Q + A with Team Genius by Discosalt
In the basement of New York’s Mercury Lounge, Discosalt sits down to chew the fat with seven members of the eight piece Brooklyn based musical group Team Genius. We discuss their new and yet to be released second album, the popularity of prime time vampire housewives, Latin pop-rapper Gerardo, Man-Dogs vs. Bears, and the future of Indie Rock.
Team Genius is: Drew Hermiller on vocals and guitars, Chad Hermiller on bass, bells and inspiration, Scottie D on drums and dreams, Emma Firth on vocals, guitar and mandolin, Chris Hudik on bass, Rebekah Allen on Trumpet, Elizabeth Allen on Sax, Keys and somewhere in South America, but with us in spirit, Erin Griffith.
D: Is there one genius or a team of geniuses responsible for the bands name?
Drew: Hudik. (Chris Hudik, Bass) He was actually naming something else Team Genius. And then, I saw it, and I was like, yeah, that will work. And then, we just used that. At the time, we all pretty much used to play together but we were called Gee Whiz. But there is some old California pop funk group that already has that name and they sent us a “cease and desist”. So, we had to “cease and desist”. And then we were looking out for a new name and Hudick, who wasn’t even in the band at the time, came up with Team Genius.
D: Where did you all meet and how did you all start playing music together?
Drew: Chad and I are brothers, so we met pretty early on. Rebecca and Elizabeth are sisters. And then lets see…we knew Scott in college. Chad and Scott both ran cross country at Ohio State, so we knew Scott pretty well. And then, Scott moved out here, maybe a year or two years before I did. Then, a month after I moved out here, Chad did. Sometime within the next six months we started kicking around and playing, just as a trio.
Scott: It was essentially a Ramones tribute band.
Chad: It was very Ramones style songs, yeah.
Drew: So, we did that for about a year or so (the trio). Then we started adding in pieces. One of the first pieces we added was Emma, who was friends with Chad’s girlfriend (now wife). And uh, lets see, we added Erin about the same time. She’s been a friend of mine from back home for a really long time. She moved out to New York a couple years after I did; so, that was keys. And then next, we added singer and guitar. And then, we brought in Hudik when he moved out here. And then he was friends with Rebecca and Elizabeth, so we brought them in. I think we brought in Rebecca first and then she brought in Elizabeth. And then we had eight.
D: Isn’t that how the Brady Bunch got started?
Scott: We’ve been together for like a year and half and we’ve put out an album and a half. And we are working on a new album right now.
D: Awesome. Are you at liberty to talk about the second album or is it too soon?
Drew: Yeah, we can talk about it. It’s all tracked. We are just basically fooling around with post production and arrangement stuff, and then mixing it. Now, we kind of need to sit down and figure out our business plan with it.
Chad: So actually, we made an EP, then we made the first record, then we made the whole second record; recorded it, mixed it, everything. It was the finished product. And then we decided to shelve it. Then, we just started all over, basically. We took two of the songs from that record and wrote like 9 or 10 more.
D: Your song “ABC” was recently featured in an episode of “The Gates” which coincidentally airs on ABC. How did that collaboration come about and have you ever seen the Gates? I think it’s like Desperate Housewives that suck blood. So, basically Desperate Housewives.
Drew: We saw the first twenty-eight minutes of it, and then we all shut it off.
Scott: Um, yeah it’s terrible. We have no allegiance to the show. It was a company that someone told me about, so we checked with them. There are big companies that you send stuff too and they submit it to people and it’s basically just business. We sent it to them. They liked it. They took a couple songs, pitched them around and one landed.
Drew: I don’t know how that show is so popular? It’s like weirdly popular!
Chad: I don’t know if it’s REALLY popular?
Elizabeth: Not with you.
Scott: But it goes head to head with Madmen. Who would pick The Gates over Madmen?
[Discosalt is on Team Draper]
D: You have been credited to a “sophisticated understanding of pop music” in other interviews, which I agree with. Does this come from a sophisticated study of pop music?
Chad: I would say that Drew sophisticatedly studied pop music for a very long time.
Drew: A lot of Beatles and Beach Boys. I didn’t take a class, but yeah. I took some theory in school here and there. And I also um, when I moved to New York, I didn’t really know how to sing, so I took some classes with a guy who graduated from Berkeley up in Boston. He taught me a lot of theory. Basically our classes were like half learning how to sing and the other half was just like a theoretical study of pop music. So, I did learn a lot from him. And then yeah, just a lifetime of listening to like Beatles, Beach Boys, and Stones and kind of moving up through modern music.
Chad: Elizabeth studied music.
Drew: She’s a music teacher!
Chad: Our first album was actually very poppy and on our second one, we went in a lot of different directions and then we realized that…
Scott: ….That kind of sucks?
Chad: We just like to dance and have fun.
Elizabeth: And jump around.
Chad: Jump around and make music, yeah. So this stuff is a lot simpler and a lot more fun.
Rebekah: And Drew’s got a really good ear for hearing the finished product, so he will write and have the shell but he can hear it already done. This is really amazing when we are learning the music.
D: At what age did you first hear Gerardo?
(An eerie chill of Dead Silence)
D: Rrrrrrrrico Suave!!? Should we discuss Milli Vanilli instead?
