In late 2011 “The Internet” (Founded by OFWGKTA members Matt Martians and Syd Tha Kyd) released their debut album, Purple Naked Ladies; A frenetic mash up of spaced-out synthesizers, electronic drum beats and soulful harmonies, evoking the spirit of Kelis’s rebellious 1999 debut album – Kaleidoscope, blended with the funky edge of “Return of the Space Cowboy”.
PNL sounded part ode to The Internet’s heroes (Jamiroquai, Timbaland, Outkast, Erykah Badu, The Neptunes) and part futuristic experimentation (hidden songs, reversed vocals and abrupt changes in tempo are commonplace) which saw The Guardian review the record as a “late contender for album of the year”.
I’ve come to the show tonight to meet Matthew and Syd to talk about “Feel Good” their 2nd album due to be released later this summer. Matt may be familiar to some of you, he’s been a member of theneptunes.org “Grindin” forum ever since we began way-back-when.
Matt affectionately describes Grindin’ as “one of those forums that only like super-duper fan boys know about.” and it also served as the venue where Matt was introduced to fellow ‘fan boy’ Tyler, The Creator, with whom he would later form the formidable OFWGKTA.
Read our in-depth interview below, where they discuss; their upcoming album “Feel Good“, The Neptunes, Odd Future and the music industry. As well as providing insight into what it’s like working with Chad Hugo, SBTRKT, Mike Einziger and Earl amongst others…
Backstage everyone is in good spirits, there are pizza’s stacked high, we’ve all got a beer in hand, the air’s thick with smoke (the good kind) and Syd’s pumping out new music from her MacBook. At the back of the room J.Scott, Kilo Kish and her DJ/best friend Kitty Cash are figuring out what to do for Kish’s set tonight.
James, a reporter from the local student newspaper, tries to interview the band (also comprising of keyboardist Tay Walker, bass player Patrick Paige and drummer Christopher Smith) and he looks like he’s struggling to cope with the anarchy in the room – Patrick’s taking jabs at Matt’s “Grandpa swag”, Matt fires back with a quip about Patricks blonde hair. Syd goes on a tangent about the “puppies on deck” in her newly equipped studio and we all break out in laughter when Syd says she’s been reading 50 shades of grey (“I thought it was about, like, law and order…” – read James’ article here)
theneptunes.org : Matt, let’s start from the beginning for those who don’t know. How did you guys meet? I heard Syd was a massive fan of The Super 3 and she messaged you on myspace?
Matt: I remember that message too, it was funny I’d never seen her yet. I thought it was tight because she was a girl making beats. There are no girls making beats that take it seriously.
TnO: Is that why you replied?
Matt: To be honest. Yes. It was cool to see a girl that is not using that to sell herself. Most girls that make beats are like (enters into a high pitced voice) I’m a girl and I make beats. Look I’m a girl (everyone starts laughing). They’re more about being a girl than they are about making beats. Syd never mentioned that she’s a girl and never uses that to her advantage.
TnO: How did it go from that, to working together?
Matt: We gradually developed a friendship like friends should. We hung out when she came to Atlanta. We knew each other; we met once, because I used to come out to LA to visit. Tyler and them were working and doing stuff like that. I met Syd one time in the studio. We were there the whole day, random people coming thru the spot. We would be there the whole day roasting. Everybody was there.
We got cool then I went back to Atlanta. Syd came out to visit her cousin. Her cousin was going to school in Atlanta, Syd came to help her cousin move in. So I asked Syd to come by the crib to hang out. It was cool, we did that day what we do every day now. Pretty much just hang out, smoke and listen to music.
TnO: Syd, was it your intention to end up working with matt?
Syd: No, if anything I just wanted to know how Matt came up with the stuff he came up with. I had never heard anything like the super 3 before.
TnO: How did you find out about the super 3?
Syd: Probably Tyler’s top 8 friends on MySpace. I had known about Casey or something. I don’t know who I found out about first. Everybody knew who these guys were.
TnO: I read in other interviews that Clancy told you to work together. Does that mean you weren’t working together before?
