It’s not very often that you see a classic album coming before it’s even released.
While expectation is often the killer of appreciation, for the last few years ¡MAYDAY! has served as an excellent exception to that rule. After Take Me To Your Leader was released, we knew we had a band on our hands that could create timeless content with prolific frequency, something rarely seen in music.
With their upcoming release Future Vintage on the way, we recently spoke to NonMS about his role in the creation of the new album, how his background as a b-boy has helped shape his musical influences, and what the future brings for both him and the rest of the group.
Check the full interview below!
¡MAYDAY! has always been a very percussion-driven band on every project, but on ¡MURSDAY! and the new album it seems like they’ve been leaning on you a bit more as far as a root for the sound. How much influence would you say you had on the overall feel of this album?
At least for the feel, I would have to say that this has been an album that I’ve been involved in the most. I actually had a chance to play drums on three tracks: “Can’t Take It With You”, “Blue Soul” and “Stay Away From You”.
I think when it comes to the percussion and the rhythm, it’s always been an influence because we’re a Miami band. Percussion is everywhere, but I would also have to say that a lot of it has to do with Gio, being that he was the percussionist in ¡MAYDAY! before, and he has that kind of influence in him too. If anything, all I did was reinforce that. Example: “Fuel To The Fire”. “Fuel to the Fire” is something that Gio brought in and he did it with Danny Keys.
Coming into ¡MAYDAY! for the first time there was percussion and stuff there, but I feel like when I would perform live I would put my own twists to certain songs. Maybe through that, subconsciously, we’re leaning more and more towards creating a sound that can be played live. We’re more aware now of the transitions between “Oh man this song sounds good, can we play this live?” “Yeah we can. Maybe we should add percussion,” and stuff like that. I would have to give it up to Gio mainly for bringing in the sounds and being a percussionist.
Us having the new outfit that we have now is a factor. He jumps on percussion and I’m learning a lot more about production now too, so it’s a good time. I think with the vibe of the album we’re not trying to cater this time to anything or anyone. We’re trying to put out the songs and the music that we want to put out –that we feel are right for us. We’re coming from an internal place, in comparison to trying to cater to the industry or to a specific situation.
The outfit of this album is so diverse. It’s a lengthy album too, compared to a 10 or 12-song album that most people are dropping. People who are going to like it are going to be the people who have been here with us since day one. They’re going to see influences from all the previous albums that much.
I know you talked about how the live performance aspect is subconsciously maybe influencing or tweaking the way you guys plan the music out. Have you ever been planning out a track or something that you really want to go on the album and you’re just like “Fuck, I’m going to have to play this live, every night, for two months straight.” Do you ever concede to make it easier on yourself?
No. I would have to say that specificially when it comes to that, we are conscious about the live aspect, but if the song is good, the song is good. As for myself, I like to challenge myself. Progression is very important as a performer and as an artist. I can’t do the same shit over and over for too long.
Sometimes these things become challenging. I challenge myself to do new things or to try and adapt and accomodate to whatever sound, or whatever’s produced by Gio a lot of the time. The more the merrier to me. The more I get to do on stage, the more I get to challenge myself, the further I try to take it and the more I grow as a performer.
You’re a super talented dude and the whole group is very multi-talented. You said that you were more involved with this album than any of the past ones. What were some of your other contributions to this album other than the three tracks you did drums on? What other flavor did you add to the album?
The thing with my situation is that I came in from a live perspective. Through these guys, I’ve learned what it is to really be a producer – or attempt to be a producer. I still don’t consider myself a producer, so I still have some work to do. There’s a hierarchy. There’s a certain level of respect, at least from my side, to where I know these guys. Their say is a lot bigger.
The way that we do it, I can honestly tell you “Yeah, that works!” or whatever, and be a bounceboard for ideas. It can be something like Wrek is doing something and I’m like “Yo, that bass line is dope. Maybe a little like this would cool too.” We’ll give it a shot, and if it works, it works. There’s no egos when we create, which is great, but I also have to respect that these guys have been doing it for a lot longer than I have.
I’ve been really trying to earn respect from them in a production setting. I know that working on a track list, one of the guys brings in a blueprint, and then Bernz goes over the list and then I go over the list, and go “Maybe this works here and there.” I took bits from everybody’s tracklist to make mine, and we ended up going with that, but it was a group effort as a whole. It was the list that was transferred from this guy, to Bernie, to me, and then maybe Gio threw a little thing in there, and then it’s like “Cool.” It’s a very collaborative effort and situation.
One of the things I really wanted was for it to sound live. There’s some songs that sound very live. You can tell it’s a real drum set. There’s just certain sounds and flavors. I’m also about energy too, because I’m always thinking about live. That’s just where my head goes, like “How are we going to perform this?”
I think it’s very important to your guys’ dynamic because that’s what makes your guys’ shows great.
