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Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, United States | Established. Jan 01, 2013

Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, United States
Established on Jan, 2013
Band Hip Hop Neo Soul




"Bowlsey achieves new highs on EP Elder"

Bowlsey achieves new highs on EP Elder
By James Benjamin | October 7, 2015

Despite clocking in at just over 15 minutes, Elder, the new five-song EP from neo-soul and hip-hop outfit Bowlsey, is the group’s most wholesome listening experience yet.

Elder, released digitally last week, is the follow-up to its 2014 debut Decorous. While that project showed the breadth of musical talent working under the Bowlsey umbrella, it ultimately resembled more of a sampler of everything the quartet can be or might become.

On Elder, each track pulses from the same sonic vein.

“I think, to date, this is our crowning achievement musically,” said instrumentalist Justin “The Reverend” Hogan. “It’s kind of given us a bit more of a compass.”

The band gathered for an interview recently before a show on Film Row.

If Bowlsey sounds more cohesive on its new project, it’s likely because it is the first time all four members have had a significant stake in the songwriting process. When Hogan formed the band with frontman Taylor “Shraz” Mercier and soulful songstress Clarissa “Cid” Castillo, he built on existing songs. When drummer Don Eisenburg came in halfway through recording Decorous, its songs were already written.

Eisenburg’s participation in Elder’s creative process is easily noticed. Hogan called the drums “the star on the album.”

“On my end, I was looking at the more [J] Dilla-esque drum patterns and trying to glitch them up and slice it up just a little bit but not get away from the groove,” he said.

One of the areas in which they shine is on lead track “Powerless,” the most upbeat song on the EP. Its title is a little ironic because Castillo’s vocals are nothing if not assertive.

Her delivery is another bright spot. Her singing dominates both the opening track and the closer, “Voodoo.” The bookends, while tonally different, give Elder a yin-and-yang feel between its brighter first and darker second halves.

While endless hours and repetitive takes in the studio can take their toll on any musician, this was especially true for Castillo.

“I had the worst tonsillitis of my entire life during that whole entire album,” she said. “My tonsils still never went back down. I just had to deal with it and just move on with my life.”

Whatever discomfort her throat might have given her during the recording process, it does not appear to have had an effect on the finished product.

“Snow in Texas” is Elder’s second track and the first song off the EP to see completion. The song features the project’s first rap verse from Mercier, who flows with an unorthodox cadence clear of commercial polish and truly fit for the underground.

Mercier said his verse on the song was developed over time through a series of freestyles over the production. His rap style, he says, does not come out of anything predetermined.

“It’s something where, if you give me that same song in a month, I wouldn’t make the same thing,” he said. “It’s really an exact formula as to how something comes out the way it does.”

The third song, “Wunderbar,” started as a challenge.

“I wanted him (Shraz) to rap over a waltz, so I just played this waltz over and over and tried to do the song as a waltz, but it didn’t really work so much,” Hogan said.

From that starting point, however, the group was able to work through the track, resulting in one of the more harmonious exchanges between Mercier and Castillo, who are known for their ability to play off each other’s vocals simultaneously.

However, the band might be at its best on the last two tracks. “Skred,” Hogan said, was originally called “Real Shit” because of an especially menacing organ pitch-shifting effect reminiscent of something out of the Wu-Tang Clan.

If Bowlsey shows its hip-hop chops on “Skred,” “Voodoo” is its neo-soul showcase. Hogan said before he heard Castillo’s vocals on the song, he did not know if “Voodoo” was even going to make the cut for Elder.

“[Castillo] came in cold on the first take of a scratch track, and that ended up being what we kept,” he said. “We were just blown away. Our jaws were on the floor.”

Though Elder is definitely Bowlsey’s most direct work to date, its short runtime could stand to be lengthened by a few minutes to further build upon the song concepts already in place. “Skred,” for example, is good enough that it practically begs for a second rap verse. Also, while the duets between Mercier and Castillo are the most distinct, and often most enjoyable, part of Bowlsey’s music, the compounded vocals might sometimes make listeners wish they had the song lyrics handy.

Elder’s brevity suggests that Bowlsey’s “arrival” project is still to come. If this EP is indeed a stepping-stone, it’s a very good one. In addition to Eisenburg’s contributions, there’s a level of instrumental layering that wasn’t there on Decorous. Bowlsey fans have reason to believe the band’s next release will be something special.

The band has already debuted its video for “Powerless” and will make one for “Voodoo.” The quartet also spent last week touring with Tulsa-raised rapper Johnny Polygon in New York City before a string of shows leads them back to Oklahoma. This is Bowlsey’s first tour outside of its home region.

The timing of the tour and the new EP, Mercier said, couldn’t be more perfect.

“[Elder] will be a whole lot more of something we can take to people and just spread a whole lot quicker,” he said. “It’s an EP, short little collection of songs. It’s got more of a direction, and it has almost a more placeable genre to it rather than just being folk to electronic to hip-hop.”

Bowlsey is also planning a release for the physical edition of Elder after the conclusion of its tour.

Hear more from the band and its new EP at - Oklahoma Gazette

"Bowled Over"

Description defies Oklahoma City trio Bowlsey. With guitar, organ, synthesizers, rapping and singing all making their way into the mix, “music” is about the only apt descriptor for the sounds Bowlsey makes.

“People will ask us what we think we sound like, and I honestly don’t know what to tell them,” said Taylor “Shraz” Mercier, who does a little bit of everything for the act. “It satisfies all kinds of music, and goes from here to there and back again. Everybody can get on board.”

