A few Feature Fridays ago, I met with Davis Yanda (Yandi) and we talked about his digital art, his music and his rap collective, Underhouse Music. For this Feature Friday, I had the opportunity to meet with again with Yandi, but this time he brought Marcus Montalvo (Briggs), Christian Alexander (Calex) and Octavia Chandler (Oindi) with him (Jason Perrault, aka Jae, couldn’t make it since he lives in San Diego).
Yandi, Briggs, Calex and Oindi talked with me about themselves as individual artists and about the way they work together.
Tell me about yourselves.
O: My artist name is Oindi. I’m originally from Los Angeles. I started music when I was about 14, then I took it professionally the year after that. I’ve just been down with it, like my own style, pretty much just seeing a lot of different people and how they are. I just rock with my own style.
C: I’m Calex and I’m from Inglewood. I started really taking music seriously freshman year of college. I’ve always been around it. Growing up, my uncle had a studio, so I’ve kind of always been in the workflow of how music works, but I never took it seriously until now. I officially started recording just a year and a half ago.
Y: My name is Yandi, I’m from Carlsbad in San Diego. I started doing music when I was 15. I came up here, moved into my new house, and that’s when I started the whole Underhouse Music collective thing, awesomeness. Then they just kind of appeared. I feel like Nick Fury from The Avengers.
B: I’m Briggs, born and raised in South Texas, moved out here to SoCal freshman year, now I’m here in NorCal. I started recording music six months ago, so pretty fresh off the block. I’ve been writing poems and raps since I was a little guy, but now I’m rapping, making music.
Do you all want to talk about your individual styles?
O: Well, personally, I don’t like to give my music a style because I’m really different and versatile. I like to play around with a lot of sounds. What sounds good to me, what sounds good to my ear is my sound, so that’s just what I go off of.
C: I don’t really like to classify myself, like I hate being called a rapper; I’m an artist.
Y: I like to be kind of versatile, be able to get on anything, whether it’s me singing or rapping or dropping a verse, anything like that, just being able to flow through anything.
B: Yeah, I think being versatile is important as fuck in this day and age with music because if you’re just stuck in one way of music, it’s going to be super easy for you to just fade away. But if you’re versatile, you can adapt to what the culture is. But yeah, like these guys, I try to consider myself more of an artist, just expressing myself through music and rap, poetry and rhyming, stuff like that.
Do you have any influences?
O: I have a few. I’m listening to SZA. I’m also kind of in between a lot of hot, young, soulful artists I’ve been looking into. There’s a young lady named Eryn, she’s kind of famous, you’ll have to check her out. Those are my top two.
C: I listen to a lot of people; I listen to Kid Cudi, Kendrick Lamar, J. Cole, Drake, Isaiah Rashad, Jayden Smith, you can just go down the spectrum of young artists poppin’ right now, you know? And I just kind of grab bits and pieces of their backgrounds, their lifestyles, their cultures, just where they come from, and put myself in their positions in a way to try to relate. Outside of that, I don’t have a genre; I’m an artist. I make music. If it sounds good, it sounds good.
Y: G-Eazy is probably at the top, but it’s more about where he started and how he got to where he is now more so than the sound. And Kendrick, just his ability and his flow is incredible to me. I really like Dre; I like a lot of the producers more so than rappers. I feel like I get pulled into the arrangement first and then the flow comes in and it kind of all falls together.
B: Kanye West for sure, Kid Cudi, but I like a lot of music. I’m very influenced by Red Hot Chili Peppers and The Beatles and Pink Floyd and Frank Ocean. Like, I just really like music, and I try to take in as much as I can, different sounds, and channel it into my own.
Let’s talk about the process as a whole group.
C: Underhouse. It’s a band of dope people. The chemistry behind what we bring to the table as far as what we make together with music, it shows behind our friendship. We’re here to spread positivity, like you can be your own self in your own way. Fuck the stigmas, fuck all that. We’re just here to be different, just be ourselves. Make dope shit.
Y: Dope shit, yeah, that’s the goal.
B: I don’t know if you’ve seen our videos and whatnot, we turn the shit up.
Y: Yeah, that’s all true. We are very unique, we all come from similar backgrounds, but at the same time we don’t; we were all raised differently and the kind of energy and vibes we bring to the table when we bring it through our music, it just kind of connects. It’s like everything that we do together is so intertwined, like the energies are just there together. It never feels like I have to force it, everything just feels so flow.
It’s cool because this is like the vision of what I had when I started it. I wanted to build a group and that just kind of happened naturally, you know, I tripped over Calex at a party, I met Briggs on Facebook, then O from Calex. It’s just so cool how it all came together and how it’s staying together and how it’s kind of developing itself through the music and our friendship. It’s a big family; we watch out for each other in the studio and outside the studio. It’s so awesome and exciting and I can’t wait to see what’s going to happen, especially with the shows. Underhouse knows how to do a show.
O: I agree with both of them. We’re family, music brought us together. At the end of the day, it is what it is. We love it and we hate it.
B: Don’t get me wrong, we work well together, but we also fight.
C: Yeah, in order to work really well with people to make the best product possible you have to be able to get those frustrations out.
