The ups-and-downs of the music industry only fuels the fire for this duo.
What do you do if someone you trusted stole $5,000 from you, a backpack containing your entire life’s contents was ripped off, and you’re forced to live in a garage? Personally, I’d go running, crying home to mommy and daddy.
But not Brian Penn.
Penn is a very gifted and honest rapper with a knack for projecting his passion onto crowds. Mike Rist, his best friend/little brother from another mother, is an equally talented drummer whose intensity rivals Penn’s passion.
Together, they are label me lecter, a Columbus-based hip-hop duo slowly taking Columbus by storm.
Penn’s nearly two-decade long journey through the music industry hasn’t been an easy one. Before Penn got linked up with Rist, he was working with a hot shot producer from New York who saw great potential in him. Full of trust and hope in this industry savant, Penn coughed up $5,000 to get his album finished.
But just as soon as Penn got him the money, he went entirely off the grid—no phone, no email, no Facebook, no trace.
“I was devastated,” confessed Penn. “I was 33 years old at the time. I remember thinking, ‘This is a wrap for me. Thirty-three-year-old rappers don’t get to start over now.’”
Au contraire. Penn instead used the scam to stoke his artistic fire. He called up a buddy and asked for a keyboard—a keyboard he had no idea how to play. He learned the instrument from scratch, starting with “Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star.”
“I had literally never played a musical instrument,” said Penn. “I had no idea what I was doing. It was all out of pure anger after that dude stole money from me.”
At the time, Rist was in college at Ohio State, tinkering around in the music scene as a fill-in drummer for fraternity brother band, The Forties. Rist and Penn had collaborated before but by 2013, the pair were thick as thieves as far as friendships and bandmates go.
Thus, label me lecter was born.
But wait, it’s not ‘happily ever after’ for this duo just yet.
Penn and Rist had seven or eight songs nearly finished when someone broke into Penn’s girlfriend’s car and stole his backpack containing his laptop and—you guessed it—their recorded songs.
He lost everything. More specifically this time around, they lost everything.
Yet, not even this could derail Penn and his new bandmate.
For the next couple of years, LML rebuilt itself from the ground up, trying their best to recreate what they had already poured themselves into. When it came time for their EP release show in early 2016, they were ready.
Penn says the thought of that night still gives him chills.
I had them, too.
I was there and still remember the energy in the Basement; it was electric. It was raw. It was intense. It was 100 percent pure passion from top to bottom.
Penn cried. He says he always does.
“When you do stuff for the right reasons and you really really focus on telling the truth and you surround yourself with the right people who hold you accountable and hold you down, weird shit happens,” said Penn.
LML’s music is about the ebbs and flows of life and the importance of resilience—all authenticated by Penn’s real experiences. The duo shows are a very personal experience for both men but Penn especially, seeing as each song is a brief but emotional cameo into his life. Rist understands his drumming comes second to this.
“From the beginning of this project, I’ve always wanted the main focus to be the content,” Rist said modestly. “I want people to actually listen to what’s being said and understand that it’s real life stuff. It’s not ‘popped a molly, I’m sweatin’.”
Needless to say, Penn has been through hell and back and has risen, time and time again like a musically-inclined phoenix, from the rubble. He’s living proof that we’re capable of triumphing whatever hardships come our way.
And if you can bounce back from being part of a college band called “The Forties” as well as Rist was, I think it’s safe to say you’ve achieved phoenix status, too.
LML will be playing at A&R Music Bar on April 27 tickets are $10 in advance and $12 at the door.