Classixx Talk T-Pain, Passion Pit And Their Most Cohesive Album Yet

Written By James Schofield on 06/06/2016

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Three years after the release of Hanging Gardens in 2013, Classixx have dropped their sophomore record Faraway Reach - an album packed with guest collabs with artistssuch as T-Pain, Passion Pit and How to Dress Well. With so much to unpack in regards to the record, we got Tyler Blake on the phone to chat us through the record. 

James: Hey man, I listened to the new album this morning and I really loved it. It sounds so positive and really upbeat, very fresh and very modern. How do you feel about the album now a day away from its release?
Tyler: I feel really good about it, man, we've had some time - it's been finished for a while now, so we've had some time to sit with it and we fee pretty good about it.

I wanted to ask you, the sound of the De Lux featured track In These Fine Times really gave me a Morrissey and The Smiths vibe, and I noticed you guys gave them a little bit of a shout-out in a post on your Facebook page. Was that a deliberate move to sort of reimagine or replicate that sound, or was it more incidental?
Yeah, I think that was kind of the era that we were going for and maybe had in mind sort of a Roxy-music vibe in mind, more, but I totally get where you're coming from in that assessment. I mean I don't think it was deliberate but we are big Smiths fans so it could have easily made its way in to the sound and trickled in to it, for sure.

It's been three years since Hanging Gardens was released in 2013, I feel like I was really blown away by what I felt was the progression of your sound, can you talk a little bit about what was different with your approach to this album as opposed to Hanging Gardens?
I think... You know, Hanging Gardens was our first album, it felt very much like [then] we were really trying to just enough songs to come together to make up a full album, and this time I felt like we had written a lot more music and it made it a lot easier for us to, I guess, find the songs that made it cohesive. And I feel like it's really cohesive and from, having done it before, I think our process was just a little more natural and it was easier for us to get through it.

In terms of further differentiating Faraway Reach from Hanging Gardens, what kinds of influences did you have for the latest album that were different to the last album?
You know, there's definitely... There's a thing where each song is sort of a product of its environment, certainly the most obvious example on the record of that is a song called 'Ndivile' which features a really great singer named Nonku. And we did that in South Africa, in Cape Town, and she's singing in Zulu and the music is inspired by that. And there's some rhythms and things that we wouldn't normally gravitate to, like that song would not have existed if we had not gone to Cape Town to do it and there's a lot of things like that on the record. Like we went to New York to record with Michael Angelakos from Passion Pit and we ended up just recording in his living room. And it created this really, sort of, intimate vibe. So yeah, I think the influences were more just a product of the environment we recorded the sounds in. I think that was deliberate to kind of make the process that way.

One of the best tracks from Hanging Gardens, for me, was the track that you guys did with Active Child. And when I think of Active Child and How To Dress Well, who's on the new album, I always think of how unique and different their voices are, so I was curious if there were any similarities between working with those two acts, and how did your approach to balancing How to Dress Well's vocals change compared to with Active Child?
I think, you know, when we did the song with Active Child - they're very different too, that song with Active Child is very a slow R&B song and, even though the vocal of Tom (How to Dress Well) is similar with an R&B, soulful quality to his voice, I think I see them being similar in that way. But the difference is the way we contextualised that, with the vocals of How to Dress Well he did this big, energetic falsetto in the chorus and we just felt like we really wanted to build off that. So we made it this really sort of propulsive dance anthem, kind of thing, and with Active Child we treated his falsetto more as this kind of chill, sort of sexy, laid back kind of thing.

Obviously Faraway Reach has a few high-profile guest appearances, but I'd be remiss if I didn't ask specifically about the T-Pain appearance. How did that come about, and what was recording that like for you guys?
It was really crazy. So basically we had made this beat and it was at a tempo that we don't, typically, write music to. Active Child was really one of the few songs, the song 'When Your Love is Safe'. You know we did a remix for him, and then we did a song with him for our record which was really slow and then... This one felt like it would be really cool to have like a hip-hop/R&B kind of thing, so we thought of a bunch of people that could fill that role potentially. And at the top of our list were some really farfetched ideas like... We might as well send it to them and see what happens, and T-Pain was one of those like we sent it [the beat] to T-Pain and we're sure nothing will come of it but then two weeks later he sent us back this vocal for the song that just basically became what the vocal is now for Whatever I Want. And then we were totally blown away that that came together.

