Fresh off the heels of the reveal of a new track "DO OR DIE" and primed to release a new record in the year 2012, 3OH!3 seemed poised for a re-emergence of sorts following a self-imposed break after their latest touring cycle wrapped last summer. The duo, comprised of Sean Foreman and Nathaniel Motte, were kind enough to give us some insight into their latest batch of tunes, including taking on the role of self-recording this album, sticking to their roots and their thoughts on how their recent past has shaped what they are doing this time around.
Musically, you guys have kind of been a bit quiet besides singles and the news of a fourth studio album. What got you inspired to get back at creating a full body of work this time around, and how do you think where you’ve been already plays into your writing mindset?
Motte: We very consciously decided to take some time off from touring as 3OH!3, at the end of last summer. We wanted to focus on external writing and production (for other artists) - something that we have done a lot of in the past, but we have never really carved time out for that purpose.
As we knew we wanted to put a new record out in 2012, Sean and I decided to spend all of December in Colorado, where I have my studio, writing for 3OH!3, and that kicked off the writing process. Writing and producing for this record has been really rewarding, because I feel like we're finally getting to use all the knowledge and technique that we've picked up in the last 4 years. We're doing most of the record A to Z on our own (from writing to recording to producing and mixing), and that, to me, is really exciting. Taking that kind of autonomy into making this next body of work was inspiration in itself.
There’s always been a fence to deal with as far as any act of your genre goes. Where do you think many of your fans sit in terms of wanting to hear new music and how do you hope what you’re working on will help recapture whatever it is that pulled people into your electronically-tinged hip-hop combination?
Motte: I find it a bit challenging to answer that question, since I don't think I personally have ever known what "genre" of music we belong to. I think for us, that sort of categorization, while useful, is less important than the end product and the feeling of the music. We grew up on a lot of different styles of music, and inherited an appreciation of different styles. So I guess it's always been natural for us to combine sounds and switch gears within our own project, which may be polarizing to some.
We're always conscious of our roots, and our fans (old-school and new), when we make music for 3OH!3. I think that is part of an artist's responsibility. I think it's also part of our responsibility to create something that is genuine, personal, interesting and generally free from the constraints of previous work and critics. Finding that balance between those pulling forces becomes very interesting, and I would hope to think we've done a good job at it for this next record.
As far as what you’re working on, musically what is being brought to the table to sort of keep the sound you guys have a bit more on the fresh side?
Motte: Electronic music has taken remarkable leaps in the last 4-5 years. Shit, it has even progressed tremendously in the past year... six months. From a production standpoint, records these days sound unquestionably "bigger" than they used to. While a lot of people argue that audio nowadays is ultra-compressed and has lost a lot of overal dynamics, it is certain that most people's ears for music have evolved to crave that new sound, including my own (for certain types of songs). So on the production side of our music, I have been consciously and unconsciously learning continuously over the past years, and applying that to my production - culling the sounds and techniques that interest me, and trying to come up with my own innovations as well.
Musically I think we've learned a lot, as really within the past 4-5 years, music went from a hobby to a full-time job for us. We've taken that very seriously and applied ourselves to learning as much as we can, and hopefully our songs come through as a bit more developed musically and lyrically, while retaining a sense of fun and inclusiveness.
Lyrically, you’ve drawn more criticism for that than anything else. In response to that, do you feel like this upcoming work will bring anything truly different as far as how you write and structure your lines, or can we expect you guys to continue to do more or less what you’ve always done regardless of the criticisms?
Foreman: I like to push the envelope with some of my lyrics. I always have. Most of the rappers I listened to growing up and ones that I continue to listen to now aren't afraid to take risks with content and style. I like to have fun, especially when I'm rapping. I've always been about the entertainment value of punchlines. I think I may have developed that from going to and participating in emcee battles growing up. With that said, I really had fun making this album, even with some of the more serious songs. Each step was just me and Nat and it was nice to get back to basics.
As far as beats, where do you feel like this music falls in line with what you've done in albums past?
Motte: I would hope that this new record is a development upon what we have done in the past. I've never been interested in hearing the same exact sound from a band, from record to record. I really respect and admire artists who can create an aesthetic range within which they can operate, innovate, and still stay cohesive in some way.
That being said, some of the beats on the new record bang super fucking hard, some of them are more melodically developed than anything we've done, and some of them are just fun. I would like to think they are an extension of what we have always tried to do: have fun making music that we feel is doing something new and different, and hopefully project that aesthetic successfully to others.
You did an EP of a few unreleased songs not too long ago. Where did these tracks come from and how do they foreshadow, if at all, what you’ve been putting together for this new material?
Motte: Those tracks were actually left over from our Streets of Gold sessions back in the Spring of 2010. We ended up with a small surplus of songs for that record, and at the time when we were culling songs for Streets of Gold, those didn't really fit in. I don't think those songs really foreshadow our new stuff, at least not any more than anything we've put out previously would. It sure was nice to have those tracks see the light of day, though. Up until then they were all cooped up and cold, alone in the dark, in a basement. And everyone knows it sucks to be cold in a basement.
