Things to Do

Local Listens: Food For Animals

Welcome to Local Listens, where we profile some of our favorite Washington musicians. This week, we shine the spotlight on Food For Animals.

Photo courtesy Hoss Records

Food For Animals is one of the area’s most original and eclectic offerings. The hip-hop group combines a steady stream of flow from its two Silver Spring emcees, Andrew Field-Pickering (Vulture Voltaire) and Sterling Warren (Hy), with mind-bending production from Baltimore’s Nick Rivetti (Ricky Rabbit).

The title track off the group’s 2007 release, Belly, melts multiple layers of effects and sampling into a genre-bending assortment of free jazz, techno, psychedelia, and an almost machinelike chaos of buzzing and clanking. And that’s all before Field-Pickering and Warren start to rhyme about swallowing cities, the Cold War, brainwashing, Ronald Reagan, and ghosts.The way the band formed, Field-Pickering explains, is relatively straightforward: “I met Nick a long time ago through a friend. And then one day I found out he made sick beats.” After the duo recorded Scavengers, their first EP, Field-Pickering got a job at the AFI Silver Theatre in Silver Spring. That’s where he met Sterling, and the three have been together since.

The music, however, is anything but clear. Whether it’s a mix of jazz drumming, looped yawns, and pounding synthesizer effects on “Swampy Summer Jam” or the distorted vocals and volatile speed changes of “Mutumbo,” Food For Animals has unabashedly proven itself to be a highly experimental force capable of wreaking havoc on the current landscape of hip-hop.

Make sure to catch Food For Animals when it performs at the Velvet Lounge on March 10.

For now, check out our Q&A with founding member Andrew Field-Pickering.

Andrew Field-Pickering / Vulture V Cool Water Max D.

Age: 25.

Hometown: Silver Spring.

First song that made you want to play music:

“It would have to be a Talking Heads song of some sort. My mom and brother and I used to bop around the house to it all the time. I know for a fact that the first thing that made me wanna rap was 'The Riddler' by Method Man, off the Batman Forever soundtrack, which I got in what . . . fifth grade?”

First instrument:
“Brief trombone action in fifth grade, then I promptly switched to drums.”

Local spot to seek inspiration or write music:

“I usually get a lot of inspiration just bopping around listening to either my iPod or beats in my car or whatever. For my beats (as Maxmillion Dunbar) I get inspiration from sitting in front of my laptop and jamming. I actually make sure to write things down a lot because I usually just piece together random ideas for FFA songs.”

Best local venue:

“I dig the sound at Velvet Lounge a lot—shout out to Sam! I dig La Casa in Mount Pleasant, any house, Trinidad & Tobago. As long as FFA beats can get really loud, I’m cool with whatever venue. Floristree in Baltimore is great, too.”

Best bar to hear music:

“I will kind of change the question around to mention just how sick the jukebox is at Ben’s Chili Bowl. If I’m gonna vibe out and listen to some tunes, they got the shit in there. Some Luther, some BB&Q Band.”

Favorite local band other than your own:

Protect U. Sick, sort of deep cosmic electronics mixed with a Mr. Fingers vibe. Very cool shit.”

Best thing about Washington’s music scene:

“It’s a super-small town, so you can meet a lot of people and vibe with them. Or conversely, you can know you don’t vibe with them.”

Worst thing about Washington’s music scene:

“I think the low point was a couple years ago, but shit is on the up and up and up these days. I’d say the worst thing is that more venues need to grip on a subwoofer.”

Craziest tour memory:

“I forget!”

Rolling Stones or the Beatles?


Digital download or hard copy?

“Hard copy if it’s vinyl, digital for everything else. CDs are about to be trash, I think.”

Rolling Stone or Spin or . . . ?

“In seventh grade it would’ve been Spin, but I dunno—neither of those mags have given me a music boner for years.”

Club show or festival?

“I really like festivals—there’s something real sick about playing to a lot of people. But club and house shows are a tight vibe, too. I’m cool with anything, really.”

Where was the first ever Food For Animals performance?

“Portland, Oregon. Shit sucked.”

What’s your current live format like?

“Hy on mike 1/FX, yours truly on mike 2/FX, and Ricky Rabbit on live laptop whirlwind. It’s by far our simplest (and thus best) setup.”

Is there a new record in the works?

“Yes, for sure. It’s definitely our most wild one to date. Should be out in the fall (fingers crossed).”

When introducing your music to someone for the first time, what song do you play?

“ ‘Shhhy’ or ‘Mutumbo,’ which is better because Sterling (Hy) actually raps on that one.”

Favorite musician or band that sounds nothing like you?

“Oh, the list is way too long! But right off the top of my head, Mi Ami, from San Francisco. So psyched to have toured with them, especially because the only trait we really share is brutal loud rhythms.”