Despite a busy summer touring schedule, we were able to grab a few minutes with The Knocks before their Bonnaroo set. This duo, native to the northeast, combine elements of Trip-Hop and Soul/R&B to form a sound that’s as refreshing as it is original. Their set, while early in the day, was still one of the most stimulating of the entire weekend and they’re surely an act we’ll be watching closely as they continue their development.
True to The Knocks form, at Governors Ball you brought out special guests including Carly Rae Jepson and Wyclef Jean. Can we expect any surprises at the Bonnaroo set this year?
B-Roc: A little one. We have one but nothing as crazy as Gov Ball. It’s hard to get people out to the fuckin’ farm.
J-Patt: Everyone we brought out was pretty New York centric, so it was easy.
B-Roc: But we’ve got a band who’s gonna come out and play [today]. We got lucky.
B- Roc: Yeah we had Wyclef and Carly Rae Jepson. It was crazy. Carly Rae we had never performed with and she never does that kinda shit so it was cool that she did it for us. She had flown in from Japan. And then,
J-Patt:Wyclef climbed up the rafters. I don’t think he even sang a word.
B-Roc: He’s such a legend. He came out and did ‘Ready or Not’ by the Fugees first and then people went fuckin’ nuts. Then hit someone’s joint from the crowd. He’s like one of the best performers in the world, his energy is insane. But we had done it with him before. Last time, we played this place with him in Brooklyn; he threw J-Patt on his shoulders.
J-Patt: I was just waiting for something to happen.
What’s it like collaborating with these artists in the studio versus performing with them in a live environment?
J-Patt: The studio is more controlled. Like Wyclef obviously isn’t climbing up rafters or the walls of his house. The performance is more…unexpected, even with like Carly Rae, you know it’s a performance. There’s more of a thought process that goes into the studio, when you’re performing it’s more rehearsed and you kinda just go out there and rock it.
B-Roc: It’s a cool moment though, we make all these songs with these people, but we don’t always get to perform them cause like every artist that we work with is traveling the world, and we’re never on the same schedule, so when you get to actually do the song together it’s a cool moment. You kinda look at each other and you’re like ‘hey this is cool, we made this song and we’re playing it [together] now.’ We got lucky with Gov ball that we had all these people in town. And it’s great for the crowd, everyone likes a special guest or a surprise at a festival. And especially a festival. There’s a lot of new people and a lot people who haven’t heard you before so its cool to kind of flex as much as you can.
What are the pros and cons that you both find when you do a DJ set vs a set with live instrumentation?
J-Patt: It depends on the offer. There’s a lot of variables that go into it. Live is a little more stressful I’d say because there’s a lot of work that goes into a 45 minute/hour setup. There are way more movable parts, lost of instruments, gear, more crew, there’s a lot more that can go wrong…I prefer DJ’ing because its fun, effective, you can still play your music if you want to, and you can be in and out. You don’t have to wait after the show for breakdown.
B-Roc: The only thing about DJ though it’s not as effective. There’s just so many DJ’s in the world and it’s hard to really stand out as a DJ. We do DJ sets. It’s cool and it’s always fun, but when we do a live set we leave and our social media has blown up, people take away more from it. It’s [live sets] kind of our special weapon. And I think for us the goal in the future is like, we used to just kind of do our live set everywhere but now were just trying to keep the live set for things like Bonnaroo and Gov Ball and the big moments, not like small clubs. Then the live set becomes a really special thing.
J-Patt: Its crazy, you get paid more to DJ which is less work, like big DJ’s get paid more than live bands to do less. It depends, but it’s crazy that it’s on the same level.
B-Roc: You also don’t have as many to pay [when you DJ].
J-Patt: You can just roll up by yourself.
How do you find partnerships with entities like Spotify or Soul Cycle to be beneficial in getting your music out there? Do you feel like you are able to reach more people?
B-Roc: Yeah, we’ve always been down to work with brands as long as it’s the right thing, I think back in the day you were looked down upon if you were with a corporation but now it’s like, A: no one is making money anywhere else in music; its one of the few places you can make money and B: These brands are smarter and they have people that are cool running them now, it’s not some guy in a suit in an office. So, something like Soul Cycle has such a huge reach, it’s got a real cult following. We didn’t even realize that until we posted on Instagram ‘We’re doing a DJ’ing a Soul Cycle class.’ We’ve never got so many likes and comments ever. People were so excited about it, which is funny. Already, I think we got so many fans from just doing that. And as long as they’re not forcing you to play this song or that, it works. They let us do our own thing, and be funny and do whatever we want to do. As long as you’re not being too controlled, you know? Like, we got offered to do something for a gas company and it was so much money and we turned it down.
J-Patt: Yeah they literally got finished dumping even more oil into the gulf. I don’t think many people heard about it, but there was another crazy oil spill.
B-Roc: Yeah, we had to turn that one down.
B-Rock: Yeah and the reason it [Soul Cycle] happened was really organic anyways. A lot of the instructors started playing our songs. I’d get more texts from girls I know saying ‘I hear your songs at soul cycle every day’ so finally we decided to team up and put something together, and that’s how it happened. It was really just because they were fans, they didn’t pitch it to us or anything.
How did you guys come to form ‘The Knocks’?
B-Roc: We were roommates and we both made hip-hop. I think both of our careers at that time were at a standstill. We were just trying to make beats and sell them to hip hop producers. Which is a really hard thing to do, just because there are so many [people trying to do the same thing]. So we tried to do something different…. I grew up listening to DJ shadow, trip hop and shit like that, Fatboy Slim. He [J-Patt] grew up listening to a lot of soul and disco and stuff like that, so we blended our sounds and that’s where The Knocks came from, which ended up working out. This was like the early days of Hype Machine; we were very internet savvy in that sense, so we really knew how to get our shit out there.
You recently switched management to Scooter Braun’s company. Can you tell us a little about that?
B-Roc: We signed to Scooter Braun because of the Carly Rae thing actually, because we did a bootleg of a Carly Rae song and put it on the Internet. She loved it and tweeted it, and they ended up reaching out and saying that they wanted to make it official and they bought it from us. And then because of that, I was on an email with [Scooter’s] A&R. This was right after we were manager-less, and I was just doing the admin stuff myself. They reached out and asked for the official track, and I hit back ‘also, we have this track that Carly Rae might sound good on, we don’t have management right now but if you wanna do it we can talk’ They wrote back ‘Carly loves the song, she’s gonna cut it, also lets talk about management.’
J-Patt: Then my boy hit me up ‘Heard you guys don’t have a manager, I’m gonna holler at Scooter.’ I didn’t realize he was working for Scooter Braun at the time; He was a friend from LA who I don’t usually hear from and it turned out to fully not be a joke.
B-Roc: And then the next thing you know we’re opening up for Beiber, so that’s cool.
J-Patt: Yeah management for us has been a big deal for us, like every time we’ve gotten a new manager we’ve gone further, and we’ve had three now. It started with our friend, then it moved on to this other guy that we had, and now we have this guy [Scooter].
B-Roc: And it’s already been a serious game changer. Change is really important; as you grow, you need to grow your company and your team and its business you know? It’s important.