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What were some of the other names that you reached out to for that?
Man, I can't even remember to be honest with you. Maybe like... Miguel... But to be honest I can't really remember, and once we got the T-Pain one back that sort of thing really went away in our minds because we were just so... We're just big T-Pain fans. Like, genuinely fans of his melodies, and I think he just totally killed it. With T-Pain, out of all the vocals on our album that one might be the most polarising just because there's... He's such a big star, and for people that are big stars they just always seem to have huge fan bases but also the haters. But we're just huge fans of his, so we loved it.

Another really interesting collaboration for the album, I feel,was the one that you did with Passion Pit. What was that like, and how did that sort of come about?
So that was basically, we had the instrumental for that which was pretty much what you hear on the record. I mean we added some bells and whistles on the end, but we sent him that and he sent us some ideas... You know, we were kind of friendly and had mutual friends and so we sent him it and we kind of became friends over text. And he sent us little bits of ideas of him singing to the beat on his iPhone, and even that - which was really, really raw - sort of him singing gibberish lyrics over these tracks. Even that was really good, like we could tell that there was something really good there and so we knew that that had to happen, that that song had to happen and that it had to be him on it. You know, he was going through a lot of things in his personal life at the time - dealing with some depression issues he has with his bipolar, and he came out publicly as being gay, and there were a lot of things that made it hard to make the track happen on a person level. And finally, I think he got to a place where he was just, because of all those things he canceled his tour, he just happened to have some time on his hands. And I think a lot of that emotion helped the track, too. So yeah, we ended up flying out to New York and just trying to pin him down, and we just ended up recording in his living room and it was really a special recording.

Now that you are so close to the album's release and the recording process for Faraway Reach is obviously over with, was there anyone in particular that you think would be a dream collaboration that you could have, maybe, had on that album?
You know what, yeah, kind of. I don't want to tell you who they are just because I feel like... First, all the [guest] songs on the album that made it to the album are, I think, the people that were meant to sing those songs. But there are songs that we didn't finish that hopefully we will eventually and we'll put those out. The reason for a lot of the songs that we are working on not making it to the album are just because the songs haven't gotten finished yet, it's not because they weren't good enough necessarily but yeah... So we have some interesting ideas for collaborations that we haven't finished or they haven't come together yet. People do ask us oftentimes who our dream collaborators would be and, you know, a lot of people... You think I'd like to make a song with Michael Jackson or Prince but it's like... There are certain people that we hold with such high regard that working with them would almost be.. It'd be scary. You know, I'd never want to be that guy who made the one shitty song with Peter Gabriel, or somebody who just we really admire. So sometimes we try to set the standard of working with somebody that we have mutual respect for, and I think it's really important. I don't think we set out to make this record full of these big names and I think we'd be scared of that because I think it's important to have mutual respect, so then the other person is just as invested as you. Like a collaboration with somebody like T-Pain... That's part of why that blew our minds so much because it's like... He wrote vocals to the track because he heard our track and was like yo, these guys are dope, and so that mutual respect is a huge part of it.

In a similar vein, is there anyone in particular that you're listening to right now or any new/fresh acts you've found yourself becoming a fan of recently?
Yeah, there's this guy in England called LA Priest that we both are really in to. I'm really in to the new Bibio album (A Mineral Love), I think that's really good. And then, you know, we're always in to our friend's music anytime they put out new music. You know, Holy Ghost! just put out a great new EP on DFA called Crime Cutz, so yeah... That's good.

Obviously, I'm sure there's some tour plans in the future following the album's drop. Is there any particular plans to hit Australia in the near future at all?
There are, I can't talk about them just yet but we will be there in the next year or so. I think we'll make it, yeah, within the year and we'll be playing our record and playing our songs.

With Faraway Reach coming out, what's next for Classixx from here?
I think basically right now we're gearing up for this release and we're putting together a live show. And we're doing this new production for the first time in our hometown of Los Angeles the day after the album comes out, and that show is basically the show we'll be taking around to a lot of the festivals we're doing in the States. We're doing a lot of Summer festivals, because, you know, it's backwards here season-wise. And then we're gonna be doing a headlining tour with the new show and hopefully we'll be taking that over to Australia soon.

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Three years after the release of Hanging Gardens in 2013, Classixx have dropped their sophomore record Faraway Reach - an album packed with guest collabs with artistssuch as T-Pain, Passion Pit and How to Dress Well. With so much to unpack in regards to the record, we got Tyler Blake on the phone to chat us through the record. 

James: Hey man, I listened to the new album this morning and I really loved it. It sounds so positive and really upbeat, very fresh and very modern. How do you feel about the album now a day away from its release?
Tyler: I feel really good about it, man, we've had some time - it's been finished for a while now, so we've had some time to sit with it and we fee pretty good about it.

I wanted to ask you, the sound of the De Lux featured track In These Fine Times really gave me a Morrissey and The Smiths vibe, and I noticed you guys gave them a little bit of a shout-out in a post on your Facebook page. Was that a deliberate move to sort of reimagine or replicate that sound, or was it more incidental?
Yeah, I think that was kind of the era that we were going for and maybe had in mind sort of a Roxy-music vibe in mind, more, but I totally get where you're coming from in that assessment. I mean I don't think it was deliberate but we are big Smiths fans so it could have easily made its way in to the sound and trickled in to it, for sure.

It's been three years since Hanging Gardens was released in 2013, I feel like I was really blown away by what I felt was the progression of your sound, can you talk a little bit about what was different with your approach to this album as opposed to Hanging Gardens?
I think... You know, Hanging Gardens was our first album, it felt very much like [then] we were really trying to just enough songs to come together to make up a full album, and this time I felt like we had written a lot more music and it made it a lot easier for us to, I guess, find the songs that made it cohesive. And I feel like it's really cohesive and from, having done it before, I think our process was just a little more natural and it was easier for us to get through it.

In terms of further differentiating Faraway Reach from Hanging Gardens, what kinds of influences did you have for the latest album that were different to the last album?
You know, there's definitely... There's a thing where each song is sort of a product of its environment, certainly the most obvious example on the record of that is a song called 'Ndivile' which features a really great singer named Nonku. And we did that in South Africa, in Cape Town, and she's singing in Zulu and the music is inspired by that. And there's some rhythms and things that we wouldn't normally gravitate to, like that song would not have existed if we had not gone to Cape Town to do it and there's a lot of things like that on the record. Like we went to New York to record with Michael Angelakos from Passion Pit and we ended up just recording in his living room. And it created this really, sort of, intimate vibe. So yeah, I think the influences were more just a product of the environment we recorded the sounds in. I think that was deliberate to kind of make the process that way.

One of the best tracks from Hanging Gardens, for me, was the track that you guys did with Active Child. And when I think of Active Child and How To Dress Well, who's on the new album, I always think of how unique and different their voices are, so I was curious if there were any similarities between working with those two acts, and how did your approach to balancing How to Dress Well's vocals change compared to with Active Child?
I think, you know, when we did the song with Active Child - they're very different too, that song with Active Child is very a slow R&B song and, even though the vocal of Tom (How to Dress Well) is similar with an R&B, soulful quality to his voice, I think I see them being similar in that way. But the difference is the way we contextualised that, with the vocals of How to Dress Well he did this big, energetic falsetto in the chorus and we just felt like we really wanted to build off that. So we made it this really sort of propulsive dance anthem, kind of thing, and with Active Child we treated his falsetto more as this kind of chill, sort of sexy, laid back kind of thing.

Obviously Faraway Reach has a few high-profile guest appearances, but I'd be remiss if I didn't ask specifically about the T-Pain appearance. How did that come about, and what was recording that like for you guys?
It was really crazy. So basically we had made this beat and it was at a tempo that we don't, typically, write music to. Active Child was really one of the few songs, the song 'When Your Love is Safe'. You know we did a remix for him, and then we did a song with him for our record which was really slow and then... This one felt like it would be really cool to have like a hip-hop/R&B kind of thing, so we thought of a bunch of people that could fill that role potentially. And at the top of our list were some really farfetched ideas like... We might as well send it to them and see what happens, and T-Pain was one of those like we sent it [the beat] to T-Pain and we're sure nothing will come of it but then two weeks later he sent us back this vocal for the song that just basically became what the vocal is now for Whatever I Want. And then we were totally blown away that that came together.

