Something about California youth culture, from the reckless to the rich kids, from the bay to the border, the state has been one of the most influential meccas of all-around American mainstream. The sounds that come out of the west all seem to have this refreshing, open feel to it, telling the stories we sometimes have trouble getting out, of landscapes, lovebirds and missed calls. I’d say they’ve got a new leader of the new school in Steve Lacy, The Internet band’s soon-to-be 19-year-old producer and guitarist wiz kid. With providing a big helping hand in the creation of Grammy-nominated ‘Ego Death’, the young artist has made his way to the big leagues even before graduating high school. He’s produced a song off Jhené Aiko and Big Sean’s brainchild, ‘Twenty88’ and collaborated with his friend Kali Uchis on her “Only Girl” single featuring Vince Staples earlier last year.
Last month Lacy dropped off his highly anticipated 6-part song series entitled ‘Steve Lacy’s Demo’, and two accompanying visuals, which he says acted as both an introduction to his solo artistry, and a taste of what’s to come with his debut album. The demo is an electrifying yet smooth thirteen minutes – a playful depiction of beachy funk, rock ‘n roll-sprinkled soul. Admittedly, he hasn’t even started thinking about what his debut album will sound and feel like yet. He’s set on enjoying all six of the newly released songs, touring more, and collaborating. Lacy’s got quite possibly one of the brightest futures ahead of him, not only because of his magnetic, ever-blooming talent, but his cool, down-to-earth nature that makes his place in the mix with top names very natural. I talked with Lacy on his personal sound, shaking stage fright on tour, and creating music with just an iPhone.
Makeda Sandford: Do you think that using the format of full albums are kind of outdated when it comes to music releases?
Steve Lacy: I don’t think so, but this [Steve Lacy’s Demo Tape] just wasn’t that. I didn’t want it labeled as an EP, although on iTunes it’s labeled like that by default, so it just kind of broke my entire concept.
How was it going on the road with your fellow band members from The Internet? What’s the dynamic of the group like when it’s tour time?
So good! This is only my second time on the road; last summer was my first time. I love touring, traveling, and seeing the world, but I didn’t like performing as much as I thought I would. Part of that was that I wasn’t completely comfortable on stage. I was in my head, looking at people looking at me and overthinking everything. I’d think, “If I move like this, it might look weird,” so I just wouldn’t move. I’d just stand there and be in my head. But, now I’m comfortable and I’ll dance and walk around. It’s fun to me now. With the band, it’s all love and just communication. We’ll do group vocal warm-ups before shows and we’re just all around close like family. We’re just having fun!
Who’s the funniest?
Probably Patrick. You know those people that are funny but they’re totally not even trying? They’re just funny by default. He’s one of those people. Sometimes he hates being that person because he’s like, “You’re not even laughing with me anymore, you’re laughing at me at this point,” and we’re like, “No Patrick, it’s not even like that!” [laughs]
Are you more inspired by timeless and vintage styled cinematography and music or is something you naturally convey with your craft?
It’s a part of it. I’m inspired by so much, and I definitely listen to old music. I love older music. A lot of time with it, I think about how they [older artists] could’ve went here with it. That’s my favorite part of music, it’s that you can make what you want to hear. They could’ve went somewhere else that would’ve been way better, and you can take that and make it what you want to hear.
Who would be your dream collaborator?
What kind of music do you think you and Prince would make?
I can’t even predict! I don’t even know what it would sound like, but that’s my dream even though he’s gone. When I was making the demo, I was thinking about Prince and how I wanted him to hear this project. The fact that he can’t hear it makes me sad. I put the purple border on the cover for him.
That’s really thoughtful of you! Do you think that college is out of the question for you now? I know your mother was really adamant about it for a while.
It’s not completely out, but not in this part of life right now.
In the next few years, if not college, what do you see yourself doing instead?
Working and continuing to create with other people. Working on the next Internet record. Who knows where I’ll be in the next year, but I’ll just be going with it. That’s how I got where I am. I didn’t anticipate any of this, and I’d like to keep it that way because I can’t predict the future. A lot of people think like, “Oh, I’m doing this and I have to do this to get here.” I didn’t even know we were actually creating the Ego Death album at the time. It’s crazy. Every single thing was organic and unexpected, and it was great.
You created your demo with your iPhone, Garage Band, and other readily available tools. Do you prefer your creative process that way, and do you have advice to young artists discouraged about what they have as resources?
That’s largely why I did it all like that. If you have the ideas, they will translate and you can make it. It doesn’t matter what you use. There’re a lot of kids that want to make music but there’s often that thought of, “I can’t do this without this.” I’ve never been the type to whine about anything in general – I’m just going to do it. When I first started making music and getting into it all, I had a PC. I couldn’t make beats on that with the type of music I wanted to do. I didn’t have a MacBook, and I would ask my mom for a Mac every Christmas. I never got it, but I wasn’t going to let that stop me. I purchased a piece to plug my guitar into my phone just to see what cool sounds I could create. I was also making beats on my phone, like drum patterns and random sounds. One day I got the idea to plug it all up and I made a song. Long story short, no excuses. You can make a good ass song with what you talk off of, your speaking devices. You can get some really clean vocals off of the iPhone. All those harmonies from my vocals were made from my iPhone. It’s the biggest mind-blower.
Anything exciting coming up for you? Any collaborations on the way that you’re excited about?
Yeah! I can’t say what just yet, but definitely yes. I say that because I don’t like to ruin the surprise for people. It’s like posting a picture of me in the studio with some big artist. That will give away the surprise with what’s about to happen. I like to keep everything a little low until the release. There’re some really big collaborations on the way with people that I never thought I’d be working with. It’s a beautiful thing.