Here at The Music Ninja, we take pride in being solely focused on the musicians we love and the works they create. This mindset has allowed us to bypass the pop culture aspects that many others focus on, bringing our Ninja following the freshest faces and best yet-undiscovered acts as they appear across the web. This massively time consuming pursuit has introduced us to many a fledgling band as they try to find their ways early in their careers. Back in mid-2013, that hunt led us to a diamond in the rough.
Marian Hill, a band who rose to fame on the back of their debut song, “Whisky” is a Philly-raised, Brooklyn-based duo consisting of Jeremy Lloyd and Samantha Gongol. As early fans of their work, it has been exciting watching the band take off and become a successful name in music behind their jazzy-electronic style. While making their second appearance at Outside Lands Music Festival a few weeks ago, Jeremy & Sam were gracious enough to meet up with us while taking in St. Lucia’s performance to talk touring, inspiration, and the road to success.
TMN: Hey Benny! First off – thank you for being a part of our Residency program. It’s an honor to have a legend like you onboard. Let’s kick things off by talking about Danceaholic, which is currently smashing up the charts. Talk to us about how you approached this project as a whole.
BB: I’m very fond of the instrumental track “Danceaholic” which lends its name to the whole album because it takes me back to my roots and projects me forwards at the same time. The album is a bigger project of course. It’s a mixture of tracks that were already released and brand new material, so it’s a kind of a bridge between the last four or five years and where I’m going!
TMN: You have an eclectic group of artists with you on the album, including singer/songwriter legends like Chris Brown and John Legend, as well as a nice collection of other producers. How did you go about selecting who you wanted to work with?
BB: I work first and foremost collaborate with my cousin Alle Benassi. He’s my musician and producer. But I really love working with different collaborators. Chris Brown is such a great artist. Everything he sings just comes to life and is amazing. Since working together on “Beautiful People” we have an artistic relationship and always feel free to send ideas to each other, that’s how ‘Paradise’ came about. As for John Legend I met him through a mutual friend of Alle and I, Jean Baptiste, in LA, who was working with John at the time, then we performed together at Coachella and we just knew we’d collaborate on the new album.
Ever since first cropping up on our Ninja radar back in 2014 with the underground sweeping single “Thinking About It”, Just Kiddin’, the British House duo comprised of Lewis Thompson and Laurie Revel, have held down a tender place within many of our writers’ hearts. Formed in 2010 and originating from the small town of Kettering, Northamptonshire, England, Just Kiddin’ have quickly become one of the hottest acts in all of Club-Land over the last few years, and for good reason. We had the chance to catch up with Lewis & Laurie not long after wrapping up their most recent North American tour & behind the release of their latest music video for “Fall For You” (see below to watch the entire piece); and as always the two brought a smile to our face while dropping some insight into what’s been going on with them as well. Read the transcript of our entire conversation below, and be on the lookout for more music from Just Kiddin’ very soon.
The Music Ninja: First off, thanks so much for taking the time to sit down and answer a few questions on behalf of TMN. We’ve been following you guys pretty closely since all the way back in August of 2014. So thanks again, we’re very excited to pick your brains. Let’s just get right after it! After a bit (read: a lot!) of background research on you guys, we came across some interesting arcs to the Just Kiddin’ saga. Lewis & Laurie, you both grew up in the same town of Kettering, and from what we understand, were near the same social circles, and both grew up with more traditional music backgrounds as well. With those rich musical histories, how did you both manage to fall in with each other in a musical capacity, and what led you both towards the world of club & electronic music; and also why did you decide to apply your talents in that direction?
Just Kiddin (Lewis): Good researching! Laurie & I have been friends since we were about 13, from a young age we got into electronic music together really, hence why our tastes are so similar. We tried to go down the band route originally, but got frustrated with organising band practise and how long things can take. I think this impatience made us grab copies of some music production software, and there’s been no looking back ever since!
The Music Ninja:You guys had early releases as Just Kiddin’ on Nurvous, HK & Exploited before becoming an Eton Messy staple. Obviously, Eton Messy has released and pushed some of your most notable tunes. How did you guys end up getting involved with the YouTube page turned club night, record label and electronic industry leaders? We assume you guys have a pretty solid relationship with the number of releases you’ve had under their banner.
Just Kiddin’: We love the guys at Eton Messy, they’re our good friends and we’ve had some wicked times together. We originally met them at a club night we played at in Bristol after they had been supporting our music on the channel, we hit it off and then decided to release “Thinking About It” with them.
The Music Ninja: Do you both consider Eton Messy to be a home of sorts for Just Kiddin’?
Just Kiddin’: Yes and no really. Like we said, we love the Eton Messy guys and really appreciate the help they’ve given us along the way. But we don’t want to state one place as our home and sounds & styles can change.
The Music Ninja:Your last release was the original record “Fall For You”, for which the official music video recently dropped as well (watch the whole thing above). It’s got quite the buoyant, summery feel to it. Do you think of Just Kiddin’ as maintaining a certain aesthetic and sound, or do you feel you both can go in any number of directions with the project?
