Like seemingly everything these days, Chicago-outfit Hood Internet started out as a blog. It was March 2007, and Aaron Brink and Steve Reidell (both members of art-pop band May or May Not) found themselves with extra time on their hands. As a joke they began doing some mashups of their favorite—and most absurdly opposite—artists.
"[Mixing] was something that both of us had messed around with, but never done seriously," says Brink, whose first mashup was of indie-pop-band Clap Your Hands Say Yeah and hardcore-rap-group Clipse, entitled "Clipse Your Hands and Say Wamp Wamp" (naturally). "We started making more and threw together a blog for it, just posting mixes that we made for our friends to check out and download. It was originally conceived as just something fun to do on the side, not like a serious thing where we'd be traveling around the country. So it's been a pleasant surprise."
That it has. Three years and 350+ mashups later, their blog has clocked in well over two million downloads and the pair has been asked to play almost every major festival in the U.S.—including sets at Lollapalooza, Bonnaroo and SXSW—where they often share the stage with many of the artists they've mashed.
One click on www.thehoodinternet.com and it's not hard to hear why. There's R. Kelly telling your girl to hook it up over bouncy Rogue Wave guitars; Modest Mouse's Isaac Brock warbling along to a skittering Kanye beat; and Eve rapping over the tambourine shake of Radiohead's "Reckoner." Sure, the formula (indie rock song + Top 40 hip-hop hit = indie-hop jam) might sound simple, but the results are surprisingly complex—not to mention a hell of a lot of fun.
"Usually it's just stuff that we're listening to, the stuff that we like, which is pretty eclectic," says Brink about the mashups, which have included everyone from Amerie and Animal Collective to Yung LA and Yeasayer. "From there, the only criteria are that we can find enough parts of the song to cut out instrumental sections to put a vocal track over, or that we can find versions of the track that just have the vocals. Other than that it's just a process of trial and error, trying songs together and seeing if they work."
On paper, a lot of their mashups look like they'd make better Celebrity Smackdown line-ups than actual songs: Ludacris vs She and Him, Hurricane Chris vs Of Montreal, Dizzee Rascal vs Cyndi Lauper. But on blog, the Hood Internet is able to combine these so-called adversaries into such solid grooves that they end up revealing just how similar these disparate genres truly are. And with a few of the mashups, if you didn't know better, you might mistake them for originals. Seriously.
"We've definitely gotten better at [sensing what songs will work together]," says Brink. "After doing this for awhile and doing it so regularly, you develop an ear for what's going to work as a good song to mix and what's going to fit together well. But there are still some massive failures."
Case in point: their attempt to mash Neutral Milk Hotel with the song "Milkshake" by Kelis.
"It was mostly just for the title of it," he says, laughing. "It would have been called 'Neutral Milkshake Hotel.' That one never even got released."
Currently, Hood Internet releases one to two new mashups a week. The best are compiled into continuous, 20+ song "mixtapes"—Volume Four was released last fall—tailor-made to get the hip shake (babe) going at your next dance party.
And all of it, all 350+ tracks, is free to download or stream on the blog. While that may seem a bit altruistic, in the world of mashups, it's a legal necessity. Not that any of the bands they sample seem to mind.
"We've gotten no complaints," Brink says. "No one has ever asked us to take [a song] down off the website. People will contact us to say that they’re excited to see we remixed one of their songs. We get that from time to time. It's exposure, especially for [the smaller indie rock bands]. And we're happy to turn people on to those bands."
In an interesting twist, Brink (who recently moved to Charlotte) and Reidell are currently working on a mashup album that, instead of sampling existing songs, will feature all new and original material from a variety of artists of different genres they've come to know over the years.
"It's something we've been talking about for awhile, having someone rap or sing and then we'll mix that with instruments from someone else,” Brinks says. “Some of it might just be having a musician send us left over parts they didn't use, and we'll use that to create a beat. It should make for an interesting record."
It's just one more step in Hood Internet's quest to bring musical worlds together, one mashup at a time.
who: The Hood Internet
what: Mashup DJs that blend indie rock with Top 40 hip hop
where: Stella Blue
when: Saturday, July 10 (9 p.m., ??????. myspace.com/stellabluelive.)