Word on the street is Matt FX makes really amazing tacos. Frankly, I don't know how he has time to make himself, or anyone else food at all: the 23-year-old spends his days (and probably some of his nights) pouring over music as the music supervisor for Broad City, Man Seeking Woman, plus Amy Poehler's upcoming Hulu comedy Difficult People—and that's just the tip of it. He's also an in-demand DJ and party thrower, as part of TRIBES NY, and when he's not doing all that, he's making tunes under the moniker Scooter Island, with a revolving cast of vocalists like Junglepussy (such a queen!) and Synead, and MCs Taro and Salomon Faye, to name a few of many. Yeah, if this was my life, I'd be seamless-ing all of my food intake, so props to FX for still making the space for a home cooked meal.
Ten months ago the musical polymath dropped "Breezy" with singer/visual artist Zoe Penina—a pitch perfect summer jam, thanks to his nimble highlife-like licks, the shuffled beats, and FX and Penina's mellow, sun-dappled vocals. He hashtags his tunes on Soundcloud #rooftopmusic and that's a pretty accurate summation. There's only four tunes posted—a genre-less melange that flits from R&B to hip-hop-inflected chill-pop to tropicalia-M.I.A.-vibes—and the only cohesive vibe appears to be that his music makes you feel good. Like that first sip of a margarita on a blazing hot day, or when the damp sand squishes out between your toes.
Above is the video "Breezy," which, surprise, surprise, centers around a sweet rooftop party as day slips into night. Listen hard and you can hear the ice cubes chinking in the glass. "We can share the easy life," sings FX. "Bask in each other, don't ask where the time flew," sings Penina. Here's hoping!
Anyway, we reached out to the native New Yorker to find out more about Scooter Island and his gig choosing music (and sometimes breaking bands) for some of the hottest TV shows around.
Noisey: Scooter Island is a pretty sweet collective, but there's so many of you! How do you fit into the equation and how does making music together actually work logistically?
Matt FX: I fit into the equation primarily as the mind and force behind the project. Logistically, I guess I function similarly to someone like Damon Albarn on Gorillaz or even Diplo with Major Lazer, in that I'm mostly working creatively with vocalists to write songs over instrumentals, whether it be produced by someone else or myself, or a little of both. We're trying to make real records, you know? Not club tracks, not the next trendy hipster sub-genre; music that can exist on multiple levels, I guess. Like, if you heard our shit, and you were a senior citizen that didn't speak English, I hope you'd still enjoy it.
What kind of music did you guys bond over?
Anything from The Andrew Sisters to Big L to Perseus and Little Joy. It's all over the place, but it also isn't. It's rooftop music.
Tell me about the genesis of" Breezy"? Is the sunset on a roof the best time to listen to this?
"Breezy" is a song that I wrote a few years ago, back before Scooter Island was even an embryo of an idea; I was working on a solo album back then and Zoe was gonna be one of the only features. Fast-forward a few years and the song was one of two that "graduated" to the Scooter Island project; I actually wound up reproducing everything other than the vocals and guitars with a good friend of mine named Kashaka (Kashaka recently finished an EP with a rapper named Wati Heru that is killer, by the way).
How did you end up doing the music for Skins? The UK version was a really groundbreaking moment of sound and vision in TV programing because it really represnted what kids were listening to and that tradition was carried over to the US incarnation…
I was initially the music supervisor for the American version of Skins, though I did a bit of consulting for the fifth season out in the UK after the MTV one got canceled (there's a reason that season opens up with Azealia's "212" [FX went to high school with Banks]), but the majority of my work with Bryan Elsley was Stateside. In retrospect, I'm proud of what I did. I'm pretty sure I was the first license for a bunch of bigger projects now—Phantogram, AlunaGeorge; hell, the version of Blood Orange's "Sutphin Boulevard" I used was actually the demo. Sleigh Bells in the commercials? Animal Collective in the cold open? That wasn't me—those were decisions made by the network before I even had the job. MTV bet on Sleigh Bells, I bet on Phantogram. Who won?
