Lostboycrow has been on Sunset’s radar for a while now. He’s currently one of our favorites to lead us into the 2016 music year. With first making waves on Sunset back in April of 2015, the music in which he describes as happy, sad, sexy, and dance, began when he made Los Angeles his new home and was fortunate enough to record a few songs with his good pal, Dylan (Flor). From there on, Lostboycrow was born. One of the first things we asked him was why Lostboycrow? Is there any significance to the name?
“I wanted the name to reflect the sentiment behind all of the art I create, a banner I could hold above every song and feel good about. It’s about having a vision and telling a story; “Lostboycrow” comes from the legend of The Lost Boy told by the Crow Nation – a people whose culture is centered on both of those things. I feel close to them and they inspired me to create and dream with others.”
Hit the jump for the rest of the interview and EP!
You may not know the name Xander Singh, but there’s a high chance that you’d recognize much of the music he’s helped make for the past several years. After spending about two years playing small gigs under his own name, Xander Singh formed the group Pepper Rabbit, whose hit song “Older Brother” is one of my all-time favorites. The band lasted for about 3 years, until one day in 2011, when Xander Singh posted a message on Facebook announcing that Pepper Rabbit would be breaking up. A mere eight days after his last show with Pepper Rabbit, Xander got a call from some of his friends from Boston asking to join their band. Turns out it wasn’t just any band — it was Passion Pit. Sounds like a dream, but what he didn’t yet know is that only three years later, he’d be forced to leave the band for serious health reasons. This is the story of Xander Singh, a man who, practically overnight, went from feeling on top of the world to hitting rock bottom. Continue reading “[Interview] Xander Singh: The path from living the dream to hitting rock bottom” »
With any significant shift in technology comes a learning curve. In our generation the big shifts in technology have been smartphones and the web. I think in 2015 artists are on the brink of fully understanding how to effectively use these technologies and how to carve out lanes for themselves in an oversaturated online music universe.
The most beautiful thing about music in 2015 is that there is something for everyone. The sheer volume of music on SoundCloud alone is overwhelming to imagine. To simplify things let’s separate artists into two categories: those concerned about quantity and those concerned about quality. The quantity group uploads faux freestyles over ripped YouTube instrumentals of the latest street hits, hoping someone important will notice them. This exhibits very short-range thinking. GOOD Music president Che Pope called this type of music “disposable music” at an RBMA lecture in Paris. The quality group, on the other hand, is a slave to their vision. They have an idea, they record their idea, they perfect their idea, they have their idea mixed and mastered properly, and they collaborate with a designer on a piece of artwork that visually represents their auditory idea. This exhibits the understanding I mentioned earlier, and I am seeing more and more artists tending to the quality of releases over the quantity. Mic Kellogg is one such artist.
Over the past year Mic has methodically released singles from his debut project Breakfast. Each single garnered a breakfast-themed cover and usually an accompanying post on Pigeons & Planes. This September Mic released the conceptual Breakfast LP and further proved that he was an artist of substance and thought. In order to kill the mystique of great art, we asked him to breakdown our favorite tracks from the project and give us insight into the making of Breakfast.
One of the biggest laments in journalism is that you can never get a sense of personality over the phone. That’s true for a lot of people, but not fast-rising 22-year-old MC Kyle, whose sheer attitude and energy ooze through even a quick chat while he hustles to a meeting in Los Angeles.
He pauses in the middle of answers to comment on a man who has parked himself in front of an automatic door, and goes off on a tangent when I ask him what flavor of chips he’s just purchased. But at no point does this come off as the Ventura, CA rapper being unengaged with the interview, he answers every question thoughtfully and deliberately, even as he weaves through clots of foot traffic.
His earnestness and ability to jump from subject to subject are two of the things that have helped Kyle grow a large, rabid fan base, all of whom are currently blasting his second LP, Smyle, on repeat. With thousands eagerly anticipating the follow-up to his rollicking 2013 debut, Beautiful Loser, Kyle said he did feel more pressure stepping back in the booth.
“I felt more expectation to actually try and say something. I felt more burden to make something that had a little more emotional effect on people. It wasn’t just about Kyle having fun anymore,” he confessed.
That sense of responsibility manifested itself in a more mature, and occasionally darker record, that goes places that his free-spirited first release didn’t touch on. The production is bigger, more varied and anthemic, while Kyle’s bars are sharper overall. Fortunately though, they’re not devoid of the sarcasm and wit that makes him so unique.
