FROM SOUTH BROOKLYN TO SXSW
Brooklyn rockers Shinobi Ninja are by no means typical—their idiosyncratic sound meshes hip-hop, electronic, and rock influences into a chaotic hodge-podge of sound.
You would think this would make their music discordant, but it’s connected by a powerful, underlying force: their undying love of Brooklyn, New York. The increasingly-gentrified borough and what it used to represent resonates deep with Shinobi Ninja: bassist Alien Lex and lead singer Duke Sims born and raised in Bensonhurst, and they prize getting a rock education the Brooklyn way.
The rest of the band—rapper and female lead Baby G, twin brothers Terminator Dave and Kid Shreddi, and DJ Axis Powers—quickly accustomed to the vibes of the true Brooklyn and the hustle that comes with it.
A band that still sleeps on the floor of their tour van and do what they must to bring the party is rare these days, something the band prides themselves on. Attending their 6th SXSW this year to promote new album Bless Up, the band couldn’t be riding higher (in more ways then one; they closed their SXSW performance on the Cheers Rooftop Bar outdoor stage with “ILL ISH,” a song they recorded back in 2012 that features the refrain “Drinking, smoking weed / And all types of ill shit!”
We sat down with bassist Alien Lex and lead singers Baby G and Duke Sims after their energetic set to talk about their new album, being a true Brooklyn band, and being iconoclast ninjas artists in a world where most wouldn’t make the effort.
SHINOBI NINJA INTERVIEW
E.R. (HIGHLARK): You said this wasn’t your first SXSW.
DUKE SIMS (GUITAR + VOCALS): It’s like our 6th.
E.R.: I wanna ask you about the Brooklyn rock scene, because you identify very strongly as a Brooklyn band but I didn’t hear a lot of that in your sound. I’m wondering how you see the current scene and if it affects your sound at all.
BABY G (VOCALS): The Brooklyn rock scene?
E.R.: The indie rock scene that’s thriving in Bushwick, specifically.
DUKE: The Brooklyn rock scene is interesting because it was very, very strong a long time ago, when Adam and me were growing up in Brooklyn. L’Amour and all that. As we were making our way thru the Brooklyn rock scene, we began to notice many things about it that were very interesting; it just kind of started to disappear, and I feel that increased our fire.
We wanna do this for all the people we hung out with growing up, out of a desire to spread the love and spread the music because you have a great place like L’Amour close down, and it began a slow decline of that scene. We just wanna make it fucking burn—we just wanna fucking rock out, and we don’t wanna see anything like that happen ever again.
ALIEN LEX (BASS): I wanna add that the Brooklyn rock scene has a lot of bands we don’t know about. As OG Brooklyn people, we don’t know about the imports people that go there and say they from Brooklyn but they really not from Brooklyn. They make up part of the scene, so I don’t know if we can really speak on that because of where we’re coming from.
DUKE: The metal scene, the hardcore scene, that kinda shit is what we’re talking about. Big ups to Brooklyn, especially everyone who’s tryna rock. All the people in northern Brooklyn who we don’t know bout because we’re not from there, we love you too.