On a chilly night in New York, it’s safe to say the last place you want to be is steps away from the West Side Highway where the risk of getting lost in a see of vacant car dealerships runs high and finding an acceptable watering hole or restaurant is nearly impossible. And yet, the streets are teeming with teenage fans all of whom are wearing far too little considering the fickle weather we’ve been having. I guess I should mention that I’m standing outside of Terminal 5 and we’re a few hours out from a Timeflies show. Ah, it all makes sense now.
The duo most commonly described as “electro-pop” has crashed onto our radar in the last year, demanding attention from major labels and TV networks after somewhat quietly building up a fervent fan base via free releases and weekly music videos called Timeflies Tuesdays. Despite being unsigned, their DIY campaign and decision to smartly rework popular songs (like Taylor Swift’s “We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together,” or “Under The Sea” from The Little Mermaid) has helped them sell out shows around the country (including the aforementioned T5 gig), reach No. 1 on the iTunes charts with last year’s EP One Night, and become the latest crushworthy obsession for many of your friends. Being recent college graduates themselves, the music is blends genres–largely drawing from EDM, pop, and hip-hop–you can relate to, whether you’re currently living the undergrad life or simply want to revisit the past, while the atmosphere at a live show becomes an excuse for fans to let loose and escape for an hour or two.
Tuner caught up with the duo of Cal Shapiro (above right) and Rob Resnick (above left) who met at Tufts University and began their musical collaboration in a seven-piece funk band, later honing their craft through dorm jam sessions and self-made YouTube videos. Quickly they’ve gone to hanging with ?uestlove and Ludacris, landing on MTV’s Artists to Watch list and performing at last month’s mtvU Woodie Awards at SXSW. With new single “I Choose U” out today, and full-length album under Island Def Jam’s Forty8Fifty dropping later this summer, it’s time to get to know the act making all your friends swoon.
VH1 Tuner: You’ve built established a very dedicated following in a very short period of time. How would you describe your sound and what is it that you think your fans are looking for from your music?
Cal Shapiro: I think what the cool thing is–and I don’t mean this offensively at all–is that they don’t know what they’re looking for. We get tweets all the time like, “We don’t like dubstep, we don’t like electro, but we like Timeflies” and so I think what they’re looking forward to is what we’re coming out with.
So you’re like the musical gateway drug.
CS & Rob Resnick: Exactly.
RR: We’re tricking people into liking stuff. Gateway drug’s great. We’re going to steal that.
How would you describe your sound going forward?
RR: We have a Timeflies sound and it’s going to be a continuation of that. On the one side it’s really great that music on it’s own is going towards EDM, so we’re going to get to be a part of that and we’re going to get to push some of that sound-wise. On the other side, unlike the EP where we had six-song limit, we’re going to be able to do more of the artsy, avant-garde stuff that I think both of us are really excited to get back to. And then I think you can expect some classic Timeflies, banger, melt-your-face stuff.
How far along are you guys with your album?
RR: We have nine songs that we’re pretty excited about–I wouldn’t even say [they’re] close to done, but we have two that are in the final stages. We have a bunch of concepts, let’s say five concepts that are either beats or one-word phrases. I think we’re doing really well, obviously we have a lot of shows coming up so we’ll see how that plays out. We did a track with Mike Posner for the album–he wrote it, I don’t know if he’s going to be on it. He’s a great writer.
After building up such a vocal fan base through your EP, do you feel limited at all in what you can do because of what people expect from you?
CS: When we cut our first project (The Scotch Tape) there was absolutely no pressure; we were living in our parents’ houses and it was like, let’s just have fun and do this. There was a moment, though, [where we felt we needed to] give the people what they want but that evaporated pretty quickly. Now [our philosophy] has been let’s just have fun creatively and be artists and the rest will come.
Are you afraid to put the album out? What if people don’t like it?
RR: Definitely not.
CS: I would say releasing new music every week makes it easier.
RR: I don’t think we’re making music for other people to like it, but at the same time, both of us are pretty confident that they will. Obviously there are always haters and the more the merrier but I think it will be fine.
CS: The more the merrier.
How much do you owe to social media?
CS: We don’t want to say we owe everything to social media because we feel passionately about our music and we hope that [the fans] do, too, but at the same time you have to realize that this is what music is today.
Are you aware of the new Billboard rules for song charts?
RR: It’s so cool. Honestly, I think it’s going to create some situations where “joke music” breaks through–like, “Friday” would be No. 1 at this point.
Exactly, like “Harlem Shake.”
RR: Well, except that should be because Baauer is awesome. On the flip side, like, that’s great. “Harlem Shake,” that’s what everyone is listening to now, and that should be at the top of Billboard charts.
Do you think that will help you guys out?
RR: Even though we make fans through YouTube, we’re only getting fractions of what these blow-up videos are getting. Hopefully one day.
What’s the meaning behind your single “Swoon”?
CS: “Swoon” is just a very physical feeling of “I can’t quite express into words how good this is making me feel or how head-over-heels this sight, this sound, this sense is”
RR: It’s hot.
CS: It’s too much, I just can’t.
So what makes you swoon?
RR: Our fans.
CS: That feeling that I’m talking about? Key changes in old songs, the [SPCA] commercial with Sarah McLachlan–no, that’s a different feeling entirely. [It’s] that warm sinking feeling that you can’t really describe.
What else gives you that feeling?
CS: Did you see the Beyoncé documentary?
Yes, of course.
CS: So when she does “Love On Top,” the key change, and when she rubbed her stomach [at the 2011 VMAs] I was like, “God damn that’s so cool.”
And Kanye West is there congratulating Jay-Z?
CS: Yeah, yup. That’s “swoon.” Damn, that’s so cool.
Important: Do you think Beyoncé had her baby?
CS & RR: Yes, definitely.
RR: That’s the stupidest s–t ever. That’s so stupid.
CS: I think that’s crazy.
What do you think about putting your life on public display like that?
CS: I think for someone like her, a lot of her early years weren’t on display because social media wasn’t as prevalent. I think for people like us, it is all out there. But people still like to see it in a cohesive form–Justin Bieber’s rise to stardom was pretty much televised and it’s still unbelievable to watch. People love to talk about celebrities, and the celebrity’s not there to there to defend themselves, so anything goes, and it spreads, and I think that sounds very unfair.
Have you heard rumors about yourself?
CS: Everyone just gets talked about. I haven’t heard any about me, how you heard any about you?
RR: They’re all true.
[Photo: Andrew Zaeh]