the internet are music’s most respectful anti-role models
We spent the afternoon with front woman Syd Tha Kyd to talk about role models and the power of being different.
When The Internet were first starting out in 2011, back in the heady days of MySpace, lead singer Syd Bennett admits she wasn't sure about their music. Not because it was underwhelming or derivative — quite the opposite — because she'd never heard anything like it before. Formed by Odd Future members Syd Tha Kyd and Matt Martians, joined by Patrick Paige II, Christopher Smith, KiNTaRO, Jameel Bruner and Steve Lacy, they were taking rap and hip hop away from the usual subjects. Things were so tentative at first they didn't even consider The Internet as a permanent name, it was a placeholder — a shout out out where they met — that made itself at home.
With Syd out front they had a female singer talking about lovers, romance and relationships from a queer perspective. It was personal, smart and reflective without ever slipping into self indulgent territory. They knew above all it was about making kids dance.
Flash forward to Melbourne 2016, where the band are spending the afternoon with i-D during their Australian tour and it's clear there was no need to worry. With a global following and a wake of sold out shows, we spoke to Syd about the then and now.
When you were starting out, you've mentioned that you were conscious of feeling novel. Was it that hearing a female voice singing about women in rap wasn't something people were that familiar with in 2012.
It's not always for everybody but we appreciate that it's alternative and whatever gets someone to relate to our music is great, we don't mind what it is. It took me a long time to really pursue producing because I was so unsure of what I was making, because it didn't sound like anybody else's beats. Then when I started working with Matt I realised that sounding different was a good thing. I didn't understand the music at first and so I didn't think anyone else would, and there were very few people that did, but Matt was one of them and he made sure I kept going.
This is very much the "be yourself, believe in yourself" message that a lot of us grow up with. I was interested to read you personally dislike the idea of being a role model though. As you've become more popular, have you felt more pressure to be a public voice?
It's not really that I reject the idea of being a role model, it's more that I think it's a little vain for me to think of myself that way. Usually if somebody tells me they look up to me I'm really thankful and appreciative. And at times I do feel like I have a responsibility to be that for people, but I rarely feel pressured to act a certain way because of that. I was raised well and I think I'm a good person just as I am, so I'm honoured to be a role model to whoever considers me one, but I don't really like to call myself that.
Who were your role models growing up?
My parents and… Pharrell (laughs). Growing up I really wanted to be Pharell, and probably still do. He was super cool back then, his music and the projects he was a part of were exactly the type of stuff I wished that I could take credit for. I also loved his videos, the way he represented himself and the way that he curated his band. Being inspired by him helped me make my own and even today I think back to what inspired me about his work to help me stay on track.
It's weird when you reach a point that people you looked up to become co-workers. Who have you loved collaborating with so far?
Matt, I'm so proud of him, I wouldn't have been able to start The Internet without him because he's somebody that believed in me when I didn't necessarily believe in myself. If it weren't for him I would probably still be engineering or DJing or something; he's been probably the biggest collaborator and when I'm unsure of things I just let him figure it out.
That's such a nice answer. Okay moving into the present, what's your favourite song on Ego Death? Is it even possible to have one?
Right now, it's Get Away, but it changes. Steve and Matt produced that song and I wrote the lyrics with Nick Green and another friend Daniel Marley. I love the melodies in that song, I love performing it and when it was finished it sounded like the perfect representation of where I was trying to go with the album. It was exactly what I'd imagined for the album and that's why we made it the first track; I wanted it to start with lots of energy.
Tell us about writing it.
Usually I'm inspired by experience, or a random idea that sounds cool, but Get Away was more so about a paper chase. All about getting money and financial stability, because it's nice to just pretend at times when we don't have it.
What's next, after this tour?
Right now we all have our own solo projects going on. Steve, Patrick and Matt are all doing their own things; Matt is working on something special and most of it's musical, but Matt's actually been talking about making some art too; like an "Internet" cartoon book. I'm really happy with what we have going on right now - I think we have something special.