The Internet’s Hive Mind Breaks the Mold of Modern R&B

The Internet (Alan Lear)

Even after creating a good amount of buzz with 2011’s Purple Naked Ladies and 2013’s Feel Good, no one could’ve predicted the massive success of The Internet’s Ego Death a few years ago. Since then, the genre-defying quintet has gone on to sell out shows, light up festivals, and convert countless new listeners — all while launching major solo careers for vocalist Syd, guitarist Steve Lacy, and keyboardist/producer Matt Martians.

Now, the LA-based group is back this Friday with their fourth record, Hive Mind, and they made sure it’s the proper follow-up to Ego Death that fans have been clamoring for.

“We just wanted to make another really good album after Ego Death and keep the consistency,” Martians says. “We didn’t really have any sound that we were aiming for. It’s just the natural growth of a band of young black kids just making what we’re feeling. It’s who we are and what stage we are in music and life.”

Back in April, the announcement of Hive Mind and release of lead single “Roll (Burbank Funk)” also helped quell some fans’ fears that The Internet would primarily be focusing on their solo careers going forward. Although the group rarely stopped touring together, the success of each artists’ individual debut records drew some comparisons to what happened with Odd Future when the sum of its parts became bigger than the collective as a whole.

“We were a band first, so we operate as a unit first,” Martians says. “It’s not really hard because we love each other’s music and naturally want each other to have our own space within music. It’s been really easy so far. We haven’t come to any situations where it’s been hard to deal with.”

Of course, The Internet likely wouldn’t exist today without its similarities to the semi-defunct Odd Future. After all, that’s where Syd and Martians began their musical journey together, and they all continue to work with Tyler, the Creator’s crew to this day.

In some ways, The Internet’s success as a musically-diverse offshoot from this generation’s biggest hip-hop collective makes perfect sense. But whereas Odd Future’s appeal was always in the rebellious chaos that accompanied its memorable music, Martians and Syd were able to keep what they liked about the group while also adding a dose of maturity and structure to their own project — making it both sustainable and more appealing for a less juvenile audience.

“Lightning usually doesn’t strike twice in a lot of these situations, but I always felt like Syd was such a leader and could have her own little Odd Future when the time came — and that’s kind of what The Internet became,” Martians says. “It’s our own little collective, but it’s more R&B music than rap. We definitely got a lot of the blueprints from Odd Future on how to maneuver in those early days, and we definitely took a lot of the good things from them.”

But simply listening to The Internet’s records and lumping them into categories like “neo-soul” or “alternative R&B” doesn’t really capture what it is that makes them stand out from so many of their peers. As any of the dozens of people who had tickets for this year’s ill-fated FYF could tell you, The Internet’s live show is a blend of funky rock, soulful hip-hop, and timeless grooves that stands on its own whether or not you even know the chorus of “Girl.” As an artist who enjoys performing live first and foremost, Martians can’t help but notice how much The Internet’s crowds have grown after consistently hitting one festival after another for the last handful of years.

“[The festival circuit] has been a blessing because a lot of people can’t go to these places and get people to come out,” Martians says. “For us to be able to go to places like Singapore and Korea and have people know the lyrics to the album, it’s kind of crazy. The first few years when we were touring we’d hit a lot of places that we had no business hitting, but we’re seeing that pay off now when we go back to those places and it’s grown so organically.”

As for the future of his own career outside of The Internet, Martians seems pretty uninterested in the title “Producer” despite his expanding catalogue of production credits. Firmly entrenched as one of the top beat-makers still in his 20s, the Atlanta native doesn’t see himself ever abandoning the mentality that’s gotten him this far regardless of who else wants to work with him.

“I don’t really look at myself as a producer, I just look at myself as somebody who makes beats for whoever my friends are,” Martians says. “I don’t really work with a lot of artists who I don’t know personally. The decision I made early on in my career was that I was going to live and die by my friends.”

Josh Chesler used to play baseball for some pretty cool teams, but now he just writes about awesome stuff like tattoos, music, MMA and sneakers. He enjoys injuring himself by skateboarding, training for fights, and playing musical instruments in his off time.

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