Consisting of UPROXX co-founder Brian Brater and Beautiful/Decay’s Amir H. Fallah, Sherbert Gang is a creative collective that unites artists, musicians and artists to create electronica music with dynamic and truly illuminating production and design. With their EP due out later this month, Brian and Amir kindly agreed to this interview to talk social media, favourite songs and what would constitute their ultimate success.
PW: How do the two of you know each other/how did you meet?
Brian: I was always a fan of Beautiful/Decay magazine. My friend, Los Angeles based painter Wendell Gladstone introduced me to Amir when my Rawkus co-founder Jarret Myer and I were contracting out the initial web design for UPROXX.COM. Since then I’ve collaborated with Amir on my music videos, album art, and web and social channel design.
Amir: I met Brian via our mutual friend Wendell Gladstone. I used to publish an art magazine called Beautiful/Decay and through the magazine had become friends with Wendell. Sometime around 2008 the magazine launched a boutique design consultancy called Something In The Universe. Wendell introduced us when Brian was starting UPROXX and I began to help them with UPROXX’s design identity and creative direction. Since then we’ve collaborated on a few different projects with this being our second music video collaboration.
PW: How would you sum up the band and your music up in a couple of sentences?
B: Sherbert Gang is a collective of artists, animators, and music producers focused on cutting edge electronic music, drum programming and dynamic illustration/design/animation.
PW: Which bands and artists did you grow up listening to and how did they influence you? Have such influences changed over the years?
B: I was raised on jazz, punk, new wave, and early hip-hop. In high school I was an active upright and electric bass player. I was studying Charlie Parker, Thelonious Monk, Duke Ellington, Wes Montgomery, Miles Davis, Herbie Hancock, Stanley Clarke, and Jaco Pastorious while moshing to Bad Brains, Black Flag, Minor Threat, Fishbone, The Clash, The Minutemen, and Suicidal Tendencies. I was also a fan of The Cure, Joy Division, Public Image Limited, Run DMC, Eric B & Rakim, anything Kraftwerk, Devo, Marley Marl, Gang Starr, or Lord Finesse related. Music informed my childhood growing up in NYC in the 80s and early 90s. Right now I’m feeling Kaytranada and organic stuff like Donnie Trumpet, Vic Mensa, and Anderson Paak.
PW: When did you first realise you wanted to be part of the music industry? Was there an album you listened to or concert you attended that made you think 'yeah, I want to do that
B: I always loved Billboard Magazine and classic record labels like Blue Note, Stax and Casablanca records from my Mom’s collection. I loved following the charts at a very young age. I loved indie record labels and LP album art. I knew I’d either be a professional bass player or a record label founder when I was 15 years old.
Brian, you're the co-founder of UPROXX and also Rawkus Records - how has that impacted your decision to form this partnership with Amir?
B: At Rawkus we sponsored and/or produced a ton of classic music, album art, music videos and merchandise. UPROXX is all about cutting edge editorial, digital media, and inspiring original video production. Amir is one of my favorite graphic designers and painters - he has a ton of love and respect in the Los Angeles art and design community - it made perfect sense to collaborate with a creative director like him for Sherbert Gang.
PW: Is there a band or artist out there you might say you're similar to or do you make a determined effort to be something completely fresh?
B: People are describing Sherbert Gang as “happy” electronic dance music or drum and bass influenced music taken from the night club and re-interpreted for an outdoor audience during a sunny day. The drum programming is influenced by countless legendary beat makers but the song arrangements and melodies are unique and are difficult to compare to other bands or artists.
PW: Tell me about your single "Far Away". Is there a story behind it?
B: Yes, both my parents had just passed and I believe in the power of healing mantras so I wrote “Far Away”. I imagined being far away, and being one with everything I love about life. The writing and producing of this song really helped me cope.
PW: How did you come up with the concept for the animated video?
B: Amir sent me a GIF from Andrey Smirny, the Far Away video illustrator. I fell in love with the energy and color of the 6 second animation and we took it from there. The visual storyline is that of the hardworking individual shaking off the hassles of their day to day grind, constantly moving forward, and upward no matter what flies in their face, looking forward to that perfect pre-black hole psychedelic abstract flight meal: the sandwich.
A: The concept for the video came about organically. Usually the brands that I work with approach me because I have a visual art database in my mind that spans the world of art, design, illustration and fashion from decades of being an artist and running Beautiful/Decay. Brian gave me a general description of the feeling and the vibe that he wanted the video to have. As soon as he started talking I knew I had the perfect illustrator to collaborate with. We teamed up with Andrey Smirny whose work we had featured in Beautiful/Decay about a year back. At that time Andrey had never made any music videos but I knew his work with sync perfectly with the Far Away track. I showed Brian a small gif animation that Andrey had created and we used that as the basis for the entire video.