Matt: He didn’t really tell us to work together, it was more so he suggested that you know…. it was around the time where I had first moved to LA and I didn’t know what to do and I was trying to find a manager and Clancy was trying to find someone to manage. It’s hard for a manager to manage a producer because what does a producer need a manager for? So he was like: “why don’t you guys work together, I will give you stuff to do and you will give me something to manage.”
TnO: Was this before Odd Future blew up?
Matt: No this was around the time when ‘Yonkers’ first came out. I moved to LA two days before ‘Yonkers’ came out. I remember me Travis, Left Brain and Syd all watched it in the Trap (Syd’s house). That was the time when Syd and I started working together.
TnO: I looked at the album credits for PNL and there’s something that left me wondering. Are there any songs where just one of you made the beat and the other wrote to it?
Matt: Yes, there are a lot of them. There are songs where Syd made the beat and I wrote on them. Songs like ‘Gurl’, I wrote the hook for her to sing. I can’t sing that shit. So I was like I want Syd to sing it. It’s like we are hanging out in a room, smoking and listening to a song. When songs are made, people would throw in different things. That’s why in the credits there are the same four/five people because those are the people we were hanging out with that whole summer in my old apartment.
TnO: Do you want to let the rest of the band introduce themselves?
Tay: I am Tay Walker, I am on ‘They Say’, I have also been performing my own song ‘Karma’ a lot. My man Patrick is a producer on the album as well.
Patrick: Yes, my name is Patrick. I met Syd in 2007 and I found out she used to do music with her brother. I never wanted to ask; “hey can I come do music with you guys” cause I didn’t know her like that. One day I was just like; “Fuck that” and I found out she had a guitar in her house and ever since then I’ve been around.
TnO: You did ‘Fastlane’ right?
Patrick: Yes, ‘Fastlane’. I made it in 2008. I co-produced ‘Visions’ with Left Brain, Syd and Matt.
Matt: Okay so about the ‘Fastlane’ beat: So we had three beats at that time. We had ‘She Dgaf’, ‘Cunt’ and ‘Cocaine’. So we wanted to look for other beats from other people. Syd brought me to her house and was like: “You know Patrick? Let me show [you] some of his beats”. She played me all of these beats Patrick made. The beats were all tight as fuck! So she played ‘Fastlane’. It was the simplest of all his beats. All these other beats were very layered but ‘Fastlane’ was very simplistic. I was like; “That beat is amazing” so we got that. ‘Visions’ we created fucking around.
Patrick: I think I might have been high off the content in the room. The room was really small and hot as fuck. That’s why they call it the Bakery. Everybody was smoking. I fell asleep and woke up to Left Brain making some drums. Left Brain was like: “Yo man, you wanna do something to this?” so I got up out of bed added some shit, Syd and Matt added some shit.
Matt: That’s how our house is now. At the Bakery niggers would be asleep, wake up and make a beat. We do the same shit we used to do, in our new house. It’s just in a different house.
TnO: We missed somebody…
Chris: I’m Christopher Smith. I play drums in the group. I met Syd in high school in electronic music club on Wednesdays. I came on august 2011 hit Syd up and told her we needed to work. Syd asked me to come to the Marina.
TnO: When Odd Future first came out all the attention was on Tyler. Then suddenly the other attention was on you [Syd]. Did you feel like had a lot of weight on your shoulders because all the critics were talking about ‘the only female in the group’?
Syd: No because even though I got all of that, I didn’t get as much attention as Hodgy. I still got the least amount of attention.
TnO: Did you feel like there was an extra need to defend yourself because critics claim OF talks down to women?
Syd: I only defend myself so many times. In the end the fans are going to listen anyways. So they can say what they want.
TnO: You guys became known all over the world purely through the Internet. In a way it’s massively positive because everyone knows who you are. But at the same time everyone’s downloading your music illegally. How do you guys combat that?
Matt: I look at it from a statistic perspective. 80% of America is on the Internet. People are trying to downplay the Internet (no pun intended). Everybody is on the Internet. You watch TV and they stream tweets at the bottom of the screen. Where else is media coming from? Everything is based on the Internet now. When people say: “Do people only know you from the internet?” well that’s where everybody is and where things that matter right now really are.
