Poverty Funk

February 19, 2014
2 mins read

The band’s name is a challenge, a dare.

We’re a sucker for a good dare.

When Folio Weekly sat down with the punk-rap group, Raw — the frontman, real name Jamal Oakes — tossed his knotted dreadlocks, ran his tongue over his golden teeth and explained, “It’s not that we don’t care about anything. Ask us our opinion, ask us what we think. We’re going to do what we want, and if you don’t like it, well, ask me if I care.”

Their sound is as uncomplicated and unapologetic as their attitude. With only a drummer, bassist and rapper, Askmeificare has churned out several thumping anthems in the past year. It’s a sound borne of necessity as much as ingenuity.

“We’re poverty funk,” drummer Joe Rocher says. “We can’t afford other instruments.”

And so their music is dense, charged and heavy, like punk-rock syrup pouring from your speakers and melting your ears like butter.

“When we started, we couldn’t find a bass player,” JLee Lassiter says. “So, I said ‘fuck it’ and picked up the bass. When I heard the distortion and feedback, I loved it.”

The members formed an unlikely trio spawned, like many dubious things, from a Craigslist ad. Jam sessions followed, and soon all hell broke loose. They’ll tell you that the only thing they agree on is a mutual love for coitus and Moon River Pizza.

Armed with songs like “So We Fight,” “Wiped Out” and “S.L.U.T.,” they’ve rampaged every stage possible in Northeast Florida, becoming one of the hardest-working local bands out there.

“The bands in this scene are like ducks in a row,” says Raw. “It’s too safe. No one wants to shake it up.”

Askmeificare is the antithesis of the shiny, heavily produced pop acts that put Jacksonville on the map (we’re looking at you, Yellowcard). The bandmembers’ hunger to be heard has landed them on festival stages, where loyal fans, branded with the band’s question mark logo, swarmed and moshed, feeding the band’s merciless ambition 
— and cocksure swagger. What they lack in polish they make up for in willpower.

“When we came out at first, no one was there for us,” Raw says. “Every show, we were building that fan base. We pull people in and they get hooked. We like that. That’s how music should be.”

Rocher agrees. “We’re like dope dealers out here. Making it one deal at a time.”

At their core, there’s a refusal to be marginalized, to be commoditized or packaged into one neat category or another. They also don’t like to follow rules.

This led to antics like crashing First Wednesday Art Walk last year. The guys brought their equipment and a PA system into the crowd and began blasting out music and taunting the cops. They couldn’t be bothered with things like application fees, wristbands and the other accouterments necessary for a performance to be approved.

“We have music people need to hear to better their lives,” Raw says.

You might call that arrogant. They’d call it punk.

True to that genre, Askmeificare’s songs run the message gamut from getting wasted to political injustice. Raw says that if they sing about sluts, they’re really talking about relationships. If the lyrics are about getting wasted, the real message is about the dangers of a reckless lifestyle.

(Could have fooled us.)

“For us, it’s about putting on a good show and getting people involved,” Lassiter says. “We want our shows to have a good atmosphere for the fans.”

But that isn’t enough. Askmeificare wants to be more than just your buddy. They won’t settle for less than the world. The timeline looks something like this:

2013: Blow up the Jacksonville scene.

2014: Take the show on the road across Florida.

2015: Embark on their first national tour.

2016: God help the rest of the world.

“We want to go further, faster,” Rocher said. “We’re not trying to be only a local band in four years. We want to get to the masses.”

Those poor, unsuspecting masses. o

Folio is your guide to entertainment and culture around and near Jacksonville, Florida. We cover events, concerts, restaurants, theatre, sports, art, happenings, and all things about living and visiting Jax. Folio serves more than two million readers across Jacksonville and Northeast Florida, including St. Augustine, The Beaches, and Fernandina.

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