Incredible skill set aside, if we’re talking strictly work ethic, Wrekonize has to be one of the best in the business.
After touring the nation with Potluck and Prevail of Swollen Members, Wrek almost immediately hopped buses and joined the rest of the ¡MAYDAY! crew for 15 shows in Canada, which they parlayed into a full U.S. headlining tour.
All of this was done during the process of creating ¡MAYDAY!’s upcoming album Future Vintage, and the man’s still had time to craft some truly dope quick-fire releases for his #WrekWednesdays series. Damn.
We recently spoke to the bearded wordsmith/workhorse about his work on the upcoming ¡MAYDAY! album, collaborating with legendary afrobeat artist Femi Kuti, constant touring, and everything in between.
Peep the full interview below, and make sure to get your copy of Future Vintage pre-ordered before it drops on September 18th!
First off, how was Canada? Have you guys been playing much off the new album on the tour?
Canada was freakin’ great, it was awesome. It was the first time we were going and we had no idea what to expect, whether or not there was going to be people there at all. We did 15 shows and I would say there’s a good fourth that were smashin’, a small fourth that were rough, and then everything in between. I think overall, for our first run out there, it was real positive and it was a cool thing to see that we actually have support out there and what cities we have it in. Then, in Montreal, we got to see people for the first time who were singing our lyrics who didn’t really speak English, so that was a real interesting experience.
Yeah, it must have been really cool to see that the music is spreading further and further.
Totally, man. We’ve been trying to get out of the country for so long to go explore, so this was the closest place to do that in. We were really close on going on one of Tech’s tours out there and it fell through at the last minute, so we’ve been hyped to go for a while. To go up there, knock it out, and go on a run of our own – which wasn’t our first option – but to go up there and do a run of our own was nice and we enjoyed it.
We were gonna do a couple tracks off the new album, but we ended up not doing it because I don’t think they were fully ready [to be played] live yet, and also I wasn’t really crazy about going up to a place we’ve never played live before and playing songs that people didn’t know.
I would imagine in a completely new market you’d want that instant connection of the familiar music.
Yeah, exactly. We waited so long to get up there, I wanted to give them the best of the best of the best, and hopefully we’ll start making it a yearly event and we can play some new songs off the album when we go up next year.
It’s always been crazy to me that it seems with every album you guys somehow refine your sound and expand on it at the same time. Do you agree with that and if so how do you think you guys are able to consistently achieve that?
Yeah I would agree with that, that sounds about right.
I think it’s a healthy dose of wanting to just evolve, and then at the same time, wanting to perfect what it is that we do.
I think that, kind of, every other album we’re trying new things or work with people we’ve never worked with before. I feel like on Believers we were bringing in people we’d never worked with before and we were trying different approaches, and on Future Vintage we’re coming back to doing things we’re comfortable with conceptually and feel a little more natural to us in terms of our lexicon.
Who’s idea was it to get Femi for the album? Or did it just happen kind of by chance?
Actually it was one of our managers – Kether, for those who know him, Kether Galu-Badat – he actually heard the track and suggested it. He was like, “Hey I actually have a connect to Femi Kuti’s people and I could probably get him on the song, if you guys are down. It sounds like he’d be a perfect fit,” and we were all like, “Hell yeah!”
I’ve been a Fela fan for forever and a day. Plex was the one that put me on to Fela during the first tour I ever did with him and Bernz, before I even joined the group. We were heavy on Fela being a part of the band playlist, that’s when I really got put on to his music and the whole family’s music.
I think it was dope and I know it wasn’t one of those features that was really strategic as far as hip hop and getting placement with what’s current and normal in the hip hop world, but it was important to us because I love to have features like that on our resume that aren’t your average. I can’t find a lot of other artists that have collabs with the guy.
Totally. Seun Kuti has done some hip hop collaborations, but Femi doesn’t step into that world very often, so while it might not be a hip hop heavy hitter, as far as musicianship is concerned, it’s definitely heavy hitter status.
100% man. I’m all about breaking boundaries, so any time we have a chance to do that I’m really excited and hyped to accomplish it.
Do you think the amount of time you guys spend on the road and the different scenes you’re introduced to contribute to your musical range in a way?
Yeah, although I think that’s kind of an afterthought to the fact that we’re geographically where we’re from being the foundation for all of that. Miami is just that kind of a place already. If you never left Miami you’d still be exposed to so many different cultures and different aspects of the world. It’s a place where it’s easy to be cultured without having to actually leave, but then add to that the people we meet on the road going state to state – and hopefully country to country as we expand – we’re definitely picking that up.
There’s times where before we go on tour, I don’t feel like writing or I’m not feeling the vibe, maybe I’ve been at home a little too long. Then we’ll go on the road and be out for a month and I’ll come right back and the tank will be all the way full. I think the road at this point is a big catalyst for a lot of our inspiration.
NonMS said something along the lines of “What would the Beatles do?” in reference to your collective mind state during the making of this album. What do you feel gives certain music that timeless appeal or “classic” vibe?
That’s a great question. I think it’s just accessibility. Like, trying to tell your story and be personal, but at the same time, giving people something they’re able to access where it’s not too cryptic or locked away or put on a top shelf.
It’s gotta be music people can understand and relate to, because the majority of the free world, they’re not really trying to use their brain to a certain degree to feel music. They really wanna just feel it on an emotional and natural level, so I think sometimes people put the music too up on a different level, or try to put too much into it, and it ends up overshooting the bound.
