We Brought Knives
November 2, 2014 0 Comments
We Brought Knives
If my math is correct*, this record took four years to make. Rooftop Shake came out in September of 2010 on Strange Famous Muhfucking Records. On my anniversary with my wife. As an English major, I like having everything intertwined like that. As I write this, it is September of 2014.
Rooftop Shake took two years to make. We spent two weeks in North Carolina recording with 9th Wonder, which is still a life highlight for me. We did the North Carolina sessions in two installments, both times driving down as a unit. We spent our nights in some shit hole hotel in Raleigh, obsessively listening to beats and writing. Lots of cigarettes. Which are cheap, thankfully, in North Carolina. And we ate more Papa John's than is necessary for any human to eat. We left the studio and got directly on 95N, getting back into Brooklyn around 5AM each time. Back at work that day. Black hat, black jacket.
The remainder of those two years were spent trying to figure out what to do with what we had. We had some meetings with mini-major record companies, but nothing ever panned out. One record label exec asked me how many Twitter followers we had. Not enough, apparently. Not enough.
You see, the thing about us is - we started out with huge commercial ambitions. From the moment we released Nightlife, in 2008, we were trying to fuck with the big boys. We had a big-time manager, and a big-time publicist. We've had the meetings where people asked us if we were "ready to be famous". We've played showcases for important people. At one point, during a residency at Arlene's Grocery, we had the head of a lovely major-indie ask us after a show which of his artists we wanted to tour with. Did we want to go on Warped Tour that summer? (We did). He told us to send him our stuff and we would hash the deal out soon. I was so excited during that particular conversation that I secretly reached out to hold Sentence's hand. We put a lot of work in. I thought it was going to pay off. I had conversations with my wife, assuring her that I wouldn't cheat while on tour; that I would be home at least three to four months a year.
It was an unnecessary conversation.
During that period, we made a bunch of music that was... bizarre? We were trying to carve out a niche for ourselves in the market. Like, pop-rock hip-hop? Or something? In my head it was akin to the White Stripes, somehow. But it wasn't. Either way, we were doing things that we thought people would like. And when it all dried up and we were left with nothing to show we realized how dark of a period we had been through. I sometimes have nightmares about those demos leaking out. Yikes.
We put out Smash Smash Bang in 2009. Matchbooks was our way of coping with what we had just been through. I think it is still our song that resonates most with people. My wife and I each got one of the lines tattooed the morning of a CMJ showcase - I believe the last industry-ish show we've ever played. Fitting. Shades Off, obviously, is our response to the taste-makers we had been desperately trying to please. I realize now that nothing we had to offer was radio-ready. So, sorry guys! You were probably right about us!
In the midst of our journey through the corporate music world, we had a relationship with Sage Francis and most of the SFR artists. We helped them out with NYC shows and lodging, and we were able to get up to Providence occasionally to play some shows. We came to love those guys - Sage, Dolan, Prolyphic, Jared Paul, Storm Davis. They were the polar opposite of everything we had been through, and not just on a personal level. They fearlessly made the music they thought was dope. What a concept. Sentence and I eventually had the conversation where we realized SFR was the only label we actually ever wanted to fuck with.
Sage and I had an hour long conversation at 4AM to get the ball rolling. It was Sentence's birthday. See, more significance! I think Sage and Sentence's birthdays are a week apart, actually. He agreed to put out our record, once we beefed it up to ten songs, and I felt a happiness in that moment that I had never felt before. Something that hasn't left me.
I think Rooftop Shake is a good record. When I go back and listen, there aren't any songs that I want to skip (which I can't say about our other stuff), and it makes me happy. I think the reviews it received all hit the nail on the head, though. There's nothing that particularly jumps out. Sage's verse on Bad Things does. I think Rob Swift kills it. The production is fucking solid throughout. And I think Sentence and I had our first real foot through the door in terms of the writing we are capable of, and, more importantly, how we deliver it. We had been trying to capture the feeling of our live show for years. With Rooftop Shake, you can hear that we are almost there. But I think in 2010 people weren't that interested in a solid boombap record. I don't blame them.
In the four years since we released Rooftop Shake, things have CHANGED. I have two(!) kids now. Matty has one. We have all taken big leaps in the non-music careers we had to take to support ourselves in New York. Sentence is still the hardest working muhfucka I know, period.
Sentence and I did the bulk of the writing for We Brought Knives in one night. We did the bulk of the recording in a 24 hour period. We had to do it that way, because it has become extremely difficult for us to find the time to get together and create. But it's been different this time. We've gone back and tweaked. We've dropped songs that weren't working. We've re-written, re-recorded, re-produced. M. Stine put an INSANE amount of time into the arranging and mixing, and it shows. On any other Metermaids project you've heard every. single. song. that we recorded at that time. The first version was the final version. And I think that's because it became a job for us, after a while. We went to the studio to write and record because that's what a rap group does. Clock in, record your song, clock out. One song done. Next.
We took a step out of that mentality with our HELLO mixtape, with the Billy Mitchell mixtape, and with Rooftop Shake. But we We Brought Knives, I think we finally fully arrived at why we make music. To challenge ourselves. To have fun as a family. To spend time together. You can hear it in our voices. You can hear it in the background chatter that's peppered throughout the record. You can hear it in the detail of the production. This record is everything to me. Four years spent with my brothers. After everything we've been through, together. We brought knives to the gunfight, but we survived. Son.
We Brought Knives is coming out on a label run by a man that I love - both as an artist and a person. We are label mates with people that I love - as artists, as the guys who run the label, as people. And it was recorded by a bunch of dudes who love each other.
I really hope you like it. Who knows what the future holds for us. What I do know is that this is the absolute best we can do at this moment. If I got hit by a bus tomorrow, I would be happy to have this record be the defining artistic statement of my life. It feels pretty damn good to get that monkey off our back. It's also prudent, because there have been a number of pedestrian fatalities in New York this year.
*My math has never, ever been correct.« Back to Home