Oxymorrons – Melanin Punks! Masters of Frequency!

“We are all just big balls of energy…”

Exciting the atmosphere wherever they go Oxymorrons collectively refer to themselves as Masters of frequency.” The boundary-pushing melanin punk outfit are vocalist brothers KI and Deee, drummer Matty Mayz, and guitarist Jafé Paulino. I met up with the band at Sugar Studios in Greenwich for their ASBO Magazine photo shoot to find out more about the band, their music and overcoming the gatekeepers. 

“I truly believe that everything is an energy. Music is completely frequency and we’re masters of that. As musicians when you put your ten thousand hours in you learn to control frequency, that’s what we’re doing here. If you even think about it frequency connects to you in so many different ways. I would say a majority of the things, the good, bad, emotional feelings that you have you could probably connect to songs to that time and it will literally bring you back to that emotion and that frequency will touch you in some kind of way.” Deee enthuses, “…We believe in manifestation we believe in what we are putting out into the world, and how that comes back. Music is a huge component of that…The responsibility that we have, to put these things out the way that we are putting them out, matters and that’s why I talk about frequency. The frequency in the room and the transference of energy that’s what we’re doing. If we want to get real deep about it, we are all just big balls of energy rolling around each other bumping into each other and coexisting and if we are going to coexist you have to understand that…”

It does feel as if there’s an element of supernatural force or fate at play with the Oxymorrons when I meet them. The universe seems to be giving them that push. During the photo shoot their tour manager Esteban takes a call letting them know that their single “Look Alive (Netic)” has been the most added song to the rock playlists on US radio that week. Maybe this is what they mean by Masters of Frequency? The band are supporting Slipknot frontman Corey Taylor on his UK and European tour dates when they head to Greenwich to meet ASBO. 

I ask the band how the tour came about, “On a beach in Mexico we were playing with P.O.D. We were raging on a beach and Corey Taylor watched us rage from a balcony…and was really taken about what we were doing (he) invited us to play on his US tour. (For us) He broke rules again as he never takes the same band out twice. Touring with Corey has been amazing, you would think that because of Slipknot and what he represents that he would be a big gatekeeper but he’s not.” 

“Do not be afraid to have sincere and honest conversations.”

“Look Alive (Netic)” is topping playlists in the US but who is Netic? Netic Rebel was a founding member of the band Game Rebellion and one of the minds behind the now legendary Afropunk festival and associated movement. “Without Netic, there would be no Oxymorrons.” 
Oxymorrons embody the sentiment of the late Netic “Risk everything to be yourself” a quote that appears at the start of the “Look Alive (Netic)” music video.  An authentic attitude that has taken them far already and presently finds them across the Atlantic from their native New York. The band are no strangers to swimming against the tide and while they are proud of the New York scene where they formed and describe it as “The perfect breeding ground” Oxymorrons were not without their doubters in the early days. “When we put our music out we were constantly told we were too rock for hip-hop and too hip-hop for rock. When they see rappers they don’t consider it rock.” they continue “It’s blasphemy because where do you think Rage Against The Machine came from?” It’s clear Oxymorrons have no love of ignorant gatekeepers who hold people back from being their true selves. “A lot of hip-hop people associate rock music with things that aren’t of Black culture. If you know the history you know where it came from.” So it was with these firm beliefs the four piece forged ahead continuing the fight and gaining fans for their brand of “melanin punk”

“We are inspiring people to free themselves and be themselves.” Deee explains “Melanin Punk isn’t just the obvious skin tone. It’s more to bring us together rather than to divide people. Black people have a high level of melanin in their skin, however everyone has melanin, whether it is your skin, your eyes or your hair. It is just science, it is straight science.” Melanin is in the biology and Punk culture is in Oxymorrons’ DNA “Punk is the punk ethos – we pretty much blend genres and do whatever the hell we want.” 

“We don’t abide by rules. It is the rebellious energy. It is the notion that we will not confirm. We will unapologetically be ourselves in these spaces and represent who we are culturally at all times. That is what melanin punk is…It is also the way that we define our music at the same time.” 

Jafé adds “When we put both these words together it represents the spectrum of the cultures of rap and rock being put together the way they are and it helps us distinguish that they are no longer such binary things.”

