They’ve collaborated with Tyler the Creator, Ghostface Killah, and Snoop Dogg, produced for the likes of Kendrick Lamar, and continue to break new ground and smash genres: Print Music editor Alex Brammer sits down with game-changing jazz group BADBADNOTGOOD.
What’s the process of songwriting like for you guys? Where do you start with each track?
Chester Hansen, bassist: It’s really different every time – more often than not it’ll be all four of us in a room kind of creating something and jamming on ideas or whatever. Occasionally someone will have an idea preconceived before a session, but it mostly depends on like if it’s for one of our albums. There, it’s more of a band writing process for the most part but when we do outside collaborations it can really vary – like, it can be two people in the room, or even one or whatever.
We’re not that crazy, y’know, we just kinda drink a lot and sit around
How do your collaborations with producers like KAYTRANADA happen, is that a more rigid process?
CH: I’d kind of say it’s the same. All the times we’ve worked with him he’s come into our studio and we’d just kinda jam, plug in a synth and get some ideas down – some chord progressions, something like that – and just kinda go off from there.
I noticed that your album art was really dark for I, II, III but with IV there’s a total tonal change. What’s up with that?
Alex Sowinski, drummer: We’ve kind of done everything in a learning fashion, so we were just trying, experimenting a lot initially. Even by the time of IV we were still trying tons of stuff out, but I think as people we’re all feeling so different compared to when we started making music and when we were doing online stuff for free, playing those covers, so we wanted things to feel brighter and newer. We’re not necessarily like super closed, dark atmosphere people, buty our music and the sound of our music was kind of like that in the beginning, especially with the Odd Future stuff and because of what was going on in our lives.
I’ve noticed that you explore a lot of different genres and sounds – what kind of sonic horizons are you heading towards next?
CH: I don’t know, honestly. On the last album especially, I think in more ways than one we’re just like, broadening our horizons – and Leland was a full time member of the band at that point, so we were using his abilities on a bunch of different instruments to create more orchestral arrangements, which we hadn’t really explored before. We’ve got a lot of collaboration stuff lined up, with friends and people we’re running into.
I think collaborating with other instrumentalists would be more fun
Who’s your dream collaboration?
AS: Shit, I mean honestly a lot of people playing Love Supreme are really beautiful innovators and progressors of music – I mean, almost everyone on the bill really we need to work with in some kind of capacity. We’re super influenced by Kamasi Washington, obviously, and Herbie Hancock. We’ve done a lot of stuff with vocalists and MCs, so I think collaborating with other instrumentalists would be more fun.
People have said a lot of stuff about BADBADNOTDOOM (a collab with masked rapper MF DOOM) – how’d you feel about that?
AS: That’d be fucking cool. We did a remix for him on Key to the Kuffs and he did a verse on [Ghostface Killah collab album] Sour Soul as well. That’d be amazing – we’ve met DOOM a couple of times and he’s always been super nice. We’re very influenced by all his music and all the music he’s sampled – he introduced us to Brazilian music, as well as through his work with Madlib, and that’s some of our favourite music ever.
Who are your favourite Brazilian musicians?
AS: Jeez, I don’t know – definitely like, Marcos Valle, Hermeto Pascoal, Gal Costa – I don’t know, there’s just so many. The whole Clube da Esquina collective is great too. There’s so much great music coming out of Brazil. It’s like this beautiful blend of jazz, soul, funk and folk music and like, African music as well, so it’s a precious sound that really inspires us a lot.
Why did you shift away from covers in your studio material?
CH: I think it’s a natural progression for pretty much any band – when you form, you’re still trying to get to know the people you’re playing with and also exploring music, so the easiest thing to do is really just to go “oh what songs do you like? Let’s try this.” And for us that turned into changing the songs we were covering to more jazzy stuff in the case of covering hip hop songs. That teaches you a lot about music, and how to play together, and what you want to write eventually, so naturally we evolved into spending more and more time on our original compositions.
AS: We also got like the potential opportunity to put out an album on Innovative Leisure – they’re friends of ours, they came to a couple of our early early shows, and they offered us potential to do an album release on the label and really pushed us to do all-original stuff and we were super into the challenge and progressing forward in that world, so that was a really big push forward for us. And that’s also after we started Sour Soul – we started doing stuff for that record a year before we started to do anything for III, so getting into that kind of mindset was really fun and inspiring.
How did Sour Soul come about? Did Ghostface get in touch with you guys or was it the other way around?
CH: It’s a long story. [laughs] I always answer this question.
AS: It’s via our friend Frank Dukes, he’s like a big time producer now but he knows Ghostface cause he did a couple beats for him on his Apollo Kids album and toured with Ghost as his DJ, had this proposition to produce a whole album for him, and he wanted Ghost to share some of the crazy stories that he told Frank about touring, and his life and career in hip hop and all that, so Dukes brought us the proposition for the album and brought in this world of soul instrumentals and ideas, and got Ghost to give us the goods.
So Ghost’s doing some wild shit on tour – what do you guys do in your spare time when touring?
CH: We’re definitely not as crazy as Ghost and the rest of the Wu-Tang Clan [laughs].
Leland Whitty, saxophonist: We’re not that crazy, y’know, we just kinda drink a lot and sit around.
AS: Yeah, card games, going record shopping, that kind of thing. It’s hard to say… I don’t think any of the things that I think are crazy would really translate well to an article, but honestly I just think this whole experience is really crazy. We all just met studying music and became friends, and this whole thing was just a fun thing on the side. It’s been six years now, and we’ve gone through a whole load of transformations as people, and we’ve learnt so much – highs and lows. Today’s definitely a high, sharing the stage with legends at a curated moment like this. I think with a lot of jazz, you don’t see this many instrumentalists – they tend to get left behind by so much other beautiful music, so I think the whole ride has been crazy.