Q&A: LEX the Lexicon Artist

in SF Local Bands by

How did you come up with the name of the band?
I started as just LEX, but I needed to be Google searchable. So I took some time to come up with a pun. “Lexicon Artist” is a play on the words “Lexicon” and “Con Artist” – since “Lexicon” means “vocabulary”, it’s a fancy way of saying I do tricks with words. My backing band is called The Con Artists.

How would you describe your sound?
My music is best described as having the flow and braggadocio of early 2000’s hip-hop, the self-deprecating wryness of millennial memes, the stage energy and antics of a viral pop star, and occasionally, the heaviness of industrial and metal music – all mixed in with references to being a nerd, an Asian-American, and a woman.

When did you first become interested in playing music?
I started playing music when I was 4 years old. I was classically trained in violin and piano. I got into hip-hop at around age 9 or 10. I pursued a variety of music projects until I started LEX at age 22.

What’s the strangest or funniest thing that’s ever happened to you at a show?
Oh, have I got a story for you! So for Chinese (or Lunar) New Year, there’s a tradition of giving money to people in red envelopes. For my Valentines Day/Lunar New Year show at the Starry Plough this year, I put chocolate gold coins into red envelopes and passed them out to the audience. But before I did that, I marked TWO gold coins with hearts. I asked the audience to open their envelopes, and for the ones who had the Lover Coins to come up on stage and receive a Golden Coin Shower. I am not kidding you – when I asked for their names, the two people who had the matching coins – out of 120 people in attendance – had the EXACT same name. Spelled the same. “Chris Reyes”. It was a match made in heaven.

What are you listening to these days?
My peers in the hip-hop and nerdcore scenes. I just produced an Asian-American hip-hop concert, and I’ve been listening to the projects of the three other performers – Ruby Ibarra (Circa 91), Chow Mane (Mooncakes) and Rudy Kalma (Labor of Love). All Bay-based, Asian-American rappers. High-quality stuff.

I’m also listening to more of my nerdcore rap peers – Shubzilla, Mag. Lo, Mikal kHill, Schaffer the Darklord, Kadesh Flow, to name a few. All talented emcees in their own right with very different styles that still fall under the large umbrella of ‘nerd rap’.

What’s your take on why so many musicians are leaving San Francisco for Oakland?
Because Oakland is awesome. I live in Oakland. I do many more shows in San Francisco and have more fans out there, just because there are more venues. But Oakland is super chill, and there’s plenty of nightlife happening out here too. I think where I live, people are less high-strung and more interested in alternative arts and culture. San Francisco is also prohibitively expensive, but I’m not sure if that’s the main reason – Oakland is getting just as expensive. It’s probably just a cultural shift.

What are some of your favorites hangs in the Bay Area and why?
As far as music venues, I love Bottom of the Hill and Elbo Room SF. They’re rap/nerdcore-friendly and I like both playing there and seeing shows there.

The Outer Sunset has some bomb as hell Asian food. I highly recommend this restaurant called Szechuan Cuisine. It’s not easy to get to but it’s so worth it. Some of the best Chinese food I’ve found out here.

One of my favorite bars in the Bay is Prizefighter in Emeryville. I don’t know why. Their cocktails are great and I love the decor.

Indian Rock in Berkeley has my favorite view of the Bay. It’s my go-to fourth date spot.

What does music mean to you?
Music generates a lot of feelings in me. I love listening to music because it makes me feel a wide spectrum of emotions. I’m a very cerebral person and have a lot of trouble dialing into my feelings – except when I listen to music. My goal is to make people feel emotions as strong as the ones I feel when I listen to my favorite artists.

How’d you guys first get together to play music?
I started looking for a band in May 2017 to bring the stage presence to the next level. I found friends that all have their own individual projects, but bought into my music enough to want to play big shows with me. My bassist, Chris Songco, is a nerdy rapper and emcee himself, and a fantastic freestyler. My guitarist, Audie Reyes, has a solo acoustic rock/punk project, and is also a metal shredder – so he brings out a lot of the rock influence in LEX. Ben Visini is a virtuoso AND an incredibly talented comedy musician and musical improviser. We all met at open mics – the Octopus in Oakland and Hotel Utah in SF.

What inspires you to write?
Other people’s music, shows, life events, depressive swings, love, sex, pop culture (movies, shows, anime, fandoms), food, hot showers, walking down the street, dreams that I’m able to remember.

What’s your favorite neighborhood in the city and why?
That’s a tough one. There’s tons to do in SOMA and the Mission. I like the FiDi because of the skyscrapers. It might have to be Embarcadero, though. The skyline is just so gorgeous to look at.

What’s one thing that people would be surprised to find out about you?
People are often surprised to find out that I grew up in Taiwan and only moved here when I was 18. I don’t have an accent and get “complimented” a lot for my “great English”. But that’s because I grew up speaking both English and Mandarin, and went to an English-speaking school. It’s actually not uncommon. Asian people speak English, guys.

Is there anything you’d like to plug?
My debut full-length album, “Raging Ego”, will be released June 6th, 2018, on all streaming platforms. It’s available for pre-order now on thelexiconartist.bandcamp.com. For more information, see my website thelexiconartist.com or follow me on Twitter and Instagram @lextheconartist. Thank you!

An avid drummer whose discography includes albums on Digital Nations (a Steve Vai imprint), music critic Louis Raphael has always kept a pulse on the San Francisco music scene. After many years as the San Francisco Music Examiner for Examiner.com and AXS.com, he decided to start Music in SF™ to share his love of photography and music.

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