“I wanted to switch it up a lot, I wanted to be dynamic,” he explained. “There’s a lot of albums, especially ones right now, where they find a good formula like, ‘If I do this, I add these trap drums to this type of thing it’s gonna be a good song.’ And then they choose to make the same song 13 times with a slightly different topic.”
Smyle is most certainly not that type of record. Even when the tracks don’t entirely come together, you can’t help but applaud Kyle for stretching himself as an artist and not sticking to the electronic-influenced, synth-heavy sound that got him his first taste of fame.
“Even if I’m better at making a ‘Don’t Wanna Fall in Love’ than an ‘All Alright,’ I’m gonna try and do it because life is dynamic,” said the rapper.
Kyle’s gameness is one of his strongest qualities as a musician, and played a huge role in how one of Smyle’s biggest tracks came together. He first met Chance the Rapper while opening for the Chicago MC in Santa Barbara, and the two quickly became friends. It was during a late night studio session with producer Nate Fox, a member of Chance’s Social Experiment band, that single “Remember Me” came into the world.
“Nate came over to my house one time. It was one of those perfect dream type situations, where all the stars aligned. I’m sitting there working on a song with Nate and he looks up at me and says, ‘Chano’s here.’ I was like, ‘What? Really? In Skid Row at 3AM?’ And Chance was like, ‘You know what, I got something for this song…’ It wasn’t the typical, play a beat, write a verse songwriting. We really connected on the project.”
Over a bluesy, piano-powered instrumental, Chance croaks out the cigarette-stained hook, giving Kyle free rein to assess fickle relationships through the lens of his newfound fame. The candor and wit are expected at this point, but they’re used in new and exciting ways. Even though “Remember Me” is a somber record, it is a tremendous accomplishment for an MC establishing his footing.
Despite all of this, Kyle still has to deal with being branded as a “pop rapper” for his upbeat sound. While he’s not angry about it, he’s quick to make it known that that kind of shorthand simply misses the mark.
“Everybody wants to label something…but me I want to express all avenues, all the shit I was influenced by,” he said. “I have made a pop song, I’m not a pop artist. I’ve made a boom-bap song, I’m not a boom-bap rapper. I’m a rapper, singer, dancer, dude, artist, that just makes music.”
Nov. 1 @ Reggie’s Rock Club (Chicago, IL)
Nov. 3 @ The Studio at Webster Hall (New York, NY)
Nov. 5 @ Vinyl (Atlanta, GA)
Nov. 7 @ Fitzgerald’s (Houston, TX)
Nov. 10 @ The New Parish (Oakland, CA)
Nov. 28 @ The Majestic Ventura Theater (Ventura, CA)
There was a time when female pop stars were practically assembly line products, and the mere existence of a teal-haired, college-educated singer who writes her own tracks would have been noteworthy. But today, the field has more dynamism and diversity than ever. So if it isn’t her appearance or even her story that makes Phoebe Ryan a standout, then what is it?
To find the answer, one doesn’t need to look any further than the song that made her a star in the first place: her combo cover of R. Kelly’s “Ignition (Remix)” and Miguel’s “Do You…” The track pushed her into the national consciousness, showcased her sheer creative prowess and even got a hat-tip from the Pied Piper of R&B himself.
“I was out at dinner and my manager showed me his phone for a second and I saw that R. Kelly tweeted it and called it a ‘gem’ and I started crying in the restaurant,” Ryan gushed.
The two songs blend together perfectly over producer Kyle Shearer’s tasteful flip of Kesha’s “Animal,” but it’s Ryan that really sells it. In the hands of a less talented artist, the track would’ve come off as a gimmick, but she owns every bar. You don’t even smirks as she sings, “Runnin’ her hands through my ‘fro bouncin’ on 24’s,” because once the verses kick in the record simply stops being a cover.
On her original tunes, she boasts an accessibility and self-awareness which proves undeniably endearing. Songs like “Dead,” and “Mine” were highlights of her Mine EP because of their duality. The sound is synth-heavy and shimmery – it’s quintessential radio-ready pop – but the lyrics are earnest and genuine.
“I’ve made mistakes, been dishonest/Self-estranged, did what I wanted/I was a fake, I slept just the same/I’m not a saint, no, I’m not a saint,” Ryan opens with on “Dead,” and the lines flow so smoothly it takes a few listens to get their true, darker gist.
That’s the power of Phoebe Ryan, and we owe her rise to musical prominence in part to the higher education system.