TV is sus now, what is on TV that people are going to watch now? Basketball wives? Everything is about what somebody tweeted. Now it’s an age when all it takes is one tweet. Let’s say Lady Gaga tweeted an Internet song. We are blowing up. For me it’s weird for people who know who I am. When OF first started to blow up I almost took a step back. That’s not my type of lane, being in the camera. I’ve never been that kind of person.
Syd: Me neither.
Matt: She’s even more so than I am that’s funny as fuck. It is always weird when people recognize me and call my name out. I am still so used to being with the fella’s and nobody knows who I am and that’s fine. My work is always behind the scenes. I feel like I’m respected by the people that really appreciate the work I do behind the scenes…
TnO: Everyone knows who you guys are as a collective; Odd Future has 23 albums on the Internet but a lot of your fans download that music for free…
Syd: We certainly don’t want to charge for our music but of course we want to make a living and eat.
TnO: Don’t you think it is fair [to yourselves] to charge them? You’re touring the world, you’re working. You’ve got bills…
Matt: We can make money of touring and merch. Most people will stay away from a lot of music because they have to pay for it. Who are the top artists out right now? A$AP Rocky, Frank Ocean, The Weeknd. Did any of them have any albums in stores when they blew up and started making money? No, but these guys performed at summerjam and have these crazy tours. Kendrick Lamar, did he have one official album in stores when everyone was hyping him? No. Where are they based? On the Internet. Who’s making stuff that matters right now? Them. I think its old media trying to bash new media to try and keep themselves relevant…
TnO: With that being said; Do you guys think the future is releasing music for free and making money of touring?
Matt: Yes, people are so ADD now because the internet is so fast. People don’t want to go through the process of paying for music. A lot of kids don’t have money. Kids coming to our shows don’t even have 10 dollars to spare.
Syd: I know what it’s like to not be able to afford every album I want. When our album came out, we said publicly: “if you don’t have the money for it, download it for free.”
Matt: And then when they come to our show and see a hardcopy they are like: “ooow I have it on my computer, but there’s a hardcopy right there!” That’s when you catch up. With the real people that really like your music. A hardcopy isn’t everywhere. Even if you bought the album off iTunes, when you come to our show and see the hardcopy, you’ll be like: “Damn, that’s the hardcopy!”
It’s give and take in both areas to me as far as where that’s really headed because the media is trying to make it seem like album sales don’t matter anymore. Artists don’t make money of album sales anyway. Why should they care? That’s why labels are scrambling. They are starting to realize that artists don’t need them. They want you to think that they still do. That’s why all these labels sign all these artists. You see a random artist getting signed like how did he get signed? Labels just scooping them up before they can realize that they can do it themselves.
TnO: I’ve seen you speak before about how the music industry can be shady…
Matt: Yes. I learned a lot from just watching. It is not even about something’s that happened [to me]. I was just watching our friends, people we know and stuff that come to us [and tell their problems with the industry]. We learned to stay away from that.
TnO: did it make you disillusioned?
Matt: No, it made me happy. We stayed away from all that and we’re here on this tour right now, of our own making. I love it.
Syd: We made it all ourselves in our house. We only went to the studio to mix it.
Matt: It all started with me and Syd eating pizza and singing ‘She Dgaf’. That’s really how the album came about.
Syd: I’m just really happy that with this we got to include all of our talented friends.
TnO: You two changed the formula in regards to people’s pre-conceptions surrounding Odd Future…
Matt: When people think of Odd Future, they think of ‘Yonkers’. That’s the biggest Odd Future song to date. You can’t blame the casual listener for thinking whatever comes from Odd Future is going to be in that vein. Purple Naked Ladies got to some casual listeners and they didn’t like it. You can’t blame them. The music gets to where it supposed to get too. We like a certain type of music. We go look for similar artists. People who need to find music will find it. I think people waste too much of their time trying to make people listen to music they don’t like.
TnO: Syd, you’re not touring with those guys [odd future] anymore? Did you separate yourself away because you’re different?
Syd: No, I just don’t like DJing enough to make that a career. I thought it was supposed to be a temporary thing. I saw it as a way to make some money and to support myself and move out of my parents’ house. Besides from that I started DJing just before I started touring with Odd Future. I got a crash course which is why, to this day, I don’t know how to use most DJ equipment. I just know how to use what I use.
