Some people say that hip-hop is dead. Local band Feral Ground is proving that is not the case. The six-member band, consisting of two lead vocalists, a DJ, bass, drums and guitar, plays what they call “living hip-hop.” Their music, peppered with multiple styles, covers all aspects of life from growing up in the D to playing with fire despite knowing you will likely get burned. Their undeniable chemistry and raw lyrics compose a music that is living, breathing, and connecting to their listeners.
It has been nearly 11 years since Vinny Mendez and Michael Powers conjured up the basement idea that has flowered into the Detroit funk-hop band Feral Ground. Throughout high school the two wrote and rapped consistently, playing shows here and there. The now duo backed their lyrics with DJ Aldo’s beats on and off for years, making him a permanent member within the last year, along with Andy DaFunk (bass), Joseph Waldecker (drums), and newest member, Craig Ericson (guitar). We sat down with Feral Ground and their manager, Miguel Mira, in their basement-recording studio to chat about their journey in the Detroit hip-hop scene.
MT: What was the first live show you went to?
Joe: Weird Al Yankovic at Meadow Brook. It was also the first time I ever smelled weed.
Mike: I saw Erykah Badu at Chene Park.
Andy: My mom took me to a Beck Show.
Aldo: I went to see Ringo Starr and his All-Star band. It was like Peter Frampton on the guitar. It was wild. Dude, their bass player did like a nine-minute solo.
MT: Why Feral Ground?
Vinny: It used to be Ground Zero and this metal band from Ohio messaged us on MySpace. It was like a whole essay talkin’ about how we had to change our name because they all ready had the rights for it and their lawyer was going to step in and sue us if we didn’t. I stopped reading it right then.
Mike: And they gave us a time limit in which we had to change our name.
Vinny: So we started thinking about names
where we wanted to take it and what we wanted to do. We looked up words and came across the word ‘feral’, meaning wild and untamed. So we put that onto the ‘ground’ of Ground Zero. We’re building off of the ground we started on together.
Aldo: We’re still untamed.
MT: You haven’t all lived in Detroit the whole time you have been making music. How did you guys stay connected and working on stuff through those times?
Andy: Well little known fact, I’m actually a telepath.
Vinny: There was one song that was recorded in three different locations on a road trip. Mike recorded his verse here in Detroit, and I did mine in Arizona.
Mike: I think that us all having a similar vision in mind banded us together. We’re a family, sticking it out for real. Like we’re really doing it and going after it.
MT: Do you think that family aspect helps make your music more relatable to your audience?
Aldo: In the fact that we all have our dysfunctions. I think everyone is cultured in their own way but every song speaks of our musical love.
Joe: The family vibe really helps with that because we all care and want to help make each other sound good. That was one of the things that actually attracted me to you guys in the first place.
Vinny: Yeah, we’re like a hip-hop buffet, except for not really, because it’s family style and all the dishes are in the middle of the table and you pass them around.
Aldo: And the fact that there’s Chinese food and ice cream
Joe: We fight like family, too, so we got that going for us.
MT: What are some of the local outlets/bands you are working with currently?
Joe: Shout out to Shawn and all the guys at Groovebox Studios.
Vinny: Ric Pruneda, Dirty White from RawRadioX. Our show on there got us on the bill with Hush at the Magic Stick.
Joe: Mike from the Diesel. Bubba Sparxxx and Afroman.
MT: What do you want your audience to take away from a show?
Aldo: A good feeling. Just a good ass vibe.
Mike: I’m lookin’ to run into a lot of people that see us for the first time and are like, “I’m coming back!” That shit was outstanding
like the first shows that we all saw.
Vinny: We want people to be inspired to do what they truly want to do and not worry about the world out there breaking them down.
To find out more info about upcoming shows, booking, or merch check out feralground.com.
By: Leeann Brown
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