The Internet move as one, like water. Made up of Syd, Steve Lacy, Patrick Paige II, Christopher Smith, and Matt Martians, the GRAMMY-nominated band crafts a spry and sultry neo-soul sound that’s equal parts flirtatious and nonchalant. Across three albums, and now with their forthcoming fourth studio album, Hive Mind, The Internet have blossomed into savvy songwriters and composers, trimming away the fat and producing mature and fun material that’s all connective tissue and beaming August heat.
The secret to their quantum leaps, according to drummer Christopher Smith, is “hanging out and making fun of each other.” Considering Hive Mind is their most organic and sprawling offering, this doesn’t come as a surprise. Pressing play, we’re treated to a record that serves the group’s uptempo funk stylings and Syd’s lax charisma with more density, depth, and texture. The growth is impressive, and as Chris assures, “never forced.”
“Our days off—most of this album was made on the road and stuff, in different studios and different countries and states—it was like, ‘Let’s hang out, but let’s hang out at the studio just in case we get some done,’” Chris continues. “We just be hanging out at the studio, making fun of each other, chilling, eating food, some of us might be smoking, and then, you know, somebody might get on some drums or Matt might start on some drums, or somebody had an idea they worked on back in their room, and we get to working.”
Even so, the group needed time apart. “When we first sat down to work on Hive Mind, there was just too many ideas because everybody was just amped and needed to get all of that other creative energy out,” Smith admits. Over the past three years, each of the members dropped a solo project, with Paige’s emotionally taxing Letters of Irrelevance dropping most recently in May.
Each solo record provided the group members with room to improve as musicians, telling personal stories that otherwise would not live on a group LP. “Now we’re really genuinely back to like, ‘Oh, that sounds good, let’s expand on that,’” Smith beams. “Instead of, ‘Oh, let’s do it my way.’ It’s about expanding, and by expanding on ideas, it turned into the records.
“We come together,” Paige says proudly. “We’re a hive mind.”
DJBooth’s full interview with Patrick Paige II and Christopher Smith, lightly edited for content and clarity, follows below.
DJBooth: Patrick, with your debut Letters of Irrelevance, there was a lot of pain to process, but Hive Mind is lighter by nature. Did you have to do any compartmentalizing to work on Hive Mind?
Patrick Paige II: I guess so. Yeah, because it’s coming from two different places. One is personal, all personal, and another is working with my guys. It’s definitely digging in two different places. So I would say, “Yes,” just to make it simple.
How necessary was it for you to write and release Letters of Irrelevance before getting to work on Hive Mind?
Patrick: Well, the funny thing is, I was working on them both around the same time. When I really started working on my album—because I lost inspiration for a while—I was working on them both, and going back and forth. I was in-between albums, and we finished them around the same time, mine just came out first. That was a process, but it was fun. Kept me busy.
Was it difficult to switch back and forth?
Patrick: Nah, it wasn’t too hard! It was pretty easy, to be honest. Whenever I’m with my guys, that’s the only thing we’re talking about and thinking about. When I’m with me, that’s the only thing I’m thinking about because it’s just me. I can jump into either mode, and they were all done on separate days and separate weeks.
What was the timeline for the making of Hive Mind? Were all the solo projects wrapped before you guys got to work?
Patrick: All of ‘em were done way before mine. Chris’ solo album [LOUD, as C&T] came out last year.
Christopher Smith: A lot of ours came out before, but there was still some ideas brewing up for Hive Mind while the projects were being wrapped. It’s been a long process. Hive Mind has been a nice year and change of baking. We had to walk away from it to do the solo projects because we weren’t quite clicking. When we first sat down to work on Hive Mind, there was just too many ideas because everybody was just amped and needed to get all of that other creative energy out. Everybody’s ideas couldn’t make the tracks… Steve [Lacy] had already started working on his and so had Matt [Martians], and it just made sense to get that excess creative energy out so we could all come back to the group project with a clear mind.
Having released solos, how did that change your chemistry on Hive Mind?
Chris: That was it! It just helped make the ideas clear and where we were trying to go for this next album. Now we’re really genuinely back to like, “Oh, that sounds good, let’s expand on that,” instead of, “Oh, let’s do it my way.” It’s about expanding, and by expanding on ideas, it turned into the records.
