Some might label it acoustic hip-hop soul, others could call it a deft blend of beats and unplugged instrumentation, The Chicago Sun Times christened the band a slick cross section between “Digable Planets and Jack Johnson,” while On Tap attempted to identity them as “Outkast or the Neptunes…throw in a guitar and more beat boxing, and you might come close.” But no matter what adjectives are put in place, Tennessee-bred/Kansas City-based Scratch Track is an anomaly to the most ambitiously extreme degrees, that is perhaps best left to the words of a New York University reporter who praised the pair as “mind-bending, style-bending and undeniably original.”
Indeed that’s the exact reaction the duo comprised of David “DJ” Lee (singer, beatboxer and songwriter) and Jason “Pistol Boot” Hamlin (singer,guitarist and songwriter) have been gaining since their college beginnings at the top of 2000, which has evolved exponentially thanks to tireless time on the road. In fact, what was once a flurry of campus shows, coffeehouses and clubs soon turned into a arena tour supporting O.A.R., plus prominent opening slots for the boundary breaking likes of The Roots, The Zac Brown Band, George Clinton & Parliament Funkadelic, Jars of Clay, Los Lonely Boys, Erykah Badu, Jurassic 5, Living Colour, Twista, Rehab, Will Hoge, Soulive, DJ Skribble and members of Goodie Mob (to name but a few).
“Our goal from the beginning was to just get on the road and start trucking, and as long as the bills were paid, we were ready to take on whatever challenge the road brought,” reflects Hamlin of Scratch Track’s lengthy lineage. “And sometimes that meant opening for someone at the House of Blues in Chicago and driving through the night to play for ten people at the CBGB in New York. But you build a fan base one person at a time, and we’ve found that most people we’ve met along the way have stuck with us through today.”
Outside of being road dogs, the group’s stayed steady in the studio, starting with 2003's debut The Simple and moving into the following year’s Unreleased Sessions. Come the tip of 2006, the group dropped the EP Interpretation of the Afterwards, followed by the new full-length The Legend of Wild Bill in 2008. In 2010, Scratch Track released the EP “Sirens” which was co-produced by Micah Wilshire. And in August of 2011, Scratch Track released their 6th album titled Brake Lights which was co-produced by Luke DeJaynes.
“Our music has so many different textures, and as we wrote on the back of the Legend of Wild Bill CD, ‘there are no drums on this album- all instruments performed by Scratch Track,’” muses Lee. “We take pride in the fact that what you hear is exactly who we are and that there are a lot of different vibes that all still gel within our style. Scratch Track is always growing and expanding artisically and sonically. We have experimented some with additional instruments on our most recent recordings and even at our live shows, but the core and backbone of what and who we are is acoustic guitar and beatboxing.”
For Lee, that means a steady diet of classic soul stars like Marvin Gaye, plus electronic innovator Beck, while Hamlin often digs deep into the old school Delta blues, crossed with the raucous riffs of Led Zeppelin and introspection of Tom Waits. Outside of catching on like wildfire with fans, Scratch Track’s catalogue has also permeated literally every facet of pop culture. ”What we’re listening to changes all the time,” Hamlin proudly says. ”One week, it might be Johnny Cash and Black Rebel Motorcycle Club and the next week it might be Jay-Z and Michael Jackson. You never know what we might be listening to.”
The group’s vast resume is loaded with soundtrack slots including “CSI New York,” Warren Miller’s snowboarding film “Off the Grid” and Sony Playstation’s “MLB” video game, along with a prestigious performance credit on the Trick Daddy/Ludacris/Cee-Lo collaboration’s top twenty tune “Sugar (Gimme Some).” Given the enormous success in those mediums, Scratch Track caught the attention of Sonicbids, who wound up choosing the group to embark on tours to entertain America’s Armed Forces (including trips to the UK, Netherlands, Belgium, Germany, France and Japan).
“We support our troops and wanted to really give back to them because they’re always in our minds and hearts,” shares Hamlin. “The least we can do is go over there and show them a good time, plus we can bring a piece of America to them, especially those who’ve been overseas for years.”
Still the group remains closest to the college crowd and is often the center of campus concerts all across the country. Not only do these NACA tour veterans (with over 500 colleges under their belt) and 2006 Campus Activities Magazine “Brightest Rising Star” Award winners find that college audiences to be amongst the most opened minded to indie acts, but they’ll also readily embrace an unpredictable musical melting pot that seems to pervade the iPod generation.
“It doesn’t matter if it’s two hundred, two thousand or twenty thousand people, we just bring out as much energy as we have in us each and every night,” Lee sums up. “We’re at a point in our career where we’re writing the most determined material to date and we’re having a blast pulling it off on stage. Even though we play hundreds of shows a year, we actually believe in what we’re doing so much that the songs never get old. And neither do people’s comments, which range from telling us how refreshing we sound to the fact they can’t believe the sound’s so big with only two people performing. So we get a lot of repeat offenders, but we’ll be back to their city soon to pick up all their friends to join us for the ride.”