Photo by Clayton Hauck
The latest edition of our blog Q&A series of friends-n-fam brain pickage features none other than Chicago sons Flosstradamus, who recently took a bit of a break from touring to focus on production and studio work, including their debut single with Caroline from Chairlift, De La Soul’s recent Nike+ project Are You In and a slew of remixes including Trackademicks’ “Enjoy What You Do” and this Totally Michael mix, a collab with FG’s DJ Gant-Man.
After the jump, J2K drops knowledge behind-the-scenes of all those productions, as well as what its like to have your face plastered across billboards throughout the country, and the pitfalls of buying synths on Craigslist.
The past few months have been huge for Flosstradamus as far as being noticed as producers/artists and not just DJs. The branding kicked off in a big way with the Green Label Sound single with Caroline, “Big Bills.” How did that project first come about, and how did you settle on Caroline as a collaborator?
The people at GLS hit up our management about working on a collaboration for the label. Up to that point they’d done singles with Matt & Kim, and The Cool Kids but no collaborations yet. To be honest, I had never heard of Caroline or Chairlift. Curt showed me the video for their song “Bruises,” and I was immediately drawn to Caroline’s voice. We really wanted to work with a female vocalist for our collaboration, and she was really a perfect fit.
You guys got to stunt (sensitively of course) in the video, and there were posters up all over different cities, right next to ads for Beyonce albums or whatever. Was it weird seeing yourselves on that level? Did you get randoms noticing “hey, you’re those guys from that thing!”
If by “weird” you mean “awesome!” My girl was in town visiting from Australia for the first time, we went to the corner store and all over the wall outside the spot were the Big Bills posters with our faces on them. I couldn’t even play it off like I wasn’t super excited though. We posed in front of one of the posters and even had our roommate Jill stand in for Caroline. (see attached photo… cred: Liz De La Piedra)
Its funny coming off something like that, where the Floss branding was everywhere, to this De La Soul project where I didn’t really know the extent that you guys were involved in the production and found out when you emailed me! Everything about it online makes it sound like a simple DJ mix. Lets rewind for a second – when did you start working on the De La stuff and what was the original concept?
I remember it was at the end of January, I was getting off a plane and got a message from our manager saying De La Soul was interested in working with us for their Original Run. I remember when Alain was working on his, so I was already familiar with the format. For those who don’t know, it’s a 45 minute mix of original material. Needless to say we were pretty stoked they’d reached out to us, and jumped at the opportunity. So to make a long story short, De La submitted 5 songs to us which added up to about 20 minutes of music and our job was to fill in the gaps with our production. In the end we ended up not only filling the gaps, but also producing 3 new songs with them.
What was it like working with the guys? Did you already know them from shows – Rock The Bells or whatever?
They were real cool man. We had never met them before, but are huge fans. It was super intimidating right up to the first conference call. They were totally on our level, crackin’ jokes and basically just bro’ing down with us. We weren’t really sure how they’d respond to the beats we were going to submit, but they ended up really liking most of the tracks we sent them. The record was recorded and mixed remotely between our studio in Chicago and their studios in New York and Atlanta. Thank you internet! This is the house that Yousendit built.
On the production end, take us through your involvement on each of the individual tracks. You had mentioned Trackademicks was involved on one as well?
Yeah Jason submitted some tracks for the record, and we ended up messing with one of them for a track called “Good Morning.” We used Jason’s drums and a synth line, then played over top of it and added other layers De La had sent us. The record is kind of a Re-mixtape. When they sent us their initial tracks, they sent us all the parts to the songs so when we were producing our songs, we sampled from theirs and vice versa. The one point they emphasized to us at the beginning of the project is that they didn’t want the record to sound like a bunch of tracks mixed together. Rather they wanted the album to feel like one long track and evolves over 45 minutes. That was a challenge for us, but in the end I think we all got what we wanted.
You guys have a lot of other remixes that have either just been released, or are about to drop. Tell us about those.
We just dropped two remixes. One for the Mates of State song “Re-arranger” (you know how we love our Boy/Girl Supergroups), and another for IHeartComix artist Totally Michael! The two mixes are VERY different. For the Mates of State joint we went heavy on the Chicago house with obvious “Floss” elements… we applied the same treatment for our “Big Bills” remix. We’ve been calling it Power House. The Totally Michael song is called “Casual Satisfaction,” and we went way heavy on the Jock Jams/Juke vibe. We recruited DJ Gant-Man who produced Kid Sis’ “Switchboard,” for his hype man duties and he killed it. Funny, in the first take he actually called Totally Michael! Totally Mike! which we though had an awesome ring to it, but the people at IHeartComix weren’t really feeling it haha!
The cool thing to me about all of this, is that all this Flosstradamus music doesn’t necessarily sound alike – each project not only has its own identity, but is relatively different from what people might expect (cue the movie-style record executive – “Give us a club banger! You know, for kids!”) Do you approach it that way on purpose?
Well I think from the beginning we’ve made a name for ourselves as DJs by playing EVERYTHING to EVERYBODY. As a result we’ve developed a really diverse fan base. It allows us to make whatever we want, and chances are it will speak to a large part of our core fans if not all of them. People were really surprised with how “Big Bills” came out, but in actuality we’d never released a song before so we were just as surprised as they were. We can get as poppy or weird as we want and the kids will still dig it.
What kind of production set up do you have in Chicago?
Oh you know… some synths, a computer, some monitors, a couple turntables, mixers, etc… Everything runs through Logic. All the internal synths and VSTs in Logic are pretty awesome. We just got a Juno-106 off of Craigslist a few months ago. Used it on the De La project. When we went to pick it up from the dude’s house, we went inside and he and 4 of his friends were all on Lay-Z-Boys with LCD screens inches from their faces playing World of Warcraft. Weeeeird.
Who are your musical influences, on a more general level as well as specific guys who you look to for production.
Nick Catchdubs, A-Trak, Trackademicks, Kid Sister, Nacho Lovers, Treasure Fingers, Chromeo and the rest of the Fools Gold family. You guys rule and we look forward to releasing something with you guys very soon.
Working on getting an single completed and leaked this summer, with a full release by fall. Other than that, lots of little side-projects in Chicago, shows, Japan, Africa, and much much more!
Any dream collaborators?
Natasha Kahn from Bat for Lashes.
We gotta make that happen!