What were some of the other names that you reached out to for that?
Man, I can't even remember to be honest with you. Maybe like... Miguel... But to be honest I can't really remember, and once we got the T-Pain one back that sort of thing really went away in our minds because we were just so... We're just big T-Pain fans. Like, genuinely fans of his melodies, and I think he just totally killed it. With T-Pain, out of all the vocals on our album that one might be the most polarising just because there's... He's such a big star, and for people that are big stars they just always seem to have huge fan bases but also the haters. But we're just huge fans of his, so we loved it.

Another really interesting collaboration for the album, I feel,was the one that you did with Passion Pit. What was that like, and how did that sort of come about?
So that was basically, we had the instrumental for that which was pretty much what you hear on the record. I mean we added some bells and whistles on the end, but we sent him that and he sent us some ideas... You know, we were kind of friendly and had mutual friends and so we sent him it and we kind of became friends over text. And he sent us little bits of ideas of him singing to the beat on his iPhone, and even that - which was really, really raw - sort of him singing gibberish lyrics over these tracks. Even that was really good, like we could tell that there was something really good there and so we knew that that had to happen, that that song had to happen and that it had to be him on it. You know, he was going through a lot of things in his personal life at the time - dealing with some depression issues he has with his bipolar, and he came out publicly as being gay, and there were a lot of things that made it hard to make the track happen on a person level. And finally, I think he got to a place where he was just, because of all those things he canceled his tour, he just happened to have some time on his hands. And I think a lot of that emotion helped the track, too. So yeah, we ended up flying out to New York and just trying to pin him down, and we just ended up recording in his living room and it was really a special recording.

Now that you are so close to the album's release and the recording process for Faraway Reach is obviously over with, was there anyone in particular that you think would be a dream collaboration that you could have, maybe, had on that album?
You know what, yeah, kind of. I don't want to tell you who they are just because I feel like... First, all the [guest] songs on the album that made it to the album are, I think, the people that were meant to sing those songs. But there are songs that we didn't finish that hopefully we will eventually and we'll put those out. The reason for a lot of the songs that we are working on not making it to the album are just because the songs haven't gotten finished yet, it's not because they weren't good enough necessarily but yeah... So we have some interesting ideas for collaborations that we haven't finished or they haven't come together yet. People do ask us oftentimes who our dream collaborators would be and, you know, a lot of people... You think I'd like to make a song with Michael Jackson or Prince but it's like... There are certain people that we hold with such high regard that working with them would almost be.. It'd be scary. You know, I'd never want to be that guy who made the one shitty song with Peter Gabriel, or somebody who just we really admire. So sometimes we try to set the standard of working with somebody that we have mutual respect for, and I think it's really important. I don't think we set out to make this record full of these big names and I think we'd be scared of that because I think it's important to have mutual respect, so then the other person is just as invested as you. Like a collaboration with somebody like T-Pain... That's part of why that blew our minds so much because it's like... He wrote vocals to the track because he heard our track and was like yo, these guys are dope, and so that mutual respect is a huge part of it.

In a similar vein, is there anyone in particular that you're listening to right now or any new/fresh acts you've found yourself becoming a fan of recently?
Yeah, there's this guy in England called LA Priest that we both are really in to. I'm really in to the new Bibio album (A Mineral Love), I think that's really good. And then, you know, we're always in to our friend's music anytime they put out new music. You know, Holy Ghost! just put out a great new EP on DFA called Crime Cutz, so yeah... That's good.

Obviously, I'm sure there's some tour plans in the future following the album's drop. Is there any particular plans to hit Australia in the near future at all?
There are, I can't talk about them just yet but we will be there in the next year or so. I think we'll make it, yeah, within the year and we'll be playing our record and playing our songs.

With Faraway Reach coming out, what's next for Classixx from here?
I think basically right now we're gearing up for this release and we're putting together a live show. And we're doing this new production for the first time in our hometown of Los Angeles the day after the album comes out, and that show is basically the show we'll be taking around to a lot of the festivals we're doing in the States. We're doing a lot of Summer festivals, because, you know, it's backwards here season-wise. And then we're gonna be doing a headlining tour with the new show and hopefully we'll be taking that over to Australia soon.

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