If you aren’t already familiar with Flock of Pigs, then good luck getting anyone to describe their sound to you.
The band openly revels in their own defiance of categorization, preferring instead to let their fans attempt defining the sound for themselves, and even going so far as to make regular jokes and meme posts on their socials sending up the many common, easy misconceptions about their style.
Music and Film
with Brett Fieldcamp
Yeah, there’s brass, but no, they’re not ska. Yeah, they’ve got a fire-spitting, rapping frontman, but no, they’re not hip-hop. Yeah, they’ve got a band’s worth of middle fingers for the establishment, but no, they’re not punks.
I mean, they’re all of those things at times, but never any one thing for long. Sprinkle in some classical piano and violin, a heavy pinch of Latin rhythms, a splash of old-school jazz, and a heaping cup of soul, and you’ll be somewhere close to the stylistic sorcery they achieve on new single “Blacklisted.”
Toss in a mothership, and they could be the 21st century’s best answer to classic Funkadelic.
“This song is actually pretty special,” guitarist/bassist/composer Ben Renfrow told me, in conversation alongside trombonist Riley Richardson and vocalist/lyricist/frontman Joe Lee. “The spirit is just to be like ‘hey, we’re going to do our own thing and be proud of it.’”
The neck-breaking genre flips were all part of the plan.
“Compositionally, we wanted to throw in as many twists and turns as possible to keep people engaged,” Renfrow said. “We were gone for awhile, so we knew that when we did come back, it had to be the best possible product that we could produce.”
The group’s insistence on carving their own path at all times has had some contradictory results, with fans loving and celebrating Flock of Pigs for their left-field creativity and resistance to labels, while some executives, producers, and bigwigs have been left cold by their refusal to fall in line.
Early buzz for the band led to them receiving some surprising offers and opportunities, but when they started to get a bad feeling about where things were heading, they cut and ran and escaped back to the hometown security of OKC and Norman to regroup.
“We got in contact with someone that was working with a studio up in New York,” Lee explained, “and they knew some pretty important people, like Tom Morello, Post Malone, Bob Dylan. They invited us up to New York to work on some music there.”
The band arrived by car, sleep-deprived but cautiously excited, and got to work writing and developing new material, as well as meeting and collaborating with some of those big names, resulting in Lee dropping a verse on the Tom Morello track “Hard Times.”
But things started to feel off with the producers and managers surrounding the band and pulling them in different directions.
“They definitely had some alternative motives that weren’t brought to our attention until we were there,” Lee said. “Basically trying to separate us, but also with a lot of sketchy business with the rights to the song and what it was for and just exactly why we were there. We actually ended up turning down that opportunity to record or do any business with them, which was followed by a lot of threats and harassment.”
“We were kind of on the run in New York,” Richardson added laughing.
The experience left the band creatively drained and mentally exhausted, and sent them back to Oklahoma to figure out where to go next after declining such a potentially life-changing, yet shady, opportunity. They admit that they haven’t actually spoken about the experience much, and their only clear public indication of the fiasco has been some cryptic Instagram posts featuring redacted screenshots of the harassing messages they are still receiving, with those would-be managers still threatening some kind of non-specific retaliation.
“For about a year, we actually didn’t know what we would release,” Renfrow said, “but this song in particular, you know, the title is ‘Blacklisted,’ because that’s kind of how we all feel.”
“We felt blacklisted by at least that part of the industry,” said Lee, “because we kind of knew what their power was, and it felt like that was keeping us caged and holding us back. So with this single, we’re all so happy to be getting so much love and support, because it really felt like we had to fight for it.”
The response to “Blacklisted,” so far including nearly 4,000 views on YouTube and an appearance on the front page of Reddit, has not only proven that the guys have rediscovered their mojo, but also that their stubborn, foot-down persistence toward doing their own thing their own way with their own sound is actually exactly what drives hungry fans to Flock of Pigs.
“You just can’t be afraid to put yourself out there,” Renfrow said. “That’s what we really try to do. We just try to bring that confidence. You can be different as long as you’re confident about it, and I think that rubs off on our fans for sure.”
“Blacklisted” is available now on all streaming services. Follow Flock of Pigs online at facebook.com/flockofpigs, flockofpigs.bandcamp.com, and on Instagram @flockofpigs.
Last Updated May 18, 2022, 11:40 AM by Brett Dickerson – Editor