It was a cool autumn day when we caught up with New York producers Vhvl and Bae Bro. We explored nature, dug for records, talked technology and got to hear what it’s like being a woman in a game crowded by dudes (which is a story we always need to be listening to). After Vhé confessed that she had been feeling a bit cooped up in the city, we ventured upstate to stretch our legs in the great outdoors. Away from the tourist attractions and dog urine we found tranquility and zen. We also happened to see a ninja-like DJ with a magic crate outside the local ShopRite and ended up copping a grip of sample material for only 7 bucks. And then we met a dj-turned-monk-turned-DJ, making it a truly special day. Peep the interview below.
RESPECT: You got a haul today, man. What did you get?
Vhvl: [Thumbing through Bae Bro‘s new finds] Boys II Men? Oh God, I’m done with you… Oh. DMX. I love this joint!
Bae Bro: Tropical rainforest, enhanced with celtic harp and pan flute.
Still the best CD in that stack. So, Vhé, you started making beats because you were playing the guitar?
Vhvl: I was in this band with my friend, Chase. He used to sing and I used to just play guitar. Originally I picked up acoustic guitar because I was really depressed and I used to write these songs that were really depressing, all day. I couldn’t get anyone to do drums so I had to start doing drums digitally. It was kind of crappy, actually.
So, when did you start?
Bae Bro: I started making beats rapping. My uncle actually produced for Onyx so I always used to kick it in his studio. That’s how I came to understand how turntables worked and about gear. I moved to Jamaica, Queens and I linked up with some dude in the neighborhood and we always used to talk about music. He was like, “man, you should make beats.” My birthday was rolling around and he showed up with a cracked copy of Fruity Loops. But the crack didn’t work so I had to learn to make these songs in shorter time. Just verse; chorus; copy; paste; bounce. Then he got me a copy of Reason that worked. Now I’m on the Ableton thing.
Vhvl: I love Ableton.
Bae Bro: Yeah, we’re both Ableton users. Software was the only thing I had. Because I didn’t have any other gear I always dive into the new shit.
How important is that to the both of you?
Bae Bro: Software? We have a different standpoint on this. She’s on like Reason 3.
Vhvl: I like what I like and I think that’s because I’m a little bit old school in my use of almost anything. I kinda came up as an engineer. I came up around dudes who were old, like, if it works and works for you then you use it. I’m still learning the program I have. I keep finding cool things I can do. And I’m cheap so it’s like hey why not. I just now started performing using Ableton because I broke my 404 during a show.
Bae Bro: And I did a lot of sound design and to do that I had to be up on the latest stuff. I actually learned Reason in the past three years having to remake sounds and stuff.
It’s funny . With the old charts you could just sit by the radio and hear good songs. Now everybody claims to hate the radio so it’s like, “Who’s buying this music then?”
Bae Bro: Well, it’s like if you found out what Burger King’s whopper secret sauce was. It’s like, “oh, this isn’t so special anymore.” Everybody knows what the formula is. It’s so formulaic that people can design these marketing schemes to further their brand and that’s why pop music is so terrible. And I play pop music on a daily basis. I’m happy to be playing gigs that I like where pop music isn’t as terrible as what’s number one in the charts. But I love pop music. I kind of like the fact that it’s shitty.
Everybody seems to.
Bae Bro: It takes the piss out of serious music. Which you need sometimes. You’ve gotta be able to enjoy — laugh!
So, why do you create and what do you hope it does for people? I know you can make a sad song and people will be getting buck to it, y’know?
Vhvl: That’s me. I know you can make it and hearing it back you remember how you felt when you made it.
Bae Bro: Man that’s a tough question. Her and I talk about this all the time. We actually used to fight about this. I wouldn’t tease her but I’d make remarks that didn’t make her feel so comfortable about her process. Like Erykah Badu says, “[she’s] an artist and [she’s] sensitive about [her] shit.” I’m not a sensitive person. I’m trying to be but through my experiences with Vhvl I’ve learned it’s a gift and you’ve got to give it back to the people. My personal reason for making music? For me I look at music like science. I like science but I wasn’t always the best in it so I look at music like its the science of sound. Now I’m trying to make art but still have fun with it. But if they hear a synth that makes ’em want to go buck, go buck. If you hear some chords that make you want to cry, cry. I don’t know what people are going to take from it.
So you’re like a door with a window in it then. It’s like you’re trying to show people something new with the sound design and open them up to the idea that music can be different.
Bae Bro: Yeah!
Vhvl: I’m a mirror. What I do is I expose the darkest corners of a person. People come up to me all the time like, ” I was listening to this song over and over ’cause shorty dumped me.” And I’m like, “Well y’know that’s where I was when I made it so peace to you.” A lot of my music comes from a terrible place. I’m a pretty sad person. I’m a happy person, but I’m sad more.
You seem pleasant overall.
Vhvl: Give it, like, two days I’ll be making something pretty sad.
Oh word? So, I wanted to ask about chptooth. What’s happening there?
Vhvl: We’re all the same person in five different people. It pretty much started in a Starbucks. We like the low-key thing. We keep it pretty quiet. We’re moving kinda slow and it’s good. We have some really cool artists. The two that are moving the most would have to be Selfles. Jennifer and Willy. Willy is actually from here, Jennifer is from Florida. We’re working on releasing some stuff. Everyone is too scared to drop first. It might be Simara. His project is pretty much done. [Simara], does a lot of visual art and video editing; things of that nature. And Foryei our next artist should be going soon after that. I’m supposed to drop soon after that I don’t know when. I’m reluctant to do so because —
Bae Bro: She doesn’t want to drop first.
Vhvl: I don’t. I’m a little nervous.
Well, I think where chptooth started is a good place to end the day. Before we get out of here; what are three sounds and three places you’re fond of?
Bae Bro: Sounds: wind; water; lasers.
Vhvl: Why do you like lasers?
Bae Bro: Lasers are awesome! It was one of the first sounds I learned to make with a synthesizer.
Starbucks Customer: You make wind sounds?
Bae Bro: No – lasers sounds. Well, wind sounds, yeah.
[For the next few minutes the interview get’s hijacked by a Starbucks patron who turned out to be a pretty chill DJ-turned-monk turned born-again DJ. Psaul, hit us up if you see this.]
Bae Bro: Places? Jamaica, Queens; the moon; and I have a thing for low lit places. I really like the dark. I think the lack of that sense really makes your ears alert.
Vhvl: Sounds: I like water… and water and water. and places…
Bae Bro: We went to the beach today!
Vhvl: Yeah, the beach! Mountains and rocks. I like to be on mountains and rocks. And the middle of nowhere. I like to be lost.
If you’re still not hip to these sound tinkerers you can download Vhvl’s new album Myrrh from her Bandcamp. Be sure to check the elusive producer on her Soundcloud as well. Also be sure to check out Bae Bro on his Soundcloud. The track “Don’t Even Be Knowin'” should be played at very high volume.
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