7 Questions With The Knocks About “Classic,” Working With Friends & Their Debut LP: Interview
It all started from a knock on the wall.
Hailing from New York City, electronic duo The Knocks – consisting of Ben “B-Roc” Ruttner and James “JPatt” Patterson – chose there name after people would bang on their walls because the two would make tracks in their room and be too “noisy.” But then again, New York has never been known for it’s overwhelming hospitality, and thankfully, the duo did not dare stop the music on anyone’s account, anyway. Rather, it only really seemed to fuel the fire.
Fast forward a few years, and the beatsmiths have developed quite the musical repertoire with countless hits such as the internet sensation “Dancing With The DJ,” a glorious cover of M83’s “Midnight City” and have teamed up with the likes of South African crooner St. Lucia, Brooklyn troupe X Ambassadors, Ra Ra Riot’s Wes Miles and even French house legend Fred Falke on “Geronimo.” Thus, it’s no wonder that The Knocks have been dubbed one of the most exciting acts in electronic music today, serving up a refreshing new sound that brings back the days of funk and redefining dance music as we know it.
Recently making waves online with their latest infectious single “Classic” (out now on Big Beat Records — buy it here), which features POWERS, B-Roc and JPatt sat down with Idolator to chat about their journey, their music inspirations and highly-anticipated debut LP, ENDISCO. Read on below.
So, we did some Internet-snooping and found out that in the beginning, you guys were making hip-hop beats. How did you guys make the transition from hip-hop to electronic music? B-ROC: Well, we started off with hip-hop just making beats and stuff. We wanted to produce in the hip-hop industry, but it just got kind of stale. Hip-hop was in kind of a weird place where it wasn’t about the stuff that we really fell in love with. We fell in love with it a little bit passed “The Golden Era,” I’d say, like all the really good hip-hop in the late ‘90s and early 2000s, which is what we really were attached to. But then it kind of turned into more of like the pop hip-hop. It was also kind of that the industry wasn’t so caring as we wanted it to be. It was all wierd. It was also because we lived in New York, and we started going out a lot more and became DJ’s. My main gig was DJing at this club, so I started having to play more and more dance stuff, and I think we got a lot more into it because of that too. I mean, I grew up listening to Fatboy Slim and all that kind of stuff, almost the hip hop-influenced, trip-hop stuff. But, I think living in New York and being part of the whole nightlife thing really helped us. It felt like you could be a lot more yourself… We kind of just got to do what we wanted.
Cool! Well, leading into that, what are some of your musical inspirations that you both grew up listening to? JPATT: I kind of listened to everything. I didn’t try to limit myself to one band or one genre of music just because as a DJ, you kind of have to listen to everything. Just a lot of different backgrounds — rock, rap, hip-hop. I grew up listening to Earth, Wind and Fire and that kind of stuff. B-ROC: I grew up listening to more classic-rock stuff with my and my parents. JPatt came from a more kind of soul background, and I grew up with more of a spectrum with a lot of Bruce Springsteen and Neil Young. My parents were basically hippies, so that.
I think the first thing I heard from you guys was “The Feeling,” which I loved off the bat because it’s just so catchy. How did that song come about? B-ROC: We actually did the song with our friends Captain Cuts out in L.A. They’re this song-writing trio. We actually met up with them just as friends through mutual friends. It wasn’t like “let’s just do this thing. “ It was just a personal friendship. We had one day off in LA because we had done all of these sessions and were working on all these verses, but nothing was really sticking out all of these random sessions. So, we were like “Okay, lets just go hangout with these guys, and see what happens.” We kind of came up with the idea for that song really quickly. We just wrote really natural, which is I think is the best way to create, instead of “Oh let’s get you in the studio with so-and-so and so-and-so,” when you don’t really know eachother, and you’re just supposed to go in and create something. I think when you work with people that are your friends that you know and feel comfortable, you make the best stuff. That’s also how we felt when worked on our new single “Classic” happened. We did it with our friends in a day, and I was just like “Wow, this feels good.”
Was that kind of the same way that “Comfortable” with X Ambassadors came about? JPATT: We have this method of making music where one of us will start something, and one of us kind of add on to it. “Comfortable” was an idea that I had just sitting in my back pocket, and Ben came and heard it, and when we started The Knocks, we met Sam [Harris] from X Ambassadors and we immediately wrote the lyrics. It was pretty easy, to be on honest because he was really inspired, Ben was really inspired by my demo that I’d made, and I was just really inspired by Sam’s version of the vocal. B-ROC: Yeah, it’s actually another good example of what I was talking about. We just knew Sam Harris from X Ambassadors when they were just starting as a band in New York from just their social scene with their friends. It wasn’t like “Oh, let’s go get a studio.” We just kind of send him the track as homies. He loved it, and he just came up with the lyrics really quickly, and it just worked.
How about the video? I feel like the visual is, funnily enough, the exact opposite of the track’s title is because it seemed like you guys were trying to make people as uncomfortable as humanly possible. B-ROC: Yeah. We were getting a bunch of different treatments, and there a lot of ones that were like the same-old-same “Heyo, party-time, fun, summer, whatever.” I think interesting ideas are the ones that kind of jump out at you and aren’t what’s expected. Ace Norton, our video director, is someone I’ve always looked up to since he’s done videos for The Virgins and a bunch of other people’s videos. I really wanted to work with him, but we could never afford him. With this video, we had kind of a bigger budget, so we were able to reach out to him. I like the idea of how uncomfortable the video is because it could’ve been really cliché, but it came out kind of cool and different.
True, it really is a very memorable video. So, lets talk about your latest track “Classic” with Powers. How did you guys team up with them? B-ROC: Well, we know those guys Powers, the duo, for years. They used to live in New York, and now they live in LA. We know the producer from Powers, Mike Del Rio. He’s a super talented songwriter, singer. We were up there for some shows, not even for sessions, and we had one day off, so we were like “Oh, let’s go stop by the studio” and we hung out with them. We just started that song and it just kind of happened really quickly and easily. We came back to New York, and kept working on it, passing it back and forth. We’re really excited about it. It’s probably one of my favorite song’s that we’ve done.
Amazing! And you’re album is also coming out soon, right?Any cool collaborators you’ve been working with? B-ROC: Yeah, our album is actually done and going to be coming out in the fall. Sometime in September or October. The album is called ENDISCO, which is kind of our way of saying it’s like future classics. I don’t know how to explain it. It’s kind of like taking a retro sound and making it futuristic, which is what we’re trying to do with the record. Kind of like “Classic” where it sounds very soulful and funky, but putting a future touch to it. That’s the whole direction of the album. We have this song with this girl Rozzi Crane. She’s a singer from LA, whose actually signed to Adam Levine, and we have one with this girl Adeline [Michele] from the band Escort, who is this disco band in New York. Also, a couple of other things, which you’ll see when it comes out.
We can’t wait, guys! Catch The Knocks at one of their future tour dates and keep an eye out for ENDISCO in the fall.