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Wheelchair Sports Camp Embraces Its Outsider Status On ‘No Big Deal’

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Photo: Wheelchair Sports Camp press image
Wheelchair Sports Camp

You won’t find any other hip hop bands like this in Denver.

Wheelchair Sports Camp features live upright bass and trumpet -- rarities for hip hop. Rapper and frontwoman Kalyn Heffernan is three feet tall and uses a wheelchair. She even writes lyrics about it.

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Heffernan’s always felt like an outsider in the music world. It’s not only because of her size: Her music was different and she was disappointed in the lack of hip-hop in her hometown of Denver.

Heffernan used that as motivation.

"Wheelchair Sports Camp was started as this rage against the everything that was happening in Denver at the time on a mainstream level," Heffernan says. "I was like: 'Ugh, Denver’s hip hop scene is lame, and nothing’s happening.'"

Heffernan soon found an audience that embraced her music. That community of fans and fellow musicians changed her mind about Denver.

"There’s tons of dope hip-hop here. There’s tons of dope bands here. It’s easy to be in love with Denver."

Heffernan had low expectations when the band first ventured outside Denver. They played some shows in 2011 at the South By Southwest music festival in Austin, Texas. And they got a great response.

Heffernan was shocked.

"Our first trip to South By Southwest was such a game changer for the band. If there were two people that’d be awesome cause it was our first time venturing out of home. And it was the opposite."

Wheelchair Sports Camp also met some like-minded musicians in Austin. One of them was Sage Francis, an acclaimed rapper who runs the label Strange Famous.

The band’s unusual sound and image impressed Francis. He became friends with the group and took them on tour with other artists on the label.

Sage Francis says Wheelchair Sports Camp is different than any band he’s ever seen.

"They are the weirdest crew," Francis says. "Wheelchair Sports Camp take the cake. They put the strange in Strange Famous as far as I'm concerned."

Wheelchair Sports Camp released its debut album in September on the Strange Famous label.

Kalyn Hefferman is proud to put out the album on Strange Famous -- along with other bands that are different or risky.

"We’re excited to have that community or that collective support, you know, whatever we do from here."

Wheelchair Sports Camp now feels at home with fellow musical outsiders. And that’s something the band doesn’t take for granted.

Check out Wheelchair Sports Camp's recent performance for OpenAir Sessions.

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