Ryan’s story, like so many other aspiring singers, begins in New York, though from there it takes a bit of a left turn. She didn’t arrive starry-eyed and start banging on record label doors. Instead, Ryan enrolled in NYU’s prestigious Clive Davis program to learn audio engineering.
“I think in my heart I always knew that I wanted to be a recording artist, but at the same time I just was really open to learning everything I could possibly learn and soaking up information I couldn’t get from anywhere else,” she said.
While her classmates were aspiring to a life behind the boards, Ryan had designs on a career behind the mic. She joined bands, and “played pretty much every venue you could think of in New York except for Madison Square Garden” as an undergraduate, soaking up plenty from the city outside the classroom.
“Just living in a huge city where you’re a very small person, and there’s a lot going on, you’re kind of at the whim of everything else that’s happening around you. There’s something powerful about that, I think,” she said.
Along the way, she picked up a few writing credits for acts like Oh Honey and Tritonal, and actually left school more focused on penning others’ tracks than crafting her own. However, that didn’t stay the plan for long, as irony intervened and “Ignition/Do You…” spread like wildfire across the digital grapevine, attaining No. 1 status on Hype Machine along the way.
After that, the snowball started rolling. She inked her deal with Columbia, dropped Mine and performed at Bonnaroo all in less than three weeks. Understandably, Ryan still sounds a little stunned by it all, especially playing one of the nation’s biggest stages despite never even having attended a music festival before.
“I was so nervous to play just because when I was in the little backstage tent and I was like, ‘No one knows who the hell I am, there’s going to be like twelve people standing way far back. It’s going to start raining I’m going to be depressed about it,” Ryan confessed. “But I got on stage and there was a little sea of people, and it was like one of the bigger crowds that I’ve played to. It was just amazing.”
Ryan’s currently on tour with Say Lou Lou, and said that while performing her music is still quite fresh, she’s been able to find some zen and comfort on stage.
She’s focused on writing original tunes right now, but won’t rule out a return to the cover well, either.
“I feel like covers have been so important, just throughout history, they’re the best things ever, everyone loves a cover. I’m definitely not opposed to doing more…,” she said. “…Right now it’s just Phoebe Ryan, but you never know.”
After running through her background, creative process, and reaction to all her recent success, there was only one question left to ask Ryan: What’s the story behind the hair?
“I had never done anything before with my hair, I’d never even gotten highlights. It just overcame me, I was like, ‘I need to change something about myself, I need to try something new.’ I don’t know if I was going through some sort of early 20s crisis, but it just happens,” she said.
What was a spur of the moment, post-grad decision may well become the visual calling card for one of 2015’s brightest, and most gifted breakout stars.
Check out Ryan on tour:
Adelaide’s own Tom Gaynor, better known as Allday, has been a mainstay in Australian hip-hop since 2012. The 24-year-old rapper recently signed with the U.S.-based Wind-up Records and released his 7-track Soft Grunge Love Rap EP for free download. We had the pleasure of chatting with Allday, as we discussed his brief stint as a stand-up comedian, his breakthrough single “You Always Know the DJ,” and the new EP, which is one of our favorites of the year.
Let Civil Twilight’s Steven McKellar tell it, and the worst thing a band can do is let things get too complicated. Unfortunately, midway through recording their third studio album that was exactly where the South African band was. Cutting track after track, they couldn’t find a sound suited for sculpting a record around.
“You should hear the other demos that we’ve made, you’ll have a five-minute song that’s like six different musical styles,” McKellar joked. “You’ll go to the bridge and it’ll be a jazz-fusion breakdown and then the chorus is a slash metal thing, it’s all over the place.”
As the writing process wore on, the band, comprised of McKellar, his brother Andrew, Richard Wouters and Kevin Dailey, found themselves consistently circling back to one rough, soulful track that began with skittering hand drums and flashes of guitar, before opening up to sweeping synths and guitars that gleamed like an unobstructed horizon.
That record, “Story of an Immigrant,” wound up being not only the title track for their third full-length, which was released by Wind-Up Records in July, but also the project’s inspiration.
That a South African band now living in Nashville (humorously McKellar described as a “…land of milk and honey where the rents are cheap and the beers are cheap”) would make an album called Story of an Immigrant might seem almost too on the nose, but the meaning is not as literal as appears.
“[It’s about] where we’ve came from, the journey that we’ve taken to get here, what it means to be an immigrant. Not just within borders or physically, but just people when you’re trying to discover a home or a place of comfort and peace,” McKellar explained.
