Photo Used courtesy of Telephoned and Fool’s Gold Recs
They’re called Telephoned because, like that game we all loved in Kindergarten, they find magic in sound as it’s translated through sources. In the exceptional New York duo’s music, much remains from the original work, but the real excitement stems from interpretation. They listen for the core; they remember what’s intricate; they leave their mark on the remainder. Telephoned – the band – is a producer-singer duo based in Manhattan and Brooklyn, and marketing themselves on an alternative approach to music based on these principles. Signed to Fool’s Gold Records, the rising act begins their work by pulling a piece of unrefined music, building on its essence and manipulating auxiliary components to create a finished product somewhere between pop confection and experimental underground.
That’s just the beginning. There’s much more to these quasi-existentialist musicians, who by sheer luck and good humor formed a unit on no particularly special night a couple years ago in the city. Truly, Telephoned admits they are the simple result of the serendipitous nature of New York’s mystic streets and spirited artistic scene. After Sammy Bananas, DJ and producer, and Maggie Horn, singer/songwriter, continued running into each other around town and at parties, a challenge began as to their future creative endeavors.
“It started from a conversation we had a couple times,” explains Bananas, who was already a solo act signed to Fool’s Gold at the time. “We kept daring each other to do a cover of this T-Pain song, “Can’t Believe It,” and that’s how it all started.”
Horn was also an independent musician, who’d previous collaborated with the likes of Prince Paul and Drop the Lime before bridging the partnership with Bananas. While their general concept embodies elements of both cover songs and remixes, Telephoned aims to be fresh and innovative by not only reinterpreting music, but creating accompanying elements to coincide with the organic version.
Describes Bananas, “We are taking someone else’s tunes and doing our own take on it, which is similar to a cover, but in almost every other way it’s different because we’re not doing a literal interpretation.”
Those tunes include songs by Tina Turner, En Vogue, Nicki Minaj, ABBA, and Trey Songz among numerous others. While the “division of labor” is basically producer to singer-songwriter, song selection is handled based on mutual interest and creative abilities. If the production arrangement sounds intriguing, it is. That’s because Telephoned finds their sweet spot in the blend of comfort with familiarity and curiosity with the unknown. While a song may have been overplayed on the radio, Telephoned uses their imagination to give it new life, or rebirth rather. In fact, the twosome’s technique has become so popular through the Internet that they have spanned an even larger fan base in mainstream music. Specifically, Power 106 in L.A.
“When Power 106 tweeted our song, that was the first time we knew people were actually listening,” recalls Horn. “It was like, people in LA are driving and jamming to our music.”
Not just people people– big people. People like Chromeo, the international dance masterminds who then brought Telephoned on the road with them to perform as an opening act. Bananas had formerly toured with the group as a DJ, but this new venture brought the pop-dance duo full throttle onto the stage, singing and dancing before a crowd looking for high energy. Assuredly, Telephoned finds their niche in this broadening spherical union between pop and dance music – a more stylized realm where their beats are too crisp to be dance, yet too extemporaneous for pop. The marriage of genres makes sense for Bananas, as he points to the long history in music where both played on each other.
He comments, “It’s interesting, Rihanna’s album came out today, and I think she’s the perfect example of the two sounds influencing each other, and being aligned with one other.”
Now back in the studio in New York, Telephoned, always down for a challenge, is currently in the works on their own original music. Though playing off other artists’ tracks has been inspiring, their goal for 2012, as Horn describes it, is “pop domination,” thus the next step in constructing an empire is to create a catalog of unique material. This past month, they released their first 100% self-made record “Hold Me,” on Scion’s new music label (Scion, as in the car company; yes, it’s true. As Banana’s notes, nonetheless, “People don’t buy music anymore so if it takes a brand to come in and bankroll artists to do exactly what they do without restrictions, to make and release music so people can hear it, then I think we’re with that). Next year, they will release an EP of all original works – something Bananas says will be more “sacred” and “personal” than their covers. On top of that, they’re in the books to play at South by Southwest in March, and will do additional tour stops along the way in support of the record.
And, if all goes as planned, the culmination will be ultimate dominion.
“When Sammy and I were making our first covers, we joked about making original music; we said we would try and make the songs we were covering,” remarks Horn. “I think those songs were fusing hip hop and dance but still very pop. That’s not to say we’re consciously making pop, but we gravitate towards something we can’t stop singing.”
Telephoned attributes this year’s movement towards dance as a tide in the ebb and flow of music trends, and the result of a general love for techno. Bananas believes accessibility to music software programs also accounts for a taste towards electronic, as most young people experimenting on computers are creating dance music, which has an influence on their preferences.
“There’s a lower barrier of entry to music now, and you’ll see more younger people making music than playing video games,” he comments, noting a parallel fluctuation in the playing field of the music industry, where past career artists faced a different challenge than those breaking into the business today. “It’s not the same industry it was, and a lengthy career now is not within the time frame as before…I really like what the Basement Jaxx have done. They’ve been able in their career to have an underpinning in dance music, but also stay involved in making pop. They constantly reinvent themselves.”
Horn agrees, and so with unanimous creative interests, Telephoned hits the airwaves and forums of pop, dance, commercial, independent, past, present, and everything in between. Look for them now and later.
Oh and one more thing – there was a vote on whether Jay-Z and Beyonce’s baby would look more like mom or dad, and, as it turns out, a shock may be in for the high-brow family. Says Bananas deviously, “It’s gonna look like me.”
For more info on Telephoned and to listen to their music, check out the links and video below: