Syd Tha Kyd and Matt Martians, collectively known as The Internet, released their follow-up album Feel Good last month, with pockets full of funk, soul, and everything else that the duo is passionate about. Underneath it all though, they’re two artists whose undying love of music makes them second guess even their own genius at times as they continue their pursuit of innovating music. We caught Syd and Matt fresh off the Mac Miller tour to talk about their process, pizza Lunchables, and a potential project they’d like to have in the works involving some British chicks over house beats.
Life+Times: How are you two?
Matt Martians: Chillin’! Just got done watching Scandal. We’re just relaxing, about to go get some free shit.
Syd Tha Kyd: Yeah, how are you?
L+T: I’m good! I was supposed to do this interview in person at Rock The Bells in NYC, and then it got cancelled. This is why we can’t have nice things, right?
Syd: [laughs] Yeah!
L+T: Yeah, it’s crazy. Outside of strictly rap-related festivals, when it comes to hip-hop, it feels like with festivals now all of a sudden people are realizing that hip-hop could live there. For artists live yourselves who are really, really dope live, was that kind of a no-brainer? Like, duh! Of course you’d be good at festivals!
Syd: Yeah, that’s what it was! And at the same time, that’s one of the only ways nowadays to like, find fans who have never heard of you and show them what you got right there.
Matt: Yup! Since TV isn’t showing videos anymore. I guess like mainstream, accessible TV isn’t showing videos as much, so now you’ve got to be up either early as hell in the morning or up late as hell to see the videos or have digital cable. So you’ve got to kill it at festivals and concerts to really build a fan base. But it’s good though because doing it that way, they get to see you in your actual element, see if you’re really about the music.
Syd: If it’s real!
Matt: If it’s real. You pull fans way quicker that way than opposed to them seeing your video and being like, “Uhh…”
Syd: “Eh, they’re cool.”
L+T: Do you feel like that’s why you guys put an extra emphasis into your band setup?
Syd: I mean yeah, for sure. We’ve never performed without the band. From the first show to the last one we’ve done, it’s been the same five band members: me, Matt, Pat, Chris and Tay. And I insisted upon that, because you know, I’m not comfortable enough with my voice to just sing over a backing track on stage in front of people. Like, that’s karaoke, you know?
L+T: But Syd, you have the voice of God. Why are you still acting like you’re a contestant on The Voice?
Syd: [laughs] Because! If you put me up against people like even on American Idol, I’m going to lose. That’s just a fact. I’m not a trained singer, and I took voice lessons for maybe three months. You know, I’m not a singer-singer. I know singers. I’m an engineer, I know singers! I’ve seen singers, you feel me? And I’m not one of them, I’m a vocalist. I still get on stage and do my thing and I’ve gotten so much better, live. So much better!
L+T: Does that come with practice?
Syd: Honestly, my voice has gotten stronger because – whether it was just from having to rehearse all the time then having to perform all the time, your voice definitely gets stronger. It’s a muscle and when you exercise it, it gets stronger. So, that came with just time and rehearsing and performing, but there’s a lot more that goes into it. I mean now I have an in-ear monitor, which has changed everything! I can actually hear myself on stage now, so shows are almost like, that much more effortless for us. Now it’s more fun for me, because I know I’m hitting my notes. I think if you have an ear, if you have relative pitch, you can hear that and you can sing. You know when you can’t.
L+T: When did you get an in-ear monitor?
Syd: I got it for the Mac Miller tour.
L+T: So you’ve been singing without one and you sounded that good?
Syd: Well before the Mac Miller tour, yeah. Yeah, I didn’t have one. I didn’t really know that I could just buy one like that. I didn’t really think about. And it’s stupid because I’m an engineer so I feel like I should have known that. But I didn’t go to school so, I mean yeah, I just figured it out. What happened was Mac used the band for his show, for half of his set, so he bought them in-ear monitors. His team got us a sponsorship or whatever with this company that does molds, so he got Chris, Tay and Patrick molds for free. He bought them for the band, but we still don’t have the equipment for that. He did, so they would use in-ears during Mac’s set but we couldn’t use them during ours because, you know, his engineers are there to work for him. He’s not paying them to do our set. So they couldn’t do that. Basically, they don’t need them as much as I do, so I just went to Guitar Center when I figured it all out and bought my own in-ear monitors. I just got the regular noise-canceling headphone thingies or whatever that wraps around your ears. They’re just like the other ones; it’s just not molded to my ear.
L+T: How did that tour go for you guys?
Syd: It was like, the most fun we’ve ever had!
Matt: Yeah, the tour was mad fun! Mac’s like a really cool dude. Him and his people really show you a real good time and make you feel like a part of their family. You don’t feel like you’re just on a tour that’s not yours. You feel like it’s your tour, just like it is his. Mac’s tight.
L+T: Cool. So you released Feel Good last month, but you let your fans have a free stream a few days before it dropped on iTunes. Why was that?