(A point which is true, when we first met The Internet last year the very first thing Syd said when we walked in the room was “nigga’s is stressed”. she was due to DJ a show in Europe a few days later but her equipment had broken.)
TnO: When you all came out, you were one big group. Now would you say you’re more individual?
Syd: Yes, I think that’s what needs to happen. At the end of the day, we’re a label. Most labels don’t travel around together. I think it’s healthier for all of us. The ticket sales for Odd Future shows were driven by Tyler. Everyone needs to get their own shine. I feel like it’s the only way we can grow better as a group.
Matt: The Internet fans are different from Mellowhype fans. Mellowhype fans are different from Earl fans. So when we do come back together all these fans come back together. It’s one big thing that can be huge instead of keeping it here where only these fans come to a show and it’s sold out for The Internet fans.
Do you think the media portays you all differently to how you really are?
Syd: “Of course it’s the media’s job to make everything juicier and more drama filled…” “We don’t roll around like a big wolf pack like they try to make us do in these photo shoots. We all have different relationships with each other and we reunite in the studio.”
But as you can see I have started over. I was hanging on to them. Now I started over as The Internet, we do shows with our own group.
Matt: I think the live show really is what matters in an artist right now.
TnO: You guys do a lot of remixes. The most famous one is Lana Del Rey’s Blue Jeans Remix…
Matt: People really fuck with that remix.
Syd: I know I Don’t get it, we were surprised by that one.
Matt: We made it on the tour bus.
TnO: So are remixes and production the future for The Internet?
Matt: Yes, we want to executive produce other artists.
Syd: We don’t like spotlights. It’s been both of our dreams to be behind the scenes producers. At the same time I have grown to love performing. In order for our act to grow we needed to do this.
Matt: It’s like The Neptunes formula. Pharrell and Chad used to chill and then for fun they used to tour with N*E*R*D for a few months. It’s cool because then you get both sides of the spectrum. You really get to see what moves people too. I believe they used to do that for that purpose to see what people are really dancing to all around the world. It makes sense to want to travel and learn some shit for a while. Than go back in the studio and tape all that you have soaked up.
Syd: That’s the future for us.
Matt: During certain songs I watch how they been moving to it.
Syd: [When DJ’ing] There are certain songs that I only play in Europe. If I had played them in America everyone would have been like: “I don’t know what this is…”
TnO: That’s an interesting point. Do you think in the future, artists will have to make albums tailor to each country?
Matt: We were thinking about re-releasing ‘Purple Naked Ladies’ on some dance shit. (Since the time of interview this plan has changed. They are now thinking of re-releasing the album with live instruments.)
TnO: You did have a house-influenced track on the bonus EP?
Syd: Oh yes, “Of It”, I forgot we put that on there.
Matt: We should have played that last night. I forgot about that one.
TnO: I heard you worked with SBTRKT.
Matt: Yeah, that nigga is cool. He hit me up when he was here in LA for Coachella. Syd and I hung out with him and made three beats. [one of which was the Matt Martians and SBTRKT produced “Ghost” which ended up on Kilo Kish’s K+ album]
TnO: Are they done?
Matt: No, the thing about how I met him is awesome. I met him through one of my good friends. I can hit him up and we just chat it out. I’m like let’s get shit going. He taught me a lot of things like the program that we use back home. Expending my horizon of sound. How I can twist it and make weird shit. Basically don’t give up on certain beats because you can transform it to something that’s tight.
TnO: and who else are you working with…?
Matt: Earl and me are working on something. I don’t know if we’re still calling it Sweaty Martian. That’s just me and him making beats. We might not even have rap on it. When Syd and me come over we don’t actually make rap songs. We only make beats. It can be an instrumental album for all I know which will be tight as fuck.
Syd: Maybe it’s going to be an album that the three of us are producing.
We take a break and carry on having fun. Kish get’s called up to play her set, I decide I want to see it. The scene that follows is an overly excited fan screaming and rushing the stage to exclaim her love for Kilo. After the show someone comments that they “thought she was going to cut some of your hair off”.
