“It was time for us to get back in the studio and create,” said Shay Haley, “We were all doing our homework before creating this album, just collecting dope records from the past, expanding and thinking up innovative, creative ideas to approach the industry.” The live translation of the new songs was a main consideration in making the record. “The actual inspiration for this album was what we wanted it to be like onstage,” said Pharrell Williams, the producer-turned-singer and group status symbol.
“We wanted there to be a lot of energy, because our following is pretty cool: It’s like this underground, niche, cult kind of … open-minded, super-intelligent, seeking-energy individuals that are happy to be who they are, don’t care about what the next person is doing – universalist type of people.”N¤E¤R¤D draws listeners from across the musical genre spectrum. “It’s people of all walks of life, and what they all share in common is that they want to jump around and they want to get lost for an hour,” Williams said.
“When they leave, it’s like the show was too short. It would feel too short because they’d had so much fun.” The group’s excitement toward the new album comes hot through the telephone. “I mean, come on,” Williams said. “If something as far-fetched as seeing the concept of synesthesia … getting to express that and be dead serious about it and have people listen to us. That’s such a gift in itself, you know? So, when you hear us sound the way we do, man, it’s because we love it, we love it.”
Williams described synesthesia as “an experience that almost everybody has when they’re in the shower, when the water blocks out everything and your mind is free to wander.” The feeling extended into an album concept that pairs live kinetics with vision-inducing effects. Tonight, thousands of students will see the results of this experiment as N¤E¤R¤D plays songs both new and old, back-to-back with performances by Rihanna, Lupe Fiasco and Kanye West at the Frank Erwin Center. The hugely popular “Glow In The Dark Tour” just rounded the two-week mark after many months of planning.
“Kanye and I talked about it like a year ago, about going on tour together,” Williams said. “We’re so excited just to perform for our fans and become re-acclimated with everybody. We even did a pre-promo tour before this one just so that we could be back with the people who made us.” Williams emphasized the importance of connecting with the fans in small cities usually neglected by big tours. “Those are the kids that really, really care, and those are the kids that really work hard for everything they have, and so they therefore appreciate everything that they have, including experiences,” he said. “For us, that is the very DNA of N¤E¤R¤D, so for us this is so important – to go there first,” The band will also spend quality time together on the road, a rarity in their typically hectic schedules.
“We are on this tour, traveling in one spaceship on eight wheels,” said Chad Hugo, the reserved man behind the keys and synth, turning mock-serious to playful. “It’s gonna be delightful!” Recent side projects of the producers Williams and Hugo include work with Common, Madonna, Solange and Busta Rhymes, to name a few. “Yeah, you know we get super crazy,” Williams said, laughing. “There’s a lot of nice things coming out, and they all sound very different.” Freshness is essential for innovators like N¤E¤R¤D “Musically, for sure, you never want to repeat yourself,” Williams said. “We wouldn’t be caught dead in the same place, no way.” And as for the next evolution, Williams declined to comment, saying “that remains to be seen – we can’t let it all out.”
Before parting, superstar Williams offered one last token of experience to college students everywhere. “I just hope and pray that you’ve signed up for something that you love to do versus something that’s going to make you rich, because you can have a billion dollars and die and have a miserable life,” he said. “And you can be a poor person and do what you love to do everyday and die, and you’ll be the happiest person in the world.” Williams stopped and sighed, momentarily overwhelmed by fame and fortune. “A good life is accounted for in a measure of happiness. It’s not how much money you have,” he said. “So when you’re fortunate to make good money by doing what it is that you love to do. That’s a great life.”