It’s Saturday, the weekend is here and we have an EUPHORIC EXCLUSIVE for you!
This week, San Jose native now Los Angelino, Getter, released a video phis tune “Forget It,” on Skrillex’s OWSLA label. The song is heavy-hitting and beat-filled, but also has an eerie thread of melancholy sewn throughout which becomes not-so-subtle in the video. With a budget for production and a song that combines such contradictory elements in a genre that praises optimism to the point of ignorance, it’s easy to see why the video has 152,000 views in under a week.
One of the elements that gives the song such a dark twist, comes from another Bay Area artist and one of our favorite local producers, Tree. While the 22 year old is currently a Los Angelino himself, finishing his Bachelor of Fine Arts degree at the infamous California Institute of the Arts (pretty much every one of your favorite Disney movies in the past 30 years were created by CalArts grads), Tree hasn’t forgotten his Cruzan roots.
We met up with Tree on a hot, L.A. day for some cold coffee and deep thoughts on the “Forget It” video, his current projects and embracing pop music as a whole and not just a genre.
Euphoric: So your Tree concept came about when you were a teenager on acid at Burning Man, right?
Tree: That’s when I had an outlet to pour all that energy into, instead of being reckless and doing/selling drugs. It gave me an opportunity to see that I have a chance to showcase what I do, to a large amount of people. I’m lucky to have found an outlet to do that.
E: And you did it well, too. You were signed right away.
T: For the first year, yeah, but that’s brought about a whole headache of issues, now. Whatever. I’m grateful to still be making art and nothing’s stopping me. I did take a break from music for a while, but I never stopped making art.
E: Let’s talk about the music video with Getter.
T: It should be out on tv–MTV–in America and the UK. I actually got this bowl cut because of the video and wanted to talk about that. It’s a statement for me. Everyone on the mainstream platform really take themselves seriously. They want to be sexy and pretty and all that. I got the bowl cut to make a statement that we should be able to laugh at ourselves. So I wanted to do something that would separate myself from everyone else. I thought, “How can I make myself look as ridiculous as possible?” and I think I accomplished that. We got some good shots of the haircut, too, even though it’s not about me at all. I play a cash register clerk. It’s a story about this guy who gets in a car crash with his wife and she dies. However, he’s a scientist so he tries to recreate her through cloning but he never gets the formula right. So the clones are bleeding and deformed. In the end, he realizes he won’t get her.
E: You can’t go back
T: Exactly. And it ties in with the theme of the song which is called, “Forget It.” It’s about moving forward and letting go and the guy has that realization over the process. It was awesome to be part of a big production like that. I’ve never had the opportunity to be a part of something where they could flip cars or rent out stores to film. It’s on Skrillex’s label, OWSLA, which Getter is signed too. He recently moved to L.A. because it really is the Mecca of electronic and pop music. If you want to be in the recording industry, you need to be here. When I lived in San Francisco there was no scene anywhere close to this.
E: Will you be collaborating more with Getter?
T: Yeah, we have some work in the process now. I’m not sure if it will be an EP or album. He’s also helping me some new music I’ve been doing. We push each other into genres neither has really done before. Which is what happened with Forget It. If you listen, it’s all heavy-hitting EDM music with my light break in the center to cleanse your pallet. Actually I have a bunch of albums I’m trying to finish and some will be coming out this summer. At least one, called Squirt. It’s all old-school hip hop. It’s a tribute to J-Dilla so everything on it is inspired by him and that era of hip hop: old school and soulful. I’m excited about it. It’s in the middle of being mastered right now, so it’s almost finished.
E: Who’s mastering it?
T: My friend, Clay. Another student at CalArts.
E: Being there, you’re surrounded by so many people doing awesomely creative things. It must be rad being able to help each other out.
T: Totally. I think the biggest thing is knowing what you want to do, when you go to that school. A lot of people know they want to do art, but not in which field, exactly. At least a large percent say, “I know I want to do this, but where do I fit in?” So for me to have an exact idea where I fit in the spectrum and what I need to do, it propels me forward. I only have a very limited time at this school anyways, two years. It’s essential for me. I’m finishing up my BFA because, halfway through, I was offered the job to be a recording artist. I couldn’t skip that opportunity, that’s the dream job.
E: And to do it at such a young age, too.
T: But that allowed me to see where I sat in the spectrum, to find out what I’m good at and what I want to do. Which, in turn, has made my time at CalArts more directed. I’m very grateful for that even if it’s led to some headaches.
E: Well so much of what we do ends up stressing us out, anyway. I think it’s best to be stressed doing something you love than have a job you hate and wonder why you constantly put yourself through shit.
T: You definitely need to set the goals and you’ll reach them when you get there. You know? But you have to set some deadline and who cares if you reach it or not. Be ambitious. Do something that may not be realistic at all.
E: Talk about your last performance in Santa Cruz at the Kuumbwa.
T: I built two trees–one on each side of the stage–and had a 12×8 foot projector in the middle so we could do visuals from behind it. We also had bushes and stuff, it was cool because it was almost like a children’s playset. It was all beautifully painted and put together, but it definitely separates us from other acts. That’s also what I’ll be using with my thesis and touring.
E: What’s your thesis?
T: This latest was a lot more psychedelic/hip hop and dance oriented. The next one will be more pop oriented but it will still be geared towards getting people to dance. This one was more live drumming and beats, but it was really big because I had to overcome the technical stuff. I have two laptops set up, one with audio and the other with visuals. I run them through one MIDI and then send that into a patch so I can trigger audio and visuals at the same time. So I was really in control. Having the freedom to overcome the technical aspects was really essential, so I can take the show in different directions each night and I don’t have to play the exact same set.
E: So it’s not a pre-recorded video. You’re actually creating the visuals as you go along?
T: The videos were all pre-edited. A lot of the music I was working with had samples from the 1940’s and 50’s but merged with a modern spin. I found old school footage of people dancing and made it–it was almost like an old-school hip hop video, but from the 1950’s. So it had an older feel but still very modern. It wasn’t hip hop at all, but what I’m saying is, when you sync it with modern beats it creates the feel.
E: It shows that if it’s hip hop, big band, jazz or whatever. That’s the music of the time and ultimately it boils down to people enjoying life and having a good time.
T: Exactly. Especially with having samples, from the original source, in the music. It syncs up and you think, “Oh, this makes sense.” It’s all part of one, consistent thing. It’s everyone contributing to an ongoing conversation.
E: It really is.
T: My goal is to take the mainstream platforms and inject them with art that inspires others. I want to breakthrough the mainstream and still put out work that I think is filled with art, love and passion. No matter what time frame we’re looking at, there’s always 5-10% of that mainstream that is incredible. Amazing things are happening but it’s hard to see that when there’s so much garbage. People always say, “Mainstream music sucks” but there’s always incredible stuff happening. It’s about being open to the idea that pop CAN be great. It’s not a genre, it’s literally just making something for the masses.
The intention behind your work has a really big part of this. Why are you doing this? Are you trying to make a bunch of money or are you trying to inspire people? That’s what makes the difference between the 5% and the other 95% of pop music that’s watered down. But there IS a time and place for all music. You don’t need to work your brain out 24/7 and you can listen to bad, fun music to relax. But you can also tell when the music has passion behind it.
E: Like punk rock. Half of the originators couldn’t play, but they had the passion.
T: People latch onto confidence. Be your biggest fan and your biggest critic. That’s the key.