Broken Social Scene and R. Kelly? Kanye West and Wilco? Fleetwood Mac and Daft Punk? At first glance, these disparate pairings may not seem like they’d work, but Chicago production team the Hood Internet think otherwise.
The duo of Steve Reidell (STV SLV) and Aaron Brink (ABX) have been mashing those artists up into brand new compositions (along with plenty of others), giving them new titles, and releasing them for free on their blog since 2007.
Alongside frequent comparisons to mash-up maestro Girl Talk, the pair have also built a solid reputation as skilled purveyors of hip-hop/indie/'80s fusion, landing gigs at Lollapalooza and SXSW along the way.
But on Sept. 18, they’ll try something completely new. Their first album of all-original material, FEAT, will drop that day, and the low-key twosome couldn’t be happier about it.
They’ll be at the Casbah on Saturday, Aug. 4 to give San Diego a sneak preview, but I recently spoke with Steve Reidell -- the bearded half of the group -- to get his take on the new project, and to see if things really are “all good in the hood.”
Scott McDonald: How are you?
Steve Reidell: Very good, man. At this very moment, we are driving through Weed, Calif. The next three exits I’m seeing are for Weed. Northern part of California. It’s an awesome part of the drive. We’re headed to Santa Cruz to hang out for a day. We have a show there tomorrow. How are you?
SM: Great. Thanks for asking. Things going well?
SR: We’ve been doing a lot more touring -- this year in particular. We just went out with Star Slinger and we’re currently out with Psalm One and Tanya Morgan. Both of them are on this new record we made. And we’ll be going out in the fall again.
SM: How was the process of making your own music vs. doing mash-ups?
SR: It was something that developed over the course of a couple years. We built the skeletons of the songs and then went out and found people that we wanted to work with. They would add a part or suggest an arrangement change. It was a lot of bouncing back and forth and piecing things together over two years. We’d add a verse here and there when we’d go into a studio in their city. It was a very cool process.
SM: So it was always part of the plan?
SR: Yes. We always talked about doing it, but no one knew when it was going to be done. We first thought we’d do it in the spring, but things change when you’re collaborating with so many different people. It just gets done when it does.
SM: And now, technology is on your side.
SR: Oh yeah. That makes most things doable over the wire. And it was actually quicker because of that. I first remember the Postal Service doing their record that way. And now, pretty much everyone has Internet at home.
SM: Has it been an easy transition?
SR: I don’t know. We’re excited about it and it was a lot of fun to do. And the fact that it’s an entire album’s worth of songs is something, but I don’t think it marks that much of a departure from what we normally do on the Internet.
SM: You’re not Arctic Monkeys yet.
SR: [Laughs.] Not yet. The real idea behind it was to make a bunch of new songs, not worry about what they were, not say this is funk, or this is hip-hop, and just end up with something completely new.
SM: What drew you to mash-ups?
SR: I don’t think it’s ever been one thing or another. Most of the time, especially early on, almost everything we were doing was just for fun. I think through the history of producing our music, and recording ourselves as a band, making the mixtapes was just an extension of all of that. But we just love songs that have been f----d with. It’s such a subjective idea whether it’s better than the original or not, but you always end up with another piece of art.
SM: And you guys come from band backgrounds, right?
SR: When we first met many years ago, we were in separate bands. But we first started making music together when we were in a band together in Chicago.
SM: Has to be so much better to effectively just carry laptops these days.
SR: The travel is so much easier with less gear. Especially since we come from a background of shoving all kinds of amps into the back of a van. And it’s so nice not to have to do that. But we basically are in a band right now, and we’ve brought a bunch of lights with us this time, and a friend who’s doing scratching as well. It’s nice to travel light, but you also want to put on the best show that you can for people.
SM: Have there been any legal issues?
SR: Not really. We put the songs up on the website for free. We have a pretty comically written disclaimer on there, but the idea is that it’s all like a white-label, 12” bootleg that you used to get back in the day. No one’s really asked us to take anything down, but then again, we don’t sell any of it or put that s--t on iTunes, so there shouldn’t be a problem.
SM: What’s the plan moving forward?
SR: [Laughs.] We don’t really have one. I think we’re going to work on some more new music. But I think the main focus for us day today is how we’re going to present this music to people on this tour. That’s where the brain-pieces are at right now. But the general plan is to just continue to make more music.