It’s been three years since Civil Twilight released Holy Weather, a solid album that is much darker than the rest of the band’s discography. It’s very of-the-moment, fitting in perfectly with other strong, yet sullen indie rock releases like Local Natives’ Hummingbird or Half Moon Run’s Dark Eyes.
“The second record’s got this feel of vagrancy, and timelessness to it. Like we’re vagabonds roaming, this one’s a bit more stable,” McKellar explained.
A lot of that, he says, came from the writing process. Where Holy Weather was written on the road out of necessity, the band made a concerted effort to get back to their roots on the new album, composing and recording as a unit in a stationary location. That openness is felt throughout the album, and is a major reason why Story of an Immigrant is Technicolor to its predecessor’s grayscale.
According to McKellar, a lot of the cohesion can be chocked up to the addition of Dailey, who they’d played with in the past. Dailey wrote a lot of what ended up on the album, and also brought a self-awareness that was instrumental.
“On a social level he brought in a sense of humor, reminding us not to take ourselves too seriously and just to have fun,” said McKellar. “…The style of his writing is from a place that I felt like I couldn’t get back to anymore, and it helped me as a songwriter get back there. That’s sort of the theme, is getting back to the old thing.”
One of the tracks that Dailey contributed is “Love Was All That Mattered,” the album’s ghostly acoustic closer. It’s the furthest sonic left turn on Story of an Immigrant, as synths sweep across the soundscape like a stiff breeze while McKellar reflects wistfully on a past relationship gone awry.
“It’s a sad song, but it’s got elements of hope to it,” said McKellar, who noted that it was the first song he’d recorded without writing the lyrics. “I think we wanted to end with that song because it wasn’t like going out with a bang, it was like leaving a little question mark.”
While “Love Was All That Mattered” is a solemn exit note, the rest of Story of an Immigrant beams with joy and a welcome sense of relief. “When, When” has shades of Vampire Weekend’s “Everlasting Arms,” and with its frenetic production and scratchy guitar showcases Civil Twilight at their freewheeling best.
Elsewhere, “Holy Dove” harnesses some of the harsher energy of Holy Weather into a hard-driving anthem, and the hook bursts to life in a way that practically forces you to stomp your feet and nod your head.
Front to back, Story of an Immigrant is a confident, infectious record that showcases Civil Twilight’s comfort with not only their place in music, but also as artists themselves. The album is a testament to the power of cohesion and simplicity, which McKellar believes are two of the most fundamental aspects of keeping your head above water in the music world.
“For me a band’s not anything if the members aren’t loving each other, it doesn’t mean anything. I hate seeing bands like that, that get up on stage and don’t even want to acknowledge each other,” he said. “[It] shouldn’t get any more complex than four dudes playing music together.”
Elderbrook is a U.K.-based singer-producer who has been churning out stellar minimalist indie electronic tracks for the past year. With sharp lyrics, an engaging baritone and production that thrives on live sounds, he’s crafted two tremendous EPs, 2014’s Simmer Down, and Travel Slow, which came out today.
We got the chance to speak to the university student-turned-boundary-pushing musician in the week leading up to Travel Slow’s release about his musical background, love of folk music, and creative process.
We already gushed over “Good Enough,” the second track released from the EP, and the whole project is absolutely stellar from start to finish. If you enjoy Fyfe, Jamie Woon, Jamie xx or any kind of smart, well-produced downtempo music Elderbrook is surely a name to watch.
You can stream Travel Slow below:
Whether or not Inanimate Objects, the sophomore album from Atlas Genius matches the surprise success of their debut (and it should, it’s excellent), frontman Keith Jeffery insists that they weren’t simply going to go back to the well that worked for them on When It Was Now.
“We definitely didn’t want to just revisit the ground that we covered on the first album,” Jeffery said. “Growing up you see bands that are desperately trying to recreate their big hit, but I’ve never really seen that work. For me that just seems futile.”
That’s a bold statement, since the aforementioned “well” earned them a gold single in “Trojans,” a record that debuted in Billboard’s Top 40, and a slew of high profile gigs, including a spot in 2013’s Lollaplooza lineup.
While “Molecules,” Inanimate Objects’ lead single, nearly matches “Trojans” for sheer infectiousness, it couldn’t be more different sonically. Jeffery rides wave after wave of massive, majestic synth on a track that is joyous and triumphant and clearly written to be played for 100,000 people at once.
That effect didn’t happen by accident. Jeffery, along with his bandmate and brother, Michael, set out to make an album that hit home with a live audience both in its loudest, most anthemic moments, and its softest, most vulnerable ones.
