I’ve long been a fan of Saara Untracht-Oakner’s band You Can Be A Wesley. I wrote about them on here recently, describing them as “intricately looping guitar indie with hooks to burn that harkens back to the glory days of Boston college rock and makes you want to fall in love at a shitty basement party.” So when Saara sent me the first video, “Do Or Die,” from her brand new NYC/LA bi-coastal electro-hip-hop/surf bum/millennial-core duo Lil Reignbo & PHILyesPHIL, I was a little taken aback. What is this Kreayshawn-wave hipster bullshit, I thought? I better listen to it twenty times in a row and figure it out.
It didn’t take that long to realize there was a difference between what’s going on here and the glut of #swag-beshitted internet rap, and that’s because of something that typically, and perhaps surprisingly (if you’re still someone who believes in fairy tales about authenticity) is glossed over in most of the stuff like this that gets jumbled together in the infinitely-scrolling Tumblr of content: she’s actually a musician. Weird, right? Who could’ve guessed that someone with a sense of rhythm and melody and song-writing structure would do a better job of producing recorded music than someone who’s previous accomplishments before becoming internet famous were looking really good in a pair of shorts. Not that Saara doesn’t also look good in a pair of shorts, mind you, it’s just that in this case it’s over-shadowed by talent.
She and I chatted today about the origin of the group, the filming of the video, pissing on camera, their new EP Lazerthong, and why Kreayshawn sucks, for their exclusive first interview.
Is Lil Reignbo and PHILyesPHIL a group or is this a one-time thing? And do I really have to spell it that way every time?
Yea or LR&PyP. PyP makes a crazy beat, sends it my way, and then I send back ideas for structure and we go back and forth for awhile. I usually make up words on long car rides by myself and record garage band demos. For this EP we’re putting out called Lazerthong, we did five songs, four that we recorded at Phil’s house in Venice, CA and one that we did at 1867 Recording Studio in Boston with Chris McLaughlin.
How did you get started doing it? Did you know each other before?
That’s how I met Phil. I had these beats and this rap project idea for a while but I didn’t have the means or equipment to make them sound good enough. So I asked Chris for help and we worked on mixing some stuff, but he was telling me I should really know his friend Phil who makes awesome beats. Phil came to visit Boston around December 2011 and we met and hit it off and went into 1867 with Chris and worked on a song called “One Trick Pony” that I had had on the cutting block for a while.
After that we were like, this totally works, this thing we have. We liked each others ideas so we decided to keep doing it and to send things back and forth. After getting four more demos done, I was like, ‘OK, I’m ready to come out to LA and record these.’ That was in July. I was supposed to go in June but postponed it to go on tour with Sean Bones.
What were you doing with Sean Bones?
I play bass for Sean Bones. He needed a bassist for his tour in June and YCBAW wasn’t active so I jumped on the chance. We’ve done a bunch of random shows, a tour with The Mynabirds, one with The Growlers, and recorded two songs at Rubber tracks together since then.
What’s going on with You Can Be A Wesley?
We have two more songs that we recorded in the beginning of the summer that we’re going to mix at the end of this month and release. Dylan and I started a new band with Glenn from Beast Make Bomb called Boytoy that we’re concentrating on now. Dylan also played drums for Sean Bones on The Growlers tour with us. We’re all kind of concentrating on different things at this point
Obviously this is a lot different than YCBAW, almost to the point where when I first heard it I wasn’t sure if I liked it. But then it won me over. You get a lot of that from fans of your old band?
To me it’s a completely different project. Originally I didn’t want my name attached to it at all. I’m not Saara when I do this, I’m Lil Reignbo. In my head it’s always just been this super silly super fun idea.
You lived in Boston and you were playing indie rock that I thought fit into the long tradition of standout guitar bands from around here, and then you moved to NYC and now you’re doing an electro hip hop thing. Is that a coincidence? New York has changed you man.
Haha no way. This Lil Reignbo things has been an idea of mine for at least three years. My other project here in New York is a grungy rock band that you’ll hear stuff from soon. Lil Reignbo is an alter ego. Rock music is what my blood is made of
Does it feel freeing to put on a different persona so to speak?
It’s just really fun. I’ve always been kind of a wise-ass punk (punk not in the sense of spikes and Mohawks but the idea of just kind of being a shit head for fun) and LR is definitely that. She’s cocky and lewd and doesn’t give a fuck, and that’s fun to act out.
For example, popping a squat in the video.
Haha, yeah. We chugged those 40s at 9:30 in the morning after a night of no sleep. And I was like, “I have to pee. Film this.”
Where was the video shot? Who else is that in the video?
That was shot on 32nd street at Rockaway Beach. Glenn and Tony are my surf buddy friends. Glenn is in Beast Make Bomb and now the other part of Boytoy, and Tony is an amazing surfer, filmmaker, and musician. Sean Pheanis who shot the video also shot the Kreayshawn “Gucci Gucci” video. Our mutual friend Sasha produced it and my brother who is a photographer also shot some footage.
Oh good, you brought up Kreayshawn so I didn’t have to. You know you’re inevitably going to get pulled into that whole thing if this blows up more, right?
Yeah, whatever. Actually that video is what inspired me to actualize this LR thing. I was like man, this song blew up and this child flow sucks! I could do so much better than her! It fueled my fire. And then Azealia Banks came out and I was like, ‘Ok. This is how good I want to be. This chick is dope.’
Did you see that new Lil Debbie thing this week?
No I haven’t had Internet for the past 2 weeks. What is it?
Just some idiot thing she did with Riff Raff. I don’t understand why those two don’t just try a little bit harder to actually rap on the beat, or to rework phrasings so they fit into the bar. I mean, they have something there, it just seems like they can’t be bothered to self edit or try.
Wow, that Lil Debbie stuff is bad. Are she and Kreayshawn the same person?
Basically. Speaking off Rockaway and no internet, is your shit all jammed up because of the hurricane?
No, I just moved into a new house. It’s a little hidden cabin in the middle of Bushwick stuck behind other buildings so no one knows it’s there, and we jut haven’t hooked it up yet. Should be coming today though.
What’s the deal with these songs? Are they going to “come out” “on a label” or anything like that? Any plans for shows?
We’ve got two more that are part of Lazerthong and then Phil is making a dub remix album called Lazerbong. Right now were just putting them on the Internet. It would be cool to release it as a double EP Lazerthong/Lazerbong. We did a show for CMJ that was really fun. Phil happened to be in town so it worked and he played guitar and Dylan played drums. If I’m gonna do a live rap show I want more to it than just singing with a laptop playing. So having Phil and Dylan around is pretty essential.