Thestand4rd are a four piece hailing from Minneapolis and consists of Bobby Raps, Psymun, Allan Kingdom, and Spooky Black. Four young adults with impressive solo careers that came together to become one of the coolest acts we've seen in 2014.
The boys recently released their self titled debut album, Thestand4rd. Dreamy and filled with a melancholy feeling of being stuck in time, the project garnered attention in a big scale, and a lot of it seems to be attributed to their youngest member, Spooky Black. His videos, for those not paying much attention to the hip hop world, have garnered a massive cult following. It's pretty hard to not be at a party these days where one room isn't filled with hazy smoke and one of his videos playing in the background.
However, to believe that Spooky is their main recipe for success would be a massive mistake. At their live shows, of which I was able to attend in Los Angeles, Bobby Raps shined in his ability to resonate and speak to the crowd and Allan Kingdom was similarly magnetic. Psymun, playing the producer role, quietly, though powerfully, played the guitar in the back, highlighting the lyrical prowess of his team members, a powerful indication of his production power. Finally Spooky, who's demeanor rests in an "I'm doing this solely for myself" style that could only be attributed to his youthful desire to create art more than be a celebrity, opens his mouth and brings out that voice. Pure magic. For the boys, each piece of the puzzle was as pivotal to their success as the next, and each member shined in their respective spaces on the stage.
While their lack of experience as a group does still poke through at times, there is something raw about it all, and I appreciate the entire nature of it as tangible proof of the way the internet was changing music. They may be the most 2k14 act to come out of this year. Their work, however, is timeless, and when I got to work with them, I had so many questions I had to ask.
EARMILK: First thing is first, it seems like in this day and age, with the constant touring, the constant working that artists face, why create a band instead of honing in on your solo work?
Bobby Raps: We all just kind of hit it off...
Allan Kingdom: Yeah, I would say it was luck. It wasn't like we said "lets start a band!"... it was fate. we all liked each other's music and so we ended up in the same studio and we just decided to make something and see where it works out. It was like...
BR: How do we title this? We've got four people working on this, and not credit any individual but more of an anonymous thing.
Psymun: And I mean, I think that's sort of why we are standing out right now. Everyone wants to be their own act, like a Jay Z or an Eminem, people forget that when you work together you can get so much farther than if you do it just by yourself.
AK: We're trying to remind people, use each other, help each other. We all share this life, we all share this experience...
EM: And to kind of go with that, do you have people you want to work with (as thestand4rd)?
BR: I don't think so, not as Thestand4rd featuring someone. I don't know if that will ever be a thing.
AK: It's like a five-way venn diagram where we all have our solo aspirations that kind of mesh together... it's sort of like, we're already the collaborators. We (think of it) as more of four solo artists coming together to collaborate (under the name Thestand4rd). If we added another person, it just wouldn't be the same.
Psymun: We should collab with Slaughterhouse... we can become like a super super group... an eightpiece (laughs).
EM: I'd love to know the process of how you create music together. Do you just email each other (and work online) or do you just sit down and come together (in one place) and brainstorm from there?
AK: Emailing never works (for us).
BR: Most of the time we're just in the studio together, and sometimes it'll just be (a situation in which) we'll say "yo lets make something right now," and a lot of the time it'll be more of "well, I made this last night, what do you think?" Allan then might come up with a top line for it, and then all of a sudden, we got it going. We might work on it for the next two three hours and bounce it around. A lot of it is stuff we could go back on, but we like leaving it how it was.
AK: It's less of a discussion or a planned out thing (than people might think). We're not thinking, we should have specific things in the chorus... It's more like, Bobby might be at the computer, and then he'll pass it to Psymun, and it's less of a conversation and more of us just building and building until the music is done. That's how most of the album was done. So it'll be Spooky will have an idea and add something and then...
BR: Then Allan will sing something or hum something, and we'll all think we have to include that in the track, that's dope.
AK: It's less contrived...We don't do a lot to mess with the improvisational-ness of it.
Psymun: It kind of all comes together (on its own). Part of it is our reactions (to each other); it's instinctual.
EM: Since we're focusing on your studio, what does you studio look like? Are there any things you have to have?
AK: We're just kids with computers! (Everyone laughs)
BR: Yeah, that's really it though!
Psymun: It's really just like one room, and it's... kind of cramped. Just... interphasers... well, we had the opportunity to get into some big studios, and we were going in there and still just plugging into auxiliary chords. The exact same way we were making beats before, and just right now (before the interview) with my headphones.
BR: I think that taught us a lot you know? We (learned) that we don't need a budget to make a big song. If you have it in your mind... it's the tool and the carpenter idea.
Psymun: I think it helps to be less comfortable, rather than staying in the studio and (being used to that).
AK: There's a lot of success attributed to technology, and I think that is true for the distribution. But when you get back to it, like how Bobby said, when we get in the studio, this technology is available for use, and we still are doing things the same way... it's kind of going back to just what is in our mind and less about technology and all the great things we have now. We're using the bare minimum. It gets me sometimes, a lot of credit is going to the new technology, because as a generation we have all of these resources...
BR: I think that now that everyone has these resources, anyone that has a computer, you can do it. We're sort of riding this new wave now of music, shit is about to be getting crazy. Everyone's standards, no pun intended, is about to be going up. People are going to recognize that back a little while ago, you had to go into a studio, but it's a different world. The culmination of that is exciting. Makes me sort of anxious also. Like ahh!
