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"We Look at Everything We Put Out As Art": An Interview with My Favorite Robot

We sat down with the guys from MFR to hear why making art is more important than being everybody’s best friend.
March 25, 2014, 7:58pm

Photograph courtesy of PEARCEY PROPER for TheBPMFestival.com

Canadian trio My Favorite Robot have been making waves on the festival circuit this year, after the release of their album Atomic Age on No. 19 Music, and a live show at BPM. They're now at it again, generating a lot of great buzz around their newest release, Sin Cos Tan, Destroyer EP on My Favorite Robot Records.

We caught up with Jared Simms and James Teej at Coda Nightclub in Toronto, where they played alongside DJ Tennis, Bob Moses, Night Vision, and Rafwat and Chorniy. That night also happened to be Jared's birthday, so we talked boat cruises in Miami, working with No. 19, and why My Favorite Robot doesn't care whether everyone likes their stuff or not.

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THUMP: Jared, how's your birthday been so far?
Jared: Pretty low key. We worked in the studio, gearing up for WMC in Miami. We're usually in Miami for WMC on my birthday—last year we played three gigs: a noon gig, a boat party with Maceo Plex and Danny Daze, then finished off playing at a No. 19 party. You know how marathon runners crumble when they cross the finish line? That was me, walking through my hotel door.

You guys are heading off to WMC soon, what show are you most excited to play this year?
James: We're doing a party with some promoters we work with regularly, on the Saturday at Treehouse. It's a Get Physical + Items & Things vs. My Favorite Robot showcase; it'll definitely be a main show for us. We're also doing a boat cruise with DJ Tennis, Catz 'n Dogz, Mano le Tough and Brian Johnson which will be great.

You just released Atomic Age on No. 19 Music. How was it working on the album with them?
James: No. 19 and My Favorite Robot are basically sister labels, so it made sense to keep it in the family and on a Canadian label. We thought about putting it out on My Favorite Robot, but this was a nice way for us to get involved with No. 19 a little more deeply, and let us travel with the guys.

Jared: One of the great things that came out of it as well is that we developed our live show, based on songs from the album.

What was it like working on your first live show together as My Favorite Robot?
James: Jonny White really challenged us to get the live show going, and we were able to pull it all together and debut the live show in LA on New Year's Eve, which was amazing. It was a great way for us to step into that kind of performance and warm up before taking it to BPM. The show at BPM was pretty much everything you could ask for—the weather was great, we had an amazing time slot, and everyone was so responsive. It was inspired by the music from the album, but ultimately we were able to incorporate stuff that stretches three, four years back that might have been overlooked. We did this sort of Alice In Chains homage, which worked really well.

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Jared: We're actually about to embark on our second round of live shows, we're debuting the show stateside in April, at Output in Brooklyn, then we're heading down to Panama and doing an open air festival down there. DJing is something we've done for a long time, and it's still fun to do. But when you start to pool your own music like that, it really changes the dynamic.

Tell us a little about how you've defined the vision for your label.
Jared: As far as our label goes, we've worked with some really talented people. People who have been in the industry for twenty years—these are people who have been playing this game for a long time. You learn a lot from them, how they have this longevity and how they maintain relevancy.

James: It was a very organic process. As the vision became a little more clear and defined, we started seeing people from different music genres and different scenes wanting to contribute. Artists that were from very different circles, artists that we didn't think we'd necessarily cross paths with. They looked at the label and sort of saw it as a vehicle to put out really different stuff.

Has the vision for the label shifted since you started?
Jared: The vision has definitely evolved. The label started here in Toronto, and originally the vision was to help get our music out. I arrived from Montreal, I met James and the No. 19 guys, and saw that these guys were onto something different. Originally the idea was to get our vision and music out unfiltered, but we got feedback and we saw that people liked what we were doing and suddenly wanted to contribute. We were building this family on mutual respect for each other's work.

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What do you look for in the artists you work with?
James: We've always been really clear with the artists that we work with. If they're willing to take some risks and do something that's not necessarily the most commercially oriented underground music, to step outside even their own artistic boundaries, that's what we want. It has really generated some amazing music as a result, because you've got these artists who are known for one thing, but then take these risks because we're not putting any restrictions on them. We know that not everyone is going to like everything—we like to go for the stuff that has a little more substance to it.

Jared: We consider every release we put out as art. We put out releases so frequently because we see that as our contribution to electronic music. We make an effort to put things out of substantive quality, rather than, you know, "cool deep house, bro." That's not us.

You can follow Lizzy on Twitter: @lizzysermol

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