Flobots’ ‘NOENEMIES’ Will Feature A Mass Community Choir

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Photo: Flobots NOENEMIES Denver event in March
Flobots' Jamie "Jonny 5" Laurie (left), along with Travis Branam of the 303 Choir, led the "mass choir" of community members through their lyrics during a "NOENEMIES" event at Denver's Capitol Heights Presbyterian Church on March 12, 2016. Boulder brass band Gora Gora Orkestar accompanied the group.

Flobots are at work on a new album. This production process, however, is different than how the Denver hip hop group has approached past recordings.

Since 2014, the Flobots has hosted events across Colorado to record a "mass choir" of community members. The project is called "NOENEMIES," and the band returns to Denver's Capitol Heights Presbyterian Church Saturday evening for a half-hour workshop in conjunction with the Congress Park Earth Day Festival.

Photo: Flobots NOENEMIES sign
A sign posted on the entrance of the Capitol Heights Presbyterian Church in Denver on March 12, 2016.

At a "NOENEMIES" event last month, a note posted on the church's entrance started: "Yo! Enter this building at the risk of stepping out of culturally enforced boundaries."

Music wafted from the sanctuary. But these were not songs of prayer; these were songs of social protest. Pews full of several dozen people sang, "I am a sleeping giant. There lives a riot in my bones." They raised their voices with members of the youth ensemble 303 Choir, Boulder brass band Gora Gora Orkestar and the Flobots.

Some who showed up for the event were apprehensive to sing with people they didn't know.

"It's scary," Jacob Adams, 25, said. "I'm not gonna lie."

Adams said he learned about the event through Urban Peak, a nonprofit that supports homeless youth and holds weekly jam sessions for the musically inclined. He said music has been his salvation.

"To get to a point in my life where I am getting back with music -- not only just by myself, but with a community of people who want to see changes in their community -- it makes me feel like my life has come full circle,"Adams said.

Flobots rapper Jamie Laurie, known to many as Jonny 5, said the project was inspired by the late Denver civil rights activist Vincent Harding, who was a speechwriter for Martin Luther King, Jr. Harding encouraged the band members to practice activism through music.

"This is our effort to respond to his call, 'Hey, Flobots. You guys are musicians. Where are the songs for today's movement?' " Laurie said. "And we thought, 'Well, I guess if we want songs for today's movements, we have to get together and create them.' "

Photo: Flobots NOENEMIES March community event
People in the pews swayed to the music at the Flobots' "NOENEMIES" event on March 12, 2016 at the Capitol Heights Presbyterian Church in Denver.

"NOENEMIES" is also the name of the Flobots' forthcoming double album. The first disc will feature new studio recordings, and the second will feature music from these community sessions. Some of the tracks are originals or contributions from artists involved in the project, such as "Sleeping giant" by the Denver poet Suzi Q. Others are traditional songs but with new messages. Some morph into melodic chants. They touch on themes like racial injustice, immigration and pay equity.

"These days we're so isolated and with this election cycle there's so much negativity," Laurie said. "When you're processing that as an individual at your computer, it can be infuriating, it can be terrifying and it can be disempowering. By getting together in a community setting and singing together, we're... unifying people from all different backgrounds. That is the reality of this country and that's where the power lies."

Nikki Signer of Denver said she heard about "NOENEMIES" at the 2015 Marade, an annual march and rally in Denver that commemorates Martin Luther King Day.

"It was an inspiring experience to be among people that I had never met before and sing really personal songs that you can tell we all connected with on a deep level," Signer said. "To have communities come together and sing, there's really nothing like it."

Photo: Jacob Adams, Flobots NOENEMIES March event
Jacob Adams of Denver sings along at a "NOENEMIES" community recording session on March 12, 2016.

"We forgot how to just be compassionate human beings with one another," Adams said. "Music actually tears down that veil and that barrier in order to let people understand, yeah we [all] feel the same things."

Flobots have said the "NOENEMIES" message is for the public more so than for politicians -- with the hope this music will inspire people to get involved in a social movement that is important to them.

The Denver band has yet to announce a release date for the forthcoming two-part album. It has reached out to similar projects throughout the country though.


Watch Flobots in the CPR Performance Studio: