Smile Politely

Opening the Gates

By day, Larry E. Gates II works as an audio designer at video game company Volition. By night and other parts of the day, Gates fronts C-U hip-hop powerhouse Curb Service (when he’s not going solo as Legtwo or Jezebellying with the locals). Basically, Gates is pretty goddamn cool, essentially the embodiment of an audiophile’s dream.

Though, unlike the cliched musician origin tales claiming “my parents knew I had a knack for music the second I exited the womb,” Gates’ story is far humbler.

“I was a late bloomer,” he admitted. “I always loved music but there’s a severe shortage of mentors and musicians in general in Parke County. When I was in college working retail the shipping and receiving dudes started inviting me to hang out. They would build a bonfire and work their way through a case of beer while strumming guitars. That’s when I started to write songs.”

“But,” he added, “let’s be real, I was also writing raps in the fifth grade.”

Raps, beers, fire, and guitars were Gates’ stepping stones on his way to a successful venture with touring band Lorenzo Goetz, releasing an LP, a couple EPs, and playing hundreds of shows across the country. However, according to an interview with buzz Magazine in 2006, Gates said the band needed to call it quits due mostly to touring expenses. That’s when he decided to officially drop some phat beats.

“I bought a pair of turntables and dove in,” he recounted. “I had always wanted to learn how to blend and scratch, but your priority as an touring musician is your rig. Keeping your amp, pedals, guitars and van in good working order, you don’t have the luxury of spending money on other hobbies. But I finally had the opportunity to spring for a pair of decks and started to figure it out…”

Thus began Curb Service, an alt. hip-hop endeavor whose two major releases (2008 debut EP Fly Casual and last year’s LP Romeo Jive) could give the dudes at Anticon and Fake Four a run for their money and swag.

Upon the latter’s release, Curb Service expanded to include the talents of bassist Anthony Gravino and drummer Ian Sheperd, whom Gates had asked to join him for the release show.

“They agreed,” he said, “but only if I agreed that we would be a band. I can’t say no to those cats. How could I?”

With Gates DJing on the fly while simultaneously “playing guitar, singing, rapping, [and] dancing” at any given moment, he said that the addition of Sheperd and Gravino “sound amazing,” and they also allow him to “bounce around a little more,” which he added was “tough to do when it was a one-man operation.”

However, Gates admitted writing for the band has taken a hit.

“It’s a slow process since we’re in three different cities,” he said, “Anthony in Chicago, Ian in Indianapolis, and me here. But, we’re tossing around ideas and trying to block off time for writing sessions.”

Though, Gates is still constantly cranking out tunes. A little over a week ago, he released a collection of beats titled Free Summer Beats on Soundcloud, a collection of mid- and down-tempo hip-, trip-, and various-other-kinds-of- hop instrumentals to “take you into the summer.”

“I always have a folder of works in progress,” he explained. “I’ll purge it every few months. Anything that’s not getting my head to nod goes in the trash. That’s how I made Romeo Jive. I started with 32 beats and widdled it down to 10. About a week and a half ago, I wrote a beat and immediately posted it online. I’ve never done that before. People responded well to it so I just gave them everything else I was working on.”

Gates has been working on several other projects as well.

“I just worked on a song for CUDOs Pens to Lens project,” Gates said. “I did a remix for Elsinore’s new album. I wrote the theme song for Matt Fear’s WEFT show, Fear’s Fun Factory. I continue to produce the podcast You Big Dumb Idiot; I wrote that theme song too. I squeeze in some DJ gigs when I can, my favorite being the Hit It Run series. And, some super secret video game projects that I can’t talk about.”

Despite all that and travelling to and from LA this week to work on voiceover recording sessions for Volition, Gates and the rest of Curb Service will still be ready to deliver a deluxe beats-n’-rhymes pizza right to your ears on Saturday, June 7th (technically, June 8th) at 12:15 a.m., after Cowboy Monkey’s Outdoor Block Party (free “delivery”).

As far as new live material goes, Gates said he’ll know after “rehearsal on Saturday.”

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