Friday, March 11, 2011

Interview with Sims

Being gracious enough to sit down with Muzik Dizcovery before his Raleigh, North Carolina stop on his tour with Astronautalis, Sims answers a few questions for us concerning the process of making Doomtree material compared to solo material, the lyrical content within Bad Time Zoo, and future plans regarding both Doomtree and his solo work.

How's the tour been going so far?

Man, it's been great so far. Busy shows, a lot of fun and tons of energy. People are great, and Astro's awesome. It's been great touring with him. He's a super easy dude to work with, super laid back and hilarious. Everyone on this tour is totally hilarious, so it's been like non-stop laughing since we've left which is good.

How has the reception to Bad Time Zoo been in the crowds?

It's been amazing. I would say half of the kids know who I am and what I do, and then other half its new kids; which is why you do support tours. The reception has been great every night.

There is a lot more pop influence and accessibility within Bad Time Zoo than what was present in Lights Out Paris. What was the reason for that change?

I don't think it was necessarily something that I planned to do, it just sort of happened that way. I think I found a way to convey my message in a more listenable way, and I think my songwriting has matured a little bit and it's easier for me to get across what I want to get across, but in a way that still makes a good song.

As far as that message goes, Bad Time Zoo is rich with commentary concerning communication and technology. Did that stem mainly from your literary influences with Ray Bradbury or was it from your own observations?

It was totally from my own observations. I decided to call it The Veldt early because it was like, "Oh yeah, that's right I remember that story and it kind of ties into this and that would be an interesting title for it." So it was one of those things where they were just things that I think about a lot. The song writing on [Bad Time Zoo] is basically just from things that I think about, conversations that I overhear and decide to write about, and that's basically it. Most of it is based off of conversations.

How was it having Laserbeak produce the record?

It's awesome. Have you ever heard his beats before? [Laughs] He's awesome; it was a pleasure to work with him. We're obviously really, really good friends and we have worked together in the past. The way we started [Bad time Zoo] was, at its inception it wasn't going to be just the two of us together on the record. It's just that after we made the first couple of batches of songs, I felt there was cohesiveness to the two of us with the way we worked and the way we sound together-

It just flowed out naturally.

Yeah, it was just like "Yeah, we should just finish this record together." 

Speaking of the Doomtree family, you guys have definitely been achieving more acclaim with every release. Do you still feel as though the labels "underground hip-hop" and "underground rap" still apply regardless of the critical success?

I don't know, because underground rap has a lot of connotations to it, and a lot of them are negative connotations. I don't think any of us wanted to be underground rap. We make what we make, and however anyone else wants to label it is totally fair game and is totally acceptable and cool. Like, "Oh okay, this is underground rap, this is mainstream rap, this is pop rap, this is art rap," whatever labels people want to put on it is totally cool because it helps them categorize the different things that they hear and explain like, "well these five artists sound similar, so that's this style of music." I understand the need for labeling, but we never really cared about it at all. I don't think we care about underground rap, or being in underground rap. We just want to make the music we make and we want to do it in the biggest capacity possible. At the same time, we're not willing to trade our ideals for whatever notion of success we think we might find. We are going to stay true to the music that we feel like making, and everything else can sort of fall in where it may.

Not to take the focus off your solo work, but there was a considerable length of time between Lights Out Paris and Bad Time Zoo and you have mentioned that this was due to personal issues as well as working with Doomtree material. Do you find that your work in Doomtree is easier to do than your solo work, or vice versa?

I think as far as writing songs, it can be both. There is a lot less to do for a Doomtree song since it's a collaborative effort. That said, it can be hard to write a good song with a few different song writers. You have to sort of put a lot of your stuff aside, your ideas, your desire to take risks on certain things, and they might not necessarily pan out until you're in the studio. When you're songwriting some of the risks you think you're taking don't sound right when you're demoing and they don't come off right, and you sort of have to tinker with these ideas. So it can be hard to write with a bunch of other people, and I feel like a lot of times you play it a little safer when you write with other people. So when you write by yourself you get to make bigger chances and hopefully get bigger rewards from it. Maybe you made a really cool song but you never thought you'd make a song like this or whatever. And yeah, as far as the time between it was just like, I don't know. That's not going to happen again, basically is all I can really say about that. [Laughs] It was too long. It was really too long.

Awesome. On Bad Time Zoo, the hidden track in "Hey You" is definitely the most emotional track on the record. Do you want to talk about the content of that or where that came from?

For sure, that's a real experience that happened to me. My girlfriend at the time, who was going to be my wife in four weeks, needed a pancreas transplant. So that song is about getting the phone call from the hospital saying, "Hey, we have a pancreas and we're looking for her on the phone and can't find her." So we go to the hospital together and there was this night where we sat there before the operation. We sat together and kind of cried, it was really emotional - scary. The operation went okay and the pancreas was working for a few weeks and then it rejected and they had to remove it. She got really sick before they removed it, she went into a coma for a few days and I had to play the Blowout Three concert while she was in a coma. All the things in that song are absolutely true and none of it is made up. Everything that I describe, I mean I'm talking about the different medications that they're administering and where exactly we are, like say "Back to 6b," which was the floor that she was on. It was all real. The thing about that song is that, what I wanted to do was not make it heavy-handed and I think I accomplished that. I think the way I did that was that I didn't really offer my feelings too much on it. It's not like "poor us, poor me." It's just sort of like, "Hey, here we are, this is the situation, this is what we're going through right now, and now I'm out here. I don't believe in God and I'm sitting here praying to God for the first time in my life." And I'm like, "What is going on?" You know what I mean? [I was] searching for anything to alleviate the situation or help, or not help. It was just a really, really intense time. You know, I took off six months of rapping in that time. It's one of the reasons that this record took a long time to make, was because that happened. I put down rapping for like six months after the Blowout that year. I was just like "Yeah, I'm good. I need to handle this stuff."

Is it hard to express yourself in that way through the lyrics or do you find it to be a catharsis for you?

Yeah, absolutely cathartic. I think writing those songs is hard because they oftentimes suck. They often come out super heavy-handed, super hammy, and super melodramatic. And the one thing a situation like that needs least is melodrama. You need to be steady handed through the whole thing. So yeah, it's really cathartic to finally write that song, but it's risky because a lot of those songs end up sucking. You know? They're just like too underground rappy. [Laughs] Like heavy melodrama, white emcee which is not what I'm trying to do.

[Laughs] Yeah. What do we have to look forward to from you in the next year? More Doomtree work?

I'm going on tour with Dessa in late April and May. We're going to be on the west coast, which is great. We're starting the production on the next Doomtree record, which won't be out for a while but we're starting to make it now. I'm also slowly going to be chipping away at making another record. I hope to have one out maybe in the fall of 2012.

That's awesome. Thanks for the interview Sims.

No problem, thank you.

Thanks again to Sims for sitting down with Muzik Dizcovery. Be on the look out for his tour with Astronautalis. The dates can be found here. I suggest you go and have one hell of a good time. 

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