You have all been playing together for so long. Is there anything that’s carried over from the first album?
Chris: Yeah, hanging out.
That’s your secret?
Chris: Yeah, hanging out and making fun of each other. That’s the secret.
Patrick: [Laughs]. I second that.
Chris: That’s really what it is. I always stress to people that wanna be in groups or start groups: do it with your friends. Do it with people that you can hang out with and grow with, that you can be personal with. Do it with people that you can go to like, “Man, I’ve been having a problem with this.” Your real friends. Outside of the band, we are each others’ real friends. We have outside friends, but they all know each other because we know each other.
The chemistry really comes through on the sixth track. There’s a quick pivot to a more industrial sound and the drum and bass keep it from becoming jarring.
Chris: Matt made those drums, and then a bassline came up. Steve came on the bass, and then the writing came about. I just had my little inputs on writing, but those come from hanging out and just throwing ideas at each other. Like, alright, I have a melody and a thought and let’s turn that thought into some music. Whatever we’re vibing to, we just vibe to it and expand upon until we feel like that’s enough.
Do days off ever turn into work days?
Chris: That’s how it is! Our days off—most of this album was made on the road and stuff, in different studios and different countries and states—it was like, “Let’s hang out, but let’s hang out at the studio just in case we get some done.” That’s exactly what happens. We just be hanging out at the studio, making fun of each other, chilling, eating food, some of us might be smoking, and then, you know, somebody might get on some drums or Matt might start on some drums, or somebody had an idea they worked on back in their room, and we get to working. After we go back to hanging out and it’s like, “Oh, here’s something else, let’s try working on a new joint.” Then we go back to hanging out. It’s never forced.
How do you two feel you’ve grown since Ego Death?
Chris: Well, I grew more so on the input of writing, because on the solo record I had to write stuff. It was “Aight, cool, let me stop overthinking and let me just write stuff.” Then, that’s what happened. I just broke down that barrier as best I can.
Patrick: For me, I’ve grown as far as a musician. I’ve been practicing, wanting to be a better bass player, wanting to be a better producer, wanting to be a better writer. Really just going in and attacking my craft, taking the time to learn and perfect my craft one thing at a time instead of trying to overwhelm myself. Taking my time to get better at what I’m already good at and making those things my main focus.
Does the idea of irrelevance make its way onto Hive Mind?
Patrick: Nope, I left that completely in the studio with all my sessions. That was such a personal place, I couldn’t… Everyone else wrote about their own experiences, so that was just for me.
Three years between records, even as you’ve released solos, is eons in the streaming era. Was there any fear in regards to the time gap?
Chris: Nah, we don’t worry about those things. People are just now finding out about Ego Death, and it’s coming up on its third year and it’s still booming. I feel like enough artists don’t give their projects enough time to live, but that’s just because it’d be oversaturation with a certain style of hits and you gotta keep on doing that. But when you build your career with full-on projects that are solid from start to finish, that you can tour for two or three years, then it gives you time to genuinely enjoy a project and be able to move on to the next, and have your fan base grow with you and enjoy the project.
And you have new people come in. Nowadays, somebody come in and ask, “Man, how much music did I miss?” With us, it’s like, “You got these three albums you can start with, boom. From there, you got the solo projects.” That’s a lot of music, but you can still catch up. We really just like to take our time with things.
What quality makes an album one to live with?
Chris: Things that are not rushed. When you do a project that’s not rushed, it’s easy to live with because you’ve been living with it, because you’ve been working on it. I know the fan base is going to live with it because we lived with it. When you making it quick, you not really living with it, you just gotta remember your hits for when you go perform.
What does the release of Hive Mind mean on a personal level?
Chris: For me, it’s a release of another chapter, another form of growth and music, and hopefully it serves as inspiration for the next generation. Letting other musicians know that you can do this the way that you want to do it, and not be rushed to do it.
Patrick: It just means what the title means. We come together; we’re a hive mind. We’re like the Megazord. It’s literally five Power Rangers that come together to make the Megazord.