Matt: You know, the stream is important now I think and the leak is important because it gives people – who are not going to pay for your music unless they hear it first – a chance to hear it. There are people who just want to hear it and they hear it and they’re like, “Wow, this is really great! I want to pay for a concert ticket. I want to buy a shirt.” They don’t necessarily have to buy the album, but they’ll give you that $10-15 back in other ways, you know? It’s just about people hearing it, so giving people a chance to actually experience it for free. We don’t care if people get it for free. We’ve been broke, we understand downloading music for free, you know what I’m saying? So we just want people to have it and to be able to come to the shows, come out and support and just spread it to people, so they won’t be alone with it. That’s our main focus.
L+T: It seems like Odd Future as a whole has cracked some sort of a code when it comes to the music industry. Why do you think it takes so long for the higher-ups at record labels to really understand the stuff that you’re seeing at a ground level?
Syd: It’s interesting, because when we were “discovered” by our manager Dave, he used to work at Interscope. That’s kind of what he tells us, is that labels are trying to figure out how to do what we’re doing now without a label. So he told us to stick to that and not to sign for a while, and then he was the one who wrote our deal to get our own label. I think it’s fine. The bottom line is they’re businesses. They’re companies, and they have to make money, and that’s what a lot of artists forget because you’re dealing with art. That’s an extension of you, it’s something you’re extremely passionate about, and when you know the man across the table from you is only in it because he has to feed his family, he wants to make more money, as much money as he can, it makes you feel some kind of way naturally. But you have to keep in mind that it’s a business, and everybody has to make money, just like we do, and if they don’t think they can make money off of you, they’re not going to put up their money. They’re not going to invest in it, and I understand that. That’s what distinguishes certain artists from others: the ones that prove to these labels, that we can make money without you! If you want to get in on this, then invest something and we’ll both make more money! That’s what we’re proving to them right now.
L+T: On this project, it seems like you switched it up a bit. Was that a conscious decision to move in a new direction?
Syd: Yes and no. I think we definitely knew we wanted to be more funky, more jazzy, more soulful, and I think having a band made that happen naturally. We knew that’s what we wanted, but we didn’t actually say that before we recorded each song. We’re influenced by a fusion of a lot of things so, I don’t know. Yeah, it was subconscious.
L+T: How did your songwriting change?
Syd: I think it just got better. I couldn’t write for a long time. I was in a bad writer’s block until like, three months before the album was due, so we had all the instrumentals and no words for a long time.
L+T: Wow, really?
Syd: Yeah, because the instrumental part comes really easy to all of us because we’re all producers first, all of us. I think one thing that I know I did was I sought out help with certain songs. I knew what I wanted them to sound like and I knew people who make music like that and I reached out to a few people for different songs. I had help from some friends, because usually all I really need is like that one other personality to bounce ideas off of and someone to sing other melodies that I may not have come up with. A lot of times that’s it, you know? Someone will be in the room singing a melody and I’ll be like, “Wait! What is that? Okay, I’m going to write to that melody right there!” It’s different. I’m learning that I was right in not trying to force anything, because I was frustrated for a long time and I tried to force a lot of things out, and I’m glad I didn’t.
L+T: Do you ever get production block?
Matt: Oh yeah! I mean, I’m in one right now! But it’s more so production is easy to get out of a block, I think. It’s not like songwriting. Songwriting’s like, different. It’s easy to sound cheesy in songwriting. I think you can tell when somebody is being lazy in their songwriting. Beats are like…I can make something random in like five minutes and it be crazy and that just be out of nowhere. But with writing? You’re rarely going to be able to write a song. You know, if I sit down for 30 minutes and want to make a decent beat, I could make one. Songwriting…it don’t work like that.
Syd: I can’t just be put on the spot to write a song, and that’s something that I’m trying to learn to face. I really want to be that kind of person, but it doesn’t work for me that way. Things come to me. Like “Sunsets,” the second song on the album, I couldn’t write to that for a month. We had that beat forever, and all we knew was that we wanted it to be somehow about a sunset, which is really vague, and it’s really easy to make that sound cheesy. So that song, the lyrics literally came to me one day when I woke up to a phone call about something, and it wasn’t really good news and then I looked around my room, and my room was dirty as hell because I fuck it up in running out of the house every day. I’m trying to run to the studio and work, and I’d forgotten about everything else around me and then I don’t know, the words popped in my head. “Life’s a mess,” those three words popped in my head and then the rest of it just was easy after that. That’s how “Love Song” off the first album came about, just random thoughts that I think.
L+T:Well that’s how you know you’re a real artist…
Syd: Right. It is, and it’s weird at the same time. It’s very frustrating. When you’re in a block, you feel like, “I’m not a real artist. I can’t make art right now! I must not be a real artist!” That’s something that was really hard for me to deal with, because that’s all I want to be. I’ve been struggling with this since I was young, and that’s why I became an engineer before I became a producer! I wanted to be a producer and I didn’t like what I was making, but I wanted to stick around somehow and that’s how I did it. So it’s something that when it happens, I always go back to that place of feeling like, “Damn, maybe I’m just not an artist. Maybe I’m supposed to just be an engineer!” Then one day I wake up, and lyrics come pop into my head for specific beats and I know it’s right, you know? It’s not just something that I hear and I’m like, “Eh, I’ll try it.” It’s something that it’s like, “Yes, yes! That’s it! That’s it right there!” and that’s the only time I keep anything. I don’t like to keep stuff that I want to grow on me, which is why it takes a long time for me to write too, because I’ll only put it out if I love it.