Joined by singer Clarissa “Cid” Castillo and multi-instrumentalist “The Reverend” Justin Hogan, Bowlsey is fueled by an eclectic diet of Reggie Watts, MF Doom, The Clash, Odd Future Wolf Gang Kill Them All and, strangely, The Beatles. The one act the three find steady comparisons to are Damon Albarn’s not-a-band band, Gorillaz ... in that anything goes.

“I’ve never seen this kind of reaction,” said Hogan, active in the Oklahoma music scene since the mid-1990s. “I’ve been in bands good and bad, but nothing has ever compared to this. This is the most different thing I’ve ever done and really seen around here. It’s also the easiest ... so fun and refreshing.”

After stumbling upon Castillo and Mercier, both recent Houston transplants, Hogan struck up a friendship that soon segued into a musical partnership when he discovered the instruments strewn about the twosome’s home, which Hogan now shares.

“I started off kind of managing and consulting. Then I started writing, then playing, and now I live here,” he said, laughing. “What they were doing blew my mind. I got sucked into it.”

Since officially forming in January, the trio has built a fledgling following enamored with Bowlsey’s unique tunes, five of which can be found on Sleepy Weather, a collection of tracks available for free online. Fittingly, it was released on Valentine’s Day.

Although the band currently is focused on performing live, new music — whether in the form of an album, EP or stream of singles — should see day light by year’s end or soon thereafter.

“There’s definitely enough to have an album. Each of us, being separate songwriters and musicians, have a pool big enough to draw from,” Mercier said. “There are so many things about to happen. It’s just a matter of how we want to deliver it.”

Playing Thursday at Kamps 1310 Lounge, Bowlsey is excited to share its one-of-a-kind tunes, which are only getting better with time, however little has passed thus far.

Said Castillo, “There’s a lot of development to be shown.” - Oklahoma Gazette

"Bowlsey - Sleepy Weather"

Bowlsey is a fearless bunch. Not fearless in that robotic, armor-clad superhero kind of way, but fearless because its members have nothing to lose, so why not rap over that muffled synth-pop track? Hell, you could even plant it between a couple soulful acoustic ballads. Sure, that’ll work.

In a weird way, it does. The budding Oklahoma City trio released Sleepy Weather — a five-song demo of sorts — just a month after the band’s conception, each track abstaining from any semblance of formula. With a range of influences spanning from sultry lounge and folk jangles to Adult Swim hip-hop and chilled electronica, that it amounts to anything more than a hot mess is remarkable. Yet, through a combination of infectious pop construction and an endearing experimental zeal, Bowlsey easily, breezily surpasses this threshold.

Each monikered member offers his or her own unique skill set: Clarissa “Cid” Castillo sings with rhythm, blues and cheeky conviction; Taylor “Shraz” Mercier, multi-instrumentalism and a husky, MF Doom-like cadence; “The Reverend” Justin Hogan, ivory-tickling and compositional clout. But rather than carving out some sort of middle ground, the three precipitously flaunt their individual musical breadth.

It doesn’t always work (almost by design), but when it does — like the intro to “1111,” the outro to “Extracurricular” and pretty much all of “Selfish” — the results are often as gorgeous as they are refreshing. If Bowlsey can capture the same whimsical charm in future releases, Sleepy Weather will go down as the group’s charismatic foundation.

For more information, visit —Zach Hale - Oklahoma Gazette

"Buffalo Exchange"

Some of Oklahoma's brightest up-and-coming acts put their talents on display at last week's South by Southwest.
Zach Hale
March 18th, 2014

"Shortly after I arrived for day two, I saw the members of Bowlsey lugging their organ up a couple flights of stairs.
At the time, I felt somewhat sorry for them, offering to help life the heavy load, but it wasn’t long into their set before I realized how dedicated they are to their craft. Their genre-defying mix of hiphop, jazz, pop and lounge music was easily the day’s most unique confluence of sounds. Organ, horns, instruments I had never seen before — they were all present during the quaint Oklahoma City four-piece’s set." - Oklahoma Gazette

"SXSW 2013: Bowlsey / Desi and Cody / Brave - Oklahoma Gazette"

After an unusually easy commute and parking job, I settled into a chill afternoon at The Buffalo Lounge with Bowlsey, Desi and Cody, and Brave.

The mellow hip-hop and chill-pop vibes of Oklahoma City’s Bowlsey set the afternoon off at a very easygoing pace. Composed of organ, acoustic guitar, synths and gentle beats, the trio’s tunes casually made their way to my ears. Its spartan musical arrangements put the focus squarely on the vocals.

Two of the three members were vocalists, as a male rapper and a female rapper/singer took turns on microphone detail. His tone was clear, strongly listenable and especially memorable. Their closer put all the pieces of the puzzle together, with her vocals complementing the rapped lyrics as a solid arrangement played beneath them.

It was a striking turn. - Oklahoma Gazette


Still working on that hot first release.



Comprised of individual members vocalist Cidward St. Cler, rapper and multi-instrumentalist Shraz Mercier, Rev. Juz10 HoGun jumping across an array of instruments, and drummer/percussionist Donald Eisenberg, Bowlsey weaves a web of indie alternative hip hop infused with sultry soul and lounge-fi atmosphere.  Built on the sounds of vintage organs, synthesizers, and guitars bathed in soulful vocals, and smooth raps, Bowlsey creates a blend of sounds invoking such artists as the Gorillaz, Amy Winehouse, MF Doom, and the Roots.

Band Members