On Sunday, Oct. 26, at 5:30 p.m. PT/9:30 ET, Yahoo Live will live stream AJR's concert from the Gramercy Theatre in New York. Tune in to watch!
Brothers Adam, Ryan, and Jack Met have insisted on establishing their own brand of indie pop and, so far, the results have been impressive. After performing covers and self-written/produced songs on the streets for six years, the New York trio made the transition to a national platform, thanks to their unique sound, smart social media strategies and clever sample of Nickelodeon's SpongeBobSquarepants cartoon.
Raised on the Beach Boys, Simon & Garfunkel, and Leonard Cohen, the brothers (aged 23, 20, and 17, respectively) made their debut with 2013's I'm Ready EP and are dropping their follow-up, Break You Down, on Tuesday via a partnership with Warner Bros.
Yahoo Music recently spoke to Adam about the group's rise to fame.
Last year, when you were still completely independent, your music video for "I'm Ready" was getting played in Kohl's department stores. How did you get such a great opportunity?
Actually, it all stared with Twitter. We started out street performing. We wrote a bunch of original songs and ended up with "I'm Ready." While Ryan and I were actually in a college class together [at Columbia University], we were tweeting out to a ton of different celebrities and Sia found the video. She responded and she invited us to brunch with her. It was absolutely nuts. She covers her face for much of her videos, so we actually know what she looks like. She introduced us to a bunch of different people. We tweeted to about 100 celebrities on that first day, and Sia was the only one who responded.
Did you guys know that in addition to being a singer that she had written songs for Rihanna, Beyoncé, and Katy Perry?
Yes. That was one of reasons why she was one of the people on our list. We write, mix, and produce everything. We did "I'm Ready" with just the three of us. No one else's hands touched it. We were really inspired by her. She's such a prolific songwriter. She gave us a lot of songwriting tips and even now we send her songs for feedback.
Did she tell you why she was so moved to reply to your tweet?
Yes, she said the chorus of "I'm Ready" was one of the catchiest things she heard in a long time.
Did Sia introduce you to the people who do the in-store programming for Kohl's?
Kohl's happened just after we met Sia. Sia introduced us to who is now our current manager, and we created our own label, and we began to work with independent companies that were able to get our music in Kohl's, McDonald's, and Macy's. As soon as Sirius Radio heard our music they started playing it.
What was the first big thing that happened for you guys that made you go, "Wow"?
We opened for Demi Lovato in California a little over a year ago just when "I'm Ready" was starting. Just before, we did a couple shows, really small, 40-50 people showed up; to playing in front of 10,000 people. Seeing their reaction was absolutely incredible.
Whose idea was it to sample SpongeBob on "I'm Ready"?
That was Jack's idea. He had the idea that someone like Skrillex or Avicii should incorporate that into one of their songs for an EDM throwback mix. He brought it up and Ryan, who produces our music, said, "Why let them do? Let's just do it."
Did anyone from Nickelodeon respond to the song?
We got permission from Nickelodeon to use the SpongeBob sample. Nickelodeon ended up using it for World Wide Day of Play over the last couple months. It is cool that we were able to use their stuff and they were able to use it for their commercial.
So you are a graduate of Columbia University. What did you study, and did your education help you in your music career?
I double majored in business and philosophy. In business school we learned how to read contracts. We read every marketing plan and business plan to make sure as a band we are being treated fairly. I think that it is really important for artists to be as educated as possible so they can really be in charge of their career.
So you now have a partnership with Warner Bros. How do you work together?
We are in a really great position. We are still signed to our independent label, but we are working with Warner and have a machine behind us, something that a small indie with only a couple employees could not do. So we get to continue making the kind of music we want and designing video and cover art; all the artistic stuff is done on our side with all these great people supporting the record at radio and all the business. Warner Bros. is one of those labels that is open to new kinds of deals.
Do I hear a bit of Kanye West influences on your song "Pitchfork Kids?"
You can definitely hear My Beautiful, Dark Twisted Fantasy on something like "Pitchfork Kids." We are impressed because he is an innovative producer. When you listen to his discography, you hear so many styles of music and his influences come from so many places. You're not going to find another song that sounds like "I'm Ready." Our second single sounds like something else. Kanye does the same thing. He makes the kind of music that he wants to listen to. We really want to emulate that style of innovation of change in moving the music industry forward.