Yeah. I think, and I don’t know if I’m 100 percent, but I think that’s where the future is. It’s going to be about that more than anything. The music is becoming so easy to consume. Social media is, to me, a marketing tool to help the consumer like the person even more, so when you see them live it’s like “Holy shit, they actually exist.” I think it’s going to be about the live show more than anything. That’s where it’s all going.
I know you’ve said that you’re getting a little bit more into producing and making your own beats, how’s that been coming along?
It’s been great. I’ve been a musician my whole life, but I’ve been so focused on live performance. I was never really involved with being in a studio setting and seeing what these guys do.
For one, I want to thank them for giving me the opportunity to actually learn from them. I give it up to Plex, I give it up to Gio, I give it up to Bernie, I give it up to Wrekonize, I give it up to a friend of mine named Rudy for allowing me to learn. One way or another you’re going to be influenced by your environment. I’ve always had ideas and things, being a musician, I just never thought about “Hey, let me put them down.”
They actually gave me the first opportunity to have a real track that I created with my friend Felix, which has also toured with us before – the guy that filled in for Gio during our tour with the Dirty Heads. I produced a lot of the tracks with him. Because of those tracks I’ve actually gotten a chance to produce for Red Bull BC One, which is a Red Bull worldwide b-boy event. We were able to partake in the production of about songs featured in the event. Ours got played in the world finals and were streamed. It was a worldwide thing.
Because of that Red Bull thing we made a track and I showed it to Wrek. Wrek liked it and showed it to Bernz. They liked it and we ended up using it for the ¡MURSDAY! EP that we did, Ready 2 Run. It was the title track. That was my first real production and I’m thankful and very grateful that these guys were able to give me that chance to expose what we do. Because of that it gives me opportunities to do what we did with Red Bull with Felix. We did it again for the Ft. Luaderdale cypher, a regional finals.
Now that I’m really in it like this, I’m about to go real hard and study it and do as much as I can to make the best music I can possibly make. It’s definitely something that’s happening. As a matter of fact, I’m about to get equipment right now. I’ve been playing music for so goddamn long, it’s only right that I start recording it.
How much influence has your background as a b-boy had on the way you interact with the creative process?
I think it’s definitely shifted and shaped my paradigm on how I approach things. For example, as a b-boy, you’re given a set of moves – a foundation – and you’re supposed to flip it and make it your own. It’s something I’ve learned, whether I was doing it subconsciously or with the approach of any art like that. The same thing is happening now with my music production. The same thing happens with the way I play percussion. You learn your foundation, but you try to make it your own. We call that the “b-boy mentality”, – a true b-boy mentality or true hip-hop mentality, whether you’re an emcee, a graf writer, a DJ or a b-boy. The only way you’re going to stand out is your originality – an original stance. It’s something that has stuck with me forever.
For me, it would be more important to go down in history as a person that added something to the art and was able to bring something different, whatever that is, than to be a copycat and have endless amounts of wealth. The true hip-hop culture has really influenced me in ways that I wasn’t even aware of.
Speaking of adding to the art, when I heard that Femi Kuti was going to be on this album, I lost my shit, because I’ve been listening to Fela and Femi for forever. Were you a big fan of Femi before you guys worked with him on the album? What was that process like?
Oh, bro, I know him as Kuti. Felix and I were talking about it. He’s like, “Dude. Do you understand?” He’s like, “Do you know who this man is? Do you know who his father is?” These things that happen. Sometimes, it’s kind of crazy to say that I’ve been in tracks with certain individuals, or a big part of it. It’s kind of surreal sometimes.
I was really excited, to be quite honest with you. I was like, “Man, I can’t believe it.” It’s not his dad, but it’s close enough! He’s the next best thing. It was dope, man. I really liked what he did. I was able to play out the percussion and the feel of the song, “Something In The Air” is so good – it feels so good. Shout out to the producers. They’re dope as fuck and their production is on point. It’s inspiring. It makes me want to get better. Mad love to those guys. They killed that shit.
That’s one of the tracks I actually got to hear, just because I was so fucking hyped to hear what you guys did with him. That shit is so dope.
The way they flipped it and the way they made it sound is great. The beginning is very Latin-y. You’re like, “Oh, okay.” Especially from Miami, you’re like, “Oh, it sounds like these bands out here that sound like that.” A lot of them have the little guitar going, you’re like, “Oh, okay, this is so good. Feels like Miami and shit.” Then when it changes to the bass drops and the drums come in, the hi-hat, double-time…aw man. It was an honor to play on that track.
What does the title Future Vintage mean to you?
The way we look at it, this music is going to stand for decades. It will eventually become vintage. Just like we go back now and listen to what we consider “the greats,” such as the common names: Pink Floyd, James Brown, Jimi Hendrix – you know what I’m talking about. That was the attitude we brought in. That’s kind of just how we looked at it.
