When I Skype with The Wyld it’s 5 p.m. and the sun is setting in New York City. For the band, looking back at me from New Zealand, it’s 9 a.m. and Mo Kheir, the lead singer/rapper/lyricist, is absent, stuck in rush hour traffic. In the meantime, Brandon Black and Joe Pascoe, who produce The Wyld’s one of a kind sound sit in Joe’s apartment and try, with difficulty, to define that sound. They’d say rap-rock, but then you’d think of Linkin Park, which The Wyld is most definitely not. They settle with alternative hip hop, but that can be anything from Aesop Rock to Odd Future to The Pharcyde. In reality, Abstract, the group’s latest EP, is what you might imagine if the third member of the Black Keys was a rapper. Or if Chance the Rapper’s social experiment included a little extra electric guitar.
Mass Appeal: How did the three of you meet?
Brandon Black: We met in university. We were all sort of in the same circle of friends, but hadn’t collected on the music level, so me and Mo came up with some stuff and we invited Joe along to a session. It was an instant ‘pop, click’ everything fell into place. We wrote “Revolution” pretty much within the first little while that we were writing. Sonically, it just worked. We all had an eclectic taste and when we got together we were like, “Let’s do something completely different and let’s do it in some kind of way that feels good for us.” It doesn’t feel like, “Oh my gosh we’ve created a sub-genre,” it feels like we’re doing what is true to us.
MA: When you’re working on music are you conscious of how much rock and hip hop influence you include? Are you ever like, we need more of a rock vibe or we need more hip hop?
Joe Pascoe: I think we’ve come to the point now where everything just sort of comes out with that blend. We used to be conscious of everything we’ve written if it’s rock drums or rock guitars and that sort of thing, but now we’ll quite naturally go from rock drums to hip hop drums within the same verse or from the verse to the chorus switch.
MA: So how would you describe your sound?
BB: People hear it and go, “Oh this is cool,” but when people say rap-rock, my god I hate that. As soon as you hear us you know that’s not us. Right now we’ve got alternative hip hop as kind of like a thing. Would you agree with that? What would you call it?
MA: Alternative hip hop works, but that’s so vague.
JP: Pretty much. People are like what’s your genre and I’m just like, The Wyld.
Mo Kheir: And then he drops a smoke bomb and disappears.
BB: It’s hard because you don’t want to put preconceptions in someone’s mind before they hear it. If you say it’s alternative rap-rock then they’ll go, “Oh ok I’m about to hear Linkin Park or Limp Bizkit” and then they’ll hear it and this is nothing like that, but it still is alternative-indie-rock-hip-hop type of thing. It’s hard to contextualize.
MA: Who are your influences?
JP: I used to just tell people all the classic rock that got me into music in high school. Lately I’ve been listening to a lot more hip hop for the production side of things because I think I’ve really absorbed the history of rock and guitar…
BB: …He’s like an encyclopedia.
JP: And I’m moving on from there to this now. Originally, for guitar, it was like Hendrix and Led Zepplin and Eric Clapton and all the old Blues guitarists. Now I’ve been listening to a lot of Chance the Rapper, Kanye just for the hip hop production side. They’re still pretty good at blending different genres together. That’s quite a good home for me, musically.
MA: Do you have any favorite famous trios?
JP: Three muskateers.
BB: [Laughs] How many famous trios are there even?
MA: You have TLC, Destiny’s Child…
BB: Did you just say Destiny’s Child?
JP: Beyoncé was just down here actually. The whole country went wild. Completely mental. She’s still on the news like every day and that was two weeks ago. Jimi Hendrix Experience, they’re a trio.
BB: Johnny Cash and his band.
JP: I just remembered the other day I really liked Blink 182.
MA: You recorded Abstract in the new Red Bull New Zealand studio. How’d that come about?
BB: We got invited by one of our good friends. He said, “Look, we just got this new studio and I want you guys to be our guinea pigs and go in first.” Even when we were in there setting up and getting ready to go, they were installing lighting and all sorts of shit. We were in there really early. The New Zealand music industry is so small that everybody knows each other.
MA: And now it’s starting to get some attention with people like Connan Mockasin and Lorde.
BB: We were at a house party the other day and Lorde was just sitting there at the table hanging out. We used to have a live drummer who’s currently Lorde’s live drummer, so he invited us over. We went and it was like 100 people and you’re like, this is the New Zealand music industry.
JP: Yeah, it’s really crazy because it’s such a small industry up here, everybody knows everybody so we’ve got a very good view on it all going down.
MA: Do you feel that the measure of success is being known in America?
BB: We’ve got a saying here that’s called “world famous in New Zealand” and it’s where everyone in New Zealand knows you.
JP: There’s a few bands that everybody here knows. You hear them on the radio all day every day, but they can’t break out of the country.
BB: There’s like four and a half million people, so you can get limited by being here for too long and getting too much popularity here. As soon as you step onto Australia nobody would know who you’re talking about.
MA: Any examples of something really popular overseas and in New Zealand nobody likes it?
JP: Absolutely. The best example is probably the Kanye show.
BB: So a really interesting thing about Kanye West is when he first came here he opened for U2. Nobody was feeling it at all because it was all the older generation who was there for U2. When he came back for the Glow in the Dark Tour, I don’t think he sold out. I think it was like, half empty. No one’s really bought into him over here. The community of musicians here is really into him generally and that’s about it. He doesn’t really get radio play.
JP: “Stronger” was the last song I heard get a lot of radio play.
MA: It’s a different world over there. Why do you call yourselves the Wyld?
BB: Initially we really liked how when you say the Wyld there’s a bit of a calmness to it, but then we liked the contrast between what the Wyld meant and how it sounded. It’s a soft word, but what it connotates is just chaos. We were thinking about that shit early.
MA: What about the ‘Y’?
BB: The ‘Y’ came from us wanting to switch it up because we were originally ‘the Wild’ and when you googled ‘the Wild in New Zealand’ you got pictures of trees and kiwis and we didn’t want people telling us they couldn’t find us on the Internet. We were like how can we change the name, but stay true to our vibe and still keep the same the way it sounds. We just changed the spelling to the Old English spelling.