Drew: Oh shit! I remember seeing the video. That was like, what? Nineteen-ninety? Ninety-one? Two? Something like that.
Chad: Did he have like a follow up song?
Scott: Is he still trilling his “r’s” somewhere?
D: Who are you recording with now? Who would you like to record with?
Drew: Um, anyone talented who will have us. We are recording right now with Eric Xyler from the band Xylos. You may have heard of them? They are popular around town.
Chad: Yeah, we played a couple shows with them. Specifically, we played one here in February. He and I kind of became friends and then, when it came time to start recording the songs we were working on, I just tossed it to him. and was like: ‘would you be interested in producing and recording it?’ Because I know he does a lot of that for his own writing. He was down for it too! Yeah, we’ve been working with him.
D: Is “While We’re Asleep” an obvious nod to “Oh Yoko”? or is the track similarity completely in my head?
Drew: There’s definitely a similarity there. For sure.
Chad: We used to cover “Oh Yoko” And sometimes we would play them back to back. I think they are both just simple pop songs. Just a bouncy, high vocal, pop song.
D: All three of your videos seem to have been shot locally in New York. Wondering if we could talk a little about them.
Drew: Did you see the one from when we were Gee Whiz? That’s my favorite.
D: “I’m Just an idiot”?, yeah. That one is shot in a classroom, which I’m assuming was in New York?
Scott: I might get fired for saying where that was filmed. It was an old school out in Brooklyn and, um and we yeah, we went into it. We had access to it through my job. It didn’t have any electricity
Drew: Your company bought it and were talking about redoing it?
Scott: Allegedly, yeah. So it was in this real cool state of decay and I just always thought it would be a great place to do a video. We drove everybody out there and then realized it didn’t have any electricity, and the sun was going down so the entire video was shot in like 15 minutes.
Drew: Oh my god. Probably like 45 minutes. But yeah it was so rapid. And it was scary being there. Cool though
Scott: There was just like weird dust in there…and shit in the air. Nails coming out of the floor! Paint peeling off!
D: Who owns the “pube onesie”? Fess up.
Scott: That’s an Adam and Eve costume! I’ve worn that several, several Halloweens. I still have it.
D: Can I borrow it?
Scott: Absolutely. Let me know when. Seriously, it’s sitting in a closet.
D: “While We’re Asleep” is shot in an apartment in Park Slope Was someone really moving in the video? or have I been duped by the magic of Hollywood… magic?
Chad: We were moving out that day and decided to shoot the video that day.
Drew: Well, we used to practice there. We had to do it all acoustic because they had neighbors. It was one weird little practice space
D: Can we clear up some controversy? In the video fro “Take me Home” is the protagonist a bear or a man-dog?
Drew: It’s a bear. It was shot by Iyabo Boyd. She’s a good friend of ours and she’s very talented. We gave her creative license.
Chad: I’m a school teacher and my kids found out about that video and they all thought I was a dog and then I had to hear about it for two months at the end of last school year. Not very fun!
D: Can you tell us which bar, you and the “man-dog”, I mean “man-bear”, are all playing pool in?
Drew: Oh the bar was our old standby for years. Like when we first moved to New York, we hung out at that bar a lot. So much so, that our friends all moved in above it. The owner of that bar lives above it and our friends lived in that same building. Like, he rented the apt right below them. We were regulars at that bar for like a year. They shut down the whole bar for like a Saturday so we could film that video.
Scott: East village. 7th Street between 1st and 2nd.
D: Seems you all have really stable other jobs besides playing together. How do you balance it all?
Drew: We practice very little? No, every Monday night we practice.
Chad: I try to keep it as much a secret as I can.
Scott: We all have day jobs that we are passionate and interested in. It’s a little different for us.
Drew: I actually think its more the way more modern music will go, since music is pretty much wholly unprofitably anymore. Its more like, people still have careers and make music because they like it or, you know, when they have time to play because its fun. To me I guess that’s the most honest way to do it. We still like doing it and I love writing tunes with these guys and they love playing them. It’s fun to record with them and if people like it, I’ll assume, you know, that it’s nice to play shows when we can. But the idea that we will sell 500,000 copies and like be on the covers of a bunch of magazines and tour for ten years straight. It’s just not like that. That’s not really reasonable anymore. If you do that in the modern world you still would barely make enough money to pay your rent. And that definitely shapes our music. We are in it to have fun. We enjoy each others company.
Chad: If we got signed by Columbia that would totally be amazing though. Id definitely quit my job.
D: Do you have a favorite venue to play?
Drew: Probably this one. Mercury Lounge.
Scott: Monkey town before it closed.
D: If you could play someone elses instrument. Not necessarily functionally in the band, what would it be?
Elizabeth: If I knew how to drum I’d play drum
Scott: Id play guitar
Rebekah: I’d play accordion
Chad: Wait, I’d like to be Mick Jagger.
Elizabeth: He does do a good chicken dance!
D: Who would win in a fight: Team Genius or Team America?
Drew: Probably the puppets?
Chad: 18 inch wooden puppets! We could totally kick their ass!
Drew: Maybe we should cover “America, Fuck Yeah!”?
D: Do you guys have any favorite indie music blogs?
Drew: I read you guys.