When Odd Future arrived on the music scene, the crew announced they would “Kill Them All.” Having sprouted several impressive acts in just five years, OFWGKTA has become one of the most preeminent artist collectives in recent memory.
OF’s musical family tree includes critically acclaimed rappers Tyler, The Creator and Earl Sweatshirt, Grammy-winning singer-songwriter Frank Ocean, and extended brethren Vince Staples and Casey Veggies. Yet another prominent branch of the Los Angeles-based collective is the R&B/Soul band The Internet.
No, the word “band” does not refer to the term used to describe the manufactured pop groups that make teens girls swoon. The Internet consists of musicians that sing, write, play instruments, and create mature art. While birthed from Odd Future, the outfit has carved its own distinct lane in the musical landscape.
Led by 23-year old vocalist/producer Syd and 26-year-old synth player/producer Matt Martians, The Internet is returning this month with their third studio album Ego Death. For this round, Syd and Matt tapped Patrick Paige II (bass), Christopher Allan Smith (drums), Steve Lacy (guitar) and Jameel Bruner (keys) to join them in the studio to record the entire the project.
Over 12 sultry tracks, Ego Death takes listeners on a hypnotic voyage through the mind of an individual trying to reconcile the joys and pains of life. The album presents itself as the intersection between the poetic tone of Digable Planets’ Reachin', the passionate Neo-Soul of Erykah Badu’s Baduizm, the spirited live instrumentation of The Roots’ Things Fall Apart, and the lyrical candor of Andre 3000’s The Love Below.
AllHipHop.com spoke with Syd and Matt about the new LP. The two performers also discuss the current status of Odd Future and why Millennials need to let their egos die.
The title of the new album is Ego Death. What inspired the name of the project?
Matt: Ego death is a current thing within my friend circle. It’s part of the psychedelic experience, trans meditation and ego death. You’re at your true creative form when you don’t allow things to affect you. You let go of worry.
Syd: You let go off your ego.
Matt: Exactly, your ego is everything. Your ego is that thing that where you don’t tell your mom you love her because you don’t want to seem soft. It’s a culmination of all those things. Things are better when your ego is dead.
In the absence of the ego, what fills that void creatively?
Syd: When you’re not worried about what it’s going to sound like to other people, when you’re completely vulnerable, that’s when you are the most creative. I don’t think there is really a void when there’s an absence of ego. Maybe there it is, but I think it allows more space for life, for stuff that really matters.
For this album, you recorded with all six members contributing to the sessions. Did that experience have an effect on how you created this project as compared to your previous works?
Matt: For sure. With this album we had two new members - Jameel Bruner and Steve Lacy. Those are young cats. Jameel is on keys and Steve is on guitar, and they bring a whole different sound to the band. You can hear it on the album.
I feel like we are at our true form as a band as far as finding our true sound. I feel like we have the perfect formation of a band. Not just musically, but just as friends.
That’s nothing against Tay [Walker]. He’s still one of our great friends, but he’s a solo artist. He was always a solo artist. He was really doing us a favor, because we couldn’t really afford a keyboard player at the time. Tay is doing really well now as a solo artist.
I think now we have a really, really good group of guys. It’s perfect for the sound we always wanted to put out there.
Your previous albums had a limited number of guest features. But Ego Death does include some notable artists like Janelle Monáe and Vic Mensa. What is your process for deciding which artists you want to work with?
Syd: There’s really no process involved. We’re just kind of making stuff, and our artist friends happen to come over. We just say, “Hey, we should work.” It’s just natural.
We talked about working with Vic when we first met him. Then one day he was in L.A. We were at the studio and he came through. We played him the ["Go With It”] beat. I knew I wanted a rapper on it.
We were originally going to get Tyler on that particular song, but we decided that we wanted to do a song with Tyler that he helped produced or produced himself. We wanted that side of him as well.
