by Jeff McAllister
It’s not easy being a fusion band. To lack an explicit genre—be it for record store cataloguing purposes, or for stylistic touchstones—can be to lack an identity. How many times have you attempted to describe an eclectic new act, only to fall short of adjectives? How often do you ask for an album at your local record store, only to be directed to that dreaded collect-all: Alternative. For Tiny Danza – a five-piece hip-hop-soul fusion act out of Toronto, this is a regular occurrence.
Drums x Synth x Guitar x Soul x Rap - the band’s description of its sound—a brand of soul steeped hip-hop that sounds a bit like Lupe Fiasco meets Maroon 5 with a shot of testosterone. Any shorter and something crucial gets left out: rap-rock, rock-hop?
“It says party-rock in our band description,” says Galen Hogg, the group’s emcee, with a bit of a chuckle. “We have to ditch that. When you’re describing the band, people will say, ‘Oh, kind of like Linkin Park,’ and that’s when I have to say, ‘No, not at all.’”
Luckily, such limitations pertain only to vocabulary. Tiny Danza’s sound is as unique as it is unpredictable. Funky guitars coalesce around sunny Donny Hathaway-esque keys. Crooning hooks stitch together careless rhymes. You Could Have It All…, the band’s debut, released this June , is very much an extension of its environment, Toronto, where the band came of age.
“I grew up in a very hip-hop based neighbourhood,” says Hogg, “and I’ve had the luck to bump into a lot of different genres just by going to the shows with friends.”
Despite worshiping hip-hop milestones, like the Wu-Tang Clan’s 36 Chambers, Hogg can currently be found with Regina Spector’s Soviet Kitsch on repeat.
“Just listening to music like that—which is really outside of the box, yet so beautiful—has made me try to make my raps and my rhythmic parts a little more interesting. But you’ll have to wait until the next album for more influences on that one.”
You read that right, You Could Have It All… has been out for just over a month, and already there’s a follow-up in the works. And apparently it promises to be even more genre bending than the band’s last effort.
“We’re stepping out of the box even more. We’ve got a song in 7 rather than 4/4, which is what the most typical hip-hop time signature is. It’s out there.”
Not bad, considering that the group’s first LP took 4 years. Still, a lot could change: Tiny Danza is one of few five-piece acts to evenly split song-writing duties between all 5 members.
“We are all so different and so opinionated. There’s a lot of butting heads over what should be, and what sounds right.”
Despite the occasional criticism, the band seems to be doing just fine.
Beat Fly, You Could Have it All…’s first single was recently authored for Rockband, after the band won a listener judged radio contest. And although the band has been busy playing real music, they’re excited to see how the transposition came out:
“We’ve got it downloaded at our guitarist Matt Russo’s house on his Playstation, and we’re going to go for it soon, but we want to do it all together.”
As for more lofty goals: “eventually some people will maybe come up with a genre for us and stick us in there,” says Hogg. But until then, Tiny Danza will keep on perfecting the unconventional. What else can you expect from a band whose very name is a fusion between a boxer turned tv-star, and a sequined seventies queen?