“When you play live you want those moments where it’s super intimate and just you and the audience with no music,” Jeffery explained. “And then you want those other moments where it explodes, so that’s what we tried to do with the album.”
“Friends With Enemies” fills the intimacy quota on Inanimate Objects practically by itself. It’s one of the darkest, most melancholy tracks the band has released, but it’s also one of their densest and most hypnotic. Jeffery’s voice fades to a near whisper as a blur of synths fade in and out, practically reaching infrasound levels.
While guitar is nothing more than a suggestion on “Friends With Enemies,” it soars elsewhere on the album. After becoming overnight synth pop darlings, the Jefferys watched as everyone from Lorde to Taylor Swift plunged into the “ethereal” sound that had been part of the band’s identity since “Trojans” entered the global consciousness. Luckily, Jeffery saw this not as an obstacle to their creativity, but an opportunity to get back to a musical love he’d been hoping to rekindle.
“For me, I just missed guitars. I grew up playing a lot of guitars and listening to a lot of guitar bands,” Jeffery said of the album. “I wanted to revisit that for myself.”
That desire is hard to miss on Inanimate Objects. “Stockholm” derives its frenetic energy from its ceaselessly chugging chords; “The City We Grow” is a quintessential piece of sun-soaked guitar pop, and the brothers go full acoustic on the soulful “Levitate.”
Overall, Atlas Genius’ sophomore album is a confident, mature record that showcases their development as a band without skimping on the massive, infectious songs that made them an instant hit with audiences. However, there was plenty of anxiety that went into the recording process for a band so concerned with perfection that they spent two years building a home studio in their native Australia. Inanimate Objects was their first time bringing in outside voices and producers.
“I was really worried about working with different people because I had this fear that there would be this intangible magic that we would ruin by involving other people,” Jeffery said. “Thankfully, that wasn’t the case…I actually think it’s a better album because we opened up a little bit.”
Ultimately, Jeffery said the change in process was invigorating for the band once they found their rhythm and had the time to write. Despite a relentless touring schedule post-When It Was Now, only “The City We Grow” got the stereotypical, guitar-in-the-back-of-the-tour-bus writing treatment.”The embryonic seeds of an idea can start when you’re touring, but I find finishing off a song pretty difficult with the way we do it on the road,” Jeffery explained. “A lot of the lyrics I come up with as a result of the production sounds, as opposed to just writing it on an acoustic guitar and strumming it out.”
Jeffery said he wants to develop that ability to craft whole songs on the road, but for now he’s just eager to have fans hear the album. While the singles have been met with plenty of praise, he’s excited for the public to take in Inanimate Objects the way he intended: in its entirety.
“As the writer of the songs, to me this album is strongest when listened to as a whole. To take one moment out of it for me is like taking one scene out a movie, and that’s the only scene people get to see for a couple of months. But for me it all makes sense when you see it as a whole,” he said.
Finally, there was the perennial problem of knowing when to let a record lie and not engage in endless tinkering. The album hits shelves on August 28th, but the recording process wrapped up in Los Angeles during the early spring.
“You can always overcook things. The good thing for us is we pretty much used up all the time we allocated for ourselves. There wasn’t time for us to get to messing with things,” Jeffery said. “We could’ve gone on for another year tweaking stuff. My personality is that I could tweak stuff forever.”
Even without the extra tweaking time, it’s pretty hard to find an issue with Inanimate Objects.
For a product of a fight between two rival bands, Oh, Be Clever has shown a surprising grip on the concept of harmony. Behind the powerhouse vocals of singer/songwriter Brittney Shields, and the master of all trades production and writing skills of Cory Layton, the group has crafted a perfect combination of indie, electronic, soul, and pop music with a ceiling that has yet to be seen. I recently sat down with Cory and Brittney to talk music. Hit the jump to read our conversation.
The Internet is a speedway of information. Keeping up with the fast pace music game is the job of every music blog, but the best blogs will be unafraid to stop mid-race to appreciate high quality releases that might slipped through the cracks. Earlier this year, Yellerkin, a duo from Brooklyn comprised of childhood friends Adrian Galvin and Luca Buccellati, released a triumphant, four track debut EP. For me, the Yellerkin EP has been a natural stimulant, dragging me from the depths of creative gridlock into much brighter places. The expansive EP depicts the powerful bonds of kinship and friendship derived from Adrian’s past relationships but placed in the context of the duo’s great friendship. I had the privilege of talking to the guys about how they met, their music new and old, a legendary acid trip in Pennsylvania, and the talented friends who have helped them along the way.
