On ‘Ego Death,’ The Internet have truly caught up to their initial vision just around the same time the rest of the music scene is striving to do the same.

The Internet
Special Affair

When The Internet, spearheaded by Syd the Kyd and Matt Martians, put out their first album Purple Naked Ladiesin 2011, they were already ahead of the curve.  With Syd on the mic and Matt on the boards, their debut favored jazz, neo-soul, N.E.R.D.-esque vibes tied together with silky R&B vocals and unique hip-hop-tinted lyricism. Their predilection for live instrumentation and extended jams–the type that could be heard on Matt Martian’s Jet Age of Tomorrow projects–led the duo to put together a 6-piece band that would help them catch up to their musical ambitions. The resulting project was their sophomore record, Feel Good, which progressed their sound with the help of that ensemble who brought a marked musicianship to match Matt and Syd’s executive direction.

With deeply collaborative albums like Kendrick Lamar‘s To Pimp a Butterfly and The Social Experiment‘s Surf both solidifying the reincarnation of funk, soul and live instrumentation in hip-hop and R&B, it’s clearer than ever just how innovative The Internet were with their undertakings. Their latest album, Ego Death, which is out now, continues that progression building off the rawness of their debut all the while incorporating the complexity of its predecessor. More than ever, it feels like The Internet, who describe the project as their most collaborative yet, have congealed into sonic bliss.

Musically, Ego Death finds itself in a place of minimalism, which is not to be confused with simplicity. There’s gorgeous jams through out on tracks like the Janelle Monae-featuring “Gabby,” moments of bounce on cuts like the Kaytranada-assisted “Girl” and bedroom anthems like “Special Affair.”  What ends up really bringing cohesion to the project are Syd’s captivating voice and the common theme encapsulated by the album’s title–an inner-conflict between a heightened ego and a broken one. On Ego Death, The Internet have truly caught up to their initial vision just around the same time the rest of the music scene is striving to do the same.

We were lucky enough to chat with Syd and Matt about the MySpace days, Odd Future and the making of Ego Death. Pick up your copy and read the full Q&A below. 

Ego Death

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TMN: What were your earliest musical memories, as far as what was playing around the house or anything that you were listening to growing up that you felt like has influenced your sound?

Matt: I think my very first memory was hearing my dad play stuff in the car all the time. My very first memory musically was The Commodores song called “Machine Gun.” It’s a song that has no lyrics or anything, it’s just a fucking jam–a jam-out Commodores song. And I remember I would always ask my dad to play it on repeat, and as a kid I didn’t know this wasn’t normal, but now that I’m older I realize that type of music is not something a normal five year old really grabs onto. Because I’ve never been a trained musician, but I’ve always known what sounded good and what not to do, which is kind of a gift in itself.

Syd: Me, I grew up listening to a lot of like Erykah Badu, Jill Scott, India Arie, Musiq Soulchild and a lot of reggae like a lot of Maxi Priest, Steel Pulse, and Third World. Yeah, my dad is part of kind of a musical family, his brother is very involved in the music industry in Jamaica, and my mom is just like a huge fan of music. She still wants to be an engineer, like me.

TMN: So, building off of that, when did you guys first start making music?

Matt: I would say I started late; I was a late bloomer. I was 17 and it was like my first year of college. It got to the point where I got sick of waiting on my favorite bands to put music out. And I always felt like the good bands took forever to put music out and the trash bands would put music out every three years. So, it was like, you know, N.E.R.D. would come out with an album then you wouldn’t hear shit like, “Nigga I been waiting four years! I’m not gonna wait four years for twelve songs!” So, for me it was more like teach me how to fish, eat forever type of situation.

Syd: I took piano lessons as a kid and all that, but I didn’t start making music on my own until I was like 14 when my dad got me a laptop for school and it had Garage Band. I just started and I knew at that point that I wanted to do something involved in music, I just didn’t know what. Then I realized “oh a producer,” and then I realized “oh I’m not that good at this…” (Laughs). So I just started engineering instead just to stay involved one way or another and to make money.

TMN: So, I know Matt you had done some production work with Odd Future in general. Syd were you the first person to get in touch with Matt or was it through being a member of Odd Future yourself?

Syd: No, Matt was in Odd Future way before me, like years before me. Matt is an original member, he’s like one of the first members. I was a fan of his, because he had the Super 3. I was a fan of the Super 3 so I used to just message him like “Hey, give me advice on beats” and he used to give me advice.

