Know Boundaries

by Dan Vierck
April 2008

Madison's Know Boundaries in Maximum Ink in April 2008

Madison's Know Boundaries in Maximum Ink in April 2008

Know Boundaries, speaking simply, is indefinable. Calling them rap-rock is misleading because they’re, you know, good. Allowing for a more complicated definition, they describe their intention “[to] mix hip hop and rock and not make them two separate styles of music but just one music using the power in both.”

The six-piece, six-year Madison veterans have opened for groups as disparate as Cypress Hill and the Gin Blossoms. They’ve been sponsored by Budweiser’s True Music program, won multiple Madison Area Music Awards and have been showcased at numerous industry conferences.

The band is exceptional in that it follows through on its intention. The music of Know Boundaries has the energy and power of all exciting and powerful music, tastefully brought together in one sound. The rhythm is heavy - a deceivingly simple drum beat paired with an ambitious and audible, but not overpowering bass. This leaves the guitar to flit around on the high end mostly, ducking back into the general groove for the lush hooks and choruses. Out front the band flaunts a cooperative rap-rock ying yang. An easy symbol of the band’s musical ambition, the rapper and singer twist around with each other, always in support - never detracting from one another’s parts. Through all this the keys (a decked out and supplemented-with-gizmos Rhodes) steer this would-be chaotic ship through melodies that don’t get old when they repeat-they get stronger.

They plan to release their first full length studio album (they have two self-released live albums and a studio EP already) sometime late this year. They also have a high profile show with Gingerjake and Sophia’s Revenge coming up Apr. 26 at The Annex. And like any worthwhile band, you can check them out on MySpace at

Recently the band entered into and received first place in the first two rounds of Bodog’s Battle of the Bands, landing them in the regional finals at Chicago’s Metro Mar. 9. The band was passed over in favor of a band that had made it to the final round without a first in either preceding round. The members of Know Boundaries takes it in stride though, relishing in the fact that the winning band had, after seeing them perform, wished them luck in the next nationally televised round to which only one band would advance.

Recently I sat down with Rhodes player a2the, rapper Cloak and bassist J to try and uncover what exactly makes Know Boundaries the most powerful Madison band you haven’t heard of until now.

Why music?
Cloak: You can’t stop doing it - if you ever stop, even for a little bit you just realize that right then that this (music) is something you have to do.
a2the: Music chose me. I’m the kind of person where I have a melody going through my head all the time.
J: I think everybody needs to do something. Whatever is going to make you happy.

Is there something different about this band, be it the attitude or the sound, how you operate that’s different and exciting to be a part of?
Cloak: We have a voting system and when you lose the vote it’s done. There’s no going back. There’s no crying. Well, you can cry but it’s not going to help.
J: Most bands are usually only one songwriter and one lyricist who do everything. I think that’s something that makes our music good, is the fact that we have more like six songwriters working in every song.

What are some milestones for the band thus far?
Cloak: One big breakthrough was deciding that we weren’t going to have, like, singing, rock, rap and funk style music playing in separate, like, me being one lead singer and [a2the] being the other. When we decided that we’d mix it together.

What is the most important thing about Know Boudaries?
a2the: Energy. We all care so much about this, we put our all into every aspect of what we do. It shows and people respond to that.

What kind of effect does not having a ‘Plan B’ have on your approach to the band?
Cloak: It makes me go for broke, you know? That’s what I wanted.
J: In a lot of ways I think having a ‘Plan B’ would make you nuts.

What are you influenced by?
a2the: Anything we take in influences our music. There’s no specific influence you can point to.

How does the new stuff compare to the stuff you’ve done already, or, where’s your music going?
Cloak: That comes back to the name Know Boundaries, how are you supposed to know where your boundaries are? You don’t know where they are until you get there. You can’t try to bust your load on every track; you’ll be standing there with a bunch of goo. Now we have parts that are meant to achieve a certain mood. You can’t put any random shit on the track, you’ve got to think it through and figure out what’s best for the song not you. And that’s what’s changed from our old music.
J: We’re more about getting an idea through the song, and we’ve gotten much better at that.

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