Ephelant & Time are Stephen Vining and Chris Steele - a duo of politically minded rapping producers who are as comfortable discussing Chomsky as they are referencing Kanye West. Their latest project How To Sew Wounds With Words has been highly lauded by Vice and fellow rappers - who have been spellbound by Steele's “...tales of predatory real estate developers, vampiric banks, poisonous patriarchy, Bolshevik ghosts, and the soul-sucking pursuit of capital.”
This is a project that approaches subject matter with confrontation and rage, but without ever brimming beyond control, detonations are placed and executed well.
ARTISTdirect caught up with Ephelant and Time to get a quick look into the lives of the men behind a movement that's gaining momentum.
Where are you right now?
Time: I’m in Denver surrounded by empty coffee cups.
Ephelant: I am at my house, in my studio room.
Please name your fellow band members and their roles... oh, and who has the best dance moves?
Time: I go by Time, my name is Chris Steele, Ephelant has the best dance moves, he can moon walk like a zombie.
Ephelant: Chris “Time” Steele & I put this project together. I’m pretty sure Chris has the better dance moves. I only dance as a comedic tool to make people laugh.
Tell us about your new project: Who did you work with? Where was it recorded? What’s it about? Is there candy?
Time: Our new project is called How to Sew Wounds With Words, Ephelant did all of the production on the album and dropped a verse on the track “My Shadow” as well. We also had Giuseppe from Minnesota and Shannon from Church Fire on the project. I recorded all of my vocals in my apartment with my tuxedo cat.
Ephelant: This album was really fun to work on. Time pulled in fellow Denver artists Church Fire & Giuseppe & Kyle “Scratch” Jones did the mixing & mastering. Most of it was recorded in my home studio on rainy days. I’d send Time music in batches & he’d get back to me with his ideas of where to go, etc. The overall feel of the album is totally by Chris’s design & I think he is trying to highlight the external influences in our world that have a negative impact on growth in an individual. He offers a solution for us by expressing the need to focus on the internal self to bring about change in society as a whole.
How do you describe your music to new friends?
Time: Melancholy Bugatti rap.
Ephelant: I have described it a lot of ways, but mostly I just say I make hip hop. When it’s blended with Chris’s poetic lyrics, I tend to make political, yet personal music.
How did you first meet, and where exactly did you become a band?
Time: Ephelant and I still have never met! We first started talking over Twitter and I’ve done tracks on his albums and he did some production on my last solo Newstalgia and from there we decided to do a full project.
Ephelant: Chris & I met in 2012. I was looking for artists to collaborate with on a project called “Plan 9” & came across his music and loved it. I sent him a message talking about Ed Wood & we vibed out about old sci-fi movies. I instantly knew we were going to make music together. We decided to do a joint album about a couple years ago, but we didn’t really start putting in work until the beginning of 2016.
Other than your music, what should your hometown be known for?
Time: Denver should be known for its radical scene. Despite having laws that criminalize people for being homeless not allowing them to sleep outside with a blanket and for having one of the most violent police departments, activists like Denver Homeless Outloud, Black Lives Matter, and other autonomous groups keep organizing to fight for people’s rights.
Ephelant: I am from Augusta, Georgia. It’s known for James Brown & The Masters golf tournament. However the entire Broad Street parking corridor & the penthouse on top of the Lamar building were designed by architect I.M. Pei. That’s the same guy who designed The Louvre Pyramid. Most Augustan’s don’t realize they are walking around in a downtown half designed by I.M. Pei. Augusta is a beautiful city & will always remember it for it's slow pace & quiet life.
Please look around you right now and please describe the first item or person you see that’s significant to you...
Time: I’m my studio I have a painting by Denver artist Liz Holland, it’s of a wolf and a raven. Liz takes care of animals and volunteers at a wolf sanctuary as well, you can check out her art at Lizhollandart.com
Ephelant: She is my grey ghost & her name is Duchess. I found her & her kittens living under a garbage bin over a decade ago & I brought them all home.
What first inspired you to pursue music? If it was a musician or a specific piece of music, please tell us all about why you find it so inspirational...
Time: I started rapping when I was 13, I had an urge to just keep writing and writing, the obsession turned into battle rapping and releasing my first album in high school. Fresh Prince, Talib Kweli, Mos Def, Ras Kass were always and still are an inspiration to me.
Ephelant: For me, I have always wanted to be a musician. I think much is the same for Chris. It’s just in us. However it was Rza from the Wu-Tang Clan that made me realize I could actualize my dream by effort. The power of having others with the same vision is key. I’m happy to have found that with Chris.
What’s the best advice anyone has given you about pursuing a life in music?
Time: The best advice I ever received about pursuing music was from AwareNess, he said bring ramen lots of ramen on tour cause these venues lie and won’t always pay.
Ephelant: I used to work in a major studio here in Atlanta & the best advice I ever received came from B.O.B. He said don’t wait for opportunity to start knocking down your door, go knock on opportunities door and don’t leave until it answers.
Not including your current crew, who (alive or dead) would you love to have in your van for an all day drive from gig to gig?
Time: I’d love to travel with Cornel West to pick his brain on topics.
Ephelant: I would like to have Danny Brown in my van. I think anywhere on Earth would be fun with that dude around.
What song best sums up your life right now?
Time: The song “Riot” by OG Maco, the indigenous tribes are being invaded in North Dakota by oil companies, police keep killing people of color with no consequences, the world is burning up, and rent keeps going up, the system needs to change.
Ephelant: This is a good one. “Real Friends” by Kanye West. I really feel that song in a lot of ways. Ever since I have been on The Walking Dead & our music is having more success I have had a lot of woodwork friends appear back in my life. It can be very hard knowing who amongst you is real and really has your back.
What is the best reaction to your music you have experienced so far?
Time: When we toured toured Europe a few years back and people knew the music out in Paris that was a dope feeling. We just got word that Talib Kweli is digging the new album so that is surreal, he is one of my inspirations.
Ephelant: Vice was a big deal for both of us I think. I once had Young Jeezy say “that white boy made that?” which was pretty cool. However, the reaction to How To Sew Wounds With Words has been phenomenal so far. I’d love to say what is most exciting to me right now, but it’s still in the works. I’ll just say it’s nice when someone you grew up listening to and idolizing turns around and listens to your music and the feeling is mutual. Having that respect from our creative contemporaries is an immensely good feeling.
Take a moment to dream - Where do you hope to be a year from now?
Time: On stage for our sold out show.
Ephelant: A year from now I hope Time & I are performing this album on much larger stages and venues. I hope our next album will just be about to drop!
What’s your next step towards that dream?
Time: I’m almost done with an album produced by AwareNess under the group name Calm., I’m halfway into an album with Giuseppe and also working on a new solo, not to mention Ephelant and I are working on new tracks.
Ephelant: We’ve already taken it. We are four or five songs deep on a new album titled 1985.
For more information visit Ephelant and Time on ARTISTdirect