Looking back, which of your releases do you feel most connected to as far as influencing your music making decisions now? Do you feel any more or less of what you did on Streets of Gold as compared to Want despite it not being accepted quite as well?
Motte: I think we feel very connected to all of our releases. I think the major reason for that is that we write and produce all our own music. We choose to collaborate with people occasionally (and continue that on a few of our new songs), but at the end of the day, no matter what, the songs we release are undeniably ours. That is really empowering and important to us, and allows us to feel proud and connected to our records. That being said, the circumstances under which we've written records have been pretty different. On Streets of Gold, that was the first time we knew, in some way, that a good amount of people were going to hear our work. On WANT and 3OH!3 there was a sort of blissful ignorance in the air, and I think that may have allowed for a bit more fun, and creative exploration. For this new material, I think we effectively got to a sort of hybrid of those mindsets. In the back of our minds, we know our music will be critiqued, but to us, that is far less important, and far less present in our mind-state, than focusing on creating music that we like, and that is relative and interesting in our own heads.
Do you feel like there is more internal pressure than anything else with what you’re doing, as opposed to when you released Streets of Gold where there may have been external pressure to keep up the buzz you made with Want?
Motte: I think there is always internal pressure on an artist when they create, in some form. For us, more or less on this record? - I don't know. For me, I think it's that internal pressure that drives me to create things which I feel are interesting, novel and relevant. I think that self-inflicted sense of judgement and critique is probably the most salient one I feel. After that comes the thoughts of my family, friends and peers.
I try to be very conscious of regulating that internal pressure, and making sure it is there for the right reasons. I see a lot of artists around us struggle to "write a hit" or make a "smash." For me, that is the wrong way to make music. I understand other people who operate (some very well and fluidly) in that mindset, but I simply cannot. While I acknowledge the goal of making shit that a lot of people like, I try to focus on goals that I feel are more tangible and true: having fun while making music, pushing some boundaries while doing it, constantly learning techniques, trying to have some sort of "edge" in every song (whether that be a hard one, or a beautiful one), etc. I think that after that, it's up to us to trust our own aesthetics, and hope that other people will like the records we work so hard to make.
As far as the new material is concerned, what can we hope to see as far as a release date and information on said record?
Motte: My lawyer Mike Kaminsky has advised to not to comment on this topic, lest I incriminate myself... haha. No sorry we don't have an exact date. Let's just say we will have a new record out in 2012... maybe towards the end of summer, maybe before the fall....I've said too much.
You remixed “Starstruckk” with Katy Perry and has Ke$ha help with “My First Kiss”. What plans, if any, are there for collaborations on what you’re working on now?
Motte: We're keeping the idea of collaborating with other artists open, but thus far, this record is just Sean and I. I think that stems from the hyper-autonomous way in which we've created most of the record, and perhaps also from the fact that we have been doing so much work for other artists. When we got back into 3OH!3 writing mode it was nice to just think about the two of us on the track. That being said, we have some ideas in development.... More to follow.
You guys had a fairly good taste of mainstream success with “Don’t Trust Me” and the growing buzz of Want leading up to the release of Streets of Gold. From your perspective, how do you think the mainstream has left a mark on you guys as artists?
Motte: I would like to think that the mainstream has left us pretty virginal. Excuse my French. But really, it's funny when we participate in "Pop" events and happenings, because we stick out like a sore thumb, and I really like that. We talk to everyone, don't take ourselves to seriously, and generally have a lot of fun. I think a lot of people in the Pop realm get swept up in their own shit, and we try not to do that. For us, that mainstream has just been a great channel to disseminate our music and our aesthetic to a lot of people. Since 2005, we have never created music for any sort of scene or genre of music. We've always tried to stay true to our own musical tastes, and consequently stay true to our fans.
There’s a couple of tour dates floating around including a trip to the UK in November as part of the London Warped Tour. What kind of touring can we expect for the rest of the year otherwise considering you’ve got new music in the works?
Motte: We'll be touring a lot in 2012. On the question of when, exactly, we're not sure yet. We're waiting for our album dates to firm up and confirm, and based upon that we'll schedule touring dates. We're really, really excited to get back out there and have a great time with our fans.
What are your hopes for what this new batch of music will do not just for the furthering of the 3OH!3 creations, but for re-establishing your connection with the fanbase?
Motte: "Re-establishing" - have we lost it? Where did it go? Was it that money laundering scandal? I think we've maintained a really strong relationship with our fan-base over the past 6-7 years. By the fact that our band sort of "started" on social media sites, it has always been really easy, rewarding and fun to stay in touch with the people who listen to our shit, and we continue to do that. It will certainly be awesome to see a lot of people face-to-face again when we tour this year. I would hope that our new record hits a note with our current fans, and makes us new fans as well. There is nothing I would rather do than play Super Bowl 2013 and have a NIP SLIP. Wardrobe malfunction - whatever you want to call it.