While ¡Mayday! may not be a household name, if you’re a hip-hop fan, most likely you’ve seen them before. Back in 2010, they worked with Lil Wayne extensively on his rock/rap project Rebirth, backing him for two music videos for the LP, as well as a few performances. The appearances introduced the hip-hop band to a national audience, and helped them break out beyond of the regional barrier they were stuck in.
Though a deal was YCMB was discussed, it never materialized. They continued their DYI campaign, and by 2011, the inked a deal with midwest-based indie machine, Strange Music … and now, are on a mission. They are planning a relentless touring schedule for 2012, in support of their recently released album, Take Me To Your Leader.
In a recent interview with band member Bernbiz, we learned more about this rising hip-hop outfit. During our conversation, we went over their history — how they formed and how each member were added, how their 2006 Cee-Lo assisted single “Groundhog Day” came at a perfect itme, perfect timing, and where and how Tech N9ne and his Strange Music label came into the fold.
If you’re not familiar with ¡Mayday! — comprised of Bernbiz, Gianni Cash, L T Hopkins, Plex Luthor, NonMS, and Wrekonize — it’s time you find out what they’re all about. These guys are definitely a breath of fresh air, in a very trend-followed genre.
The band started off with two members, and has since grown. How did the dynamics of the band change with the addition of each member, and what would you say each person brings to the group?
The dynamic really started to change when we signed with our first label, our first deal. We decided, at that point, to start learning instruments and change our production style a little bit. From a two-man band, we started to learn music more in-depth. As we did that, we realized we need some more pieces and some more power on-stage, so we started to add in other members.
The first member was obviously the drums, which was [L.T. Hopkins], and then we started to kind of play around. At first, we were just using samplers, keyboards and drums. We were lucky enough to get a small residencey at a club in South Beach [Miami] every Friday and we’d basically jam out three, four hours a night.
Along the way is where we picked up some of the pieces, the bass, (aka Gianni Cash); and the percussion with NonMS. All this time, we were signed to SouthBeat Records with another artist called Wrekonize, and they kinda pushed us together. We recorded a sh**load of music together, so comradery built up in the studio. We started inviting him out to the jams on Friday nights and that’s how he naturally kinda entered the fold known as MayDay!
The band’s sound mixes several genres, where does that come from? How did you guys initially decide on the direction of your sound and band overall?
I feel like people hear what they wanna hear in our music. Me and Plex, the guy that started it and the main force of the band, we’re just hip-hop kids. We just started out trying to emulate the sh** that we were sampling. It’s funny, to me, that as soon as you pick up a guitar or pick up a live instrument, they automatically wanna take you and classify you as a rock band. They wanna say you are bending genres and sh**. When, in fact to us, it’s still hip-hop in a way. It just has its wings spread a little bit further.
The whole genre thing, we don’t even decide that sh**. That’s just the vibe. If you really listen to hip-hop music, everything that is sampled is everything from acid jazz to Led Zepplin to Carribean music. All that sh** is in there, just as long as it’s got a beat to it. For us, the rhythm and the approach to the music always has an aggressive kind of approach — that’s the underlining factor of the genre-blending comments about us.
You mentioned how you get classified as a rock band because you play live instruments. Is that something that’s hindered you from garnering recognition?
Yea definitely. I mean, we’re like an ugly duckling sometimes. What’s f***ed up is: hip-hop has embraced us more than the other genres that people say we bend into. At the same time, we’re more cumbersome than a regular hip-hop act. A regular hip-hop act is just three people usually: an emcee, a hypeman, and a DJ. It’s easy for them to be mobile and hop onto different venues. To be honest, being a live band is tough. A lot of these places are built for DJs, and built for that kind of like “quick-n-go” type of style. Just in terms of our size, it’s been a little bit of hinderance, but at the same time, it’s also been the thing that’s helped us stand apart from all the different acts, especially when it comes to getting our features. We get people like Ace Hood, DJ Khaled, and Black Thought, and people you wouldn’t expect to be with us. In that sense, it really puts us in another category, almost like a Gorillaz or a Gnarls Barkley. It gives us the freedom to take these artists and give them a new look, outside the traditional hip-hop look.
In 2006, things began to really take off for Mayday, with your single “Groundhog Day.” Were you expecting the reaction to the song? And, how much of an impact did it have on your careers following?
That was the beginning of Mayday. We were just making our album, and when you start recording your album, everybody has a list of who they really wanna work with. Cee-Lo, for us, was at the top of the list — this is pre-Gnarls Barkley. He was just somebody that we loved, and at the time (before Gnarls Barkley), he wasn’t really poppin’. Nobody was really checking for him, or you didn’t really hear a lot of music from him. He was just someone we were really lucky to work with. We were able to manuver through our connections to get him. It was right before Gnarls Barkley, so literally, when our sh** came out, Gnarls Barkley was right about to pop too. We were able to ride that wave with him, and it was bananas. We literally uploaded it one day, and the next day, it had a million views. That was also during Youtube’s inception, so that was really big.
