Producer Robby Moncrieff dons new, surprising hats
Robby Moncrieff sits glued to a swiveling office chair in front of a MacBook Pro inside downtown Sacramento’s famed Hangar studio. He’s playing “Lick My Decals Off,” a hip-hop track with a decayed, wandering, almost African beat that features local emcee Illecism rapping about getting paid and McDonald’s.
Over the years, Moncrieff was busy with bands, touring with experimental-indie trio What’s Up? and, before that, playing guitar in the Advantage. Now, he’s forgone guitars and groups and, among other things, is producing hip-hop albums.
How did the switch flip?
“I had been in bands for a long time,” he reasons, “and I just felt like I didn’t want to do it anymore. I was doing this shit in my free time anyway.”
By that he means sitting in a chair in front of a computer and gear, producing other bands, such as locals Appetite and Ganglians, working with rapper Illecism and—perhaps most impressively—producing his own electronic music under the moniker Raleigh Moncrief.
For the producer, this passion for being behind the scenes is nothing new; as a high-schooler, the Bay Area native, who came to Sacto at age 16, got a computer—“a fucking Compaq Presario, a total piece of shit”—and fiddled around with music-programming software such as Fruity Loops and Impulse Tracker. Super nerdy and remedial stuff.
Nowadays, the 26-year-old taps his diverse musical background to create fresh beats in unique ways. Sometimes, he still does it all in computer. Other days, he employs analog instruments, such as the keyboards or synths strewn around his studio space. Now and again, he even creates melodies by mouth.
“There are no rules,” he surmises.
“There are no rules,” mimics Sean Stout, of TerrorEyes.tv fame, who emerges from an adjoining room; he and Moncrieff share studio space together.
Joking aside, the latter mantra is fitting: Moncrieff’s electronic and hip-hop beats truly come out of nowhere—and go places you don’t expect.
His remix of local trio Tera Melos’ “Frozen Zoo” is cadenced like a hip-hop beat, but sprinkled with enough drops, psychedelic synths and punchy guitars to keep you on your toes. Another remix, of Sister Crayon’s “Souls of Gold,” captures the uptempo spirit of the local indie group’s original track in spite of Moncrieff’s liberal and out-of-left-field resequencing.
“I never was for linear songwriting,” he shares. “I always try to steer clear of going places people have already been.”
An instrumental version of his forthcoming debut album, which he began working on earlier this year, called Carpal Tunnels (see http://raleighmoncrief.bandcamp.com), holds true to the unconventional: innovative hooks and rhythms that never submit to wobbly dubstep tendencies, crackling drum ’n’ bass cycles or funky house bass lines.
At the Hangar, Moncrieff plays a final version of the EP’s first track, which features Illecism’s sharp-tongued, treble lyricism against a rich synth-wave backdrop and keyboard melody embellishments.
Other tracks impress, too, such as “Ms. Miller,” with its funky retro hook and vocals by former Sacramentan, now Berliner Fancie; or “Altered States,” with its off-tempo bump-clap and in-your-face synth wanderings.
Just don’t expect to see Moncrieff perform these tunes live any time soon. He hated doing shows in Los Angeles a while back—“How much fun is it to watch someone hit play on a laptop?”—although he enjoyed a recent deejay-set experience in South Korea.
“Still, when the attention is on you as a performer, it’s wack.”
And so, you’ll find Moncrieff hunkered down in his studio—which happens to be former Sacramentan Eric Broyhill’s old spot—pulling at his beard, zoning out on his laptop, crafting catchy-as-hell beats. And he won’t stop—except maybe to drag ciggies with Stout.