the internet on their new album and life after odd future

sitting down with syd and matt

Photo by Jabari Jacobs

Odd Future’s so-called breakup last month spawned a thousand thinkpieces and eulogies, but its members are more productive than ever. Case in point: The Internet. Formerly a duo comprising singer/producer Syd and producer Matt Martians, the now six-member band sounds lusher than ever on their third record, Ego Death. Languid, jazzy grooves meld with Syd’s silken vocals to make heady, sensuous neo-soul, while an all-star cast of collaborators including Janelle Monáe and Vic Mensa, lend the record a diverse and idiosyncratic sensibility. We caught up with Syd and Matt to discuss revealing their fellow bandmembers, production life lessons, and the truth behind the Odd Future split.

You guys got an incredible New York Times review. How are you feeling?
Syd: It’s crazy. At first, I saw the little album cover and I was like, “oh, dope,” but then they had a big picture at the top, as well. So crazy.
Matt: It’s real crazy because us coming from Odd Future and sorta being underdogs when we first came up, you never even think these types care. We’re grateful that people do care and want to know about our story.

The album’s called Ego Death, but it seems like your most personal yet. What’s the story?
Matt: Ego Death is basically that wall you take back and you can say what you want.
Syd: With my writing I got a little more vulnerable with this album, and I think I also got more confident. It’s interesting because it’s both sides of the ego: It’s the arrogant, ‘I know I’m the shit’ side of me, but it’s also like, damn, I still got problems.

Previously, the project seemed very focused on the two of you. What made you bring the band into the spotlight for this album?
Syd: We wanted to make sure people knew that we’re a band, not a duo anymore. With the first album we were, but once we started performing it we were a band, and the second album we were a band. There’s six of us and we’re a black band, that’s why we have our guitar player Steve with his guitar on the cover and Patrick with his bass on the cover, so people know there are instruments.
Matt: It’s also just to be of interest. Every artist when they come out with a new album, whether they be wearing a different hat or a different style, you need to reinvent yourself. It gives a newness to us, so even people who already knew about us stay interested, and people who’ve never heard of us go like “oh, what’s this?”

You’ve also moved on from the experimental jazz of your second album. Do you feel like you’ve finally found your sound?
Syd: I think it’s just another step. Every album is another step, and I think our sound in general is just the kinds of chords we decide to play. Our drums will probably always switch up a little, always be harder. That was what we were going for with this album—we wanted harder drums, mainly.

That being said, your track with Janelle Monáe is really out there.
Matt: I grew up with Janelle and her producers, and that’s where a lot of my production comes from. When I was first starting, I asked her producer advice for what I needed to buy, and he was the first guy who told me that I didn’t need thousands of dollars of equipment, I just needed a MIDI board. I wanted the best that I could use, but he was like, “It’s not about the equipment—it’s you.” Playing with her made sense because it’s kind of a full circle, and I feel like our sounds are more similar than not. The track kinda sounds like her Cindi Mayweather days.
Syd: One of my favorite songs by her is "Cybertronic Purgatory," and it kinda reminded me of that. She was just freestyling and didn’t end up singing any lyrics, but we ended up using what she did record and made it sound like a sample.

What was it like working with Kaytranada?
Syd: Kaytranada’s a really cool dude. He came to my house and played us a bunch of a stuff, but before that he sent me like 20 instrumentals. I had to go through all of them and find out which ones sounded the most like me. I picked two of them—one should be on his album. We weren’t planning on using "Girl" for the album, I just wanted to use some Kaytranada beats and drop it before the album.
Matt: I played it and it blew me away. I was just like, "Yo, we can’t just give this away." The other song is a completely different vibe from "Girl,"—it’s all dancey-dancey.

You collaborate with Vic Mensa and Tyler, The Creator on the album. Are there any rappers you’d kill to work with?
Matt: I definitely wanna do something with Kendrick. Fetty Wap, too. I think Fetty Wap has some untapped potential. I won’t say he’s selling himself short because I think his music is great, but he can really sing. If we got him in the studio with us, we could unlock some weird shit.
Syd: I really like Drake, but I don’t want to jinx it.
Matt: #knockonwood.

Tyler’s been in the news for discussing the Odd Future split. What’s your take on it?
Syd: We’re actually closer now than when we were on tour together. We’re a family, we didn’t split up. What he was trying to say was that we’re all starting our own entities now. We had to in order to build this brand up a bit more.
Matt: You gotta salute that man for at least being honest. A lot of other people would try to keep that together for financial purposes. People want to report on that one tweet, but not on when someone drops music and we all retweet it and talk about it and we all still support each other, from the lowest members to the top. Articles gonna be articles and real life is gonna be real life.

What’s the weirdest thing you’ve read about The Internet?
Syd: For our first album we did an interview with LA Weekly and we got the cover. We did a photoshoot together, we were under the impression that the cover was going to be a picture of both us, then it dropped and it was just about me and it was called "Odd Girl Out." We thought it was going to be about the album, but it was more about me being gay and supposedly bashing these other artists. The writer took me out of context, and I started getting all this backlash from the gay community. I was talking about Missy Elliott and Alicia Keys, and I’m a huge fan of them. I was telling jokes. Now I don’t joke around.