Foreign Pedestrians

As we told you last week, we’re excited to join forces with the former Oakland (and now Boston-based) Gold Robot Records to present the release show for the fantastic new 12″ from LA’s Monster Rally & Oakland’s Jay Stone: Foreign Pedestrians. The album features Jay Stone on all A-side tracks and instrumental versions of the same tracks on the B-Side, creating a concept that rewards frequent listens. Jay’s rhythmic and melodic flows mesh seamlessly with the tropical rhythms on the A-side, but flipping over to the instrumentals reveals nuances, colors, and moods in the beats that you might have missed. All of a sudden you’ve got to flip it over again for yet another entirely new experience.

You can get a small taste of what I’m talking about from the three tracks shared on Monster Rally’s Bandcamp:

To learn more about the projet, I chatted with Jay and Monster Rally about how they got together and the album got made. See them perform at Leo’s January 24 with Queens D. Light and Kid Trails.

TBB: How did the two of you get together?

Ted Feighan (Monster Rally): Hunter

[Mack, Gold Robot Founder] and I had been talking for a few years about potential MCs for a collaboration but we hadn’t quite found the right one. He found Jay’s stuff through some Oakland friends and shared it with me. We were both really intrigued by Jay’s lyrical style and imagery and thought he would be perfect for my style of production. Hunter connected us and I started making beats for Jay.

Jay Stone: After my first EP, Melodious Miscreant, came out in the fall of 2012. Hunter, from Gold Robot Records, heard my music and thought my lyrical driven approach would mesh well with Monster Rally’s eclectic musical style. Hunter then reached out to me through our mutual friend Max from Oakland Surf Club. Later he introduced to me Ted and he started sending me beats.

TBB: How did the writing and recording process work?

JS: Ted sent me a bunch of beats, and I immediately started writing. The music heavily inspired my writing…I wrote at home, on the BART, and some at Lake Merritt in Oakland. I got a lot of inspiration from just being outside watching and listening to people. I recorded the whole album at a studio in San Francisco with my homie/engineer/ Joe Mousepad aka J Maos…The recording sessions when me and Brandon [Rayson] recorded “Cognac and Parthenogenesis” were really dope. He always motivates me to elevate my skills, and at the same time still have fun and enjoy what I’m doing; making music.

TF: I had listened to Jay’s first EP and the 16th and Adeline EP a lot so I had a pretty good idea of where he was at production-wise. I started pulling LPs to sample that I thought matched well with the vibe Jay and I were attempting to convey, somewhere in between city funk and island haze. I also sent Jay some tracks I had already finished that I thought would be perfect for his style (the beat for “Mr. F.T.S.” on our record is actually one of the first MR tracks I ever made, its from my first EP that come out in 2010).

TBB: Ted, had you worked with vocalists before? How does it affect your approach?

TF: I’ve only done a couple one-off tracks with some people. I produced one of the tracks for the Not The 1s album that came out on Gold Robot a couple years ago, which was a good time. Its different because you have to try and give the MC’s room for verses and since my tracks are usually pretty short, I have to make something a bit longer. Also since my songs are mostly loop-based and often under 2 minutes they don’t work very well for a chorus or hook and some people aren’t into that.

TBB: I was surprised at how different the experience was listening to the instrumental side was. Was the plan going into the project to be one side of instrumentals and one with vocals? Because it really works.

TF: Yeah, I think this is was Hunter’s idea to have the b-side be all instrumental, which was a great idea. I totally agree that the experience of listening to the instrumentals is pretty different than the vocal tracks. I like that because the b-side is similar to a normal MR record, but the a-side shows you an entirely different perspective on the music. Jay’s lyrics add new visuals to each track and his voice is a whole new texture to the sound. It puts the music in a new place and that’s really interesting.

JS: The plan was to just make some good music and have a good time doing it. I think it made sense to have the B side be instrumentals since Monster Rally has so many fans (including myself) that really enjoy vibing out to his beats. It’s dope to me ’cause I love to just freestlye to his instrumentals sometimes. So having the vocals on one side and the instrumentals on the other is like the best of both worlds.

TBB: Jay, a lot of Ted’s compositions aren’t exactly the simplest to flow over, but I know you’ve worked with some complex beats before. Is that something you’ve been drawn to?