The Music Ninja: We last featured your collective talents back in February on the heels of your Don’t Clock Me Out EP on Psycho Disco Records. Thus far you guys have really been one of the premiere acts in taking that label into more of a national tastemaking spotlight. Do you both consider Psycho Disco to be a permanent home of sorts for 909 or are their plans to release on other labels down the line as well?
Chris: Yes. Psycho Disco has become our family for the 909 project and we couldn’t be happier. Ashley aka Treasure Fingers aka The King Of The ATL is like a big brother and always has our back. We always keep an open mind to our music, and do like a lot of different stuff, so some music may actually not fit the label, but a lot of our music will totally be busting through the scene with that Psycho Disco logo!
Brennen: I mean we might do some stuff with other partners depending on how the songs come out after we make em.. but family is family. Ashley has been so awesome to work with and I don’t know if anyone gets us more visually. His vision for the artwork is always SO on point. It’s just a perfect match.
READ THE REST OF OUR INTERVIEW WITH 909 TIL INFINITY AFTER THE JUMP!
For some, the gathering of like-minded, free-spirited individuals in the forest for 4 days of non-stop music, workshops, speakers, and art is enough to transform the soul. To show you another way to live, a more enriched, fulfilled way of seeing the possibilities all around us. But for others, this is not enough. To satisfy the desires of a diverse crowd, Enchanted Forest doesn’t stop there. They bring some of the most unique attributes of the festival scene into play, including a liberating #freethenipple campaign, 24-hour shower parties, a 100 percent alcohol-free experience, and a “Save The Planet” charity initiative with Cadence & Cause, where you can win 2 all-inclusive tickets to the festival simply by donating.
To top it off, Enchanted Forest brings with them some of the most well know and carefully selected musicians the festival space has to offer. Including a fascinating 8 member Qawwali group called Fanna Fi Allah.
Qawwali music is something that most of us from the festival world have never heard of. It is a cultural phenomenon in South Asia and has been around for almost a thousand years, so why are we introduced to it now?
We sat down with their founder Tahir to ask a few questions of this uniquely inspiring band before heading into the forest.
TMN: So, how long have you guys been around and where do you play most of your music?
Tahir: We have been touring for 16 years and actually only play about 5% of our music at American festivals. Most is spent in Pakistan, India, and the Punjabi cultures in South Asia and the Middle East. Continue reading →
It wouldn’t be a proper Music Ninja Residency without a lengthy chat with our featured artist. As you’re already aware, we brought in the Sultan Of Summer to help us kick off the best season of the year and before the most iconic summer holiday, we’re offering up a little insight into the man behind Viceroy.
TMN: Hey Austen – thanks for taking some time to sit down with us today. How’s the start of your summer going so far?
Viceroy: So far, so good! San Francisco has not your normal summer weather. I don’t know if you’re too familiar with how our weather patterns work. We have an Indian summer that’s September and October, and our coldest part of the year is actually regular summer. But, it’s been unbelievable, so far. It’s made it hard to want to do any work.
TMN: We’re really excited to have you as our Resident Artist this month. We looked back, and we’ve been covering you for the past four years. Is it hard to believe that you’ve been at it for that long?
Viceory: Yeah – it’s dawned on me that I’ve been at it for that long. The landscape has changed so much since I started. It’s a little more of a rat race than it ever used to be, but it’s still exciting and fun.
TMN: Let’s go back a little bit further than when you started getting blog coverage. How did the “Viceroy” sound come to be? Can you shed some light on your musical history?
Viceroy: I played instruments when I was growing up, and everything like that – guitar, bass, and that kind of stuff. In 2009 I studied abroad in Rome, and that was before electronic music took off on a mainstream level in the United States.
I was drunk the second week of school and at some sort of club or lounge with my friends, and I told one of the DJs, “I want a job here!” I was completely wasted. I went and talked to the manager and he gave me a job on Tuesday nights bringing in Americans. I wake up the next night and was like, “oh my god, I’ve never DJ’d or promoted before. What the hell am I doing?”
Just a little while back, we hosted the legendary Mat Zo in our Residency Program to help highlight someone who has continued to impress us year after year. Part of this residency included a deep look into his recently released album, Self Assemble, which has been one of the most impressive listening experiences we’ve heard in quite some time.
We wanted to know a little more behind this perennial star and his latest body of work, which brought us to this Q&A.
TMN: Hey Mat – first off, thanks for coming on board to be our Resident Artist. We’ve been fans for quite some time, so it’s an honor to have you.
Mat Zo: Thanks for having me.
TMN: Let’s talk about Self Assemble. We’ve been spending a lot of time with it since it came out. It definitely feels like it’s organized to be a true top-to-bottom listening experience. Does it tell an underlying story, or is the track arrangement solely for proper flow?
Mat Zo: When I was making it I had a general story in mind, but by the end the story was so vague that it became purely open to interpretation. Continue reading →