Matt: Right. It’s kind of weird when I think about it now, like we’re best friends and we’re in a band together, because it really was like fate. So, me and Tyler (The Creator) linked up like a few years before I met Syd, this was on MySpace as well. The Internet is just the embodiment of both, and how a lot of our lives have changed because of it. We wouldn’t be here if it wasn’t for the Internet. So, we basically connected through MySpace, bouncing ideas, then she got into Odd Future. I was already in Odd Future so we got even closer. It kind of happened organically, how it was supposed to happen. It was nothing forced, it was more so like we both had very similar interests, and we grew up from very similar backgrounds so it just makes a lot of sense.

TMN: And you guys first kind of linked up over MySpace right?

Syd: Yeah, yeah we met on MySpace.

TMN: What did your guys’ MySpace pages look like back then? I remember my MySpace page was ridiculously decked out. I was just curious if you remembered anything.

Matt: Bruh, I remember when, I used to teach niggas to code low-key. I used to have like the customized Top 8 that wasn’t like the regular Top 8 that you had to go in and make on Photoshop then insert with code. (Laughs). I remember Syd’s—it’s funny because Syd probably doesn’t remember hers—I think I vaguely remember her page. It was just very dark. That’s all I remember. It was like red, green, black. That’s the color scheme I remember when I first started. It was weird.

TMN: Yeah, I remember like everyone had music playing as soon as you got to their MySpace page…

Matt: Yeah, the funny thing about MySpace is the whole concept is not outdated.

Syd: If they renamed it, keep the whole layout and a name it something else.

Matt: And, if you get all the women to go back to it. If you can find a way to get women to go back to MySpace, kids will follow, everybody will follow. Women around the world, go! (Laughs)

1e475f69-7700-420e-a3be-5b716d2c697bTMN: Moving on to the first album, that was created shortly after you first met in person right?

Syd: We had met in person, but we had never made music together, so like the first song we made together is on the album. The first like five—pretty much that album is all the first songs we ever made together.

Matt: Yeah, we were talking the other day about it, kind of how we didn’t get the traditional start that a band gets where they get those scratch projects to really find their sound, and really be young and really get a chance to mess up. So we put ourselves out there on our first try. But I think it was one of those things where it was kind of ahead of its time. I think now, where music is going, with Thundercat, with the Kendrick Lamar album, it’s coming back around.

TMN: So, the recording process for that, it was really just you and Syd? It wasn’t like you had the band formed yet when that was being recorded, right?

Syd: Not yet, Purple Naked Ladies was really just me and Matt. Like our bass player today, Patrick, he made the track “Fastlane.” Our drummer Chris is on the intro. Tay was singing on it, he’s our keyboard player. He’s solo now, he has an album out called 25 Hours A Day, shoutout.

Syd: It was pretty much just me and Matt, making the beats and writing the songs. What happened was we didn’t perform until 9 months after we dropped the album. When we did, I just kind of refused to perform without a band, so I put a band together out of my friends. And then once we started playing the songs we had with a band, it was like “Yo this sounds dope! Let’s make the next album like this.” So, we did that…(laughs) Yeah, and then so that was fun, and so with this album, we kind of just wanted to get back to producing a little bit more, using harder drums. It’ll still translate live, which we realize.

TMN: Yeah, it’s funny because that was literally about to be my next question. Can you talk a little bit about your band and how that’s changed your recording process? It sounds like with the second album you worked with the band pretty closely on the recording process. On Ego Death was it more of just you and Matt in the studio again a little bit? 

Syd: No, no, actually no, not at all. We got a new keyboard player, his name is Jameel Bruner, we got a guitar player his name is Steve Lacey, so now we’re a six-piece band, and this album was really really collaborative. A lot between Matt, Steve on the executive production of it. It was super collaborative, this one.

Matt: And this was probably our most collaborative album in general. The good thing is we did the album where we were trying to find our sound. And the second album was really that airy, more straight-forward album. This album is kind of the culmination of both, but perfected. It’s kind of weird, but that’s how I feel about it.

TMN: I usually don’t ask about names or titles, but I think Ego Death, the title of the album, is really interesting. The concept of Ego Death is something that’s so common in philosophy, art and music. 

Matt: To be honest, it’s all karma things. It’s Ego Death. There’s the upfront thing about Ego Death with the album name and the song titles. Like for instance, “Gabby” is on Ego Death because that was a hit on my pride, and that was an “ego death.” Like what the song’s really about, that was some shit where my ego got checked. What got me over was making a song about it. Even “Something’s Missing,” that song’s about a girl who thinks she’s all that, but the girl that she’s with feels, “I can’t be with you because something’s missing.” More of an ego check with women for that part of the album.

