Who: etown with Flobots and Teddy Thompson
When: 7 p.m. Sunday
Where: Boulder Theater, 2032 14th St.
The Flobots believe music has the power to change the world.
The Denver band’s creating a national buzz with its alternative hip-hop tunes and inspiring fans to become active in their communities.
That’s why the Flobots are making a Sunday appearance at etown. It’s a timely week to discuss the environment, and the band will be playing tunes off its latest CD, Survival Stories.
Survival Stories was the last CD the Flobots released on Universal Republic Records. The band had national hits with its 2007 record, Fighting with Tools, and the radio single “Handlebars.”
“We’re no longer with Universal Republic,” emcee Jonny 5 confirmed. “It made sense for us to be independent. For us, it’s about the music movement and fans. It was a big boost to be on a major label, but we’re excited to be back on the grassroots level.
“The music industry is a sinking ship and everyone’s coming up with innovations. We want to build a movement around the music and also contribute something.”
Johnny 5’s real name is Jamie Laurie and he’s one of The Flobots’ emcees along with Brer Rabbit (Stephen Brackett).
Laurie says the Flobots intend to push ahead, and pursue their art and non-profit work.
“We’re really excited about where things are going,” Laurie said. “There are a lot of changes going on and our music is a response to what’s happening. It’s a very interesting time to be a human on this earth.
“You can see people in the Middle East becoming masters of their destiny. Our music will reflect things like that. And Japan is a tragic reminder that our biggest enemy is natural disasters — it shows we all have to band together to survive.”
Laurie has a soft spot in his heart for Japan.
The Flobots’ emcee spent his junior year in college in Japan, and studied the country and its culture.
“I’ve always been into language and worldviews, so I went over there,” Laurie said. “That was 11 years ago, but I was always impressed with the culture. If you stopped and asked for directions to a place — someone would walk you there.
“Seeing what’s happened in Japan is a mixture of sadness and nostalgia. Part of me wanted to go over and help out. We might do something in the future to help, but everything we’ve taken in will go into our songs.”
Yes, the Flobots are mapping out their next record.
The band’s setting out on a spring European tour, and then the outfit focuses on its new music.
“We haven’t been to Europe since 2009 and the tour is really shaping up,” Laurie said. “When we come back we’re going to focus on our new song cycle. Things are just starting to spill out and we’re in the birthing stage.”
The Flobots are a very democratic band. Laurie says the entire group takes part in the recording process.
“It’s a democracy,” Laurie said. “Everything from the drum lines to the lyrics is a process for us. For this new record, we don’t want to have any boundaries or assumptions.
“We may bring in more guest artists and maybe use more digital elements. Lyrically, we’ll pick up where Survival Story left off. We want to create positive songs that tell the story of how we can be proactive and survive.”
There’s still life in the Survival Story tunes. The record didn’t get out to a wide audience, so the band will play several cuts at etown.
“Survival Story was greatly underexposed, so we’ll be playing a lot of the record in Boulder,” Laurie said. “We’re going to rock it out and give people a good show.”
The Flobots love to perform, but the band spends half its time working on its non-profit flobots.org. The community-minded organization was launched in 2007 and it’s steadily grown.
“We’re now focusing on after-school programs,” Laurie said. “We’ve been training artists in Denver to work with kids. The arts have been cut out of school schedules and we want to give the kids something fun.
“We have spoken word artist Adrian Molina, members of Bop Skizzum, Brer Rabbit and myself doing this. It’s great to engage different young people and see the joy in their faces when they learn an instrument.”
Flobots.org is also working to build up its community center and make changes in Denver. The organization’s mission is to create positive social change by harnessing the power of music and those who love it.
“We’re looking to continue to expand on ways to operate holistically,” Laurie said. “We’re going to stay in tune with what people want in music — and create music we’re passionate about.
“When you do that, you create the best possible albums and shows. We want you to be entertained in body and mind. We’ll keep doing what we do and see what opportunities happen.”