The video takes the viewer goes along on a journey with a man on a mission to find the perfect sandwich. As he walks through psychedelic space debris, glitchy 8-bit video game battles and time warp space confetti he comes upon a scientific sandwich stand. One bite into his magical space sandwich and he is swirled into a black hole on a distant galactic space voyage somewhere far, far away.
PW: The track is taken from your upcoming EP. Without giving too much away, what can you tell me about it?
B: Sherbert Gang’s eponymous debut EP a deliciously composed polyrhythmic creamery of complex triggered vocal harmonies layered with tuned kicks, snares, and programmed percussion. Repping NYC, Sherbert Gang blends a myriad of musical styles and flavors adding a sweetness and savoriness to your soon to be salivating aural buds. Our honeyed hi-hats, and sugar saturated thwacks, dulcet booms and ambrosial synths will nourish your sugary soul and resurrect the gods in your ears.
PW: How easy/hard do you find the song-writing process and who/what most inspires you?
B: I tend to start with a feel, which is almost always rhythmic, which makes sense as I began my musical journey as a bass player. Once I create the foundation for the drum programming, I sit at my synth/piano or guitar and begin writing spontaneously. The entire process is improvised, something I learned to do well playing in jazz bands - I focus, inhale, look up at the Gods and it happens. Nothing is written down until I’ve completed and memorised the basic hooks and melodies.
PW: Which song, in your opinion, is the greatest ever written and why?
B: It very well could be “Sinnerman” by Nina Simone which gives me the chills every time I hear it. The song is empowering, humbling, and saddening at the same time. Musically the vamp and energy are unprecedented. “Sinnerman” is also the base sample for my favorite Rawkus Records single, Talib Kweli and Kanye West’s “Get By”. No one alive nor dead could write lyrics as powerful as Nina:
“Well I run to the river, it was boilin', I run to the sea, it was boilin', I run to the sea, it was boilin', all along dem day, so I ran to the lord, I said, lord hide me, please hide me, please help me."
PW: If you could play one venue anywhere in the world, which would it be and why?
B: It would be to go back in time and play the the old Ritz theater on east 11th street in Manhattan. It closed down and is now Webster Hall. I lived in that venue from 1986-1989. The Ritz was the center of my universe as a very young teenager.
PW: If you could share a stage with three other bands or artists, who can be living or dead, who would they be and why?
B: DJ Premier - the best hip hop producer of all time, Herbie Hancock, especially late 60’s - mid 70’s Herbie, from Fat Albert Rotunda through Flood and Nina Simone - because there is no one better and more soulful than her. I must also give an honourable mention to James Brown.
PW: What are your touring/performance plans for the rest of the year?
B: The plan is to create more animation and debut Sherbert Gang at a handful of clubs/short film circuit events.
PW: What are your thoughts on social media and do you agree that it's necessary for bands and artists today? How has it helped you establish yourselves?
B: Having co-founded UPROXX and Big Frame, I am a believer in developing and nurturing massive audiences via social media. Ultimately being entrepreneurial and starting digital media companies which rely on social engagement enables me to pay my bills so I can focus and finance creative projects like Sherbert Gang. Artists and influencers should use social media to help produce the capital which fuels their creative dreams.
A: Social media is essential for all artists today. It breaks down the barriers and allows you to speak directly with your audience. Sherbert Gang isn’t a traditional music act so it only makes sense that our music, videos, and social interaction not follow traditional music routes. We collaborate with artists from all walks of life and approach everything from a creative angle from our blog where we share artists and musicians that inspire us to our music videos that bring diverse artists to create exciting and new audio/visual collaborations.
PW: What does the rest of the year have in store for you?
B: Amir will be painting his ass off and I will be grinding away on 10 different things.
PW: Finally then, what's your ultimate ambition as a group and whose career would you most like to emulate and why?
B: My ambition for Sherbert Gang is to create music and art without corporate influence. Artists like Miles Davis, Herbie Hancock, Kanye West and producers like Danger Mouse, Madlib, and recently Kaytranada were and are constantly evolving and changing styles - I hope to emulate cats like them because their production and vision were and are crisp and they love creating soulful music from the hip.
Sherbert Gang recently premiered their new single "Battle Cry" and you can listen to it below. For more information on the band, visit their website.