Just yesterday, Yellerkin released an exceptional single entitled “Tools.” Man, these guys just keep improving.
Tell me about how you met.
Adrian: So, we met in the first grade in Ms. McCormack’s class, hatching chicklets.
Adrian: Yeah, it was like a school project, and we were hatching chickens, and I have distinct memories of me and Luca bending over the incubator, and looking at this one chicken who was constipated and we were not sure if he was going to make it because there’s poop half stuck out of his butt. They said it wasn’t doing so well. I have distinct memories of the two of us leaning over the incubator and looking at it.
And that… was the start of everything. Can you tell us how you came up with the name “Yellerkin”?
Adrian: Yeah, I talk about Yellerkin kind of like a feeling; like, the feeling that makes you need to yell: whether it’s like pain or anguish or sheer happiness. I have memories of being little and running and screaming–not because of anything–when you’re little you just scream sometimes. It’s kind of like that: the thing that makes you yell. It is also about family, you know, yelling for the ones you love and like, I’d yell for my brothers and I’d yell for my sisters and my friends. It’s about the ones I’d yell for.
So Adrian is a part of Poor Remy, and Luca produced Tei Shi’s EP. Can you talk about where Yellerkin fits into the mix, and how you separate it from the other projects?
Luca: Well, all three projects are very separate things. Although, I did facilitate the process of Poor Remy’s latest EP.
Adrian: He produced it all.
Luca: But Yellerkin kind of sprung out of something after Adrian had graduated college, and I still had a year left at Berklee. And we kind of just got together, and I was just getting started on producing songs. I had never produced anything in my life before that I thought was worth sharing with anybody.
Adrian: But we both knew each other’s capacities. We had been in a bunch of silly bands with each other growing up. We were in Chicken Fist, Plaid Cabbage, Knights of the Lunch Table, and Name Crisis.
Those other band names sound like Name Crises.
Adrian: [Laughs] Yeah, they are all name crises.
Luca: So yeah, Adrian and I got together, and he had like these skeletons of songs, which is what the Yellerkin process usually starts with. They are Adrian’s skeletons.
Adrian: Yeah so, I make skeletons. They’re like okay skeletons, and then I bring them to Luca and he works like a magician and speaks to the computer and makes them into like real people that have minds of their own and histories of their own and potentials of their own.
Luca: And with the other projects it’s kind of a similar process with Tei Shi–Val’s really bringing the skeletons–and I’m helping her work out the arrangements to her songs and, you know, making them into what they are. And with Poor Remy, Adrian or Kenny or Andy is going to bring in the skeleton, and together they’re gonna folk it out.
Adrian: Yeah, I think with the different projects: the things they’re about, the feelings they’re about are kind of indicative of the different relationships they’re set within. Like, Poor Remy is me and my two roommates, Kenny and Andrew, who live in this house. That is very much about the three of us: we’ve known each other for a really long time, and we’ve been living together for like four years now, in college and out of college–so it’s about that. Yellerkin is very much about me and Luca’s relationship and our history as boys together.
Luca: Boyz 2 Men.
Adrian: [Laughs] Yeah, Boyz 2 Men. It’s very much about our history. And Tei Shi is very much about Luca and Val and their relationship.
Luca: It comes with every project; it’s a matter of the relationships with the people involved.
Adrian: Yeah, definitely.
I heard that Yellerkin and Tei Shi have a song coming out together. [Ed. note: I botched the first recording of the interview where the guys volunteered the information about this upcoming collaboration. So I jokingly brought it up during the second attempt at the interview.]
Adrian: [Laughs] Yeah, so we’re working on a collaboration right now. It’s a song I wrote. So I studied liberation theology a lot when I was in school, and I’m still really into liberation theology and the way it kind of uses history and uses text to help liberate people’s cultures. There’s like a liberation theology for Jews; there’s a liberation theology for blacks and for women, etc. So I studied liberation theology of the Bible and it turns the story of Jesus, and it makes him just an angry, Jewish dude who wants to incite rebellion against the Romans. So I wrote this song about a love story between Jesus and Mary Magdalene because it makes him into a real person. And I can’t really sing all the parts because it’s just like really high, so Val is always around; she’s great. It’s wonderful to work with her.
Okay, awesome. I’m looking forward to hearing that. The video for “Solar Laws” I thought was really cool. It seemed at least visually inspired by Where the Wild Things Are and that sort of creative space. Can you just talk about where you got the idea and the making of the actual video?
