When we discover the right records at the right time, their presence and impact can be life altering and meaningful, viscerally bound to an endless array of chapters, scenes and dialogue in our everyday lives. For Georgia native Kyle Lucas, each crucial song, album and lyric comes to mind fast and furiously, often wrapped in memories that stretch back to his childhood. Excitedly talking about the diverse group of albums that have shaped his artistic style, he pointed to five seminal records whose individual influence has been the most profound, carefully choosing each because as he told Pancakes and Whiskey in mid-January, “If I took all these albums and put them in a blender, they would be like my career now.”
Signed to Big Boi’s Purple Ribbon Records as a member of Vonnegutt, Lucas and his previous group performed at Lollapalooza, Warped Tour, Austin City Limits and the Late Show with David Letterman, before quietly disbanding soon after the release of their 2012 full-length debut, Falling Up The Stairs. Since that time, Lucas has toured frequently, released several mixtapes and has collaborated with artists like Machine Gun Kelly, Cassadee Pope, Jonny Craig, T. Mills, Hoodie Allen, G-Eazy and Big Boi. His first full-length record, Marietta Georgia: The Album, arrived in the fall of 2015.
Raised in Marietta, Lucas and his circle of friends grew up as self-described “skateboarding kids” enamored with hip-hop and rock. Although like anyone living in the home state of Outkast, he and his friends were especially moved by the revolutionary collaboration between André 3000 and Big Boi. Discussing his enduring love for their entire canon of music, he fondly recalled how to this day, he and everyone he knows can recite “every single word to every Outkast album.” Retracing his introduction to the group, he spoke about the immediate effects of hearing a track off the duo’s 1998 album, Aquemini.
“I heard ‘Rosa Parks’ when I was in middle school, and I remember that being so unique that I wanted to look more into the group. I thought they were so refreshing as far as hip-hop goes. And yeah, it’s one of, if not my favorite, hip-hop album of all time.”
Named for the combined astrological signs of the group’s two members, Aquemini is remembered as a groundbreaking record. Although as Lucas explained, their innovative, imaginative nature and subsequent global success was beyond inspiring to him. Praising their artistry and vision, he spoke about how it was particularly meaningful to experience their rise to prominence as a resident of the same state, saying, “I know they’re huge worldwide and they’re like the biggest selling rap group of all time, all those accolades they have, but in Atlanta, they’re definitely like God among men.”
“Hip-hop, up to a point, especially I know they made a big speech at the Source Awards, when they got booed for winning Best New Artist- it was such a New York and LA thing, you know? Nobody from Georgia made any noise as big as they did, and they did it in such a way that everyone felt they represented the South. And I mean, South is always big into party music and bass music as far as hip hop goes, but as far as lyricism and creativity, we had never seen anything as creative as Outkast and Dungeon Family. And them being from Georgia was just like the icing on the cake. And when I signed my record deal with Big Boi, I rapped in a band. And it was kind of a weird fit, people thought, but I was like, ‘No, they’ve been using live instruments with hip hop since they started.’ So yeah, of course they would be drawn to the music we were creating, as far as just rapping in a band with live instruments and live elements. I mean, they were just so creative and ahead of their time. If I listen to Aquemini now, it’s like it could have dropped last week. It’s that relevant.”
Echoing that same level of admiration and reverence, Lucas named Coheed and Cambria’s In Keeping Secrets of Silent Earth: 3 as a major influence. Released in 2003, he spoke about how it represents a chapter in his life, before saying how he can still vividly remember “driving around to it in high school.” A fan of the group’s entire discography, he called the their latest release, 2015’s The Color Before the Sun, “phenomenal,” before naming lead vocalist/songwriter Claudio Sanchez as one of his favorite lyricists. Recently collaborating with Coheed’s Josh Eppard for the drummer’s side project, Weerd Science, Lucas has been close friends with the group since meeting them on tour several years ago. Although to this day, their live performances always transport him back to the days when he first discovered their music.“It’s still like a fan moment when I see them live, even though we’re past that point where we’re all friends and I’ve known them for a couple years, since Warped Tour. But then every time I see them live, I still get the same feeling when I was in high school seeing them. They’re so incredible.”
Heavily influenced by Jay Z’s sixth record, 2001’s The Blueprint, and Joe Budden’s self-titled 2003 debut, Lucas also cited The Papercut Chronicles as an album that he discovered during a pivotal time. Released by the Gym Class Heroes in 2005, it arrived at a point when Lucas found himself working at the local Cumberland Mall, unsure if there was an audience for the music he was creating. Although as he explained, it was The Papercut Chronicles, that convinced him otherwise, “single handedly” motivating him to start Vonnegut. Laughing, he recalled a time when he jokingly told drummer Matt McGinley that he’s introduced so many people to the record that, “I think I need the publishing at this point.”
“They did it so well with live instruments, a legitimate MC. That album is so personal and so what I was going through and what I write about, and like similar subjects. And it came across so well. I was just blown away.”
Discussing the unique space that exists between genres and styles, Lucas spoke about how his own recording career has mirrored being a fan of music that is made without “categories and boundaries,” before acknowledging how, “I don’t know if it’s helped me or it’s been a deterrent, but people don’t know what to do with me. I’m too rock for rap and too rap for rock, and I don’t know if that’s good or bad.”
“It’s like I said, I was an MC on Warped Tour with a record deal from Big Boi of Outkast- it’s so across the board. But I wouldn’t really change it because that’s the type of music I listen to and the type of music I like. And I think at this point now, anyone’s Ipod- if you look at their workout mix or look at their car- everyone’s like that now I feel like.”
Eternally grateful for the records that made him who he is, Lucas wholeheartedly credits each for inspiring his journey as a songwriter and performer.
“Dedicating and finding yourself as an artist in general, these all had such an impact on me. And like I said: if you put all of them in a blender, I feel like they are my career.”
Released this past September, Marietta, Georgia: The Album is crafted to represent each distinct side of his musical personality. Featuring appearances by Jonny Craig, Little Lion, Jon Kunis, STS, Weather, Marc Goone, Chino XL and Academy Is frontman William Beckett, Lucas proudly said that the album covers all his bases.
“This is my debut solo album- if I’m never going to put out another album, these fourteen songs pretty much sum up what I’m about and what I’m influenced by.”
Article: Caitlin Phillips