.

To become a part of the crowd and create an experience like the “dopest party,” Jango often crowd surfs or stage dives.

Jango will perform “Merchandise,” his newest release featuring Sam Lachow, at Humble Burger on Sunday.

“Now I’m in the frickin crowd with you guys, I’m sweating with you guys, I’m feeling your energy, then you’re throwing me back on stage, and I’m taking that energy to go harder,” he said. “When I crowd surf, it’s really like a room check – a temperature check – like, ‘how lit are we?’” 

Donning a ski mask and crown and stepping into his onstage persona King of the Nine, Jango claims eastern Washington, “the 509.” The mask is a reminder that greatness can come from anywhere and anyone could be underneath it, sharing their truth. It is just up to them to do it, he said. 

“Being a person of color, I wanted to make sure that was being represented unapologetically,” he said. “I wanted to push the boundaries of what a person of color could do.”

Since the day he was born, Jango said his parents were always singing, and the radio was always playing neo-soul music or Jay-Z and 50 Cent. He also wrote songs with his younger brother and was featured on at least 20 of them before wanting to record his own music, he said.

Now, Jango said hip hop is beginning to thrive in Spokane’s untapped music scene, and he hopes to defy the expectation that it is dangerous or low-quality. He wants to raise the genre’s standard with his quality set lists and a full creative team at his side. 

“We have so many people who believe in the vision we created here that it almost feels silly to fail,” he said. “We’ve really created a platform for us all to stand on. I would never look back.”

Rein Laik, vocalist and keyboard player for Elvis Batchild, also feels a sense of loyalty to the crowd. He wants to create a space for people to be themselves and escape their worries in this “tough time to be alive,” he said. 

“We’re here because people come out to listen. We couldn’t do any of it without them,” he said. “It’s always about community and what we bring to the crowd [and they bring to us].”

The band enjoys performing at smaller venues like Moscow because the youth culture is invested in the performances, whereas Seattleites are somewhat jaded, he said.  

Seattle is where Laik began his music career as a folk musician with only “three chords and the truth,” playing at open mics in high school, he said. He once snuck into Conor Byrne Pub, where Elvis Batchild later met Jango, with a fake ID to participate in its legendary Sunday open mics.

(Left to right) Kit Wesselhoeft, Brad Cleveland, Rein Laik, Nick Cleveland and Will Westbrook will play unreleased music at the Moscow show.

About 10 years later, the five Elvis Batchild band members found each other through Craigslist and Facebook advertisements. Formerly known as Pretty Boy Floyd and Bad Camper, the band eventually changed its name to its current title, inspired by covers from sensationalist Weekly World News, Laik said. 

After a performance in Bellingham and one drunken vote, Elvis Batchild was born. The decision was rewarded by a round of shots from a supportive bartender, he said. 

In a tongue-in-cheek song named after the band, Laik said Elvis Batchild is working on the unreleased song “Batchild Escapes,” following the story of a half-bat half-child who escapes from a lab and tries to become famous in Hollywood. 

​​“We do kind of feel like that little bastard child sometimes, that kind of made its way into the scene and is working its way toward the top, and that’s kind of fun for us,” he said. 

The band’s sound has evolved into psychedelic rock with modulating frequencies and layering sounds. Elvis Batchild experiments with R&B, punk and metal, trying to find their niche in the modern rock genre. 

Elvis Batchild’s inspiration often begins with recording its free-flowing jam sessions, later turning them into concrete themes, Laik said. 

“It kind of feels like the jam itself is the raw data,” he said. “Then you go and listen to it after, and it’s almost like you’re decoding it; like you’re receiving this alien download from some other place or dimension.”

Laik said music is a great vehicle to meet others and spark conversations about equity, mental health and addiction, something Laik dealt with throughout the pandemic. 

In the band’s quarantine song, “Can’t Go Out (Can’t Stay Home),” Laik recounted his experience opening his apartment to people protesting George Floyd’s death in Seattle. The constant noise of helicopters flying overhead inspired a guitar mimicking the sound throughout the song. 

“[I’m hoping to] light these little fires [of conversation]. The blaze of communication and love is unstoppable,” Laik said. 

Jango also faced his personal experiences with mental health in the song “Moonshine.” During quarantine, suicide and gun violence were prevalent in Spokane, causing him to turn to alcohol and affecting him in a “beautiful and negative” way, he said. 

He said his songs are like time capsules for different moments in his life, from expressing his pride in being a person of color in “Espresso” to leaving a lasting impression on his community in “Legacy.” 

“It’s something so special when you see people saying your words,” he said. “It gives me the type of energy that makes me want to go harder, to want to give them more, to want to give them more of me.”