Hidden away in Eagle Rock, a trendy neighbourhood in east Los Angeles, there’s a studio that once belonged to legendary Beastie Boys producer Mario C. These days, its home to Vampire Weekend bassist Chris Baio, and he’s already putting it to good use. Not content with merely being part of one of the albums of the year (VW’s ‘Father of the Bride’) or pursuing his solo career as Baio, he’s now teamed up with house music producer Mike Greene – who you may know as Fort Romeau – to form yet another band, CYM. Their experimental three-track debut EP is a wildly imaginative take on krautrock, and they say they’re just getting started. We visited the studio to get the lowdown:
How did you two meet?
Chris Baio: “In 2014 at a festival in Croatia that doesn’t exist anymore called For Festival. We were playing back-to-back and got to know each other. At the time our wives were also working next door to each other in London, which was a pretty incredible coincidence. He’s someone I had an immediate connection with.”
Mike Greene: “We became mates first, I guess.”
CB: “We went out to Joshua Tree this past week for three days and we were just driving around. I like to think we were doing some expansiveness research. Mike and I had never actually never listened to the EP front-to-back together, and we did while we were there. The first thing Mike said after it ended was: ‘You know, I never would have made a track like that on my own.’ That’s 100 percent true for me as well. These tracks, this music, I would never be able to make with anybody else on the planet, so that feels special to me.”
You’re known for quite different genres – indie rock and house. Did you feel like you were coming at this new music from totally different headspaces or was there a shared vision?
MG: “I think our influences have been stuff that we both really like but we haven’t really expressed that much of in our own music. If it had just been a case of: ‘Oh, why don’t you sing on a house track?’ that would be boring. We were both exploring new territory individually and also together.”
CB: “Mike’s my favourite person on the planet to talk about music with. This feels like a natural extension of that, to now be making music inspired by the things we have in common.”
Give me some examples.
CB: “Probably my single favourite krautrock recording is ‘Future Days’ by Can. It’s simultaneously a vibe and a song. It’s incredibly evocative, it’s a feeling, but it has a beautiful melody and it’s very catchy and it’s something you can latch on to. It’s also unlike any other recording ever. That would be my desert island krautrock song.”
What is it about the motorik beat that you just can’t get enough of?
CB: “When you have a very simple, driving rhythm that can go on forever it essentially taps into your heartbeat, the thing that keeps you alive. That’s part of the reason why it’s so appealing, yet it never feels played out.”
So is this EP essentially your updated version of krautrock?
MG: “We realised there’s no point making a pastiche of something. What we wanted to try and do was make something that felt like it had its own perspective and wasn’t entirely derivative. We didn’t want to just copy a Neu! record. We definitely took the aesthetic and a kind of structural influence from it, but the three tracks that we’ve put out on this EP are diverse enough in what they’re pulling little bits from. There’s bits from Can and bits from Black Sabbath and bits from modern techno.”
CB: “Is it rock music? Is it electronic music? Our track ‘Capra’ could be either. Is it techno? Is it ’70s? Does it sound modern? The recordings that excite me the most can live in different worlds at the same time.”
Why’s it called ‘Capra’?
CB: “I’ve prepared a book for this answer! [He passes over a copy of Wilder Mann: The Image of the Savage by photographer Charles Fréger]. I was thinking about the possible questions you’d ask. This is a book I picked up in Japan last summer. It’s a photographer’s exhibition of men dressing up as animals. A lot of them are pretty incredible photos. I thought there was a swagger, bordering on a beastliness, to the track. I thought that it would be good to take a title from this book, and this is the one [He points out a picture of men wearing colourful, shaggy goat outfits] that Mike picked, which I think is an excellent choice. Capra means goat.”
On the topic of names, I’m guessing CYM stands for ‘Chris y Mike’ (‘Chris and Mike’ in Spanish)?
CB: “Holy shit!”
MG: “That’s some pretty smart deduction. That was one of the things we talked about. We came up with a stream of consciousness list of possibilities. I said CMYK, as in ‘Cyan Magenta Yellow Black’ would be good, but then…”
CB: “It’s been used.”
MG: “So then I suggested CYM and you pointed out that could mean Cristóbal y Miguel.”
CB: “So it could be Chris y Mike, or Cyan Yellow Magenta. Those are the two, but I’m blown away that you figured it out.”
To be fair, my first thought was ‘Call Your Mum’.
MG: “I like the idea that it’s a choose your own adventure.”
What’s next? A full album? A tour?
CB: “We’d like to do both those things! This band is gonna be an ongoing thing. Mike is going to be here in LA in the early part of next year and we’re going to be working on a record. We’d love to play live. Right now, because we have 21 minutes of music, we’re not quite ready but we will be eventually.”
MG: “I think one thing we know even at this stage is that we would want it to be very much a live band thing. That’s the only thing we really know for sure.”
‘CYM’ by CYM is out now on Phantasy Sound.