Adrian: Yeah, we were up at Luca’s house in Pennsylvania, just hanging out, and this one day we tripped acid. We had all just graduated and we were all just starting to be like real people kind of, and the acid trip was basically about making our place in this universe; kind of like what we’re gonna do and how we’re gonna go about doing it. We were all friends growing up: me, Luca, and Nick Pesce, who directed the video. And so there’s this sense of us when we’re together–like we still see each other as kids because that’s how we met and that’s how we grew up together and got to know each other–as kids. So there’s this thing that’s different now; like, we know each other and we’re together and we’re like real people doing real things. And so there’s this juxtaposition that sets up between becoming your own identity and like doing your own thing and leaving behind a kind of innocence, a kind of boyhood, a kind of wonder about the world and a kind of unbelievable quality about the world. And so when we were tripping, we all sat and we kind of talked about this idea about “The Chase” and kind of chasing after that boyhood and not wanting to lose it and not wanting to let go. And it was really captivating; we had a really wild time–the three of us talking about this.
Luca: Tripping with your friends from back in the day.
Adrian: Yeah, it was wild. It was great.
[Laughs] Sounds great.
Adrian: We decided to go into a studio and we decided to start with a monster, and we just sat down and discussed the situation we wanted this boy to go through and like him kind of chasing after his past and then killing it to move on and then regretting his lofty hopes of moving on and then struggling with the fact that he has just like thrown away his childhood. So it’s like a struggle that we all go through–to some degree at least. But I think it’s about what we were really going through at the time.
What was the actual monster?
Adrian: Oh, the monster is Andrew from Poor Remy. He’s the monster! [Laughs] But it was a costume that Nick and his father made; his father is an awesome costume designer, and they made the monster costume together.
And I also read the story on your Tumblr about the video. There’s this science fiction vibe with the “Seer” and stuff? What’s your relationship with creating different worlds and using fictional landscapes for your storytelling?
Adrian: I think narrative is a really strong way to present an idea, or to present a struggle or a concept. I’ve always been a student of philosophy. And I’ve read a lot of philosophy that’s put in the narrative structure, whether it be like Goethe or Ayn Rand or even Shakespeare. Nick is a real science fiction head. He loves, you know, Aliens. I watched a lot of X-Files. The X-Files is probably my favorite TV show. So we’re both into the fantasy and kind of the idea of the mythic. And I think, it was exciting to paint this really personal story in like a fantastic way. And I think that’s something we were never really able to do.
The EP was only 4 songs and 15 minutes long. But it feels like this journey you take us on. Can you talk about sequencing the EP and making 15 minutes of music feel really big and important?
Luca: Well, we recorded the EP in the summer of 2012. There were four songs done in one weekend and then two songs done in another weekend. And we kind of sat on the material for awhile, so I could finish up school. Then over time after listening to the songs, we picked the four that would stand alone for like a taste of what we’re capable of, if you will. Because we found ourselves in a place where we need to be able to make the time to do this.
Adrian: Yeah, we felt like the songs were important enough that we wanted to do it right. The songs are basically about three different girls in my life–all like pretty intense relationships. Let me think–“Solar Laws” and “Leave Me Be” are about one girl, “Tomboy” is about my sister, and “Vines” is about another girl. And each of them are really intense, powerful women and very wild relationships that I’ve had with all of them. So that was one half of the process, and the other half was bringing them to Luca and making them about us and not just about me crying about failed relationships [laughs] and making them about me and Luca’s relationship–me and Luca’s entrance into the world kind of. I think the way we built the project and the way we started to build the team that really comes through on the album. We’re going for longevity. We’re going for a lasting relationship with people that respond to ideas. People that respond to this journey that we are just starting.
Luca: And the decision to make it a four song EP as opposed to a six song EP was basically made because we felt like we could develop the other songs further, and since then we’ve been working on a lot of new material.
Adrian: [Laughs] Yeah, we have two albums worth of material.
Luca: [Laughs] Yeah, so we’re working hard on following up something that has had such a good response.
Adrian: Yeah, you always got to get better. You gotta up the ante.
Okay, so what’s next for Yellerkin?
Adrian: We just signed with the lawyers, so we have a lawyer. And we just signed with an agent at Billions. And we’re starting to move a little bit faster. So we’re starting to talk to labels and stuff. So that’s starting to happen and we want to make sure we’re in a good position before we release any more music because we could keep self-releasing… we could keep doing that, but at this point me and Luca, like we want more time to just do this, and like, we both do other things, like Luca produces a bunch of people and writes charts, and I’m a yoga teacher, and so we both do a bunch of other things to make sure that we can do this. But we want to make it so we can just do this, and that’s the next step. The material is all there. You’ll hear like new music definitely soon, but like the next step really for Yellerkin is just like making Yellerkin our livelihood.
