Mind Equals Blown’s Patrick Walford caught up with Nathaniel Motte of the electronic pop duo 3OH!3 at the Vans Warped Tour. They discuss the band’s quick rise in popularity, working with well-known producers, writing for the band’s new record, and more.
MEB: Nat, this is you guys’ third time out on Warped Tour. 2008 was your first time on tour when you were building up, your second year you guys were really breaking out, and now you’re veterans of the tour. How does it feel to be out on this tour once again?
Nathaniel Motte: It feels great. Warped is a great tour to build your band, great publicity and stuff, but it’s also a cool tour for fans, and it takes away that barrier between fans and bands. If you want to meet a band on Warped Tour, you can do it. It breaks down that mystery divider, I think, and that’s something we’ve always been stoked on.
On top of that, we’ve thrived on Warped Tour; it was our first real tour. We’re used to it, and we really like it. The shows always end up being really good.
When you go back to 2008, you guys and Katy Perry were the two groups on the tour that skyrocketed, and in 2010 there was Mike Posner. Would you say Warped Tour was kind of the catalyst behind the popularity that is 3OH!3?
Yeah, it definitely was. We had already been building a lot of momentum on myspace, when it provided the biggest forum for bands. Combined with that feature and this tour, it was amazing for us. We’d show up to cities we’d never been to before with a few thousand people ready to see us play, and that was something that we rolled into our next two to three years of touring.
It’s really cool for us because music was more of a hobby that developed into a career; nothing was expected. But we also worked really hard to get where we’re going, and to do what we’ve done so far, but essentially it’s all been a pleasant surprise.
You guys have gotten to the point where on Streets of Gold you’re having featured tracks with Ke$ha, and Katy Perry being on the bonus version of “Starstruckk.” Would you say that Want was people starting to take you seriously while Streets of Gold was taken as a really serious record, in the sense that you were considered a legitimate group who’s gonna get radio play and fill 3,000-4,000 capacity venues?
I guess in a sense it was like that, but we try not to think in those senses. Ke$ha was a good friend when we did that, and so was Katy when we did the remix. For us what’s really important is to have fun in the studio and experiment and do things that are fulfilling to us, and hopefully people like it from there.
We knew on SOG that more people would hear our music right from the beginning than on Want, so there’s a lot of pressure from that. But we tried to remove that pressure as much as we could and have fun in the studio. So really, besides the fact that we’ve learned a lot in the past two years, the process wasn’t too far removed from what we did on Want. That was really just having fun and trying to do something different.
Moving from you guys producing everything yourselves to working with some well-respected producers, how much of an adjustment was it to working with these people? Was it almost at first a starstruck factor (no pun intended) at first?
It wasn’t so much a starstruck factor; it was tough for me, especially because I’m kind of a control freak about our music and our art. But we were stoked to team up with people that we really like, such as Matt Squire. I ended up learning a ton from him and we still work with him in producer roles. He’s a great dude and we share the same work ethic. We developed that over the years of working on those two records together and that was awesome. And on our first record we started working with Benny Blanco who’s been our buddy for forever. But like I said, for us it’s really more about having fun and not having that pressure of trying to make a big pop song, just making stuff and hoping people like it. We’ve been super selective about who we work with, because we know what style we want and what we feel comfortable doing.
We just released a song called “Robot” where we went back to just me and Sean and I produced and mixed everything at my house. It’s nice to be able to go back and forth between those things.
You guys will be releasing a brand new album this year as well. What exactly can fans expect to hear on the new album?
We’re actually gonna spend a little bit more time writing this record. We’ve been writing songs, but we haven’t had a significant chunk of time like we did for Streets of Gold to write an entire album. We’re gonna take some time off early in the next year to write the new record. There are some songs like “Robot” that are more throwback songs for us. That song is a little more “hard rap” and straight to the point, but we’re also doing some stuff that’s more melodic and musically involved.
It’ll be nice to get some time off and think about some new songs. We’re always stoked on making music that’s different for us, making stuff that’s a little bit left field, but in the same vein making stuff that’s familiar to us. I look forward to doing that in the next few months.
With dubstep becoming more popular, and with your samples and some of your music being considered electronic, could you see your music moving toward a few dubstep parts or do you think you might move away from that kind of thing?
I love it, and I think it’s great. In the same sense, I’m a little weary of it, because like others fads it’s a little too much too quickly. To me, dubstep is kind of a production masterpiece, and as a producer I follow it and try to copy the tricks and subtleties of that music. Instead of making our own dubstep songs, I think what would be more interesting is incorporating the elements that are cool and the elements I find very attractive and bringing that into our music tastefully and with moderation.
As far as producing goes, are you going to try and work with some other people again or is it strictly a 3OH!3 thing this time around? Also, are there any other touring plans after Warped?
For producing, it’s always me at the heart of it. Sometimes I’ll collaborate with people, and sometimes I’ll take it to a friend like Matt Squire and try to beef it up. For the future, we’re interested in working with the same people we’ve worked with; we’ve worked with our buddy Greg Kurstin [Lily Allen] who’s done really cool stuff. When you work with other people, it’s kind of scary because you relinquish control of your stuff, but you also think outside of the box and that’s when you learn a lot. Our friends in Innerpartysystem are great friends and producers; we’ve toured with them forever and working with them would be great.
Sean and I are both very interested in writing for other people and contributing on other people’s records, so that’s gonna be fun. Forcibly by that, you work with a lot of other people, and touring and writing externally feeds in and contributes to the heightening of your own projects and helps hone your own craft.
After Warped, we’re gonna have some time off. In the last 18 months we haven’t had more than a couple weeks off. It’ll be nice to have time off to get a little headspace and then get right back into it, writing for other people and writing for ourselves. The live element of what we do is very important but hand-in-hand, it’s also about being in the studio, having fun, and making records.
Thanks a lot for joining me for the interview today. Something I do with the bands I interview is I get them to pick a song from their catalogue and then a song by any other band they want readers to check out.
3OH!3 – “I Know How To Say”
Bon Iver – “Beth/Rest”