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Epic Beard Men coming to Paris Theater / Preview

By FRANCIS O'LEARY // B. Dolan and Sage Francis, collectively known as the Epic Beard Men, have released their first album, This Was Supposed To Be Fun. EBM will be performing in Portland on April 20 at the Paris Theater as part of their Come to the Sand Dunes Tour.

After 15 years of working together on creative projects of all kinds, B. Dolan and Sage Francis, collectively known as the Epic Beard Men, have released their first album, This Was Supposed To Be Fun. EBM will be performing in Portland on April 20 at the Paris Theater as part of their Come to the Sand Dunes Tour.

For fans of the Francis and Dolan’s solo careers, the release of TWSTBF has been a long time coming. Francis has been releasing music professionally since the mid-90s. After he was exposed to the DIY style of the punk scene, Francis said, via email, “a billion synapses snapped.” He knew established rap labels weren’t likely to take a risk on a “weirdo white kid from Rhode Island,” but that was no longer an excuse to let his music go unheard. In 1996 he founded Strange Famous Records and started turning out cassettes of his recordings.

After the 9/11 attacks in NYC, B. Dolan, overcome with a paranoia that lives on in some of his lyrics, moved back to Providence, Rhode Island. There he established himself in the spoken word poetry scene, including hosting a series of poetry workshops for the city’s at-risk youth. The pair’s first interaction was when Dolan asked Francis to take part in the workshop, a request that was turned down. But, in 2005, having made a name for himself as a lyricist and performer, B. Dolan signed to SFR. He immediately began touring and released his first album, The Failure, in 2008.

Since 2008, Francis and Dolan have appeared frequently on each other’s tracks, from official features to sampling one another to just shouting backup vocals. They released the first song together under the name EBM, 2Bad, in 2013. Three years later, following the 2014 release of Francis’ Copper Gone and 2015 release of Dolan’s Kill the Wolf, the pair performed 20 shows together at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival. Knowing that they were both between personal albums, they saw it as a “now or possibly never” moment, according to Francis. Living together during the 25-day festival, EBM began planning the release of an LP.

The Epic Beard Men say the name of the album, This Was Supposed To Be Fun, has multiple meanings. To Francis, it became a mantra throughout the creation process for the album. While their solo works often tackle heavy political and social topics, TWSTBF was meant to be a lighter album. Further, collaborating with a best friend and trusted colleague should be easy after years of doing it all yourself. Of course, after having total control over your creative output throughout your career, giving up the reigns, at least half way, can be a challenge; hence, the mantra. Dolan’s take on the title is more grim. The song “Man Overboard” is the thesis of the album. Sampling interviews with Fyre Festival guests, the song draws parallels between the failed weekend getaway and the decline of what Dolan calls the “promised land of Fun that is western civilization.” A millionaire ran off with your cash. You’re stranded, fighting a wild dog for a cheese sandwich.

Reflecting the multiple ways to view the title, the tone of the album ranges from fun to anxiety inducing. Songs like “You Can’t Tell Me Shit,” about all those holier-than-thou types who refuse to hear criticism – no matter how valid – live up to Sage’s mantra. “Hedges,” the first single from the album, is more in line with Dolan’s reading of the title. It tells a story of suburban alienation, with two neighbors watching each other suspiciously over the hedge. Dolan calls the song a “tragedy where everyone’s dead on the floor in the final scene.” All of this over the instrumentals that heavily use sampling, a full brass band on certain tracks, soul and old-school hip-hop beats leads to a listening experience that ranges from laughing to looking over your shoulder. Tracks from this album would be at home among the likes of Wheelchair Sports Camp, MF DOOM, Atmosphere (Slug features on one song) and Sole.

Fans can download the album on any service as of March 29. To get a taste of EBM’s music, new listeners should start with “D.I.Y.M.F.S.” from their Season One EP, released last year, or “Man Overboard” from TWSTBF. To keep up with EBM, follow them together at @EpicBeardMen or separately @SageFrancis and @BDolanSFR. Catch them performing with DJ Zole and Vockah Redu at the Paris Theater in Portland on April 20.

 Hedges video:

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