So when Vic came through, I thought, "He would be perfect to put on this. It makes more sense." Janelle was in town. She’s a friend of Matt’s through family.
Matt: They’re all my friends. They're artist friends that made sense. Everybody has been wanting to work with Janelle - and me personally from growing up knowing her.
Syd: James Fauntleroy was set-up by our A&R Mark Williams.
Matt: James was a fan of us, but we didn’t really know it. When we had the opportunity to work with him, we said, “Yeah!” James became a friend after that.
It was one of those things where it all came together naturally. We’re very grateful these guys were a part of it and came to support us in that way.
Since you were actually in the studio with them, does that mean you recorded other tracks with them besides the ones that made the album?
Syd: There may be a couple, but none that are on the album.
Matt: You hear interviews by certain bands where they say, “We made 30 songs for the album.” For me, we’re a made-to-order type of band. [laughs] We make what we’re supposed to make, because we put a lot into those songs.
To be honest, we have to live some more to have more to talk about. All of our songs are about real situations. You’ve got to get some more life points to write about it in the music. We really want these songs to stick around for a long time, so you have to put more into them besides just making a thousand songs with a thousand ideas.
Syd: I’m actually very envious of artists who can make a lot of music. Unfortunately, I’m not like that. A lot of members in our band are like that. Steve and Jameel make stuff all the time. Chris makes stuff. Patrick makes hella stuff we don’t even know about. [laughs]
As far as writing goes, I don’t write everyday. I don’t make music everyday. I spend a lot of time thinking about music, thinking about business, thinking about interior design. Just random stuff. I’m kind of all over the place. I can sit down and write songs if I need to, but I don’t just do that. So we have maybe 4 or 5 other songs that we made around the same time, but they just didn’t fit on the album at all.
Tyler is on the album. He created this stir over the last couple of weeks when he kind of suggested Odd Future was disbanding. I know you guys are still affiliated with them. What exactly is the status of Odd Future as a collective and your association with the actual Odd Future record label?
Matt: I watched Tyler’s interview with Hot 97. Basically, what he meant is that we don’t hang out everyday. That’s literally what he means. If Earl saw Tyler today, they would give each other the biggest hug.
It’s more that we are being real about it. Instead of being fake like a lot of acts that pretend like they’re best friends when they actually hate each other, it’s better for us to say we don’t hang around each other. We actually love each other behind the scenes.
It’s interesting when you see [the media hype] and it’s a thing when I know if all of us were in a room right now together it would be mad jokes. It needed to be said, because I think it’s important for our progress, and other people in Odd Future’s progress, to shed that name.
It’s a badge. It’s a great thing. Everything has to move on. Everything has to have closure. I think what rose from that is what really matters. A lot of great careers spawned from that, and a lot of great careers will continue to spawn from that.
So I think it was important for Tyler to say that. I know Tyler. Tyler is very smart. He knew what he was doing. He needed to say it.
You mentioned the Hot 97 interview. It was good to see Tyler and Vince together again.
Matt: All them dudes - Tyler, Vince - no matter the silly sh*t that goes on when you’re late teenagers, when you get older them dudes know that got each other’s back. They care about each other a lot, whether you believe it not. These dudes came up with each other. So when I see it, that sh*t makes me smile.
They always had respect for each other. It was just growing up. That ego... ego death man! That ego! A lot of my friends have been talking about the concept of killing their ego and humbling themselves. I think it’s a really cool concept, because our generation really needs to be humbled. There are a lot of egos based off nothing.
Syd: Off Twitter followers.
Matt: Off Twitter and Instagram followers. If Instagram decided to delete their sh*t tomorrow, so many people would literally be suicidal. So many people’s life, ego, and emotions weigh on the balance of a number. It’s the craziest thing. So everybody needs ego death.
Follow The Internet on Twitter @intanetz.
The Internet is performing at “SummerStage - Central Park” with Basement Jaxx in New York City on July 1. For information visit ticketfly.com.