L+T: Will you be touring this project?
Matt: Yeah, of course! We’re just scheduling some now because we’ve just been booking stuff. We’re just planning some new shit out so yeah of course, we’re definitely going to tour this album.
L+T: Nice. Do you keep it domestic or you’re going global too?
Matt: Both. For sure. We gotta go to Australia, we gotta go to, of course, the UK.
Syd: Yeah, we’re trying to go everywhere. Anywhere we can.
L+T: What do you guys put on your tour rider?
Matt: Pizza Lunchables, Champagne…
Syd: Yeah, Pizza Lunchables, Champagne, a bottle of Jameson…
Syd: A lot of beer.
Matt: Lunch meat.
Syd: Yeah, lunch meat and fruit.
Matt: And orange juice.
Syd: And orange juice.
L+T: Do you remember the Italian Lunchables before they made the Lunchables pizza? They had sesame crackers, mozzarella and salami, and it was like, the best Lunchables ever and they took it right off the market! Pain in the ass!
Matt: I think I might be too young for that one.
Syd: Yeah [laughs]
Matt: Pizza Lunchables are still clutch. They’re like the right amount of food when you just want to have a snack, so it’s like, clutch.
L+T: But isn’t it cold pizza, but not-cooked cold pizza?
Syd and Matt [in unison]: You can heat it up!
L+T: And it makes a pizza! You just discovered the key to the world.
Syd: [laughs] Yeah!
L+T: I feel so bad for all of those little sad bastard kids who get the cold Pizza Lunchables for lunch, and they don’t have access to a microwave at school.
Syd: [laughs] I was one of those kids!
Syd: But I would only eat Pizza Lunchables. I would not eat anything else! Like I ate that all year. Everyday, all year.
L+T: So, what’s the most expensive equipment? What counts as like the Bugatti of sound equipment or production stuff that you’d use?
Syd: That we use or that’s available for purchase?
L+T: Well let’s go first with what you use, and then what you would get.
Matt: Well for me, the most expensive thing I have is my keyboard. It’s a Korg M3, it’s busted up but a new one’s worth I guess like $2100 if it’s brand new. I got mine for the low-shi woeski. I used to want this thing called a Open Lab MiKo. It’s like a computer built into an actual keyboard, but now that I’ve gotten older, I actually know how… That I actually don’t want it anymore. That shit cost like five or six racks but you know – I don’t really want it no more.
L+T: So what counts as like, I don’t want to keep saying the Bugatti, but…
Syd: Well okay. Since I have a studio, the most expensive piece of equipment that I have in my studio is what’s called a Digidesign 192. It’s what lets you use ProTools HD, which is like the standard software for professional studios. The software itself costs a few thousand dollars, and the Digidesign 192, it depends where you get it from, but it could cost like $5000.
Syd: Yeah, and you need the 192, or something else, to even open ProTools HD. So to get an HD system, like a good one, it’s going to run you about $10,000. I have one, I did not buy it. It belonged to Teena Marie, because me and my friend Alia opened a studio, and Alia is Teena’s daughter.
L+T: Oh my goodness!
Syd: Yeah, she had all her mom’s studio equipment in storage and wanted me to put it in her backhouse and build a studio for her, but her family wouldn’t let her put it in the backhouse so we went half on a space. Now we have a studio, and it’s in memory of her mom so her mom’s plaques and artwork and Rick James plaques are everywhere. It’s really cool.
L+T: I love that!
Syd: [giggles] But yeah, I have the equipment that she recorded her last album or maybe the last two albums on, I don’t now, but for sure the last one on, and that’s what we recorded Feel Good on. So that was really cool.
L+T: That is really cool. Are you starting to go into the next project now, or are you taking a break to get the touring going and all that?
Syd: We are conceptualizing for the next album. We know what our next project is going to be, but it won’t be an Internet album, it’s just going to be a Syd and Matt Presents kind of thing. It’s probably going to be a house album or a house project, since you know, aside from what we do make, we make House. That’s what we love. We love listening to House. So we just want to make an album with just a bunch of different females on it.
L+T: Really? Can you get Ellie Goulding on there? She’s my favorite.
Syd: I’m trying to get her, I’m trying to get Eliza Doolittle…
L+T: You should get Jessie Ware too.
Syd: Yup, she’s on the list too! Basically trying to be like Disclosure, not gonna lie! That had all of them on there too.
L+T: That’s exciting. Are you trying to release that in 2014?
Syd: Yeah. Probably, but it depends on how fast we can get it done. We definitely want to release it before the next Internet album, though.