“I think we look at the way we were taught instead of the ways that we are. Who said any sound was owned by any demographic?…All of these are just sounds and frequencies.” Adds Deee “(New York) is a cultural melting pot, you’ve got Dominican culture, you’ve got Haitian culture, you’ve got, Venuswailen culture, you’ve Jewish culture, all these things that represent.” Jafé adds “All the artists that we were influenced by when we were growing up were people who used the power of music to further society, change the laws of countries and to create their own countries within countries.” 

“Risk everything to be yourself…”

In a twist of irony considering New York’s famously diverse culture, Oxymorrons have found themselves having to talk to gatekeepers in the terms they understand. This is why they created the subversive term “melanin punk”. 

I can relate to this as a black creative myself. You could call me black alternative. There’s pressures from within and without the black communities to conform to other people’s ideas of what you should be. It is changing but it’s a slow process just check out the black alternative tags on socials to see people emboldened to be seen in these spaces and to be comfortable with their identities. 

“It is heavy at times to always be on it, we don’t [just] represent Oxymorrons we [also] represent black music – that is the responsibility that we carry, it is excellence at all costs at all times.” 
Oxymorrons by name and in nature, their music has many flavours and the band often challenge live audiences asking: “Would you eat the same food all the time? You wouldn’t! So why would you listen to the same music?” Too right, I am a supertaster when it comes to food and the same applies to the way that I feel about music. I was chatting with Matty the drummer later and riffing on this thought. “You’ve got all these amazing flavours and seasonings and you’re just going to eat plain rice?” No shade on plain rice but try to describe the flavour of it without referring to the accompanying main dish. If you’ve got Gordon Ramsay cooking with only rice, you’re still just going to get mediocre plain rice. You need to create and celebrate with more and Oxymorrons are constantly going further. “Mediocrity is not to be celebrated, we have to constantly challenge ourselves and our people – break through cultural biases that you have – we are showing something that completely dismantles everything.” Deee enthuses “Exactly! We talk about this all the time, it falls on the level of gate keeping in a very strange way where people just like what they like and then just sit on that. And that’s not how you evolve as a society at all…we like to call it the chokehold…” Deee goes on to explain the reason why “…Music is the way it is. It is all about fear…fear of being left out…oh, this is isn’t my thing and if it doesn’t look or feel exactly like this…I can’t/you can’t be a part of this, when in fact everyone is actually multifaceted.”

The album’s recipe has many ingredients and the pot is simmering with exceptional flavours. Standout tracks are Look Alive (Nectic), Graveyard Words and Moon Chasers. The album artwork is inspirational. “Mel who you see on all the covers is the character in a ski mask. Mel is the black punk rocker, Mel is the 13 year old us. Mel the Melanin Punk, we created him and he tells stories. Even the way the singles rolled out – “Enemy” is him telling the space “I’m not the enemy – I belong here!” into “Last Call” dealing with alcoholism – showing that he is a person that also deals with things then the single rolls into “Look Alive” and then “Graveyard Words” – so that is telling a story The artwork culminates that story because Oxymorrons descends and it show what he would be looking at. Little kid me would fall in love with this.”

The album artwork shows “Mel” the melanin punk rocker sat in an art gallery looking up at a portrait of The Oxymorrons on the wall, surrounded by picture frames that have nothing but a solitary question mark in each of them. The image is food for thought – open to interpretation as the main character “Mel” looks up in awe as if to say “That could be me one day…” 

You never know what to expect with the Oxymorrons from their studio recordings to their live stage antics – it feels that no matter what style of music that they create or explore you can feel that the band blend a whole palette of flavours and sounds to create a beautiful aesthetic for the eyes and succulent feast for the ears. 

Oxymorrons remind us that music is for everyone, we have more in common than we do our differences. They are not only kicking down the doors of the gatekeepers they have matches in their back pockets and they are here to burn down all of societies expectations. Melanin Punk is out now on Mascot Records. 

Socials: @oxymorrons , www.oxymorrons.com/, facebook.com/oxymorrons, twitter.com/OXYMORRONS, tiktok.com/@oxymorrons, youtube.com/@OxymorronsTV and a shout out to Ed Rosas @edillustration who created the epic artwork for Melanin Punk. #TwoRsNotOne!  JG