The Internet are next – they play their show, it’s good… really good. Opening with an as yet unreleased song and closing with the come-down inspired “The Garden”. Once the show is finished the band go into the crowd to take photos with fans and sign autographs.
After all the fans leave, the door to the venue is locked. Syd Tha Kyd heads straight for the mixing desk and hooks it up to her laptop to start playing some of her new tracks from out of the venue’s speakers.
There’s still a real buzz in the air; the two of us start dancing on the furniture and discussing the songs. While this is happening Kilo Kish is looking tired and overwhelmed, maybe the shots she had earlier are taking effect. She decides to sneak out the back and into the tour bus…
Eventually, most of us [minus Kish and J.Scott] end up at an apartment in the city where we talk, drink and share more stories. When Syd arrives she pulls out her MacBook and begins playing the new “Feel Good” album.
What I hear are around 8 tracks, all made with live instrumentation, many of them feature Incubus guitarist Mike Einziger. The difference between this and PNL is noticeable. This is the sound of a band that has matured. The soulful vibe is still there, but the album turns up the funk influences… in fact, it’s fair to say that this is a predominantly funk album.
I even get a glimpse into the concept behind the album artwork… i can’t give away too much, but i guess it could be compared with Nirvana‘s “Nevermind” album sleeve.
Syd: For this album we wanted to do it all live now we have a band. Nobody does live music any more… all of our favourite albums have live drums, live guitar, live bass… y’know.
TnO: Does that make production any different?
Syd: Kind of. It’s all different now, we all contribute to songs. The whole band. Some tracks they might come up with and I’ll say “no change that, or play it that way”.
TnO: Producers like Quincy Jones do that…
Syd: Exactly. That’s the kind of producer I want to be… I’ll still come up with drums and chords and melodies but I want them to play it. They’re better [at playing instruments] than me so why not let them play and contribute? I’ll direct them to make sure my ideas come out right.
Chris (drummer): We were working together a lot for the new album, we were touring together, we were all contributing to this new record and I guess Matt and Syd thought that it made sense for us to just become a part of The Internet.
TnO: That sounds like a good arrangement, so you’re all equals now, rather than Syd and Matt dictating things to you?
Chris: Yeah pretty much. Like, when we’re making songs we all contribute ideas. The first album was just Syd and Matt, I played drums on a few songs, but it was their album. The new album [Feel Good] is all of us contributing ideas on nearly every song.
For example, I’m thinking of re-recording the drums on the song they just did with Chad [Hugo]. I’m thinking about re-recording the drums on that. I want people to dance when they hear it. I feel like that’s our party record.
Syd: Oh really?
Chris: There are a lot of talented people in our band… y’know? So we’re all learning from each other and we all contribute something unique. This album is a big step up from PNL.
Syd then says she wants to make some music, and begins playing another track intended for the new album produced by bassist Patrick Paige. The track has a Stevie Wonder vibe, exotic soulful chords and a laid back groove underneath sumptuous guitar licks.
Syd: Let’s write to this…. We need a concept. What does it remind you of?
TnO: I’m thinking of sunset, just sitting there and seeing the sunset over the sea.
Tay W: Let’s write about watching the sunset with someone you love…
Kitty Cash: How about we make the sunset a metaphor?
What follows is an example of Syd’s skill for directing people and fine tuning a song. We all contribute lyrics, words, concepts, feelings, melodies and verses. Syd types it all down, as well as recording it using the camera on her computer. She selects the best ideas as she constructs the song in real-time…
Syd and Tay Walker sing in harmony:
“Maybe you’ll love it, maybe you won’t? Maybe you feel it, maybe you don’t? Maybe this sunset isn’t enough…?”
The thing that strikes me is Syd Tha Kyd’s skill for filtering and merging our ideas… she doesn’t dismiss any of us, she doesn’t laugh at me singing a melody badly, she encourages everyone to say what they feel. Syd has a unique ability to make everyone feel included, and I can see why the whole band gels so well.
For “Feel Good” The Internet were lucky enough to work with one of their heroes for this record. The Neptunes’ Chad Hugo.
The track Chris mentioned with Chad is a guaranteed future favourite among fans. Chad plays a memorable bass guitar riff over Syd’s funk-inspired Rhodes chords. The track has a unique James Brown-meets-Jamiroquai groove.
