Musicians on Musicians: Thundercat & Flying Lotus

A pair of West Coast visionaries deal with their enduring creative kinship and staying productive all through the pandemic

Welcome to Rolling Stone’s 2021 Musicians on Musicians bundle, the annual franchise the place two good artists come collectively for a free, open dialog about life and music. Each story on this 12 months’s assortment will appear in our November 2021 print downside, hitting newsstands on November 2nd.

Flying Lotus and Thundercat know that what they’ve is effective. The creative partnership between the visionary producer and the eccentric singer-slash-bass-virtuoso — born, respectively, Steven Ellison and Stephen Bruner — spans higher than a decade and a stack of era-defining albums, along with Kendrick Lamar’s To Pimp a Butterfly (on which every labored), Flying Lotus’ heady 2010 beat-collage masterpiece Cosmogramma, and Thundercat’s Grammy-winning, Lotus-produced 2020 prog-funk opus It Is What It Is (his fourth solo album on Ellison’s Brainfeeder label). By all that train, quite a few open air initiatives, and massive jumps in profile for every alongside one of the simplest ways, they’re saying little has modified. 

“Though months can go by, or regardless of, it doesn’t really actually really feel like one thing’s misplaced on us when it’s time to get once more collectively,” Ellison says on a Zoom with Bruner. “I’m inside the transfer of developing stuff and likewise you’ve been out having fun with bass. It’s equivalent to, bam. … It’s merely humorous on account of there’s always people spherical us stressing [about] getting us collectively. Nonetheless on the end of the day, everyone knows …” 

“Yeah, everyone knows,” Bruner chimes in. “We be understanding. They don’t be pondering it’s prefer it’s after we are saying it’s, nevertheless it absolutely do be prefer it’s.”

“Yeah, it do be prefer it’s,” Ellison says, and every crack up.

The two talked about preserving sharp all through the pandemic (Ellison on the keyboard, and Bruner by means of an intense boxing routine), their surreal “couch Grammys,” and the best way they knew immediately that they’ve been musical soulmates.

As artists, you’re every hyperproductive, always collaborating and launching new initiatives. How have you ever ever every been adapting to the pandemic?

Flying Lotus: I’ve merely been digging deeper into piano and studying classical music. Attempting to draw further. Merely rising my stuff. I want to actually really feel like I’ll emerge from this and be a higher artist than I was sooner than it. There’s no excuse to not be finding out stuff and to not be pushing points forward. That’s really it. Merely all the points that I do already, merely trying to be greater. … [Yasuke, the Netflix anime series] was good to work on, and the Grammy was good to get on account of we have now been all …

Thundercat: Couch Grammys. [Laughs.]

Flying Lotus: Yeah, the morale was low, so it was good to get some Grammys and stuff.

The Best Progressive R&B Album win for It Is What It Is was your first Grammy as a creative crew, and the first for Brainfeeder as a label. What was it like having a milestone like that come spherical all through a time like this?

Thundercat: It was apparently polarizing. … It was really trippy, on account of, like, I’m joyful that I purchased to have enjoyable with my family in shut quarters — Brainfeeder and my family. That was tight, on account of usually you’re separated from everybody on the Grammys, correct?

Flying Lotus: Yeah, that was the attractive part of it.

Thundercat: I’m with the those that I’m supposed to be with. So that was cool. I nonetheless didn’t get my current bag, and I don’t acknowledge that one bit, on account of they’ve the right pores and pores and skin lotions and snacks and I didn’t get any of those.

Flying Lotus: I’m down for some snacks.

Thundercat: I’m going to aim to not get hung up on that, on account of I really do want some Grammy snacks. No, nevertheless it absolutely was cool, man. I’m very grateful and grateful for it. It didn’t actually really feel like that was indicative of what occurred when the album occurred, on account of it was very silent when the album acquired right here out. It was type of like, “And … [announcer voice] proper right here’s the album! And, sit down.” [It Is What It Is] acquired right here out correct after each little factor [shut down].

Flying Lotus: Yeah, it was type of correct throughout the equivalent time each little factor dropped. … Then his tour was canceled. So it put a keep on each little factor and made points actually really feel want it didn’t even happen in a strategy, so it was good to get the recognition in that second.

What kind of stuff are you practising, Cat? Are you having fun with correct now? 

Thundercat: I’ve been really merely boxing 5 days each week, Lotus. [Laughs.]

Flying Lotus: You’re not having fun with bass no further?

Thundercat: Yeah, I really feel I’m going to enter Bloodsport. … No., I don’t know. The humorous issue for me is, various my finding out comes from being onstage. Finding out tunes and having fun with by way of stuff, that’s a relentless. Nonetheless there’s nothing that makes up for having fun with onstage and performing.

Flying Lotus: Yeah, it’s two fully totally different worlds. I can take into consideration practising boxing is similar issue: It’s possible you’ll examine all the strikes all day, nevertheless nothing makes up for actually being inside the battle.

Thundercat: Yeah, getting punched inside the face. That’s what my life has always been since I was frickin’ 10 years earlier: It’s always been performing. That’s how I’ve always found; that’s how I’ve always had one factor to output.

Flying Lotus: Yeah, you’re having a dialog together with your self and the viewers, and it’s just about like a synergistic issue to have the flexibility to develop in that. 

You two have executed an unimaginable amount of labor collectively all through the earlier 10-plus years. When did you first know you’ve gotten been going to click on on on such a deep diploma? 

Flying Lotus: I really feel he merely came around to my dwelling and appeared spherical after which that was it. He was like, “Ohhh … Yeah.”

Thundercat: It was equivalent to, “Oh, you got the vinyl?!

Flying Lotus: Yeah, the Fist of the North Star [anime soundtrack] vinyl. That was massive.

Thundercat: Bruh, I was executed as soon as I seen that. I was like, “OK, [mock-intense] I do know what time it’s.” 

Flying Lotus: We started engaged on stuff spherical Cosmogramma. Whereas we have now been engaged on that, he was looking at me, and he was like, “Yo, man, I want to be your artist.” “Oh, phrase?” That was an unlimited turning stage in my life on account of I was like, “OK, the place will we begin?” Then it was merely the deep dive, and we’ve merely been going ever since.

Thundercat: We every seen that; it wasn’t merely me. To aim to make clear, to aim to interrupt it down … I’m not that analytical about stuff usually. There’s a part of it the place I merely —

Flying Lotus: It’s magic. Nonetheless I really feel that’s the trippy half about it for people. All people spherical [us] tries to quantify what’s happening usually. It’s merely two dudes who’re super linked and understand each other.

Thundercat: Yeah, it’s regular. There are [standout] moments, nevertheless there are so many of them. Straight up. All of it looks as if one regular prolonged line.

Flying Lotus: Yeah, and I actually really feel like every mission, there’s that second the place we step once more and be like, “Wow, how did we get proper right here? How did all of it come all the best way all the way down to this?” … Cosmogramma is the one which launched us collectively; It Is What It Is is the one which purchased us the statue.

Thundercat: [Laughs] There you go. That’s it, bro. All of the issues, it’s been one big-ass album.

https://www.rollingstone.com/music/music-features/thundercat-flying-lotus-musicians-on-musicians-1239203/ | Musicians on Musicians: Thundercat & Flying Lotus

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