A Conversation With Brasstracks - CTRL Interview

Musicians Ivan Jackson and Conor Rayne have found their sound and are committed to it. Forming the duo that is Brasstracks, the two have transitioned into SoundCloud niche artists and into Grammy winning producers.

In 2016, Chance The Rapper released one of the notable projects of the year Coloring Book with the second single “No Problem” featuring 2 Chainz and Lil Wayne cultivating the rapper into mainstream success. The single also helped to put Brasstracks on the map, in which prior to the release of “No Problem” the duo dominated the SoundClound lane with their own spin on songs by Drake, Kanye West, and Rihanna. 

Shortly after winning the Grammy for Best Rap Song for “No Problem”, the duo sought out a wider appeal with a joyous, funkadelic sound that bended the genres of jazz, hip-hop, R&B, and everything else in between. The Brooklyn, New York natives have caught the attention of various artists that have included the likes of Anderson .Paak (“Am I Wrong”), Harry Styles (“Lights Up”), Mark Ronson (“Nothing Breaks Like A Heart”), and 88-Keys (“That’s Life” featuring Mac Miller and Sia).

Since forming in 2014, the duo has released a slew of EPs, singles, and collaborations, but now they’re getting ready to release their full-length debut album Golden Ticket. Recently, Brasstracks have shared their latest single “Missed Your Call” featuring Col3trane – a minimalistic approach that balances the uplifting-carefree spirits of their previous releases with a warm acoustic atmosphere.  The album in its entirely finds the duo in their comfort zone – a place that they excel in.

From the get-go, the signature trumpet sounds introduce the record that allows the duo to capture the essence of every new and old listener can expect. The record sees Brasstracks keeping up the momentum until they welcome themselves back into a mellow environment. It’s a signature sounding record that showcases the two exploring the roots of every organic collaboration.  

CTRL spoke to the duo about their debut album Golden Ticket, the latest single “Missed Your Call, the importance of an organic collaboration and more.

You guys had a fast-paced career trajectory. From SoundCloud to working with Chance The Rapper and Mark Ronson, and all of the releases in between — how did you guys manage to grow up so fast? 

We don't operate looking for big features or placements - they kind of just happen, and I think that's because we make music just for the love of it. (Soundcloud made that easy.) Nothing can beat that. I feel so lucky for the opportunities that we've had over the past 6 years, but we would still be making music if none of that ever happened. 

Speaking of SoundCloud, you guys were just releasing music on there with no intentions which then led to a Grammy win. What have you guys learned along the way with the approach to the music scene and how the industry works?

If you love music, engulf yourself for the love of it, and not for any other reason. We chased a lot of opportunities after our first big wins, and a lot of them didn't work out- I'm not sure our hearts were really in it. We always start winning again when we get back to exactly what we love. A lot of that has been simply working with our friends. A lot of that has been "taking chances" on artists that don't have a huge platform- who fucking cares? Word travels fast - if you're making good music consistently, someone will hear it. 

There’s this joyous-feel good sensibility that travels with every project. How do you guys manage to maintain such a specific vibe without it sounding repetitive?

We make music according to exactly where we're at in our lives. I feel like projects are just a marker in time. With Good Love, we were deep in the soundcloud scene, taking inspiration from a lot of our peers that were making electronic music, and also listening to producers merging these sounds with R&B, hip hop and gospel. All while we were just graduating jazz school. For Those Who Know we weren't in that space - we were diving deep into R&B and pop music, doing research on what we really liked.

We called it For Those Who Know because we were exploring, and we know our fans would know that. Before We Go we tried to marry Good Love and FTWK's sound, reminiscing on some of our golden moments and also preparing to double down on what we had just done with FTWK. And as for the joyous sensibility - I'm not sure. Maybe it's because there's nothing more joyous than making music? 

 

“Missed Your Call” features Col3trane, who’s no stranger — Can you talk about how organic the chemistry was between you guys?

It is easy to become friends with someone who loves D'Angelo. We bonded over "Spanish Joint", which kind of led to Missed Your Call. Cole is one of the coolest dudes. We made the record over two days- felt effortless. Offered us his Nandos card when we're in London. 10/10 would hang out again, 10/10 would make a bunch more records together. 

Nowadays, it seems that collaborations are rather forced, and you can tell when a contribution was phoned in or it was based solely on picking the right beat – Do you believe if a collaboration isn’t natural, than it isn’t right?

That's a great question, and I'm not sure that it's a simple yes or no. In 2020, artists can get beats without ever meeting the producer, or even talking. It's common! And who's to say that's bad? Some artists work best WITHOUT the producer in the room. But sometimes in works the other way around, and a collaborative in-person session will bring the BEST out of an artist. It all really depends on the person. We prefer the latter, but that is just us. 


Fans can expect much more A-B styled tracks leading up to the album – With it being your debut album, what was the creative process like this time around? It seems this project is going to be much more collaborative based.

It feels like everything we were doing before but elevated to a higher level of thought and execution. We're so lucky to be working with EQT and Capitol now- they know what we do, and they know we're a bit unconventional as artists. And we operate accordingly together. I don't know if we would have EVER done a music video if it wasn't for them pushing us and supporting us (and I am so happy they did) (to be clear our managers have been pushing us to do a music video for freaking ever it is not their fault.)

 

On the collaboration note - we've actually heard that a lot. We've always been very collaboration heavy though. However, I think we've learned how to let a song breathe with this album. That seems to be the difference to me. 

 

From your first EP to the upcoming album – what are the most notable changes since you guys started - whether it’s in your music or just the way you guys work together?  

If we're looking at the course of 2014 - 2020, I think the most obvious change is that we've abandoned "the drop". By that I mean, building up as much tension as you possibly can, and then releasing everything in one craaaazy chorus section or something. And then doing it all again. That's not as fun anymore, I think we've realized that songs with peaks and valleys don't have to be the HIGHEST peaks and the LOWEST valleys. 

 

We've also learned to let go. There is no such thing as perfect. I mentioned music just being a marker in time before, but it's difficult to realize that in the moment. 4 projects in, that's easier to accept. 


The funk/soul sound captured the attention of the likes of Anderson. Paak and Mark Ronson, which makes sense – what are some takeaways that you’ve learned from working with other artists who explore similar sounds?

I can't wait to meet Anderson Paak one day. I am a SUPER fan, and to this day can't believe we're on Malibu. But until then, I can only really speak on Mark Ronson. Mark taught us to be a student of the game. The amount of knowledge that this guy has about funk and soul music is just absurd. And he's still learning more! All of that knowledge was so apparent in our sessions together, and so helpful to the production process. It goes deeper than just the players on the records for him too - on certain records he knew what drum machines were used, what analog reverbs were used, what microphones were used and how they were set up. Mark also plays several instruments well, but knows exactly when to bring in different people that are uniquely equipped for the job. We definitely adopted that mentality this time around.


Beyond the music you make together, do you think you guys have similar taste and interests? Or are there any differences?

We definitely have some similarities, but maybe more differences, and honestly it's great. For reference, Conor is sometimes up at 6 or 7, and I'm sometimes in bed by 6 or 7. I absolutely love the fact that we're different. It influences our music more than anyone could ever understand but us. 

You guys have shared a variety of covers and remixes to songs by other artists – what’s one track in particular that you wish was a Brasstracks original?

Yikes, this is hard. I'm not sure if I have an answer for you. Imagine if we wrote baby shark though? Or any Creed record?

 

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