We consider ourselves genre-benders. If it sounds too much like something, we’re trying to bend it. We’re trying to change it. We’re trying to be like, “Hey, man, it sounds too much like this.” Once again, being b-boys. Fun facts about these guys: Bernz knows a lot about the hip-hop culture because he used to break and he knows the guys I looked up to growing up. He was part of the Miami culture. So was Wrek – Wrek was an MC battler. I met Wrek when I was actually 14 years old. He also understands the idea of having a hip-hop mentality, being like, “Nah, man, we can’t be biters.” That’s what we called it. “We can’t bite that. We can’t take that.” You’re not adding to the human experience by doing shit like that. No offense to anyone that does.
That’s very true.
You’re not really adding to the human experience. The individuals that have come in and taught us things and have contributed – that’s why we still talk about those people today. It’s my dream, to be honest with you, to be in that category. I don’t know where ¡MAYDAY! is going to go, but that would be super fresh for me.
How did you guys approach this album differently than past projects?
The process for one was a lot more involved, at least from my experience. I know these guys are used to doing albums all the time, but for me the camaraderie was a lot different.
One thing that sticks out, to me and the people that have heard it, is that it feels like a compilation of a lot of our sounds. There’s no definitive theme or song that we’d say, “This is the song that will represent the album,” because there’s so many different places it takes you. It’s not a funky party thing, it’s not a sad thing, it’s not an inspiring thing, it’s not an anti-government thing. I mean, you have songs like “Ten Thirty Three”, for example, which talks about the militarization of local police enforcement agencies. It talks about the government. “These guys are only trying to scare you” – it’s very political like that, but then you have songs like “Stay Away From You” that’s talking about a girl that’s so beautiful, and so gorgeous, and it feels so good that you gotta stay away from her. Then you have another song that’s kinda fun in “Can’t Take It With You”, or as we call it, “Can’t Take It Wit-CHYEAH” [Laughs]. Shout out to Tech N9ne, the man, the one the only – best live performer ever.
So that’s the thing with this album. I felt like with ¡MURSDAY!, for example, we were very conscious, like “This has to be a party album like this.” This one was like, “Yo, we should have 15 songs…nah, we should have 12…fuck it, let’s just bring all the shit in”.
The only thing that we had in mind to be quite honest with you was the Future Vintage. How do we make certain songs that have vintage aspects and future feels, and other songs make them super epic. Like… what would The Beatles do? That’s the way we were thinking about it. Like, “How do we make that shit classic?” That’s how we attempted to approach this album.
What would you say is the most important or kind of crucial thing you know about music now that your past self wouldn’t know. Like if you hopped in the DeLorean, what would you go tell yourself about the industry and the music in general?
I would talk about the financial effects that we currently face and the changes that have occurred – with Spotify and everything. One day people will no longer have to necessarily buy your music to listen to your music. Also, one day you’ll be able to make music no matter what. And if I were to talk to my future self – if it continues to go where it’s going – I’d say “Hey man, now that music is a marketing tool and that’s all it is, you gotta work on your live show a lot more, because that’s the only way you’re gonna make money.”
I feel like unfortunately music’s gonna be a marketing tool more than a stream of income, and it’s kind of alarming in a way, but at the same time, it is what it is. The thing about the human mind is we’ll always find a way. There will always be use for the music, but I would tell my past self “Hey, the streams of income are gonna get cut. It’s gonna get easier to make music, and there will be a lot more competition and a lot more people that will consider themselves producers right away.” I’d tell myself like, “Don’t be too naive. Understand that it’s gonna change.” That’s the thing about this time specifically that ¡MAYDAY! has gone through, we’ve experienced the changes first hand. Now it’s a little more stable. Things are okay and this is what it is, but…
But the last 5-10 years have probably been crazy. I can’t imagine.
Yeah man, and I felt like we were always one step behind. Back then it was like now the internet thing is coming, like ¡MAYDAY! was right there before the Napsters. If you think about the original ¡MAYDAY!, where they had the song with Cee Lo Green, that was in 2003, and the early 2000s was the beginning of that change, so they were always right there. And after that they blew up and had a million on YouTube, but it was like right when YouTube was starting to get big, it’s always been right behind. If we were in this situation, ¡MAYDAY!, like in the mid-90s…our lives would be completely different.
Oh yeah, you’d be selling billions of records and doing blow off strippers and life would be no problem.
Maybe man. [Laughs] Maybe. Or even like…imagine people like Tech N9ne, where he would be. Fucking insane! Shit would be insane. There’s some shit that we already know, so I would tell my past self about that. Past Noms. Then I’d be like, “Listen, your name is NonMS right now but in the future it will be shortened even more to NOMS.” And I’d be like, “Holy shit no way.” My future self might just be like “Oms”…or just “MS”, just the M and the S.
Is there anything else you want to say about the album before we wrap this up?
What can I say about the album? I hope the album helps people. I hope the album brings positive experiences to people. I hope people get a positive experience from it. I hope they can take it on their journey with them, I hope they make great memories with it. I hope it makes people have babies, and create lovely moments in their lives, and yeah man…If I was to say anything…all you need is love man, that’s it. That’s where I’m gonna leave it.
For those that understand, cool. For those that think it’s too simple, you gotta go deeper man. You gotta go deeper.
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