You grew up in NYC—what were your earliest memories of being exposed to music and what was it like being raised in a city where so much was constantly going on?
To be completely honest, I led a pretty sheltered childhood—I was actually a full-time boy soprano in a private boy's boarding school called St. Thomas Choir School. Like, we sang music six times a week in church, every week, for 5 years. Sistine Chapel shit. Like, to put it into perspective, everyone in that school has sung Handel's Messiah from front to back at least 12 times by the time they get to high school. The school itself was in NYC, but it wasn't the same.
I did go to a couple shows though. My mother used to own a little coffee shop I'd hang out at during my vacations, and this one barista she hired really took pity on me and would always try to show me cool stuff when she could. She actually took me to CBGBs once before it closed, back when I was like 10 years old; it wasn't the underage night but she explained the whole deal to the bouncer and he took pity on me too! I remember going in and immediately being like "EW, what's that SMELL!" and her being like "That, my young friend, is marijuana."
What's been your favorite moment/scene in Broad City to find the music for?
I gotta say off tops that the FOMO episode in general was a dream come true: getting to soundtrack multiple/different party scenes in the same episode. Definitely the rooftop party for sure—as a DJ I got my start throwing sometimes ill-fated, occasionally legendary (illegal) rooftop parties, so I really felt for that scene!
Do the girls ever come up with suggestions for artists? How collaborative is it and have you ever been shocked by any of their scenes—like, I can't believe they just went there!
Me and Ilana actually have an email thread going full of artists who she's been digging for season 3! The process is super collaborative, whether it be the girls' suggestions or the editors, Liz, Laura, and Alex! In terms of shocking content, I was definitely initially surprised by the whole pegging plot—can't wait to see where it goes next.
You've started working in film too. What can you tell us about Urge and how does your approach differ to say, sourcing music for Broad City?
Urge is cool because we're going for a very bespoke soundtrack from the get-go. Whereas Broad City is mostly existing music and a few specially composed tracks, we've been talking about kind of flipping that ratio and hopefully doing an almost-all custom soundtrack for the film. It's definitely still in early stages, but I have a feeling it's gonna be really cool—and really different—by the time we're done.
How come your tacos are so good? What's the special ingredient?
Love, man. My tacos are good because love. You can't cook for anybody if you're not gonna put that into the food. That, and alfalfa sprouts. My trademark for tacos is to rest the protein on a bed of fresh sprouts—it adds a nice amount of texture and freshness. People love it!
Razor scooters though. I really can't! Can you explain your love of them and how they're defensible?
OK. So the summer before I got sent to boarding school my (Jewish, New Yorker) father got a job conducting an orchestra located on a small island called Gulangyu, in China. I was eight years old at the time and got to go with him as his "translator." Papi did not speak a lick of Chinese and my native Chinese mother was too busy to go, caught up in NYC with opening her shop at the time. Gulangyu is actually a crazy place as it's super tropical and has never allowed cars or bikes since it's been inhabited. It's also mostly European architecture, as a lot of embassies and hospitals were built there during WWII. Anyway, that year happened to be the year that Razor scooters came out, and I wound up spending most of that summer completely independent from both of my parents, riding around the island and making friends with the locals. I literally got locked up in boarding school immediately after I got home in September, so I think that fucked up my psyche a little bit. I've kind of come to terms with the fact that I feel most free and myself when I'm riding that thing, though I ride a XOOTR scooter now, not a razor.
For the record—Gulangyu is Scooter Island, but Manhattan is, too. Have you seen Little Manhattan? I still do that shit, riding around with bae in front! I couldn't have gotten this album done had it not been for my scooter getting me from crib to crib, studio to studio.
Scooter Island's debut LP will drop this summer.
Kim Taylor Bennett will be on a rooftop all weekend. She's on Twitter.