Recently, we got on Zoom with three members of genre-fluid, Phoenix-based band The Color 8! The Color 8 is composed of Mikal “Kal the Thot Slayer” Benion, Ashton Vaughn Charles, Jeremiah “Jerm” Smith, and Emmett “E. Nash” Ray. In this interview, we discuss their go-to gas station order, the origin of Kal’s “Thot Slayer” nickname, and their fondness for the nut-exploding Mortal Kombat character Johnny Cage. We also touch on the evolution of the ever-changing Phoenix art/music scene, the unique musical elements each member brings to the band, and their upcoming plans for 2022. The band even teases a big Spring 2022 tour and tells a wild story about a shootout outside of a show in San Francisco. In December, The Color 8 dropped their most recent banger, “Mad.”
What is your go-to gas station order?
Emmett: We got QT out here, I don’t know if y’all have QT. I’ll go to a gas station and get a bag of Cape Cod original sea salt kettle chips, and they do these breakfast grilled cheeses at QT and I get egg, cheese, and roast beef. That’s my go-to order. And a water.
Kal: I usually just get gas, but if I go in, I’ll get me some powdered donuts or something.
Jerm: Pack of Newports and a case of Miller Lite. No, just Bud Light.
So, your song “Savage Season,” references the video game Mortal Kombat and always playing the character of Johnny Cage. What about this character appeals to you as opposed to the other six original Mortal Kombat characters?
Kal: I came up with the hook, and I like him because he punches people in the nuts.
Jerm: He’s not the best character.
Kal: He’s not the best, but he can literally explode people’s nuts by punching them, so, he’s pretty dope. It’s a realistic goal that I can achieve. Of all the stuff you can’t do in Mortal Kombat that’s fictional, that’s something you can do.
Your guitarist, Kal, goes by the nickname “The Thot Slayer.” How did he earn this moniker?
Kal: I play the guitar mainly, but I got to a point where I was like, “I want to make different stuff.” And I made a whole little solo project of ignorant trap music. One of the songs on there was called “Use a Thot,” and all of my friends kind of just reference me as that song. I kind of just owned up to it and was like, “I’ll just make that my name.”
Originally, I was just Kal, and it was hard to find me. Like if you searched me up on Spotify, everybody else would come up first before me, I needed a name where if you type it, I come up first. It definitely sticks out. People interpret it in whatever way they want. Some people think I am sleeping with thots. Other people think I am defeating thots with my guitar. It’s kind of funny because it makes a whole little lore and urban legend behind me. It’s kind of funny. I’ll go out of town and people will be like, “The Thot Slayer is here! Who are you going to slay? How many thots have you slain today?”. It’s kind of cool.
Do you punch them in the nuts like Johnny Cage?
Kal: I only punch the thots in the nuts.
As Phoenix locals, how have you noticed the scene evolve and expand in recent times?
Jerm: Arizona’s been real different.
Emmett: I’ve been out here for eight years, and a lot changed. Like First Friday. It’s a thing out here, I don’t know if y’all have it in Chicago, but we do First Friday Art Walk. The first Friday of every month, they do about a half mile and block off the streets for a bunch of art vendors and stuff. We started doing that, it was our first gig ever. We started off in an alley behind this little art gallery. It expanded into something way bigger, to like where we were in this field with hundreds of people around us. It was super dope. As far as the music scene, I feel like there’s a lot more artists. I don’t know if it’s because I moved out here late, or because I moved out here and didn’t know anybody, so maybe I just didn’t know the music scene. It seems like it’s really grown, it’s expanded fast. Phoenix in general is growing like crazy, so I think that has something to do with it too.
In addition to functioning as a band, you take time to share your musicianship individually online. Do you believe your identities as separate musicians differ from your identity as a collective?
Kal: I think that’s what makes us a band, kind of. Individually we all have our own specific styles and stuff. But when you put us all together, that’s what the band is. We try to encourage each other to do solo stuff and figure each other’s own sound out.
Emmett: And because we are so different, that’s one thing that’s really crazy about us. Everybody has such a different background. We somehow just mesh well together. When you see us, people don’t even think we’re a band. They usually think Ashton, who’s not here, they usually think he’s our manager, because he wears a suit literally everywhere. We’ve seen him not in a suit maybe twice in the seven years we’ve known him. Everybody got different styles. If you listen to all our solo music, all of them sound like completely different.