Y: It’s nice because we’re able to be straight up with each other, there’s no bullshit. Like, I’m not going to tell either of them, and I don’t expect them to tell me, ‘Oh it’s a good song,’ when it’s not a good song. It’s like, ‘that’s shit, you can do better than that.’
And can you tell me about the process of creating music together?
B: Shit, we just hop in the studio and then the magic happens. But really, we just come together and we’ll have a song, we’ll work on verses and we’ll bounce around ideas for the songs together.
C: And we have 4/20-friendly studio sessions.
Y: I know Megalodon and Given Up are some of the big ones, and Given Up was a song that Calex had produced and he brought it and asked if we wanted to drop a verse on it and we did it, we just worked in the studio for hours; that’s how we did it.
And with Megalodon, I sent that beat out to everyone and they were like, ‘Well what do I do with it?’ and I just told them to go, like, I trust them and I know they’re going to bring everything they have to the table. Then we came back up here one weekend and just laid every verse down in one day, and we had a show the next day and then the day after that we were going to record the music video. It was awesome.
It’s so nice to be able to put trust in everyone because you know everyone is going to bring everything they have because you don’t want to be the one that lets everyone down, and I have faith that everyone in this circle wouldn’t let that happen because they want what’s best for the group. Bringing what they have 110% is going to make that happen.
Do you all meet often to work on stuff?
Y: School kind of kicks my ass, kicks our ass.
O: It does, but at the same time, we still make time to communicate with each other as far as music goes, like day to day.
B: Yeah, it’s like, ‘Yo, came across this beat, and I feel like you’d sound dope on it, write to it and let me know what’s up.’
O: And group message is awesome.
Y: We’re also missing one; he’s down in San Diego.
Yeah, how about you talk about him a little bit?
Y: Jae is a cool dude. He’s been my best friend since like sixth grade. Then, we started rapping together and I moved up here and started Underhouse, and of course he had to be a part of it ‘cause he’s part of the family. And he brings it just like everybody else. He knows how to bring the bars.
C: The best part about Jae is that he comes up here to perform. He doesn’t go to Chico, you know? He just comes to Chico, turns it up one weekend and just goes back to SD. Simple as that.
Y: Yeah, he came up for both shows that I think were a week apart. He just came up here. He holds it down in San Diego for the whole Underhouse crew. It gets tough sometimes because we gain so much momentum with us four up here, and it’s tough not having him up here because we want him here for obvious reasons; we want him to be a part of that creative process because having five heads as opposed to four helps a lot more than you’d think.
So do you all delegate work so that the work is evenly spread out?
Y: We all just have to pull our own weight and do our own thing.
C: It’s going to show who’s working and who’s not working.
Y: Exactly. If someone’s not pulling their weight, you don’t want to be that guy. We take a lot of our own resources into our own hands. We record ourselves, we make all our own art, we find the person to do the video for us. We don’t have a lot of people working for us. We do everything.
Any future plans? Upcoming stuff?
Y: We have some opportunities that were presented to us, so we’re really working on a group project to send out to people and build that portfolio, and within the next few months be able to travel to different school and spread our message and our music, hopefully. That’s a short-term goal. Long-term would be that by 2017 I’d like for that whole summer to be a tour of just Underhouse. And hopefully, I don’t know what SW/\Y is going to be a doing, but it’d be cool to tour with SW/\Y.
O: Honestly, I don’t have a clue. I just go with the flow. I don’t plan anything; nothing is set in stone with me, ever.
C: That’s the realest answer you’ve gotten all night.
O: But, right now I see myself with music, that’s where I’m comfortable, that’s where I’m most safe. Music has been everything to me since I was young, so I just want to see where it goes.
B: Just get shit poppin’ with Underhouse. I want to be as much of a creative force and help make Underhouse something great because we’re all creative, we all have talent, so I want to be able to maximize that, short-term wise. Long-term wise, I just want to keep making music, just keep shooting for the stars every time.
Last question: Any music recommendations?
C: Honestly, I’ve been listening to a lot of instrumentals. I’ve been trying out this new theory that my uncle told me. He said not to listen to other peoples’ music while you’re working on your own music. Try to separate yourself from what you hear because you kind of store that in your memory. I’m at the point where I just wake up early in the morning, my brain is fresh from sleep, and I’ll just write to beats and go throughout the day just listening to instrumentals, no words. It works out pretty good, and then it gets boring when the writer’s block hits.
B: Chance The Rapper just dropped a track called Angels and it’s fucking fire. I’ve literally been listening to that track over and over again for quite some time since it dropped. I also listen to a lot of Vic Mensa right now, so Vic and Chance.
Y: I heard this one group, you might’ve heard of them. They’re called Underhouse. They have this one song called Megalodon, and that’s pretty fire. They bring it.
C: Or if you don’t want that one, you can listen to Fire Starta. Or if you want to change up the vibe completely, you can go with Yandi and O with Ice Cold. There are so many different tracks out there.
Keep up with Underhouse Music happenings by following them on Twitter, or liking their Facebook page.
Definitely check out Underhouse Music’s YouTube and listen to Underhouse Music’s latest tracks on SoundCloud:
Written by Christine Zuniga, “Feature Friday” writer and web editor/publisher for Chico State’s KCSC Radio.
Christine can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @kissssteen.