Manchildblack and Monstah Black, otherwise known as The Illustrious Blacks, are heading to Splore this year to share with us their futuristic funk, hypnotic house and cosmic pop. Known for fusing together music, dance, theater & fashion, their mission is to expand minds, shake bootys and save the world one beat at a time. With that in mind, we delved into the dynamic duo’s lives to find out how they got to where they are today.
Tell us about your background and how your careers in music, theatre, dance and fashion started out?
Monstah black: It started out for me pretty young as a child. When I was around 5, I would dance, sing and roller skate at birthday parties and then at 9 I started training in ballet. Throughout grade school I would dance and sing in the chorus and then once I went to undergrad I began to focus more on choreography and dance. After graduating from undergrad I began to focus on incorporating more of my original music into my performances.
Manchildblack: For me it started with a love of theatre, at a young age I would get involved with school plays, so the theatre buzz is what lead me to do what we’re doing now. I studied drama in college and then went on to do a lot of theatre in DC and New York. It comes full circle because I’m able to use that training and theatricality of what we’re doing now as the Illustrious Blacks.
Who would you say are your influences within the industry? (Music, theatre, fashion etc)
Monstah black: Musically my influences would be Prince, David Bowie and Grace Jones. I would say fashion wise I had a huge influence from Vivienne Westwood, Jean Paul Gaultier and Alexander McQueen.
Manchildblack: My influence would be Stevie Wonder, to me he is one of the most rounded musical artists and he uses his music to teach and inspire and uplift people and that is always my goal with anything that I do. So he is definitely the one person I look up to, but I also love Prince, Michael Jackson and Marvin Gaye.
You fuse together music, dance, theatre and fashion, how important do you think that is for the industry today?
Monstah Black: I feel by incorporating all of those things together makes the message more powerful because in the past i’ve noticed that industries tend to stick to themselves, but it’s definitely changed over the years. I think they’re now beginning to filter into each other.
You both rock some awesome outfits, so what would be your festival statement piece?
Manchildblack: We are still deciding on our look for Splore, we were actually reached out to by a designer from London, who is going to help dress us for Splore. They are going to send us lots of stuff and then once we see what they’ve sent we will add our flavour to it. Our look is a mash of different styles and genres. It will definitely be shiny and sparkly - we are huge fans of sparkles. We are mostly influenced by the 70’s, 80’s and 90’s fashion trends and we just like to take those trends and put them in a blender and make them our own.
It’s Splores 20th Anniversary this year and the theme is celebrate, so what are you celebrating this year?
Monstah Black: I feel there is a need to celebrate humanity and embrace all walks of life because right now there is so much separation going on in the world and I just feel it’s important to come together as people and celebrate each other.
Manchildblack: I always say a family that dances together stays together and so that is what I feel our mission is. To make people from all walks of life - socioeconomic backgrounds, genders, races, sexual orientations, come together and celebrate life. With Splore’s anniversary being the theme celebration I couldn’t think of a more timely theme and it’s perfect for us.
When you’re not performing what do you like to do?
Monstah Black: SLEEP!
Manchildblack: We like to watch movies and eat pizza. Monstah likes going to yoga class sometimes. We are real homebodies in our downtime, we like to keep to ourselves.
When you’re performing what is it that you want the audience to feel?
Monstah Black: When we are doing our shows it’s a bit of an emotional rollercoaster because although we create these shows that are full of sparkle and glitter and are happy and easy going, we always focus on some sort of subject that makes people think about where we are today and what’s happening in the world. We want people to take the time to consider about what’s happening and how we can move forward to make change. So, there is an emotional element to it too, but generally people tend to leave feeling elevated and happy.
What’s the inspiration behind your debut EP NeoAfroFuturisticPsychedelicSurrealisticHippy?
Manchildblack: When we did the EP we were trying to think of a description that describes us and our music and our philosophies so we just threw together every word that we could think of and that formed the title. We are basically a bit of all of those things, there is more to it but then that would probably be too long. As Monstah said earlier, we always want to keep a sense of fun but it’s important to us to keep social commentary in our work as well, but make it digestible to the masses.
What’s your life moto?
Live the hype life! That just means live the best life you possibly can wherever you are and whatever your circumstances might be.
Who are you looking forward to seeing at Splore this year?
Monstah Black: Orbital and the The Jungle Brothers
Manchildblack: Orbital because they’re legends but also Rudimental, we watched some festival footage where they performed and they were just awesome! So when I heard we were part of the same festival I felt honoured and I hope we get to catch any part of what they do, they’re just incredible.