[Interview] In Studio with Kids These Days: TrapHouse Rock
RubyHornet: What was the frame of mind during this process? From Jan to now your band has grown a lot.
Vic Mensa: I think when we first started making the joints, which was way before January when we first started creating these songs, we were just taking influence from other joints. We really started by trying to use influence from more than one different song per song. So we would have something from this song, and it would be juxtaposed with something from that song. That shit kind of just developed to where all the samples and the influences became more and more obscure through working with Jeff Tweedy and just through making more songs to the point where the last few songs we made for Traphouse Rock don’t really contain any actual replayed samples. The last few songs written don’t have any replayed samples in them. What we kind of did was go from taking the influence from songs to just more and more creating them into our own creations.
RubyHornet: Each song has multiple elements.
Vic Mensa: One thing that was occurring to me while listening to the album when we were mixing, was that there were some songs that I listened to on the project and I feel like I just listened to an album. Just from a song though, just cause a song can go so many different places and shit.
RubyHornet: I wasn’t even sure sometimes when you’d be like, ‘that song was called.’ I’m thinking, ‘oh shit, I missed a transition there. We’re on a new song.’ Even the intro feels to be a mini-version of the album.
Vic Mensa: I haven’t heard that, that’s dope though.
RubyHornet: A lot of the songs are staples of your live set. It’s kind of like the reverse how we’re used to it where a band puts out an album, then they play the songs live. But these are like “The Kids These Days Songs Now On An Album.”
Vic Mensa: Right. I feel it’s some shit like we’ve been playing a lot of the songs in different forms for a long time. Different manifestations of the same idea. It’s like, a lot of people who have heard us live will recognize the songs and it won’t sound exactly the same, there’s going to be a lot of changes obviously. But for the vast majority of people in the world, who have never heard us, it’s all going to be brand new. But for a lot of people, because a lot of people have seen us, it’s going to be, ‘oh, I recognize that.’ But motherfuckers never had the ability to have it and listen to it and know the words. And then you put in the element of the songs being references to songs that you do know, so it’s a lot of familiarity also with some new ass shit.
RubyHornet: How did those songs come about? You sample some very iconic songs to a certain time and others just seem to come from…
Vic Mensa: All the joints, man, they really just came from the shit that we liked and the shit that we thought would be fresh if we played it. The “Smoking On Hay” joint, that was one that I just thought would be ill if we played the song so I looked up what the sample was. It’s “I’ll Stay”. Roy Hargrove did a version of that with D’Angelo, so we listened to that, we also listened to the original song and as we listened to it, motherfuckers would get the chord progression and then we just jammed it and took it to a different direction. I think we were trying, with some of the joints, to get iconic era songs. It was also just like shit that we were listening to.
RubyHornet: There’s a lot of 90′s rock on there. A certain type of 90′s rock. Alternative, but good, rock.
Vic Mensa: I grew up on 90′s rock, and earlier, but 90′s rock. I’ve been a huge Nirvana fan my whole life… Liam and Lane, the guitar and bass, they also have been playing rock music forever. They had a rock band together. I’m sure they were playing mad 90′s rock songs. Rock music was not cracking. Rock music had faded into obscurity in the mainstream as we’ve grown into ourselves. So the last good ass rock is really that 90′s up to early 2000′s rock shit.
RubyHornet: You have all these different layers.
Vic Mensa: Jeff Tweedy produced the fuck out of this album.
RubyHornet: What was it like working with him how quickly did he dive in?
Vic Mensa: Jeff, he just worked mad naturally. We would just work on a song until we were done with it. It wasn’t like we just did all our rhythm tracks then took them one by one and one by one. Really we would just focus on songs and work on them until we got them to a point, and we felt like we got bored with it and shit. The song “Afrique”, the last joint, Jeff made the fuck out of that song. That shit sounded completely different when we brought it in. It had drums up top and shit, the whole super-low synth, bass, outerspace sounding shit, that shit didn’t really exist. It was just formatted completely differently. And Jeff just shaped that bitch and molded it like crazy. Same thing with the joint ["Who Do U Luv"], “all I really want to do lately is make you hate me.”
Vic Mensa: That was some rockabilly type… But before it was like loud guitar the whole time. It didn’t have that really heavy piano, deep groove with the dum, dum, dum, dum, dumm, it was like dun-dunt-dunt, dunt-dunt, turnt up the whole time. He turned that shit on it’s ear and made that shit crazy.
RubyHornet: I was on a podcast in January with Jaime Black, we were doing a year-end wrap up in January 2012 and he asked, ‘who are you guys looking forward to hearing? What’s going to happen in 2012? A lot of people on the panel were looking forward to see what Kid These Days does this year because you had a really big 2011 with SXSW’s breakout and the Lollaplooza gig… Did you hear any of that?
Vic Mensa: Honestly, we were just doing so much shit all year, just on the road a lot and running around. I think that shit was just mad love to have everybody anticipating our shit and we really had all intentions of finishing this project way sooner and putting it out a long time ago. But just money and scheduling and the way things worked out, we had a big break in time between when we went in with Jeff Tweedy and then when we went back in El Paso, and then went to work with Mario C. We were just on the road a lot. And then after that, we just had been feeling like the pressure’s on because it’s been so long. We got to give it to them.
RubyHornet: Another one I really liked is like, “I thought we were famous…”
Vic Mensa: That’s called “Doo-Wah”. It’s got a sample of a Pixies song called, “Where is My Mind”. That shit came from this chick. We did a performance at her wedding. She put Greg on like a piano cover of that song. He brought it in and he was trying to play it and that was a joint where all the different verses, my verse, Macie’s verse, and Liam’s verse, they all came at different times but somehow still made sense together. They weren’t made with intent towards each other. That shit just, it was put together over a decently long period of time and just ended up making sense together. I think a lot of shit on the album, topic wise, addresses the identity and just doubt and question, and insecurity and being unsure, being sure, the shit that young n***as go through all over the world.