More recently, you garnered a lot of attention with your collaborations with Lil Wayne. What was that experience like?
That was dope. I can’t say enough about how dope of a human being Wayne is. Literally, he didn’t have to do any of that sh** for us. He’s the type of dude, when he likes something, it’s not really about the money, or at least, that’s how it feels for us. It was just dope. We’re a local band in Miami, grinding it out, and he’s a Miami resident. So, I guess word had gotten back to him about us. He was shooting all these videos right before he went to jail — he was on a mad dash. That just happened to be his rock project [Rebirth], so it kinda just all fit for us.
We did the first video with him on the fly, and then he asked us to play his going away party before he went to jail — the Super Bowl party. It was a really huge look for us. That was right after we left our first record deal, so we were in that in between limbo. That was kind of helped us get back into the national spotlight for a second.
Was there ever any talk of a potential deal with Young Money or Cash Money?
Most definitely. We met up with Birdman, Slim and everybody a few times, and umm, things didn’t work out at that time. But luckily, because of that, we were able to hook up with Tech N9ne and Strange Music, which they currently have a friendship and an affiliation with Young Money too. It all kinda just happened for a good reason. Like I always tell people, the last chapter of Wayne and Mayday… it hasn’t been written yet. You never know what could happen in the future in terms of that.
Looking back, Weezy’s Rebirth did well, but it also received crticism from some. In your opinion, how did that album fair, top to bottom?
I think the criticism is to be expected when an artist goes out and does something that is different, or out of his comfort zone. I think there was some f***in’ amazing songs on there. Musically, I thought the man spread his wings in a really beautiful way. I think, in 20 years, when you look back at the repotaire of Wayne and all the things that he’s done, I believe the Rebirth is gonna have a different story behind it than what it has now. I think people just weren’t ready for it from him.
Mayday signed with Strange Music last year. As a band, why was Strange a good fit?
Tech and Strange Music, to us, is the blueprint of what the future is in music. While it’s the future, it’s also going back to the roots of what real music business is. In Miami, we were always known as a really do-it-yourself outfit — we shoot out own videos, we create our own promotion, merchandise and imagery, and all that sh**. We’re very in control of everything and the brand that is Mayday. So, in a way, it was a really natural fit for us.
When we were going out to all the labels and shopping us around, it was a lot of interest for us. But, everybody kept saying, “You guys should really work with Strange [Music]”. They kept bringing up Travis O’Guin and Tech N9ne. So, finally just through fate, our music just happened to fall in the lap of the head A&R over at Strange, which kinda led to Tech N9ne taking us on the road and testing us out. We had to be tested out, because this outfit is a touring outfit. Strange Music is known for hitting the road, and touching the fans, like hand to hand. They had to know we were able to do that sh**, because right now, we’re doing a hundreds show in a row. They just had to know we were able to live up to that.
The album, Take Me To Your Leader, is out. Tell us a little about the meaning behind the title.
We live in a follow society right now. Social media, all that sh**. We live in a society where the information is getting spread, but there’s no source. We don’t know where the f***in’ source is. Part of the album title is that search for: Who is the leader? Who is the person calling the shots? Who’s pressing the buttons?
On the other side, it’s a progression from out last album, which was called Stuck On An Island, referring to our geography at the time in Miami, and the fact that we feel so separated from everybody. It’s a progression from that last album. Now, we’ve left the island and came back into civilization and we’ve landed in this weird world. We’re just kinda asking, “Yo, who’s the leader? Who’s in charge? Take us to him, because we got some SH**!”
Where does Mayday go from here? What’s in the works? What are your plans for the rest of 2012?
Just supporting Take Me To Your Leader. After touring Tech N9ne, we’re gonna go back on the road by ourselves. Plus, we’re lucky to have our instruments with us, so we do a lot of recording on the road as well. We’re always working on new projects, so look out for some remixes or something.
December 21, 2012 is supposedly the end of the world. Truth or Fiction?
Hmmm. I think that after this year, there’s gone be some re-evaluating as a whole. I would like to believe that. So, it’s gonna be the end of the world, as we know it.
If the date is the end of the world, what Mayday would be the best to cap off the end of the human race?
“Last Days”, because that’s what it’s all about. “These are the last days / drink up, get blasted / we know it’s over, so we sport the highest fashion.” That’s the sh** you gotta put on.