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Black Landlord Wants You To Dance.

August 30, 2011

Text by Kevin Stairiker. Images by G.W. Miller III.

“I knew as soon as I went to take a dump, you would call!” MAxx Stoyanoff-Williams bellows into the phone. “Can you call back in, like, two minutes? You can totally use this as the article intro if you want.”

The sole proprietor of this wondrous statement is a bartender at Standard Tap and Gunner’s Run who also happens to be the frontman of one of Philly’s most energetic and entertaining bands, Black Landlord.  Over the past few years, the talented collection of Philly All-Star musicians has turned neighborhood events and daylong music festivals into raucous, funkadelic/ rock and roll/ hip hop parties.

“I wanted the music to be party, dance stuff,” MAxx explains two minutes later, “and for the lyrics to have almost a contrary meaning. You know, lyrics come in secondary and that’s just the truth. So if I can have music that people want to move to and then take in the lyrics later, that’s awesome.”

Of course, many of the band’s lyrics are about smoking pot, drinking, meeting girls and general partying. But you can also hear a definite intellectual cheekiness and social consciousness from MAxx, whose old school delivery is rooted in his days as part of the legendary ‘90s Philly hip hop trio, The Goats.

In the early 2000s, MAxx spent a few years in Europe developing demos and working on other electronic-based projects. When he returned, he rounded up some of the best musicians he knew in Philly until he had amassed a group that currently boasts nine members: Meagan Rumberger, Marc Sonstein, Bob Bannon, Bruce Reckahn, Alan Abel, Michael Tramontana, Ken Brune, Adam Campos and himself.

The result is the always-winning combination of MC rhyming over horn-based grooves and pounding percussions. Their new album, What You Mean To We (which has cover art featuring an homage to the 70s pop rock album Waking and Dreaming by Orleans) features six incredibly danceable and horn-drenched tracks. It’s currently available in digital form and will be available on CD and vinyl this fall with a track remixed by King Britt.

The songs are catchy and the instrumentals are tight. But by listening closer, you can peel back another layer that might not be apparent at first. This is more than just a party. Some of the songs reference substance abuse, family issues and racism. A line in “Have I Told You” talks about MAxx getting stabbed.

“I’ve never actually been stabbed but I have had girls pull knives on me,” he explains with a laugh. “I’m somewhat of a mean drunk. Me and Irish whiskey? I’m that kind of drunk that goes for the worst possible insults, you know? It’s either gonna make you cry or pull a knife out on me. Go big or go home!“

Black Landlord primarily plays in Philly due to the large number of members and their importance to the local service industry (several members, like MAxx, work at area restaurants and bars).

“We don’t travel,” MAxx says. “It would be virtually impossible. We make short little trips here and there but there’s no such thing as touring with this band.”

They’ll perform at the Popped! Music Festival at FDR Park on September 24, sharing the stage with the likes of Tariq “Black Thought” Trotter, Titus Andronicus, Rakim and Girl Talk. It’s a huge show for the fiercely Philly band.

“I don’t know how long we’re gonna have but we’re gonna play the hits, man!” MAxx says. “I’d like to get a trumpet player for that show so we can have the biggest sound possible. We’re really looking forward to that.”

To win a pair of two-day tickets to the POPPED! Festival, email us at

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