Need-to-know basis

Knowledge Lives Forever

From left, Gia Torcaso, Knowledge, Kris Stosic and Travis Dunn of Knowledge Lives Forever hanging out at Strega bar.

From left, Gia Torcaso, Knowledge, Kris Stosic and Travis Dunn of Knowledge Lives Forever hanging out at Strega bar.

Photo By Audrey Love

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Mash-ups, new songs that combine two previously existing songs, have been popularized by mainstream artists like Danger Mouse and TV shows like Glee. Reno band Knowledge Lives Forever creates a readymade mash-up of hip hop and funk rock.

The difference between Knowledge Lives Forever and other rock-hip hop hybrid bands, like Limp Bizkit and Kid Rock, is a propensity for political awareness and the lack of “hos and 40s” in its music. It’s also a genuine mash-up of prerecorded hip hop beats and live rock music.

Rapper Knowledge, 25, born Chariell Smith, had been spitting poetic lyrics on her own before she mashed her poetry with the live music of bassist Gia Torcaso, 30, drummer Kris Stosic, 29, and guitarist Travis Dunn, 28. They became a four-legged creature.

At a recent rehearsal, the band members vibe off of the collective talent in their sardine can-sized practice room, no bigger than a large bathroom, sans shower.

Knowledge stood at the mic facing her bandmates like the conductor of an orchestra, instead of with her back to them like some rap artists. Her braids, pulled back in a baseball cap, hit mid shoulder. Baggy jeans completed the ensemble.

In the corner of the cramped room, Stosic sat behind his drum set, warming up his tattooed arms, bobbing his head to the beats.

In the center, stood the tall, statuesque Dunn. He stepped among the many effects pedals he uses while playing.

“He tap dances while he plays,” said Torasco.

Her spritely physique and pixie haircut seem opposed to the gigantic strength with which she slaps the bass.

Their diverse musical backgrounds help explain their sound, with the group growing up on everything from Jimi Hendrix to Debbie Gibson, from Nirvana to gospel.

Although the band members want to start writing together, Knowledge currently provides the songs. She composes basic tracks on the computer and suggests to her band mates an emotion or color to help the feel of each song. This is followed by a jam session, with each member contributing until the song is complete. As the songs progress, some of the initial beats get phased out, allowing for more flexibility.

Knowledge Lives Forever creates upbeat music that doesn’t rely on Glocks and gang wars or sex to sell. The band’s collective story would not fit the bill for 8 Mile II, and Smith doesn’t like to write songs about clubbing, drinking and hitting it from behind.

“There’s so much of it out there already,” she says. “Even if I were to do that, there’s a hundred thousand ducks in a pond, and I’m just one of them. I try to tap their inner booty.”

Instead, she writes about love, life, social structures and the music industry. The band’s music ranges from mellow, blues-infused songs with serious lyrics, like “Prop 8,” to feel-good music with elaborate guitar riffs, like “The Sunshine.”

Both the music and the lyrics could easily stand on their own, which is why the songs could be described as mash-ups. Together, they create a sound as enticing as ketchup and cottage cheese; they aren’t meant to go together, but it sure as hell tastes good when they do.