Jerm: We’re very different. Everybody’s very different.
Emmett: We definitely have different styles, different tastes, and different ways of creating when we’re on our solo thing. But it works somehow when we come together. I don’t know what it is.
Your Facebook bio says, “The Color 8 is a music group that is made up of different musicians and music genres to expose ourselves and others to new sounds and new perspectives.” If you each had to pick a genre you represent, what genre would you pick?
Jerm: I really like jazz music.
Emmett: Why would you be jazz, though.
Jerm: I don’t know.
Kal: He’s not your standard guy.
Jerm: I’m your off brand. I’m not Kellogg’s. I’m not like other girls.
Emmett: If I was a genre, I’d probably be reggae. No, I’m just playing. My genre would probably be, honestly like gospel. Gospel would be my genre. I feel like I’m very soulful, the music I like and the music I make personally. I was just raised in church, that’s how I learned to play drums, was playing in church.
Kal: I’d be metal. That’s what got me into guitar, metal and rock. I feel like that’s what I bring to the band. Since we all have our own different genres that we grew up with or learned our instrument with, when we all come together we expose each other to different sounds and time signatures. That’s how we try to make new sounds with our band.
Emmett: That lowkey is kind of how it worked, though. That’s crazy, I never thought about that. Jerm is really like jazz, I’m gospel, you’re metal, and Ashton would be…
Kal: Ashton is hip-hop, I guess.
Jerm: No one knows what Ashton would be.
“Mad” and “Twerked On”, your two most recent singles, vary differently in sound and production. How did these two very different tracks come into being?
Emmett: Those songs were recorded three years apart. “Mad,” we recorded that back forever ago, we were really on the rap/metal wave. That was kind of our thing. And then “Twerked On,” just kind of came about. We were just chilling, and I said some shit like, “getting twerked on,” and we laughed and were like, “We should make that a song” and just kind of put it together. We released it like that because, like we said, we try to introduce people to different stuff and show them we’re not one dimensional. We can be over here in the metal scene, or if you want us to go on tour with Chris Brown, alright, let’s go, we can do that shit too. Just kind of showing diversity.
In light of your single, “Mad”, what’s something that’s currently pissing you off?
Kal: Goddamn gas prices. That shit’s crazy, that shit makes me mad.
Emmett: I’m pissed off about the cost of living. It’s too fucking expensive, bro. I just got my lease renewal and it’s going up four hundred fucking dollars. How is that even possible?
Jerm: Uh…let me tell you… I don’t know…
Kal: His personal problems.
What do you believe is your greatest accomplishment as a band from 2021?
Emmett: I would say two things, really. One was we got to do a quick run with Strawberry Girls back in August, we did some shows out in Texas, which was super dope. They showed all the love. And in California. I went to San Francisco for the first time, that shit was hella dope.
Kal: Til it got shot up.
Emmett: That’s another story, we played a show in fucking San Fran and the show didn’t get shot up, but right outside the venue was a shootout. It was crazy, it was insane, it was wild. But yeah, that was one of our biggest accomplishments, just having shows, because Covid and shit was killing everything. But then also shows out of state, and just being able to travel. And also we just built our home studio, so kind of becoming self-sufficient and just trying to level up. That was a huge accomplishment, we’re going to be able to make a lot more music and have a lot more shit coming out.
What are your upcoming plans for 2022?
Kal: Pretty much, we ain’t really officially said it, but we’re supposed to be on a spring tour coming up. I don’t know if we can say who we’re touring with yet.
Emmett: It’ll be nationwide.
Kal: We’ll hit Canada, it’ll be all over the US. So, looking forward to that. What we’re gonna try to do in the next coming months is stack up a lot of money and get everything ready for when we go on tour so that it can be a smooth transition and we won’t have to stress out when we’re on tour. So we were thinking about doing a GoFundMe, we were thinking about doing exclusive content, exclusive merch.
Emmett: NFTs. And we got a little project on the way, too. We ain’t tell anybody about that yet either, but we have a project that’s gonna come out before the tour. Tour doesn’t start til April, so we have a few months. But we got a little project we’re gonna bless the fans with. World exclusive. You heard it here first.