Hip hop, Seattle and Brooklyn are not necessarily synonymous with surfing, but Brooklyn-based production duo The Soundmen take inspiration from all four to come up with some pretty rad beats. Their work might be showing up in some of our shows here soon, so we thought you should get to know them a bit. Here they talk with us about how surfing influences their work, what they’re listening to right now, and who they’d produce for if they could work for any hip hop artist out right now. The surf photos included throughout are from a recent trip to El Salvador. Rock on.
So you’re from Seattle but you live in Brooklyn now? Both are known for their music, but the surf is…less than famous in both places. How did you come to surfing? Is it still a big part of your life?
Scott Durday: I’ve been surfing since I was a kid, initially starting on trips but then just finding the waves where I lived, despite the cold water. Although Brooklyn and Seattle aren’t known for surf, they actually have seriously sick waves. Surfing is a huge part of my life, something that both inspires our creativity and provides a meditative activity that I can’t get enough of.
Justin Jamison: I just started surfing a few years ago. I had always wanted to try it because of how much I love the ocean and I took a lesson, was hooked and soon was heading to the Oregon and Washington coast every weekend to catch waves. A good wetsuit makes it possible to surf about 3/4 of the year here if you don’t mind some rain and grey skies with your waves!
How does surfing influence your music?
SD: Definitely. Our music and sounds comes directly from the inspiration we take with our lifestyles. To surf you have to be committed, and that’s something that translates directly into how we approach our music. Also, traveling to remote places to get waves brings about unique moments and experiences that we can use for inspiration to continue to progress our sound. I would equate our sound to that perfect 5-8 ft. day. You can still paddle out, but its heavy enough to command your attention.
JJ: Sometimes when I’m trying to vibe out and look for our “Big Beach” sound for a record I try to visualize the feel of Cannon Beach or Pacific City. I think that it helps take my mind off of the technical side of music and allows me to play freely. I also like bringing my music equipment with my on surf weekends.
What is your creative process like? Do you work together on all the tracks?
JJ: Pretty much! Our sound has always been a combination of both Scott and my sounds.
SD: No track comes out without both of us having input. The balance may be different but it’s never a true Soundmen track unless we both have worked on it.
What is it like to create beats for other artists? Do people come to you with specific ideas of what they want, or do you spend time hashing out ideas in the studio?
JJ: A combination of both, actually. I think it depends on if we have a record in mind for a particular artist that we want to work with. If we are presented with an opportunity to work with an artist that we like and don’t have anything in our catalog for them, we always love to cook something up for them on the fly. Sometimes it helps to vibe with an artist before you play them records. Producers should always be prepared to produce in the studio in case an artist is looking to go in a different direction. Building a record from the ground up with an artist in the studio is probably one of the most fun experiences.
SD: Working in the studio is what we prefer, but in a lot of cases, we aren’t even in the same city, so our collaboration is done digitally. Skype, GChat, email, and the phone are ways we can bounce ideas and versions of songs back and forth to an artist if we can’t physically be in a room with them.
What’s playing in your iTunes or on your record player right now?
SD: Right now my favorite tracks are coming from ASTR, Amine Edge & Dan-Ce, Betty Who, A$AP Mob, Touch Sensitive, IAMSU and the whole HBK Gang, and pretty much anything DJ Mustard is producing. Hard drums, grooving basslines, and good hooks.
JJ: I’ve been all over the map with the music that I’ve been listening to. Some of my favorites being ATU’s “Picture Of Silence,” Beach House’s “Bloom” is still constantly in my rotation, Daft Punk, any Schoolboy Q release, Washed Out’s “Paracosm,” John Newman, St. Lucia’s “When The Night,” Kendrick Lamar, Capital Cities “In A Tidal Wave Of Mystery,” Phantogram, and Ayer’s “Circle Down”.
What software do you use? Why?
JJ: We have used Sony Acid Pro forever. I’ve recently started using Native Instruments Maschine software and I absolutely love it! I use a lot of VST’s and I love how I’m able to access the sounds from different VST’s so much quicker. The time it takes to load up different sounds on different VST’s can drain creativity. I love what Native Instruments did with the NI software.
SD: I produce mainly with Sony Acid Pro, tap drums sometimes on the my M Audio controller. And use Sound Forge to tweak the hell out of samples and drums. I also use Serato when we DJ sets.
How long does it take, usually, to make a beat?
JJ: It really doesn’t take long at all to create an initial beat if you have any idea for it. It usually takes less than an hour if you have a good vibe going. The thing that takes the most time is the additions and fine tuning that Scott and I put into to it. Putting the right mix on the track always takes longer than making the actual beat as well.
SD: Its all about the vibe. We’ve made bangers in an hour, but we’ve spent weeks perfecting and creating songs.
Where do you turn for musical inspiration?
SD: Everywhere. Unique sounds and percussion patterns often surface from not only listening to music but just being aware of your surroundings. I’ve sampled noises on my subway rides to weird YouTube video clips to create a track.
JJ: Usually from the music that I’m listening to, or a good movie. I get inspired by movie soundtracks quite often. Eventually I would love to score a film.
If you could work with any hip hop artist, who would it be? Why?
SD: It would have to be A$AP Rocky or Pusha T. They have the most progressive production tastes, and always set the sonic trends that other artists follow. Kanye wouldn’t be a bad option either…
JJ: Kendrick Lamar. I love his choice in production and think that he is one of the more creative and talented artists in the industry right now. Schoolboy Q and Danny Brown would also be cool!
For more on The Soundmen and their new EP release, check out http://thesoundmenmusic.com/