JS: I think so. My taste in music is kind of polarizing ’cause I like a lot of different styles. I like uptempo stuff and mellow stuff. I like jazzy stuff and kind of Looney Tunes sounding stuff. Monster Rally’s eclectic style allows me to present my lyrical motion pictures in an array of emotions and scenarios. There’s some really complex beats like on Parthenogenesis, and other easy-listening beats like on Lake Merritt. Real hard hitting beats like Permeate, and then really jazzy ones like on Cognac. There’s a range of colors in the beat selection on this project.

TF: Jay’s style is so unique, his ability to pick up on the nuances of a loop or bounce from one section of a beat to another are really impressive.

TBB: With Ted’s visual art and Jay’s fashion brand, visuals are a big part of what you both do – will there be any videos?

JS: There will definitely be some videos. I’m working on 3 videos right now. I’ve been getting all the concepts and treatments developed. I’m going to be shooting them over the next month and a half. I’m going to be experimenting with some new cinematography techniques that I’m really excited about. Expect to see the first video in the near future.

TF: I would love for there to be a video for every track on the album. Its short enough that you could string them together and watch the whole thing as a visual album. Both Jay’s lyrics and my beats have a cinematic quality to them which I think inspires visuals.

TBB: Ted, what can you tell me about the album art?

TF: Early on Jay said he wanted to use some pictures of us as kids in the artwork, so he sent me a bunch of pictures. The best one was of him posted up in this yellow chair, decked out in purple overalls and slamming some kind of purple drink, that naturally became the centerpiece of the composition. There’s another picture of young Jay in there and one of me as well, but I tried to not make it obvious.

TBB: Jay, you talk about some pretty dark moments in the album – how much of it was based on your own experiences?

JS: A lot of it was based on my own experiences. My music is very subconsciously introspective. I really enjoy putting my feet in other people’s shoes though; to get different perspectives. I tell stories from various points-of-view to give more depth to the experience. Many times ill tell multiple stories or reference many different instances in one song. I never really intend on doing this while writing a song, it kind of just happens…one thought inspires the next.

TBB: Hunter is one of my favorite people in the music industry – can each of you elaborate a bit on the impact he’s made on your music careers?

JS: Well, I first met Hunter in early 2013…Since we first met he’s always been really honest and straightforward with his intentions. We have a pretty solid relationship. I’ve met his wife and kids…he’s a family man like myself. We really meet eye-to-eye on a lot of subjects. It was really easy and seamless with the development of the album. We trust each other to do what we do best. He’s a good guy.

TF: I met Hunter via email in the fall of 2010, after I had released a couple Monster Rally EPs. He asked if I would be interested in releasing a full length MR album on vinyl and after seeing the rest of the GRR catalog, I jumped at the opportunity to work with him. I sent him a bunch of demos and he helped with the structure the album. He also gave me complete freedom to do whatever I wanted with the artwork. This has basically been the process for everything MR album since then. I don’t have a manager, but I always look to Hunter for guidance. He’s a really genuine person, and I can’t imagine having done any of this without him.

TBB: How’s the moped running, Jay?

JS: Beatrix? She’s running great. I put some new tires on her not to long ago…she’s riding real nice these days.

TBB: What’s next for the both of you?

JS: Well after the album’s release we’re planning to do a California tour and maybe a few shows in New York. I know we’re both going to SXSW in Austin in mid March to do some shows, and I’m really looking forward to that. Musically, I’m always working on new material. I’ve got a few new songs I’m working on at the moment. My vintage sportswear brand, 5th Handed, will be having its next pop-up shop in mid February. Along with all the upcoming video shoots. There’s a lot going on now and in the near future.

TF: Definitely more shows with Jay. I’ve got a new vinyl single coming out with the guys from Singles Club from New York in a couple months. I’m planning on releasing a new MR record later this year. John Hastings (RUMTUM) and I have a couple projects in the works. I’ve also been working with a composer, Brenden Eder, in LA recently and we’re planning on releasing some music. Other than that, most of my time is spent running my brand Valley Cruise.

Foreign Pedestrians is out January 27 on Gold Robot Records.

Monster Rally & Jay Stone, Queens D. Light, Kid Trails, Yalls (DJ set)
January 24, 2014
9pm, $8-12