By Mitchell Parrish
Billy Dean & the Honor Roll have been making waves for the past few months with their mind-blowing live performances. After seeing them at Club Metronome in Burlington (for what was technically their first show ever), I knew I had stumbled upon something special.
Billy Dean & The Honor Roll is the brainchild of 24-year-old Olivia McClendon a.k.a Billy Dean Thomas, a Smith College grad with a dynamic stage presence, a poetic mind and impeccable style. After being featured on NPR’s Transom, Teambackpack and ABC’s The View, Billy was desperately seeking a community of musicians to create and transform digitally produced ideas into live instrumentation. It all started when The Honor Roll Collective’s bass player, introduced Billy to her current business partner, drummer and Honor Roll Co-founder, Jake Mayers.
Jake and I immediately fell into musical matrimony. Not only did we vibe well musically, but we also connected on business objectives and building platforms to help manifest our dreams.” – Billy Dean
Jake has been playing music in the Burlington area for several years now, most notably as the drummer for Smooth Antics (see our review of a recent Smooth Antics show here). After linking up with Billy Dean, he began to focus a lot of his time on getting this project off the ground. He knew that there was something special here. So Jake and Billy strung together a Northeast tour, quickly rehearsed and hit the road.
When Jake told me about the Club Metronome show, the first stop on their tour, I figured I might as well check out this new project. I didn’t have any expectations– just wanted to support local talent. Well, I wasn’t ready for what I saw. The performance blew me away. The band was super tight. The sounds were raw, yet focused and precise. And there was Billy. She is an absolute animal on the mic. Her fiery, truthful rhymes have a way of taking over. She owns the crowd. She is the Dean and you are the pupal.
That performance impressed me so much that I had to return to see them in early February at Radio Bean in Burlington. Obviously, I brought a friend, who was a bit skeptical after I told him that we were going to see “the next big thing in hip-hop.” I know, bold claim. But when we arrived to a slam-packed radio bean and an explosively energetic Billy Dean began to tear up the stage, I felt immediate vindication. This band was the real deal.
Or, rather, this band is the real deal.
After completing their debut tour, the collective released a Live in the Studio session that merges Hip Hop, jazz and little bit of rock and roll for the ragers. They are currently embarking on their first Spring Tour where they will begin featuring new members of the collective. Next week on April 8th, the band will perform with Vermont phenoms Madaila at the Fairgrounds in Essex, VT, just outside of Burlington.
You can check out the tracks on soundcloud and get an EXCLUSIVE DOWNLOAD of “Supercalafradulisticespialidoses” right here!
Due to Billy’s nomadic lifestyle and a desire to create more musical opportunities, Jake and Billy have decided to create a collective of musicians across the country. This way, no performance is ever the same, “no gig is ever unplayed” and when they are featured on XXL Freshman 15 they will show up with a whole crew of musicians.
Kids, learn from Billy and heed this advice: Go to class, study hard and maybe one day you can earn a spot on the Honor Roll.
For more music visit http://billydeanslist.com/.