AK: It's like if everyone can make a song, but your song still sticks out, it's special.
BR: Even if the mix on your song isn't amazing, but people don't care, that's very powerful.
EM: So lets talk for a moment about your hometown. Do you think this is a special place for you guys artistically? Are there other artists we should be paying attention to?
AK: There is a band that I grew up with, Hippocampus.
Psymun: They're doooopeee!
EM: And I guess I wanted to know more about the entire art scene at home... what might have been in your hometown that brought out that artistic integrity you all have?
BR: It's very saturated... I think actually, that we have an advantage right now, because no one knows that the place exists. It's what we're used to. Waking up at 6am, taking the bus in negative 20 degree weather, going to school. That was our life. Now we get to tour and go to New York, and see the city, and how there are millions of people stacked on top of one another, and then we come to LA, and we see millions of people spread out... we have a home to go to, and not everyone has this place. So I look at it as a huge advantage. I think we're sitting on a huge reservoir of untapped talent. We can't go through the list of everyone we think is worth listening, but we are proud we get to represent our region. It's been a little misrepresented over the past few years. The eighties was nuts. People might think they have an idea, but we actually know. It's comforting, and I don't think any of us would trade it for anything.
EM: Dope. So, on to your live show. Psymun, you're on the guitar, Spooky sings...
AK: Yeah, well, we've only done about 5 shows!
BR: I think other bands work years to get this opportunity. We've just sort of just fell, or woke up into. It's definitely still a learning experience, but yeah. Psymun will play the guitar, and I'll play the kickdrum and the 808, do some blips here and there, but then I'll come out to the front of the stage, then go back. We want it to be almost like again, a collaborative experience. It's not super planned out. It's almost like how we would be in the studio.
Spooky Black: I think at some point, we could make it better.
Psymun: Maybe not better, but... well, that's how artists sort of are in general right? I think it is amazing as it is, but maybe in the future we can think of something else. Change, not necessarily (making it) better, but change.
EM: In a previous interview you also mentioned that you're figuratively setting "the standard" as a four piece creating this hybrid hip hop music. How do you feel about the state of hip hop right now in contrast to your own work?
AK: I like it. I always find something to like in everything. I think we're adding something cool. I just love music.
SB: Mmm... I personally don't like a lot of the popular rap out there or pop. That's just me though, I just think it's too structured, too repetitive. It's been the same thing for a lot of years.
BR: Corbin (Spooky), you've sort of mentioned some of your peers and some of the stuff that they are into... Well, (first off) he's from another generation, he's born in 1998. Tupac, Biggie, Big L... DEAD.
SB: Yeah, we sort of missed that. People my age are more into like, Chief Keef, or music like that.
BR: Not to discredit that... There's a time and a place for that. Absolutely. But I think it shows what people are more devoted to. It's basically just about smoking weed and having sex, and to me, there's a lot more to life than just that... I think it is easy to be like fuck the music industry. But people have always said that. People in the eighties definitely were saying the same thing. The more you say that though, it's like, do something about it!
SB: There are a lot of good music out there nowadays, people just aren't necessarily going out and looking for it.
BR: What is being put out there for people to consume... I want the audience to decide whats tight, and for each person to decide what they like, and not be judged by that. Social media is sort of invading our lines of communication, telling us "this is it, this is it, this is it" (when it comes to music).
AK: Everything is right there on my phone. I think it does go back to the idea of being a fourpiece. We can come together and form this group... Relationships are a bit of a compromise in general, but one thing we haven't compromised on is our sound and style. We haven't let anyone tell us how to think. Think for yourself.
EM: So... as you're so invested in this, are you equally spending time thinking about your solo work as well?
AK: For me personally, collaboration is just important to me overall. I think it is a sharpening tool just for my own work in general.
BR: We all fell into this at different times. Allan's career was definitely going by the time we came together. We would never say stop that, but now we have a support system to fall back on. If that means that (in the future), we're only going to be able to meet three weeks out fo the year to make our next album, then we're totally okay with that. That's awesome. It's important for us to just have that brotherhood. We do see people trying to do everything by themselves, and be sort of self made blah blah blah, but it is a bit overrated. To have those people that you trust and respect behind closed doors, I would never trade that for anything. Not for million dollars. For me, I'm putting a lot into Thestand4rd because I believe in it. Spooky could have been doing his own thing, but he didn't, because he likes us.
EM: What about on the other end? Do you think about massive long term goals for the band?
AK: No... (everyone laughs)
EM: It does definitely seem like everything happened so fast (for you guys).
BR: I think one of our good points is that we don't think about that. We don't think about that shit!
Psymun: We just try to do our best.
AK: I think it's easier to do that with your solo work. You definitely know what you want. It's a lot of compromise (when being in a band), and going with the natural flow of things.
BR: I think one thing important to all of us is representing where we are from though. That's what drives me. So maybe one day people can look back at us, and think what the fuck were they doing?
EM: Awesome. Any last minute words to our readers?
Everyone: We love you!
Thanks boys! Tonight the boys make a stop in Chicago, Illinois, and have one final show in Minneapolis on the 30th. Make sure to check out their album, available for free download, as well as their socials below.