"Me and Syd were in Australia and I was playing her some of the early stuff I had started making for The Internet album and she was like, 'This is dope, but it's not where I'm at right now,'" Matt Martians tells me on the morning of his debut solo album's release.
"At first I was like, 'Oh, damn, what does that mean? Why don't you like my beats?'" he continues. "I was low-key hurt for a few days, but it made me realize that the solo album thing was something we had to do. It's a process. We needed to marinate and grow as individuals before we came back together for another Internet album and find our sound."
So, following the success of The Internet's breakout album Ego Death, Martians returned to his childhood bedroom in Atlanta and got to work on what would become his solo debut, The Drum Chord Theory.
"After Ego Death came out, I felt like things were going to get really hectic for me," Martians explains. "I'm naturally a recluse type of person. So with Ego Death, we started getting attention and I naturally shied away from it and went the other way. So I went back home."
Finding his voice as a solo artist, Martians summoned the confidence to step out from behind the boards and try his hand at lead vocals.
"I usually don't sing a lot," he says. "You know, I sing sometimes on Internet songs, but when I was at home in Atlanta, I went crazy with it. That's where I'm from and I'm naturally 100% comfortable there." He adds, "My favorite part about making this record was hearing my voice after a while and being like, 'Wow I actually don't sound trash.' [laughs] You know, I'm not a crooner, but I'm not trash."
A listen of the finished product plays out like an acid trip. The smooth, jazzy, neo-soul sound of the first half takes a psychedelic left turn after the appropriately titled midway point, "Found Me Some Acid Tonight."
"I've always wanted to make this album," Martians notes. "I got the sounds from it years ago when I started taking acid—just taking myself through the journey of being one with myself and being able to sit down and make an album because making an album is very hard. It takes a lot of things out of you emotionally."
As difficult as parts of the solo endeavour may have been, he did have plenty of support from his friends and collaborators, however. The project features contributions from Syd, Steve Lacy, Tyler, the Creator, Karl Faux, Kintaro, Tay Dreamin, and Steve Lacy (his "little brother" who he says made the whole album possible).
"We're all best friends," he adds. "Music is like 5% of what we do as friends. Opposed to most people, where it's like 5% friends and 95% music. These are people that I hang out with."
Explaining the family dynamic of his friends and collaborators, Martians tells me, "We're all young black kids, so we understand black comradery. We want to get the best music out of each other and money or egos isn't really an issue. It's funny, like, Tyler and us are very close. A lot of people don't know that. We're all very close. We learn from each other. A lot of how we run our business, we learned from how Tyler started Odd Future."
For a moment, however, an artist who has spent years happily operating behind the scenes is able to shine on his own solo project.
Dive in to The Drum Chord Theory below.