Classixx Interview

November 12, 2016

After gaining popularity through a disco-influenced remix of Phoenix’s “Lisztomania”, Classixx has been picking up steam, especially since the release of their 2016 debut album, Faraway Reach. Kyle Henson of The Cut was able to spend some time on the phone with Tyler Blake from the band in advance of their October 7th show at Mr. Small’s.

The Cut: The name Classixx was chosen as a reference to the older music that influenced you guys. Can you name some artists that you feel directly influenced your work?

Tyler Blake: We grew up listening to our parents’ music a lot. Before we started listening to music that was “cool,” we were lucky to have parents who listened to great stuff. Talking Heads was my dad’s favorite band and has definitely become my favorite band as a result. We’re really into Paul Simon and Kraftwerk because of their synth work.

TC: You guys started playing together as early as high school. Who else was in your first band? What kind of music did you play?

TB: Michael [David] and I were in a band together in 7th grade, probably, and that started off as garage music, just kids trying to play their instruments. We got into synths and electronic music mostly through Radiohead and Aphex Twin. Then in high school we started getting into dance music like Chicago house and disco. Dance music seemed taboo to us–then we realized the history of it and how it was kinda punk in a way and that really attracted us to it.

TC: You guys have worked with lots of artists over the years, from Nancy Whang to T-Pain to Passion Pit. Have any of those people had vastly different studio processes than you?

TB: Some of them certainly might have different studio processes than we do, but that hardest thing about these collaborations has just been getting time with these people. Nancy Whang is really busy and we happened to catch her just as LCD Soundsystem was going into their hiatus. Michael [Angelakos] from Passion Pit is also pretty hard to get ahold of so we’ve really had to seize the moment when it presented itself. In some cases, we actually drove to these people’s houses and recorded in their living rooms just to nail them down.

TC: Was there any collaboration in particular that you guys looked forward to the most going into it?

TB: We were really excited to work with T-Pain. When we started working on “Whatever I Want”, we knew we wanted someone else on it and we came up with a shortlist of who we thought that should be. T-Pain was on that shortlist, but we didn’t think that collaboration would materialize. A few weeks later, we heard back that T-Pain wanted to do it, so that collaboration was actually remote but we were excited to work with him. In addition to pioneering autotune, I actually think that his songs are incredible and he’s really great at coming up with fantastic melodies.

TC: How has your live show evolved over the years?

TB: I’d say it’s evolved the most in terms of the visual effects that we’ve used. We have collaborations with Nancy Whang and T-Pain. Those people can’t be with us on tour, so we now have video boards where we show those people singing the songs.

TC: This is my favorite question to ask artists. Do you have any memorable stories from the road?

TB: Well there’s one story I’m not supposed to tell but it involves the tour manager of a band that we were touring with waking up in the ice machine room on his floor of the hotel that we were staying at naked and locked out of his room. That was a wild night.

TC: You guys use considerably more real instruments in your live show than many acts who make similar music. Is there a reason for this?

TB: We started off with real instruments and we feel like it really seems to connect both us and our audience to our music. We recently added a vibraphone to the set, which just makes the show a lot more versatile than if we were to just be two dudes and a MacBook up there. Since we’re using those instruments in the studio, we want to recreate that environment onstage as best as we can.

TC: What specific piece of gear could you not make music without?

TB: I really like Dave Smith’s Prophet synthesizer for polyphonic stuff and then for mono synths we use a Moog Voyager a lot of the time.

TC: You’re on tour basically nonstop until the middle of November. What are your plans after the tour?

TB: Since we released the album, we’ve been keeping really busy. After we end the tour we’re going to go home and hang out with friends and family for the holiday and then figure out what’s next. We’re early in this tour so it’s not too bad yet, but my girlfriend is back home. Michael’s wife is actually traveling with us selling merch which is nice, but we’re honestly just going to take it easy for a bit and figure out where to go from here.

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