Interview: Eyedea & Abilities

Eyedea & Abilities (Minneapolis)
Published in The Pulse of The Twin Cities
by Kandis Knight

After playing with my cassette recorder for two minutes, a fidgety, pretour (50 cities) Eyedea and Abilities settled into the groove for our interview. The emcee, Eyedea, was very reflective and attentive to each question. Abilities, the DJ, provided a stark contrast—preferring to play his NBA Live videogame while chilling out with a cold Rolling Rock. Throughout the course of our hour-long interview Abilities alternated between being preoccupied and engaged, but was always full of humor.

Kandis: So you two work together a lot, what are your zodiac signs?

Eyedea: We’re both Scorpios.

The interview is off to a great start.

Kandis: Interesting, how does that come into play?

Eyedea: (Deepens his voice) From what I can tell we’re both just really tough (laughs).

Kandis: OK, do you guys live together?

(They both look at each other and emphatically respond “No!” in unison.)

Eyedea: (Trying to sound serious) We don’t like each other. (Everyone laughs)

Kandis: Ok, um....what kind of girls do you like?

Eyedea: I like all kinds of girls.

Abilities: I just like my girlfriend.

Eyedea: I like a girl who’s smart, they have to be able to grasp witty sarcasm.

Kandis: Let's change the subject, what stresses you guys out?

Eyedea: The stress that we always feel is trying to continue advancing with our music. That’s our plight, it’s ingrained in our personalities. We feel like we’re trying to race the world of music itself—just trying to create the best music, and as soon as we get done with one piece we’re trying to figure out how to top it. The technical stuff is easy to deal with, it’s just supplemental to the plight—it’s not a real thing, it’s just background to what we’re really trying to do.

Kandis: You guys are Radiohead fans. Does their music and the way it’s evolved influence you?

Eyedea: They exemplify true musicianship. They’re always growing and expanding. I think Outkast is the same way. I think Radiohead and Outkast are the two modern popular groups who you can actually say that about. We take inspiration from everywhere. We’re inspired by groups who always try to change and get better.

Kandis: What are your favorite songs on E &A (the groups newest album)?
Abilities: “Reintroducing,” “Now” and “Glass.” “Reintroducing” is my favorite because we cut the lyrics at the same time [as the music], that combination has never been done before. It’s just new and I think we do it well. “Now” and “Glass” production wise are my favorites and I do some of my favorite turntable work on those. They come together with the lyrics the best.

Eyedea: The other songs are good on different levels but those ones are what we feel work on all levels.

Kandis: As far as the business side of things goes, how is the publicity surrounding this project different than it was with your previous releases?

Eyedea: When we did the last record the publicity was not as strong. Motormouth who is doing our publicity now and the staff in house at Epitaph are doing great.

Kandis: What are your gripes with contemporary Hip-Hop or music in general?

Eyedea: Society has low standards for what is considered good or great music. What is great now is not even close to what Jimmy Hendrix was. We need to reevaluate the standards of what’s [labeled] great music.

Abilities: Think about it, nowadays you got Britany Spears, back then there was Aretha Franklin. Or now you got B2K, back then it was Earth Wind and Fire. (Everyone laughs)

Eyedea: Music of today is not even in the same building as music from the ’70s.

Kandis: What happened?

Abilities: There’s a big difference between musicians wanting to be artists and musicians just wanting to be performers.

Eyedea: Yeah, artists are driven by creating something new. Look at this American Idol shit—they’re good singers but they’re always singing someone else’s songs, there’s nothing groundbreaking happening there. Like our album, it’s not typical, it’s not average. We want to create great, epic songs.

Abilities: When you say Epic I think of some huge giant war or something, I think of the movie “Braveheart.” Freedom! (Everyone laughs)

Eyedea: When I say epic and great I’m not saying complex. I mean just important, a kick and a snare can be important but what you kinda touched upon is that people just do what they’re doing and no one is striving [to create something new]. Therefore musically we sit, we don’t go anywhere because people are just doing what they do. If we were just doing what we do we would never learn anything, our personalities would never develop. We would just be like, “this is it.” I think that’s the difference between a great artist and the average person.

Kandis: What music do you guys currently listen to on a regular basis?

Eyedea: We both listen to jazz.

Abilities: Coltrane is the greatest.

Eyedea: I listen to The Beatles, we both listen to everything. Kentucky Gag Order is a great band, there’s stuff here and there that you catch that is cool. We listen to the greats. I’m not going to listen to average rap when I can listen to an Outkast album. Why would I? There’s so much for my ear, brain and mind and body to gain. I like that Sleepy Brown guy who’s down with Andre. He’s so great. We listen to the early ’90s Hip-Hop that we were raised on. I still think that stuff is better than anything you hear nowadays. I have a lot of respect for Jay-Z, Eminem, Ludacris, Cee-Lo. They’re groundbreaking.

Kandis: How was the South by Southwest Conference? [Editor’s Note: The SXSW Conference is a yearly independent record industry showcase held in Austin, TX, featuring prominent up-and-comers in all styles of pop music. Artists who do well in their showcases and draw a strong buzz at the festival frequently end up signing with larger indie labels and, occasionally, a major label.]

Eyedea: It’s cool because all of the industry people are there and they all want to talk to you and you can treat them like shit. There are real musicians in the crowd also.

Abilities: Yeah, there was this girl who played violin in a symphony and she was like “you got me so open, your rhythm is so outstanding.” I didn’t marry her.

Kandis: What? (laughs).

Abilities: I’m just saying I am like Mozart in this bitch! (Everyone laughs)

Eyedea: It was like a breeding ground for musicians at that conference. If you can’t get respect amongst your peers as a musician how good are you?

Abilities: Yeah, if nobody likes you then you’re just a sucky artist. (Everyone laughs)

Eyedea: I feel you on that, plus everyone went down there on the Rhymesayer’s Tour Bus. We all got to hang out together.

Abilities: Yeah I got to whup everyone’s ass on the Play Station!

Kandis: How do you guys prepare yourselves for a 50-city tour?

Abilities: Do as many drugs as you can do. Just kidding!

Eyedea: We’re ready to go. We want to get the show on the road. In the past it seemed like more of a task to go on the road but now we got the record, the distribution, and this is our first headlining tour so we’re ready to go.

Eyedea & Abilities perform Sat., May 29, at First Avenue. With Blueprint, Mass Hysteria and Grayskul. 5 p.m. $10 adv/ $12 door. All Ages. 327 14th Ave. SE, Mpls. 612-338-8388.
You can find out more about Eyedea & Abilities on Rhymesayers official website.

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