A portrait of Sage Francis and B Dolan by A D Zyne in a studio in Edinburgh, Scotland


Far Out Meets: Rhode Island's indie rap group Epic Beard Men

After Internet problems and gremlins in the machine, I was finally able to speak to the Epic Beard Men; a rap duo from Rhode Island, consisting of best friends Sage Francis and B. Dolan. They are here promoting their UK tour which kicks off on tomorrow (1st August) at The Cookie, City Centre, Leicester. 

The guys have been trending recently with their latest single; ‘Pistol Dave’, which features an animated video about the exploits of said person and after amassing a large following in the US, are about to do the same here.

M: So, you guys are the biggest thing to come out of Rhode Island. 

S: That’s right! Say it a little louder for the Rhode Islanders in the back.

M: How did you guys meet?

S: I was a guidance councillor at B’s high school, it was one of the first jobs I got straight out of college, I didn’t really know what I was doing and I wanted to kind of make myself feel better by interacting with a lot of other kids who didn’t know what they were doing.

B: That’s very honest of you to put it that way.

S: So yeah, we ran into each other there as part of a program he was running. He just kinda encouraged me to do my thing and like, eventually brought me out into the Providence Poetry Slam community where he was really active at the time. We were on a couple of Slam teams and kind of became disenchanted with poetry competitions and started, you know, making music and here we are a couple years later.

B: It wasn’t just the poetry stuff, I was also a Swim Captain. It was Swin n Slam, (laughs) those are our origins. It was physical, it was mental and it was just preparing for a future of touring, where you’d have to use your voice a lot but also move your body around a lot.

S: Synchronised Slam (laughs)

M: So, silly question but where did the name of the group come from?

S: It’s not about the beard thing and I knew I was gonna regret the name, but I regret it even more than I suspected because it was (inspired by) a viral video of this old dude on a bus who was confronted by a younger dude, the old guy beat the shit out of the younger dude for talking shit and attacking him. It was called Epic Beard Man, and I was like, that is the spirit of what we’re doing as indie rap senior citizens, like, these young cats wanna step up and talk shit, they get hit.

B: Yeah, it’s basically like getting a tattoo of a meme.

M: Are you gonna keep growing the beards?

B: There’s always a point where there’s too much beard.

S: B doesn’t really care to grow his beard long, like, he combs his beard so it means maintenance. I don’t comb my beard, it can grow as long as it wants until it gets in the way of me having sex time.

M: Does your beard often get in the way of sex time?

S: YES! It just creates a little bit more jungle than I need down there and I’m like aight, time to trim this thing.

M: Surely also, your beards must be a massive hit with the ladies?

S: Oooooh, they love the beards.

B: Get consent before you touch my beard though, ladies.

M: As a bearded man, I get that too.

S: You know actually, our wives made us grow the beards to keep the women away, just because beards are kind of a turn off for a lot of people because there’s a lot of leftover food inside.

M: You describe your music as indie rap but what sort of music influenced you?

B: I think when we realised we were gonna do the two man rap thing, immediately our minds went to a lot of other groups like M.O.P, De La Soul, The Beastie Boys, you know, the group rap thing.

S: And all the wonderful duos that you don’t really see much of any more in hip hop. I think those people make uniquely original music as solo artists and then when they come together as a group it’s a whole different thing. That was a big inspiration.

M: I love the nostalgic feeling I get from your tracks, you’ve got a fresh flow and lyrics set to old school rap samples, what sort of process do you follow when creating music?

B: Well, the bulk of them all kinda started around the same time in an Edinburgh  Airbnb. We got all of the tracks together that we thought could be Epic Beard Men songs, wrote them on a pizza box, taped the pizza box to the wall and then just worked on them for about thirty days. We made a lot of demos during that time. The process that led to what you hear now as the Epic Beard Men took about three years of studio time.

S: A lot of the song concepts and ideas really did come from conversations in the touring environment where we would just talk shit and fall upon some random idea, we’d be like that’d be a fun song to do or something to explore. A lot of that is how the song concepts came about.

M: You guys work so well together, I can’t imagine you performing with anybody else.

S: (Shouts) I never wanna be with anybody else!

M: That’s a lot of love!

B: We spend a lot of time on stage with each other, so we fit into each other’s delivery and stage presence. I think we succeeded in capturing that in our records, which I’m happy about. It was one of the main aims of the album.

M: Insane Clown Posse have Juggalos, Justin Beiber has Beliebers, what are your die-hard fans called?

S: Overall it’s pretty much The Strange Fam. It’s not something that took off on our level but we address the people who follow our stuff on a general level as The Strange Fam, based on our label; Strange Famous Records.

M: Do you guys like to read?

B: I read books as I need, for research purposes mostly. Right now I’m reading a book about Artificial Intelligence which is really bugging me out, it’s called Super Intelligence; Paths, Dangers, Strategies by Nick Bostrom, but I haven’t had the time to read for pleasure in a long time.

S: B reads a lot more than I do these days. I cracked open a book about six months ago, got about three pages in and then had to go clean up cat puke off the floor. I don’t have time anymore, but I love books, I miss them. The next book I was gonna read was Stephen King’s The Stand because I’ve heard how incredible it is.

B: I read most of Stephen King’s stuff when I was a perfect age, like absurdly young, I started reading them when I was in Second Grade. I started with Pet Semetary then read The Shining and Cujo, IT and The Stand, before Eighth Grade. All those things in The Stand were totally effective to me at that time when I didn’t even really understand what adult life was like, so these characters were like super real. There’s been a lot of post-apocalyptic shit since then, But that book came out before it all. I certainly think King is underrated as a writer. He’s part of what inspired me to write.

M: What’s next for The Epic Beard Men?

B: Well, the UK tour then indefinite hiatus, just chilling. We both have solo projects that we are working on, we both have lives, lawn care and trying to figure out how to return Amazon packages, we’re dealing with heavy stuff. Yeah, what’s next is rocking the shit out of these UK dates.

S: We have the video to Crumbs in Every Bag which has just been released, we have a couple of remixes in the works. We are probably just gonna release things sporadically until we’re done with the ‘life’ projects and solo projects that we have, but right now we are gonna focus on the jaunt through the UK, which is bound to beat our ass somehow, I’m not gonna overlook that and be like ‘oh, this is gonna be a blast.’ So I hope you motherf**kers are gonna come out and buy a patch!

Epic Beard Men’s This Was Supposed to be Fun is out now.

Mike Milenko