And this isn’t the only record that The Neptunes’ and N*E*R*D producer has contributed to. Another song see’s Chad playing Moog bass on a track that reminds me of Justin Timberlake’s “Nothin’ Else”.
In fact, the day that song was recorded I received a message from Matt simply containing the words “wow man” when I asked further he told me that they’d just recorded some “Justified shit” with Chad. Now I’ve heard it; He wasn’t wrong.
I asked the guys what it was like to collaborate with one of their heroes:
Syd: It was fun…
Matt: When we worked we’d just start jamming and make a song, real fast.
Syd: On the song you just heard, I laid down some chords and Chad picked up the bass guitar and came up with a bassline right away.
Matt: Chad is tight, forreal. Like, he’s so low-key. He just walks in, picks up the guitar like it’s nothing and lays down the bass line. The other time when he brought out the Moog I was like… (Matt makes gestures like he’s stunned)
Syd: Yeah, after our sessions I can definitely hear what Chad did on all The Neptunes’ tracks. I can tell exactly what he did.
Matt: Me too
TnO: What’s he like to work with?
Syd: *laughs* He’s funny, when he wasn’t working with us he’d be sat on his laptop making beats with his headphones on. (Syd does an impression using her MacBook typing away really quickly)
Matt: You can tell that dude lives music, I’ve got so much respect for him since working with him.
TnO: How did Chad find out about you?
Matt: He’s friends with Mike (Einziger from Incubus) and he heard Mike was working with us…
TnO: Wait; how did you hook up with Mike?
Matt: He’s friends with our manager; he’s a big OF fan in general. Mike heard Purple Naked Ladies and he really liked it. He told our manager that he wanted to help produce us, so we started working with him… SO, Chad heard that Mike was working with us, I guess Mike told him about us, and Chad heard the tracks we’ve been doing with Mike for “Feel Good” [and] he liked them… It was Chad that reached out and asked to work with us.
Matt: “Yeah man. That’s the cool thing about being in The Internet. We can walk down the street and nobody recognizes us, we can live a normal life, but on the flipside we’re making songs with [members of] Incubus and N*E*R*D and we’re touring Europe.”
What Matt said about not being recognized turns out to be wrong. The following afternoon we go for a walk around Leeds, we’ve barely left the apartment before a guy speeds up to us on a BMX and skids to a stop at our feet. He shakes hands with Matt, Syd, Tay, Chris and Patrick. “You guys were sick last night. I was there…” he says before turning to Tay Walker “Your voice is incredible man”. The band engages in conversation with the fan, graciously thanking him for his compliments and for coming to the show.
Where some artists might be arrogant, The Internet remains humble and accommodating. It reminds me of something Syd said when we first met a few months earlier.
“We want our fans to feel like they know us”.
Anyway, back to The Neptunes’ stan talk:
While we’re talking about the Chad session I’m reminded of something… I grab my advanced version of Fly or Die
Syd: You did not just give me that?! (as she pulls a shocked face)
TnO: Haha no, but you can rip it if you want
Syd: Matt have you seen this shit?
Matt: Wow man; you need to send me all The Neptunes shit…
TnO: You don’t need it, you work with The Neptunes
Matt: We haven’t worked with Pharrell.
TnO: Yeah but you will, it’s inevitable – He’s worked with Tyler, Frank, Earl, Quadron. He must know who you are.
Matt: Look, if we ever end up working with him then that’s great, that dude is one of my heroes. But for now I’m happy.
TnO: Imagine you went in with Pharrell, and he’d written a song for you filled with ass metaphors [laughs].
Matt: If we were ever asked work with Pharrell we’d want input. That’s what we tried to do with Chad and Mike, we didn’t want them to take over the songs. We wanted them to become members of our band for the tracks they did. [And] that’s what happened.
TnO: Syd didn’t you meet P before?
Syd: No. He came to one of the Odd Future show’s where I was DJ’ing. He appeared on stage out of nowhere and did this crazy leg dance. All the guys on stage stood like “wtf?”. It was kinda awkward. Then he left before we finished our set so we never met him.
You can also read another inte James’s GiantRobot blog.