TMN: Could each take one song from Ego Death and just talk about the backstory?

Matt: “Get Away” is a cool song because if you notice in the song, it’s basically flexing when the song first comes on, but then it switches to what it is that’s going on and what your life really is like. Kind of like I’m flexing, shit I don’t even work at a 9-5, but when the beat switches, it’s like I’m still riding around in my old whip, still living at home, got introduced to my old chick. So it’s like that song is a really good culmination of Ego Death, and just what it’s about of just like everybody’s flexing their ego, but what’s really going on? Is this really what’s happening? Even though we’re in a band and we’re touring the world, we’re in the same boat as you. We’re going through the same bullshit that you are. I think you know, that’s what that as far as that song, “Get Away” I think. That’s why we wanted to open the album with it.

Syd: Well, as far as the album goes, and like the embodiment of the album name, “Get Away” is probably it. But, there’s a song in there called “Penthouse Cloud.” I wrote it the morning after the Mike Brown verdict was read. And you know, I don’t really talk about that kind of stuff on social media too much because I feel there’s enough of that. I just felt compelled to write something about it, and that song probably means the most to me on the album. Kind of me questioning life or something. You’ll hear it. People will take from it what they want. I don’t really want to talk too much about it.

TMN: There were also a few notable features on the album. I heard Vic Mensa, Kaytranada, Janelle Monae…how did those features come together? Is that all an organic thing?

Syd: Pretty much, everything was very natural. James Fauntleroy we got setup with through our A&R at Sony which was awesome because we’re both big fans.

Matt: Yeah, that was amazing. Most of our collabs are organic though. You know, a lot of them are friends through like other things, like Kaytranada, we met Kaytranada a year and a half before we worked with him at SXSW. Before we would hear everybody talking about him, and then got cool with him, me and him talked here and there. I’ve known Janelle since I was 15. Me and my brother were vital in her career in the beginning. A lot of it is like friends, man. Tyler, of course, that’s like family though. They’re basically like collabs we were always talking about with our friends, that we never had a chance to really pursue.

TMN: Is there anyone missing from that list of dream collabs that you’d like to work with in the future?

Matt: My only dream collab really is Jay Kay from Jamiroquai, and that’s  because I feel like that would actually have a higher percentage of working out dope than if I worked with some of the other people I really like if that makes any sense. I really like to have respect for my idols, moreso than have a song with them. I know people that have worked with songs with their idols, but their idols don’t respect them, so I know a lot of my idols have respect for what I do and the music we make so for me that’s enough. And the features on the album, are really just features that made sense. Sometimes in life you kind of have to grow organically, and I don’t want to get too big for our britches to the point where we’re looking for that big feature we got with this artist, as opposed to “hey that’s actually a really dope album.” It worked out that way. So we got Janelle Monae, Tyler we had pretty big features but I didn’t want to get features that took away from what we were trying to do.

This album we got the exact features we needed. We didn’t need more, we didn’t need less. The people we’re actually friends with, people we’re actually fans of, people we’ve been wanting to collab with, so it’s like you know now I’m looking for the next album. People like GoldLink, people like that that I want to work with that are dope. There’s new people, because we’re friends with people like Thundercat, those people, but it’s like we’ve worked with them before, those are our friends. I’m very excited these new artists that come out that are really dope, and you can tell they’re influenced by the same shit we were influenced by. That shit is really dope to me.

TMN: The interludes on the album really stood out to me. Can you talk a bit about where those recordings came from?

Matt: All that is random. Jameel Bruner, who’s our keyboard player, hopefully one day you get the pleasure of meeting him. He is one of the most special characters you will ever meet. When he starts talking and has an idea, he will just talk, talk talk. So, sometimes, we just let him talk and we’ll start recording on our phone and he won’t know. He’s just the greatest storyteller. Yeah, that voicemail at the end was real.

Syd: That was just he had a drunk fight with somebody and called me to tell me about it. The random stuff Jameel does… (Laughs)

TMN: If aliens came down to earth and asked you what music was, what song would you play them?

Syd: I would probably play some Stevie Wonder. Probably something random like “Ribbon in the Sky.”

Matt: Probably some Outkast or something, I don’t know. Or I’d play something real weird.

Huge thanks to Syd and Matt for taking the time to chat with us. The 2nd image in this article is from LA Weekly and the third taken by Jabari Jacobs. 

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