Friday, September 09, 2011

Andy Samberg & TLI - MSN Music Interview

Growing up in Berkeley, Calif., Andy Samberg, Akiva Schaffer and Jorma Taccone loved comedy, and they loved hip-hop. They joined forces as best friends in junior high school, working up their first skits as the 1990s dawned. Over time, though, it would be their music parodies that drew the most attention, starting with their first video, 2000's "Ka-Blamo," which they have left online, says Samberg, "as an inspiration to show people that even if you start off kind of in the middle, you can work out the kinks." After they were selected to join the writing team (and, in Samberg's case, the cast) of "Saturday Night Live," 2005's Narnia-and-cupcakes jam "Lazy Sunday" not only altered their own lives, but also opened the world's eyes to the power of YouTube.

Under the name the Lonely Island, in 2009 the trio released the "Incredibad" album, which collected the songs they had debuted on "SNL," including Natalie Portman's magnificently profane "Natalie's Rap" and the viral super-smash "D--- in a Box" with Justin Timberlake (which has one of the greatest Wikipedia descriptions of all time: "The song is about giving gift-wrapped genitalia as a Christmas present to one's girlfriend"). The album was one of the 10 best-selling hip-hop releases of the year. More preposterous, "I'm on a Boat," featuring T-Pain, was nominated for a Grammy for Best Rap/Sung Collaboration ("The official statement on that is 'We were surprised,'" says Samberg).

Now the Lonely Island return with "Turtleneck & Chain," a new album with a few songs familiar as "SNL" "Digital Shorts" and a bunch of others made specifically for the project. Guests range from Snoop Dogg to Beck to, on the set's most absurd moment, Michael Bolton wailing about his favorite new movies as the hook to an R&B slow jam.

Munching crudités in their record label's Manhattan offices, the Lonely Islanders offered some thoughts on their process and on the path that made them the latest in the grand tradition of such comedic musicians as Spinal Tap, Tenacious D and Adam Sandler. "Before we ever worked at "SNL," we had talked about how cool it would be to put out a comedy album," says Samberg. "And we definitely consider it comedy, not real music."

MSN Music: Have you guys always messed around with music?

Taccone: Really it was always comedy. None of us know how to play any instruments or anything. Then we kind of stumbled into doing songs the way we do them now when we were all living together in L.A. Our roommate was in a real band and had a little 8-track recorder, so we'd come home and mess around with that.

Schaffer: We started making comedy videos, but it was well before there were ways to post stuff, and before people were really able to stream video. There were only a few sites, and because bandwidth was so expensive, it was hard to get them to put up your stuff -- it was like applying to get into a film festival. So we would have to make VHS tapes, go to some plant and spend all our money to get like a hundred copies made.

When did you realize that music might be something that worked for you?

Schaffer: There was no real place for comedy music videos. "Weird Al" had a place because MTV used to play videos. Then MTV stopped playing videos, but the Internet didn't play them, either, so that's why the music video kind of died there, for everybody. So we turned it into a TV show idea -- which is still up online -- which was us trying to create a version of a sketch show.

Samberg: The "Flight of the Conchords" show actually ended up being almost exactly what we wanted to try to do, a story line about the three of us that would go in and out of songs. But right out of the gate, the joke songs were the most popular things we made.

Schaffer: The moment we realized it could be real was after we got "SNL," because then we had real jobs. Then we made "Lazy Sunday," and obviously that was many different things coming together, because that's also when we discovered that a thing called YouTube existed

Taccone: We made that the way we always made our videos: We borrowed a camera, we shot it ourselves, we recorded it in our office on a crappy little ProTools rig. So when it got popular, it was definitely surprising, because it was the same thing we had been doing but on a much smaller scale.

How does the process actually work with the guests? Do you think, "Rihanna is coming on the show, so let's come up with something for her," or do you have the Shy Ronnie bit and just wait for the right person you can put on it?

Schaffer: In that case, that's exactly what it was -- "Rihanna is the guest, she's going to be here anyway, so we gotta think of something."

Samberg: And we'd been told that she was up for it. But there are only three songs on the album that we made at the show, for the show -- "Ronnie & Clyde," "Threw It on the Ground" and "Motherlover" -- and all the rest of them we made this past summer, specifically for the album. So for all of those, it was on us to reach out to those guests.

So then how does the pitch go?

Taccone: It's just a lot of pleading and begging.

Samberg: Me and Akiva met Akon on the red carpet at the Grammys, and we're huge fans of his. He recognized us and was like, "Guys, I loved 'I'm on a boat,' I love your stuff!" And we were like, "Would you ever want to do one?," and he was like, "Yeah!" So then we went back to make the second record and we were constantly trying to come up with something for him.

Taccone: Every song we did, we were like, "Would Akon sound good on this? How about this one?" And then that beat on "I Just Had Sex" worked so well for him, it just sounded like an Akon song.

Schaffer: With someone who we know we're going to pitch to, we record the whole thing, including their parts, and it sounds much worse -- it's usually Andy doing the voice, Andy going, "A-kon!"

Tell me about Michael Bolton.

Samberg: We were writing that song, and as soon as we broke the premise, we thought, we need to get someone who can really belt it out for the chorus

Schaffer: And who you don't expect to do something silly, who's very earnest.

Samberg: There's a version with me doing all of his parts that's just awful to listen to.

Taccone: As soon as his name popped up, it never wavered. We just went after him as hard as we could, until finally he broke down and did it. You least expect it coming from him, to be that crazy.

Samberg: If there's something that you're not expecting from us, at this point, that's exciting. That song definitely makes us very happy.

Are there some songs, some musical trends, that are just beyond parody -- things that can't be made any more ridiculous than they already are?

Samberg: Like that Enrique Iglesias song "Tonight I'm F------ You." You listen to that and basically that's our song.

Taccone: And by the way, the guy who made the beat for that song is the same guy that made the beat for "I Just Had Sex," DJ Frank E, so the line is getting very close.

Samberg: It's an interesting conversation, because when you look at those two songs side-by-side, really the only thing that differentiates them is intent.

How do you get beyond the obvious joke of "Hey, it's white guys rapping?" In so many movies and TV shows, that's become such a played-out staple of comedy.

Samberg: We put as much detail and thought into it as possible, and we never once approached it from the perspective that the joke is that we're white guys rapping. But once you make something and put it out into the world, you can't control how other people interpret it. I've definitely encountered people who have said as much to me, and it always bums me out a little bit, but if it's making someone laugh, then that's great. I guarantee you there's stuff I think is really funny that the person who made it would think I like for the wrong reason.

Schaffer: But I would argue that if we weren't white, a lot of our songs would still be funny. I think "D--- in a Box" would still be funny; I think "I'm on a Boat" would be -- I hope they all would be. Certainly us being dorky and silly is part of it, and some people just use the word "white" as a way of saying "dorky and silly." All our songs are making fun of being macho and masculine, so we're certainly not saying that we're not lame. We are saying that we are lame.



I love Andy's answer to the white question. It really sums up the reality that you can't control how people perceive things.

What do you think?


1 comment:

muebles badajoz said...

This won't have effect in fact, that's exactly what I believe.

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