18 January 2011

[Interview] The Soundmen

posted by: Lydia Artists' Choices and Voices | Interviews
The Soundmen

Scott Durday and Justin Jamison, known collectively as The Soundmen, formed in the University District of Seattle in 2005 and have been producing music as a duo ever since.  A while ago I had the opportunity to sit down (virtually) with Durday to talk about life, music, and goals, and the root of the name ‘The Soundmen.’ “The Soundmen comes from being a couple guys from Pugeot Sound in Washington. It only made sense! It actually has nothing to do with music.”

Durday started making music in college.  “I started making music in my dorm room in college,” Scott told me, “just playing around with software and teaching myself. Although I took piano lessons in elementary school, it never really stuck. Everything has been self-taught. The first production I ever did was a few tracks into my beat stash. I had successfully remixed the Black Album as MCscottD, and somehow it got featured in the New York Times, so after that I was able to get some people to pay attention. It was through that feature that I was introduced to Justin and we started working very heavily with the Seattle hip-hop scene. The second I put an acapella over an original composition I was hooked.”

“I had successfully remixed the Black Album as MCscottD, and somehow it got featured in the New York Times, so after that I was able to get some people to pay attention.”

 

The Soundmen point to a wide range of influences, which helps them create a unique sound. “If I had to describe our sound it would be groovy, energetic, upbeat, and aggressive. Our roots are firmly grounded in traditional hip-hop production but over the past three years, like so many producers out there, we broadened our influences to include just about every type of music.  Production-wise I think my influence is a solid balance between UK electronic and hip-hop. Aphex Twin, Paul Epworth, The Chemical Brothers, Orbital, and Squarepusher are just as influential to my production as J Dilla, DJ Premier and The Neptunes.”

That’s a vital attribute, to be able to pull from a widespread set of genres, especially in the ever-evolving music scene.  At a time when rappers are going over dubstep beats and artists as big as Kid Cudi are rhyming over beats produced by artists as unique as Ratatat and topping the charts in doing so, it is all the more important to push one’s range, and The Soundmen have been doing that consistently, which makes sense for artists who listen to such varying artists. “Currently my playlist consists of Active Child, Saadi, Glass Eights, any Nero remix, Caribou, Roc Marciano, the new N.E.R.D. album, Robyn – Body Talk (that album is a dance classic). Anything that has a good beat, creative production, and solid vocals. It doesn’t take much. Oh and Wiz Khalifa. I’m continually blown away by his songwriting. No song is more triumphant than “Black and Yellow.”

“If you are down to take risks with your music, get outside of your comfort zone, and write music that means something, we want to work with you.”

In choosing artists to work with, they search for artists with a similar desire to make music that pushes limits.  “We choose the artists we work with through a very simple process: [We work with] who we like. If you are down to take risks with your music, get outside of your comfort zone, and write music that means something, we want to work with you.”  They’ve worked with a multitude of artists from Seattle to New York over their time together.  Currently, they produce for 33hz, Johnny Polygon, P.SO, Homeboy Sandman, “and a few others that we can’t name just yet.”  They’ve produced official records or remixes in the past for G-Dep, Murda Mook, Augustana, Glasvegas, Macy Gray, The Super Viral Brothers, and many others.  They have produced music ranging from “uptown grimey bronx hip-hop to the brooklyn dance scene. We cover it all!”

When creating music, Durday has a simple goal: to create music that you can play “over and over again without getting tired of it. That’s when we know we have a winner. We could be making a lo-fi indie record or creating an absolute banger but if we can’t listen to it then we know it’s not right.”

As Durday now lives in New York and Jamison still lives in Seattle, they have an interesting collaboration process. “We started producing together side by side back in Seattle, one of us on the MPC the other on a keyboard or computer. After various jobs pulled us to separate coasts, we began to produce through the Internet. Luckily our sound was built off of four years of producing in the same room so we both know what we like and what each other wants to hear. Now usually I will send drums, or a chopped sample, or vice-versa. Just will send me a crazy keyboard loop and I program and build a track around it and then we build it out. We are usually able to link up a few times a year as well and when serious studio time calls we also make sure that we are both there for the session if needed.”

“If there is a party that needs to be rocked, we are usually involved and shutting it down.”

To get their music out there, The Soundmen DJ very frequently. “We’ve played all over NYC ranging from residencies at The Plaza Hotel and The Delancey, to Crash Mansion and The Top Of The Rock. If there is a party that needs to be rocked, we are usually involved and shutting it down. We’ve also opened for The Cool Kids, Johnny Polygon, Saadi, P.SO, Chris Webby and a ton of other independent acts. Its always a blast to test out new records during a set and just see what sounds are making people go wild.” Durday points to DJing as a vital thing for producers to do.  “Do it yourself. Don’t wait for someone to discover you. There is no one way to make it in the music industry. DJ. If you DJ, you will understand what people want to hear and why they like what they do. Then you will know how to put those little touches in your tracks that takes you from typical to amazing.”

The Soundmen will continue to push themselves and their music. “Seeing our remixes continually top the Hypem charts this year has been an incredible blessing. The internet has really opened an amazing lane for producers.” They do not wade in the contentment of their accomplishments. Durday and Jamison will push the envelope and continue to strive for more success. “I don’t think we’ve reached the level of success we hope to achieve yet. Every milestone we set, when we got there we were already looking ahead to the next step. Right now we are just focused on making music that will stand out and stand the test of time. We want The Soundmen brand to be synonymous with great music, whether that be hip-hop, rock, or pop.”

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Related: “Riot Song” (The Soundmen Remix)

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