Aaron Brink and Steve Reidell, together known as the Chicago-based DJ/production duo the Hood Internet, have spent much time developing an original, signature sound since first joining forces five years ago. It just hasn’t been with original music.
THE HOOD INTERNET
Operating within a uniquely modern musical paradox, “mash-up” artists Brink and Reidell have found success in mastering seemingly every type of music, while creating almost none of their own. On any particular song from their prodigious output of free mixtapes released via their blog, R. Kelly might be heard crooning come-ons over bright drumming from indie rockers Broken Social Scene, while the next could hear Detroit rapper Big Sean’s drawling boasts floating behind the warbled synths of Brooklyn alt-pop band Yeasayer’s latest single, “Henrietta.” As the digital age continues to redraw the boundaries of both musical genres and copyright laws, the Hood Internet have become the conductors of a grand orchestra that can be summoned in a few keystrokes and includes, well, just about everybody.
“I think in a way mash-up is like an elaborate form of sampling,” said Brink from his home in Chicago, a few days before the group sets off on a fall tour that includes a stop at the Middle East Downstairs on Sunday. “It’s just that because of the digital era, there’s not as much staying in one genre as there was before. They’re used to be a pretty clear distinction between them. People may still stick to what they like, but that’s so much more broad now.”
Finding that intersection between familiar and distinctive is the Hood Internet’s founding principle. Brink and Reidell met while playing in a band, and began to try their hand at assembling patchwork mash-up tracks after seeing DJs like Them Jeans and Sammy Bananas earning Internet buzz thanks to their own remixes. Their technical skills as musicians, combined with a broad taste that stretched from rumbling Southern rap to avant-pop rock, created the opportunity to innovate within preexisting material.
“It's more effective and fun to the ears when there are melodic things working together,” explains Brink of the group’s methodology in assembling tracks. “If you can take an instrumental section from Song A and a melodic phrase from Song B and they link up without too much bending of pitch, that’s what makes it good. Of course, there are plenty of ways to make that sound not nice. With some of the software available, it’s super easy to blend song A with Song B and get it to work, but you want to make it sound like a remix of that track or the original version. It shouldn’t sound forced.”
The results of their experiments speak for themselves: Some several hundred tracks later, the Hood Internet have not only become one of the poster acts of the mash-up movement (along with the more schizophrenic blends of Pittsburgh’s Girl Talk), but have seen their influence creep into mainstream aesthetics. Dr. Dre’s newest protégé Kendrick Lamar’s first single, “The Recipe,” for example, mixes crisp hip-hop drums with a prominent, undisguised sample from chillwave group Twin Sister.
“You see people like them sampling indie rock stuff and it’s not so out of left field anymore,” said Brink. “It’s all about what the producers do with it. The end product is what’s most important. All these worlds are coming together. They don’t live inside a genre.”
In releasing their first album of original material, titled “FEAT,” on Oct, 2, the group faces their greatest challenge yet: pulling out a new trick for an audience that has grown to expect the unexpected.
Brink explained: “We wanted to make a record that’s all original songs but an extension of the Hood Internet idea. This should sound like tracks that we would post on our blog anyway. We got people from all over North America that we’ve encountered or wanted to work with. We worked harder at our songwriting and arrangements and incorporating the input of the people we’re working with. It wasn’t like they just shot us a verse; we tried to keep everyone involved in the process, all 20 different people on the record. Over time we got something that was satisfying.”
Case in point: the record's first single, “Won’t [expletive] Us Over.”
“Originally that song was going to be a cover of ‘Mr. November’ by The National,” said Brink. “We got into studio with Annie Hart (of Au Revoir Simone) and she recorded the hooks and liked the way it was sitting. We thought it was a great beat for our friends BBU in Chicago to play off that. The National song is about baseball, but we were thinking about the upcoming election in November because BBU is more politically inclined. We just let them run with it. None of them were familiar with the National song.”
Now that’s original.
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