Shinobi Ninja are back in Brooklyn, and taking a victory lap after their South by Southwest Tour, and the release of their latest album, Bless Up. The Ninjas rocked at Knitting Factory in Brooklyn for their official release party.
Opening up for the evening were the apocalyptic punk band No Shoes, with their eclectic sound, and ominous themes dancing on the side of macabre.
After No Shoes was Bodega Dream, with a provocative marriage of indie rock and hip-hop.
As Shinobi Ninja took the stage, the energy they brought with them was unparalleled. Lead singer Baby G got on stage with her hair tied in two buns, testing their stability with her hand once or twice before throwing her head forward and letting her hip-length hair flow out, as she banged her head to the music. From that moment all the way to the end of the show, the intensity never wavered.
The Ninjas played old favorites such as their own anthem “Rock Hood” and the feel-good tune “What If Times”, as well as songs from Bless Up, including “Funday.” The band has a great ability to keep the audience involved by hyping up the crowd during and in between songs, as well as using call and response. They also have an uncanny skill in keeping the audience alive with positive vibes and good energy.
Shinobi Ninja’s blend of heavy metal, hip hop, ska, and pop make for one helluva show at high speed, with incredible endurance. Baby G’s background as a professional dancer shines through in her incredible stage presence, and Duke Sims’s versatility as a singer, guitarist, and rap artist showcases the diversity in Shinobi Ninja’s music. Shinobi Ninja also features extra tasty licks from Maniak Mike on guitar, supremely funky bass by Alien Lex, Terminator Dave keeping a tight pocket on drums, and DJ Axis Powers pushing the party to full capacity on turntables.
I was also lucky enough to sit down with Duke Sims for a moment before the show:
Michelle Eliza: You guys got started as a band back in 2008, a lot has changed since then. Technology has changed, the whole world climate has changed all around. How do you guys stay relevant to your audience, and how do you keep your music relevant and what you do relevant?
Duke Sims: I feel like our audience is ever changing, and it’s just growing. So I don’t think we have to stay true to our audience. We just stay true to ourselves, and stay true to everybody in life. Just be an honest fucking person, and that’s it. That’s all you gotta do. 2008, 2017, just gotta be a good person. Whatever the audience thinks of that, that’s on them.
ME: Did you have some kind of vision for Shinobi Ninja when you guys first started? Did you have some kind of idea of “This is who we are, this is what we’re gonna do, this is what we’re gonna be.” Or any clear-cut idea of what you wanted?
DS: In the beginning it was just me, [Maniak] Mike, and [Terminator] Dave. I would just go to their apartment, and we didn’t have a name yet. We were just playing with it in the beginning. We just made music, and these dude’s listen to such different shit, like Sublime and 311. I like all these bands, but these dudes really listened to a specific type of music that was different than the record collection I had. So just getting down with that was just… some top of the mountain shit. Go to the top of the mountain, and do some fucking Led Zeppelin shit. Just on some straight vision, if you’re gonna make this music, it’s not really just me personally writing the songs or something. It’s a combination fucking vision. So definitely, mountain top vibes.
ME: Has [your vision] narrowed over the years a little bit as you’ve become more established as a band? Now that you have a longer set, more songs, more of everything, has that idea changed a little bit or evolved?
DS: It’s just more focused. You start mad fucking broad, or you’re just starting and you don’t know exactly what you are yet, as a band. Once you focus that shit, the more songs you have through the group, the vision gets more focused…. it’s like “This is who we are,” not to pigeon hole yourself, but you know what I mean.
ME: You guys also do a lot of side gigs. I know Baby G did an appearance on Gotham, and you have the video game. How do you balance your side gigs with keeping the band together, and making sure that you have your ducks in a row, both on the side and with the band?
DS: The band is its own energy… Shinobi Ninja is at a level–rising, but at a level to say that things are a certain way. They’re moving at their own speed, and you can’t control that shit. You can’t fucking push it and say, “We’re going my speed.” or pull it and say, “We’re going my speed.” Each individual person, everybody in life has their own speed. Like I put out a solo album. Fuck it, I got time. I wanna do this shit, I wanna make music. Everybody has shit, and there’s time that you have to yourself. As individuals, and as artists everybody has to be creative in their own realm, so that they’re happy as people.
ME: Right, and just keep going at your own speed, whatever that might be.
DS: Whatever your speed is, you gotta stay true to yourself.
ME: Is that something that you think contributes to the longevity of the band within the band, without the audience? Just making sure that everything is tight within the band, the music, making sure you all stay friends, no one’s tearing heads off on tour, and you guys stay cool and stay tight.
DS: Definitely. Positive vibes are very important. We smoke a lot of weed, which really is good. Helps the vibes… But just positive vibes, it’s good. If everybody is doing their own thing, then everybody is happy doing their thing. You can’t control people, you gotta let your friends be free. Everybody should be free in life.
ME: Tell me about some of the ways– I mentioned the video game– that you cross-pollinate to promote yourselves a little bit.
DS: Whatever we have to do to make it to the top of our visions, then that’s what we’re gonna do. So if it’s stickering, or fucking video games, or whatever the fuck we gotta do that’s what we’re gonna do. It’s just hardcore like that.
ME: You guys go on the road a lot, you just came back from South by Southwest. What are some of your favorite places to stop while you’re on tour?
DS: Waffle House!! I love Waffle House. We love Waffle House. Respect to Waffle House. I just love Waffle House, man… We we’re playing on tour and we stopped at a Waffle House, and we met these two dudes that were regional managers, and they had all this fucking gear– Waffle House gear. And it was fresh. And I asked the dude, “Where are you getting this gear? I wanna rock this on stage. I love you guys! I love Waffle House!” And he was like, “Hit me up…” Huge fan, huge fan of Waffle House.
ME: What kind of advice do you have for up and coming bands–specifically in New York, Brooklyn, the five boroughs– that are hustling and trying to do the damn thing, and trying to make it happen for themselves on a local scale, regional scale, or on an even larger scale than that?
DS: Just stay positive, and believe in yourself. Have faith in yourself, have faith in your visions. And just understand that no matter what the outcome ultimately is going to be for you and your band, and you as a musician and an artists, that it’s all good. Just stay positive, and keep doing your thing. Follow your visions, and dream as big as you wanna dream– that’s very important. And that’s it man. I support you, we support you. It doesn’t matter who it is that’s reading this, we support you. Do it, and be yourself, and just have fun.. have fun.