I think it’s just to really keep in mind that you gotta appeal without dumbing down too much. You have to kind of just keep it in that safe zone where you’re putting your heart and soul into it and making it personal, but also keeping in mind you want the whole planet to hear it.
That must be a really tough balance.
It definitely is, especially in our genre.
What was your favorite track to work on for this album?
For me, “Against My Better Judgement” is my favorite just because it’s so different, and it gave me and Bernz a chance to really flex our songwriting muscles in a sense.
Like there’s a bridge on the song, there’s different styles of verses, and just writing to that style of music was a lot of fun, it was a new challenge. Also, we wrote it on the road which was cool. I like the idea of a song that feels so big on the album being recorded during the tour in a hotel room. I thought that was cool, so I really enjoyed that one.
I think “All The Time” is another one that I really enjoyed writing, and that one we wrote at home and it was a little more standard to what we normally do, but I just like the vibe of that one. It came together really naturally.
“Against My Better Judgement” blew my fucking mind.
Yeah man. It’s one of those songs where people hear it and people who are familiar with us, or know our catalog, hear it and don’t really think it’s us, or are finding it hard to comprehend that it’s a ¡MAYDAY! song.
It’ a level of musicality that we’ve never tackled before and I feel like it fits well. We worked with an outside producer on it, but it still feels like a ¡MAYDAY! track and has all the elements we love to put into our music, but with a few extra tools that we’ve never really put into play before.
I’ve got high hopes for the song, and I think it’s one of those things that we just spoke about, it hits that note where it’s accessible to way more people than we may have hit in the past.
I know you said “Against My Better Judgement” let you and Bernz flex your songwriting muscles, but did any tracks specifically challenge you in a cool way or surprise you artistically?
I think “Something In The Air”. That one was a little bit different because the song starts off in such a different kind of vibe in terms of tracks that we’ve ever done.
It was kinda fun to figure out how to lead the song in with that one, because then halfway through the whole song transforms into a hip hop record, so writing that lead in for us was a little bit challenging, trying to make it blend and feel natural and lead up into the rap verses.
That one was a bit of a new challenge as well because of the music and the way it switches up on you.
“Antenna” was also a little bit challenging in that when we initially got the beat from Gio, he had it going in a few different rhythms.
The beat cut off early in a couple areas or extended in a couple areas, and then the last verse which I took in the beginning – the way the music is laid out – that one was also a bit intricate in the way that we wrote it.
I think that one was also – as far as songs laid out among the whole album – would be in the top five ones that I would consider more challenging than the others.
It seems like you guys are constantly soaking up new musical knowledge and implementing it as you go along. What are some new things about this album that you haven’t implemented in previous releases?
I guess on “Against My Better Judgement”, the acoustic guitar and the guitar writing is something that I don’t think we’ve ever really used or tackled in that regard before, so that’s definitely one. The way the whole track starts and the way the singing verse starts which is kinda like a salsa, it has a different flavor. The rhythm of that is something we’ve never really messed with. When I heard that track, it just stood out to me as so eccentric and so distinct, we’ve never played around with that before, both of those are also from the same producer. The dudes K-Salaam & Beatnick, they brought in a really good vibe to the record in terms of bringing us some things we’ve never done before.
Doing this album, we didn’t really bring outside production in until late in the process, and that was because we really wanted to stir it up. As far as the vintage part, going back and doing tracks we’re used to doing like “Fuel To The Fire” or “One Wing”, that’s the vintage ¡MAYDAY! stuff, and having something like “Space Cadet”, which sounds to me like something that was recorded for Stuck On An Island, we had a lot of that.
When we went to look for a little outside production to finish it off, it was like what else can we do to bring in a new vibe and go into the future and that’s how we ended up nailing in those final tracks.
Talking to NonMS it was really cool to see how much emphasis you guys put on being about to recreate your tracks in a live environment. Which tracks are you the most excited to perform live?
In the immediate future, “Fuel To The Fire” feels like it’s gonna be fun. “Can’t Take It With You” feels like it’s gonna be rowdy and fun.
In the distant future past that, “Something In The Air” feels like something that’d be cool, but I wouldn’t really want to perform that without people knowing it, I feel like it needs the proper atmosphere, so that one I feel like down the line when the album is out would be cool.
Once we start getting into the arenas and rocking sold out amphitheaters, we’d do “Against My Better Judgement”. When I can get 1,000 lit lighters in front of me, that’d be something that’d be amazing to pull off.
Hell yeah it would. Alright man, anything else you want to tell the people before we wrap this up?
Yeah…I feel like the process of this album, for me personally, was a shaky one. There were a couple moments where I was really unsure of what we had as a whole project. I knew we had some really good songs, I just didn’t really know how the whole project was going to shape up.
It’s been the tail end of a changing era in ¡MAYDAY!, where some people that were heavily involved before are involved less, and some people are now more involved.
There was a lot of shifting panels in the group, and it was definitely one of the most difficult albums for me to complete from top to bottom, but now that it’s all mixed and mastered and we’ve been able to show some stuff around and get feedback from some of the early listeners we usually go to, I feel it was all worth it and it was all for a reason.
It feels like it’s going to be one of our best received projects, I’m really excited for everyone to hear it.
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