Yeah… okay. Makes sense. Can you talk about the cover of the Yellerkin EP? And is your logo a font or something you just wrote out?
Adrian: Yeah… the logo I just wrote out one day. I was just like going for it. I just wrote it with–I have one of these big king-sized sharpies, so I was just like uh, going for it. And I liked that one. I did like 300 of them and then picked one [Laughs]. And then the illustrations–
Luca: Tammy. This girl Tammy that we’re friends with. She is a wonderful artist. And she designed the cover.
Adrian: Yeah, she’s been doing these awesome collage pieces, and I had seen them before and I had really responded to them and our manager is a good friend of hers and so, we were just like we’d love to use one and she said of course and it was a great sort of combining of interests.
And I think it really fits the music well. It looks sort of nostalgic–
Adrian: Yeah, it’s a kind of color scheme that’s like, uh… I don’t know, the color scheme of Yellerkin has been like these blues and these like kind of faded pastels. And I’ve been thinking about color a lot lately and like color is just like–you know how your body responds to certain music because like sound waves, like you know give you certain rhythm in your body, and like you respond to rhythm. You respond to like different rhythms of the seasons and the rhythm of like the moon and the rhythm of the ocean. Color is just like the same thing. Color is just like different wave lengths, you know? Red is like the really big wavelength, and blue is a really short wavelength. Those colors have really amazingly eccentric, different emotional responses. I think it’s really awesome to use that in multimedia art and to mix that with sound and meddle it with language.
Luca: Induce the synesthesia in people.
[Ed. note: At this point I get excited and talk about how that reminded me of the philosophy of Jackson Sonnanfield Arden spotlighted by LA band Deru here.]
On “Vines” the lyric “Days they feel like murder” really stood out to me. Can you talk about writing that and the dark imagery of the song?
Adrian: Yeah, it’s kind of about anticipation in a way. I was going through a kind of break up but not really breaking up. I just knew it was going to happen soon. And it was like torture. That was so much worse than the actual break up was, you know? It’s almost like how the anticipation of going on stage is so much worse than being on stage. It’s the same thing. I was kind of just like exploring like the kind of intensity of not knowing or like, knowing and not knowing–kind of like the deep, hurt that you get from being uncertain. It’s the scariest thing in the world to be uncertain. It was just frightening.
Okay, my last question is do you think music is made differently now that everything is just put on the Internet? You’re not going to make something for someone’s first CD; you’re making something for someone’s first iTunes purchase or illegal download.
Luca: Not enough people approach it like you want to make a song that lasts. Because there’s a new band coming out every day every hour on a different website. Some make songs that last; some don’t. And like your last thing could be like five minutes in somebody’s radio playlist that they have at work or like somebody’s song that they listen to every morning on the subway. When it comes to making music, understanding that certainly helps you market your music and put it in the right place. Or is something that artists should consider… because it also doesn’t take that much time to make a song anymore. Because you can make it on your laptop or in your iTunes voice memo, you can just record it. Some people do that and then put it out and do really well because they write good songs.
Adrian: Yeah man, I think people have always been writing good songs. I don’t think anything has changed in that respect, but I think the way people receive songs has changed. When someone sits down and they have an idea and they write it out, I think that’ll always be what it is. I think that’s an amazing inspiration. It’s an amazing miracle. But I think the way people receive music has changed just because the sheer over saturation is so intense right now that it’s hard to sift through bullshit. But that’s what you gotta do: you gotta sift through the bullshit.
[Laughs] Alright, that’s the perfect way to end the interview. Thank you guys for taking the time out to do this interview.
Adrian: Yeah, of course!
Luca: See ya!
Buy the duo’s debut EP on iTunes here.
Kevin Abstract makes it well known that he has a lot of heroes. In attempt to emulate his heroes while also discovering his own sound, his producer Romil and he turned in the 12-track MTV1987 LP that I consider the year’s best album. So during this live interview (that you may be viewing after the fact when it’s not live), I will be talking to Kevin about his heroes, his album, and his quest of becoming the most popular artist alive, and I will be discussing in depth the making of MTV1987 with the suddenly iconic duo.
EDIT (6/2/15): Kevin Abstract’s MGMT asked for the interview to be taken down. Sorry for any inconvenience.