Mister Burns 17 February 2016 on Rocket Shop
Words by TOM PROCTOR. Photo by JAMES LOCKRIDGE.
Scott Lavalaa, aka Mister Burns joined host Brent Hallenbeck on 'Rocket Shop', Big Heavy World's local Vermont music radio hour on 105.9FM The Radiator. You can find out more at facebook.com/Misterburnsvt/
With his funky beats, a smooth flow and infectious enthusiasm it’s really hard not love Mr. Burns, aka VerMontgomary, aka one quarter of Vermont based hip-hop super group ‘Lynguistic Civilians’. Spitting rhymes since their inception in 2009, Mr. Burns has forged the corner stone of the NE rap game, bringing dope tunes and party anthems to the Northern masses while building the genre in his home state.
Dropping by to discuss the Civilians hotly anticipated new album ‘Gratified Existence’, we caught up with him for a chat and delved into the realms of nicknames, festivals and just what it takes to get yourself on the musical map as a hip-hop artist in Vermont:
Tom Proctor: There's a few hip hop artists in Vermont but yourself and your band really stand out. As the hip-hop movement is a bit thin on the ground in Burlington have you found it difficult to get a following in this area?
Mr Burns: Yeah, especially when we were starting out because the stigma and the perception around here is that hip-hop and rap = bad. You’re never going to get the support you need to get on your feet around here so it's been difficult for a lot of people in the genre to get going. We’re really funky, happy party people, we’re about spreading good vibes and good times. There is a conscious undertone to our lyrics but positivity is the message we like to put out and I think that's a big factor as to why we stand out.
TP: Your name ‘Mr Burns’ is an interesting moniker. Where did that name originate from?
MB: When I was younger I was that kid who came back from summer with a low voice and facial hair, and I came back Freshman year of High School with these massive sideburns. My buddy looked at me and the first thing he said to me was “Montgomery Burns!”. It just stuck, so when I started getting into freestyling and making music I didn’t have a choice with my name, it had already been chosen for me.
TP: You're in the hip-hop group ‘Lynguistic Civilians’, how did that get started and at what point did you become “the best hip-hop group in Vermont”?
MB: It started with Ryan Walsh, we all met through different outlets in town as we all work in the hospitality business. We all linked up at different house parties, freestyling and making music just for fun to the point where we decided to actually do something with it. We signed up to a open mic at Manhattan's, we performed at Nectar's the next week then within seven days we were signed up to a residency. It just catapulted.
TP: Where do you see yourself going as a solo artist and where do you see yourself going as a band?
MB: For the band our new album, ‘Gratified Existence’ is out soon so we’re taking the time to promote that. We’ve got some dates coming up and playing some great festival line ups in the summer. We’re doing ‘Backwards Pondfest’, ‘Martha’s Vineyard SOUND Fest’ and ‘Fest for West’ which is one myself and my brother are organising. Solo wise i’m working on some EPs with local engineers and i’m looking to collaborate with some artists that I really admire, so that’s pretty exciting.
TP: Organising a festival is no easy feat, how have you found planning the event?
MB: My little brother best friend passed away in a car accident in 2010. So it started as a pig roast with just family and friends then it came to the point where there was a decent amount of people coming to make a thing out of it. It’s crazy though, just planning a one day music event takes a lot of people and a lot of volunteers. It's now open to general admission and tickets will be going on sale soon. Check out festforwest.vt for more info on that. . TP: Compared to the availability and range of other musicians in VT there’s lack diversity on the hip-hop scene, is that why you decided to bring session musicians into the work you do?
MB: It came after a lot researching and finding out the difference in royalties from sample based production compared to session based production…(laughs.) You can't get yourself on Soundexchange with other people’s music, and that’s what it basically came down to. But we also really admired the artists who backed us up, we had them back us up on stage as well so it made sense to have them come record with us.
TP: What advice would you give to emerging hip-hop artists trying to break through and develop the Burlington scene?
MB: Well side note real quick, vermonthiphop.blogpot.com was run by a friend of mine, Justin Bowler for a few years but recently Ive taken over and revamped it. Im looking for this to be a hub for people to figure out what's going on in the scene, what shows are happening but also a place for young artists to post their own music. A place where people can receive input and feedback for their music and develop their skills. You have to put yourself out there first if you know what I mean? But back to the question, I would say for any up and coming artist to fully research and take to the time to find out how to promote and market yourself because now days, unfortunately, it's not all about the music. Big Heavy World is a great resource to help you get started, you can learn about venues, you can get in touch with resources and other artists. But yeah, ask questions, look around, introduce yourself to different people, go straight for the talent buys at different venues, just hit them with an email and take it from there.
TP: Is there any places that you see as a stand alone venue for emerging hip-hop artists?
MB: I would say Manhattan's open mic, it’s an incredible place that a lot of artists have gone through. Radio Bean is a great one as well and there's a lot of other venues that support artists that will let you get your foot in the door even if you can't guarantee a crowd.
TP: You're playing a lot of gigs in the summer, but will there be a nationwide tour to coincide with the new album?
MB: Oh definitely. All the other projects that we've worked on got rushed and we kinda went on the road not in support of that project rather just ‘cos we figured we needed to. But this time we’re looking to buckle down and market it properly before we set off on a tour. We really want this to be huge for us and reach markets and gain followers we haven’t had so far. But we’ve done well for ourselves on the NE circuit so we’re definitely going to concentrate on that.