Cover Masters Timeflies Reveal the Secret to Getting Internet Famous


Cover Masters Timeflies Reveal the Secret to Getting Internet Famous

Photograph: Jordan Taylor Wright
Photograph: Brittany Taylor
Photograph: Brittany Taylor

Cal Shapiro and Rob Resnick, aka “Rez,” of Timeflies are the sort of fellas you wanna grab a pint (or a scotch, their preferred poison) and chat about Homeland with at a dive in LES. They are also the musical group of the future. They have a weekly YouTube series, Timeflies Tuesdays, for which they’ve covered every artist from famed Disney character Sebastian the crab to Ray Charles. They know how to use Photoshop. They even have their very own iPhone App. To the New York based duo, social media is not simply a buzzword, it is the backbone of their success—and boy, are they successful. With their ability to seamlessly blend every musical genre under the sun, the duo have played a sold-out show at New York’s Terminal 5 and graced millions of computer screens across the globe. We caught up with production mastermind, Rez, and freestyler extraordinaire, Cal, about Internet fame, life in New York and, of course, Skrillex.

Tell me about how you guys got started.
CAL: Rez is from Jersey, I’m from New York. We went to school up at Tufts and we were just hanging out with a bunch of people and I started freestyling. He had a seven-piece funk band that he was playing with and they had no vocalist. So he was like, you should come down and do vocals for us and it kind of just went from there. He was the drummer, I was the singer and then we spun off into Timeflies.

How did you shed the seven-piece funk band?
REZ: It was kind of just time, I think. They weren’t necessarily trying to do recorded music, it was sort of a live thing. It wasn’t produced or anything like that, and they definitely weren’t trying to do anything pop-related. It was a lot of jazz heads. I played more hip-hoppy drums over jazz and it kind of became funk.

Tell me about your dynamic. I read that one of you is lazy.
R: Lazy? That’s crazy!
C: I think that we kind of drive each other. We have a studio in New York. We just got off tour and released One Night, our EP, and we’re right back at work on the album.
R: It’s cool to sound lazy. We say, “Oh man, I can’t get out of bed,” but we’re actually in the studio working.

You can’t be that lazy if you’re releasing a YouTube video once a week. How do you choose which songs you cover?
C: We listen to radio. We listen to a lot of music so if something really strikes us as cool or if it works with a theme we’ll do it. Like we did the Rick James classic Love Gravy for Thanksgiving.
R: There are a lot of times we’ll be listening to the radio and we’ll really like a song and the melody, but once you listen to it on the radio one million times, you’re kind of bored of the production and you want to hear a remix. You want to hear it slower or faster or whatever. So I think that’s fun for us. People like the songs but they want to hear a different style.

Who would you choose to cover one of your songs?
C: I think it would be cool to hear a female vocalist.
R: Definitely.
C: Rihanna.
R: Yeah, yeah good answer. On “Turn It Up” maybe?
C: Yeah, that’s good. I’m down with that.

What about people you would like to work with?
R: Both of us are into female singers because it brings something new and exciting onto the track. I’d like to work with Sia or Ellie Goulding and, not to drop bigger names, but Rihanna and Katie Perry would both be fun.
C: There’s also a lot of co-production stuff that could be really interesting. If you put us and Skrillex in a room there could be a lot of fun had. Those are the dream collabs.

You guys love Skrillex.
C: How can you not?

You shot to fame online. What would you say it takes to become famous via the Internet?
R: I read a really interesting article. It was a piece on how any successful band in the past few years has one guy who at least knows how to use Photoshop and html so they can make a website and do stuff like that. Obviously now we have a lot of really talented people who do a lot of stuff for us, like our App, but at the beginning if you’re not up on your game on how to throw together a basic website or make a twitter account or whatever, you’re pretty much in trouble. I know a lot of really good musicians who are doing stuff with really great bands and they’re not doing it over the Internet.
C: Basically if you’re not getting famous on the Internet, you’re not getting famous.
R: At the same time people love to say, “You guys are so lucky that you got so many views on YouTube.” Obviously they don’t mean that as an insulting comment but I like to think that other people put songs on YouTube that aren’t that good and good music is going to win in the end over all else.
C: Especially with all these music blogs today that are doing an unbelievable job. They know who their readers are and they find cool music that they know people will be into. That’s such a great way to find up and coming new talent. That’s been a major shift in the industry in terms of how talent is discovered.

I’ve heard every single musical genre used to describe what you guys sound like. How would you describe your sound?
R: I don’t know that we can. I think we make music that has a distinct sound and a distinct feeling. I don’t know that I have a word for it but I like to think that people listen to us and even without Cal on it for a 20 second intro you already know that it’s going to be a Timeflies song.
C: A long time ago someone wrote “electro hip-hop dub… something.” That kind of stuck with us because we have no idea what it’s going to be when we sit down and write the songs. We don’t count anything out, everything is game. Why limit yourself?

On that note, what is your production process like?
R: It changes a lot but what we’ve become most comfortable doing is to sit with the guitar or piano, write a song as if it was going to be the most ballad-esque thing ever and then I’ll go and do a whole beat around Cal’s vocals. It’s more a remix of ourselves, which is a lot more fun for me.

What spots do you frequent in New York?
R: I’m best friends with the Halal guy down the street. I go there a lot late night. We’ve got a bagel joint, Bagel World. I’ll wake up and head over there to get myself a bagel. In terms of going out, I like the Lower East Side a lot, that whole area is great. Now that I live in Meatpacking we’ll probably go out there a decent amount too.
C: I’m still in my place in Brooklyn but I’m about to move into Manhattan. Brooklyn is sweet. I’ll say that.

What’s coming up for you guys?
R: We have six shows over the upcoming months that are sort of major market stuff, then we’re gonna go back on a real big school probably sometime in March. Then we’re on tour for the rest of our lives.