Music by VICE

Potatohead People Get Mashed with Illa J in Their New Album 'Big Luxury'

Nick Wisdom and AstroLogical make music you can dance or grocery shop to.

by Rachael D’Amore
Mar 5 2015, 5:00pm

Montreal based Nick Wisdom and Vancouver's AstroLogical (Nate Drobner) have mastered the long distance relationship. Although it's not your typical love story - replace late night phone calls with email chains chock-full of zip files - it's certainly a successful one.

This week, the long-time friends finally unveiled their new album Big Luxury under their jazzy collaborative moniker, the Potatohead People.

"Our sound isn't mainstream, but it's still accessible," says Wisdom. "For a while I was unsure that this kind of thing could work, that someone would believe in our sound and in us."

Big Luxury was recorded over the course of one month, while the two were together in Montreal. The album is a non-confrontational style electronic music that complements anything - mundane or exciting. The two say that they strive to create timeless music that will hopefully resonate long after electronic music buzz words have died.

"I think music comes down to the mood," says Nate. "We like moods that aren't merely heavy set, dark things. We like moods that you can't put an exact word on. They're thoughtful. They're a complete feeling."

These moods are often spurred by the works of the late hip-hop rapper and producer J Dilla, someone both Nate and Nick have worshiped for years. "The feelings he creates are complex, but soulful. It's the full manifestation of the soul, done in a way that we can't perceive as mere human," says Nate. "The feelings that he expresses are unexplainable, and that's what we try and emulate."

So when the possibility of collaborating with J Dilla's younger brother Illa J came to fruition, the coupling was so fitting it was almost indelible.

"Illa was coming over the whole month we were working on Big Luxury. We almost had to say 'no, we can't let Illa over today because we've got to finish this album,'" says Nate. "Anytime he's around the connection is amazing, so we always want to work with him. Suddenly we realized we only had four songs ready for this album because we had spent so much time working on great shit with Illa." As a result, Illa J joined MC Moka Only and vocalists Amalia and Sorceress as guests on Big Luxury.

But their natural compatibility with Illa hasn't been the only thing soaking up their time. Both Nick and Nate were handpicked to participate in the Red Bull Music Academy's (RBMA) Canadian centric program, Bass Camp, in Montreal this past weekend.

Cozying up next to the likes of Canadian artists 2nd Son, Beta Frontiers, Tennyson, and Kevin McPhee, the Potatohead People took advantage of lectures, shows, and state-of-the-art studios in the heart of Montreal's Old Port.

"To wake up every day and watch a lecture by a really intelligent, seasoned guy who's been doing this his whole life - the wisdom is infectious," says Nate. Friend and 2014 Bass Camp participant Eli Muro may have let the cat out of the bag on Nick's nomination for 2015, but Nate assures us he still "peed himself" at the news.


Photo courtesy of Maria Jose Govea / Red Bull Content Pool

"What I've heard from last year's participants is that this year is way sicker," claims Nick with a half-smirk. "I have people calling me saying 'fuck, last year sucked compared to you guys.' It's because of the free bag and laptop case, obviously. It's Herschel, you know? They got stickers, we got a bag."

Potatohead People's blatant sarcasm needs little introduction. Both are well-versed in the other's nuances, often finishing each other's thoughts with half-baked insults. Nate, who listed one of Nick's musical influences as Celine Dion, and Nick, who said teasingly that any of his friends who rap over his instrumentals are "completely untalented." But with a friendship that dates back to high school baseball leagues (and failed pubescent rap careers), it just comes with the territory.

Their geographical territory, although, is another story. Since Nick's move from Vancouver to Montreal, the long distance collaboration has been a combination of time constraints and inventiveness.

"Any idea I'm unsure about, it's always great to have Nate around to comment or expand upon it," says Nick. "But when I'm sending things back and forth, I have to make decisions without that conversation, which slows the process down.


Photo courtesy of Instagram, @nick_wisdom

"But the waiting can be fun sometimes," says Nate on the positive side of things. "You never know what's going to be added or altered each time you exchange music. I need to develop things before they're heard, so it helps to have that space."

Their physical distance has recently been mended by their label Brooklyn-based Bastard Jazz, who flew Nate to Montreal to finish Big Luxury. The label has been around since 2001, and lists Soul Clap as one of their collaborative curators. Nick and Nate agree that joining Bastard Jazz has been the best thing to happen to them since they began pursuing music.

"Bastard Jazz is amazing - what up Aaron [Schultz]! It's really casual, they let us do us. But they're good at giving feedback that's positive and critical, while never shutting our ideas down," says Nick, who gave the label A&R Aaron Schultz plenty of shout outs. "They put out our record, even on vinyl, and they flew Nate to Montreal to finish our album. Getting plane tickets to work on beats with your best friend is fucking crazy."


Photo courtesy of Instagram, @nick_wisdom

But their future holds more than just sporadic additions to SoundCloud streams. The Potatohead People have been producing a new full-length release by Illa J, which is due out sometime this year, and will continue to produce under their individual projects, Nick Wisdom and AstroLogical.

"We'll continue to make our own projects, but I think it would be really fun to write songs for artists. Whether it's the melodies, or producing alongside with some cool singers and rappers," says Nick. "If we could bring out something unique in another artist, just through the way our music is, that would be so rewarding," adds Nate.

Rewarding doesn't begin to describe the experiences Nick and Nate have accumulated over the years - landing a track on a Powerade-sponsored LeBron James documentary, anyone? Nor does it illustrate the knowledge they devoured at Red Bull Music Academy's Bass Camp in Montreal last week. It likely won't be the last.

Their advice to the crew chosen for RBMA Bass Camp 2016?

"Bring lots of weed."

You heard it here first.

'Big Luxury' is out now on Bastard Jazz, you can buy it here.

Potatohead People are on Facebook // SoundCloud
Nick Wisdom is on Facebook // SoundCloud // Twitter
AstroLogical is on Facebook // SoundCloud // Twitter

Rachael D'Amore is still recovering from RBMA Bass Camp 2015 and is on Twitter.