Interview: 3Oh!3 - talks Omen, writing for other artists, comparison to LMFAO
After scoring worldwide hits and working with some of the biggest names in pop music, 3Oh!3 are gearing up for the fall release of their third major-label album Omens via Photo Finish Records / Atlantic Records. TheNext2Shine’s Alfredo Tirado spoke candidly with the duo at SPiN in New York City’s Flatiron district about exploring new sonic territories, whether they have more hits up their sleeves, and how they feel about being compared to one of the industry’s most recent success stories LMFAO.
Congrats on the release of your new single “You’re Gonna Love This”. Could you tell us what it’s about?
Sean: It’s basically inspired by the Men’s Warehouse ad...”you’re going to love the way you look.” [Laughs] No we just did a song that felt natural to us. We were in the studio and Nat had this beat that he produced. It had an awesome build and an awesome dance part and we just had fun in Nat’s basement in Boulder, Colorado. Basically, it was just a fun track for us that we work on and it felt fun and immediate to us. After we made it, we knew it was something we wanted to put on the album. We played it to a few of our friends and they immediately bopped their head and smiled. It’s a good song as far putting our foot back though the door. It’s an immediate song.
The track serves as the lead single from your upcoming album Omens. What’s the meaning behind Omens?
Nat: We initially chose it because it was a kind of the overall sentiment of the record. Kind of something epic and building. I think this is true, especially beats wise. Each song represents a kind of feeling and time and place for us. It made sense in that respect and developed from that slowly.
Omens marks your third major label album. How have you guys each specifically changed since the beginning?
Nat: I’m a lot hotter. I got a lot of plastic surgery, I don’t know if you can tell.
It looks great! Congrats!
Sean: As we grow older, little things change, but as far as personality, I like this because as far as this album goes, the process was different. On our album Streets of Gold, we put a little bit more pressure on ourselves to work on a pop single like “My First Kiss.” We went to Los Angeles and worked on a lot of songs there. On this album we pulled back and went back to basics, as far as who we are and the types of songs we do. We just had a lot of fun in the studio and we weren’t afraid to take challenges in writing crazy intros and stuff like that.
You’ve had massive success with “Don’t Trust Me”, “Starstrukk”, and “My First Kiss.” Do you think there’s a song on Omens that could equal the success of your previous singles?
Nat: For us, we’ve always tried to have the mentality of putting our best foot forward and see what happens. We took a lot of time off between our last record and this new record and between our last touring cycle and this touring cycle to work on external productions, many which ended up being a lot of Pop projects. A lot of those projects are searching for that single and that magic song. When it comes to our music, it’s pretty refreshing because we’re just interested in making what we feel like is a great record - just good music and individually good songs. To us, it’s anti-constructive to think if a song is going to be super big. We just put a song that we feel has the most potential to reach the most amount of people forward and just let it happen. If you try to think about the hit games, it kind of sucks your soul. We’re more excited about playing shows and seeing these songs translate from the studio to the live shows.
How has your sound evolved during your time off?
Nat: It evolved in a lot of ways. Through the external productions we did and a lot of the songwriting, coupled with the years of constant learning how to produce, it’s changed a lot. Our songs on a sonic level are definitely more evolved, complexed, and layered. Lyrically, things are more developed. I really admire Sean as he does the brunt of our lyrically writing and our singing. I really admire how he writes lyrics that are true to form, honest, clever, integrative, and melodically very interesting.
Sean: It’s funny because we’ll be in the studio and Nat will have the beat as I work on some rap vocals. On one specific track, I wrote some vocals and we were really immersed in what we were doing. I went in the vocal booth and dropped them. We then went out on our separate ways. He sent me an email while back home in California and just told me how he was listening to the vocals and told me how well done they were. I feel like that’s the chemistry we have. We just got to this point where we know what we’re best at.
You’ve worked with some big pop stars like Katy Perry and Ke$ha before. Are there going to be any surprise features on this album?
Sean: Well you know we worked with them before they were big and I think it was because they worked with us that they blew up.
Nat: [Laughs] Yeah, the “3Oh!3 blessing”! You hear a lot about a curse but...
Sean: You work with 3Oh!3, you blow up!
Well, I’m hoping that’s going to happen to Elen Levon!
Nat: Hey! You’ve done your research!
Sean: Have you heard the song we did with her?
Yeah. You co-wrote and co-released it, correct?
Nat: Yeah. Did you see the teaser?
Yes. It’s a definite hit. I’m excited for it.
Sean: Thank you so much, man. This is one of the first times we’ve talked about an external song that we wrote and weren’t featured on it.
Do you guys enjoy writing for others?
Sean: Yeah, we love it. It’s a different hat. There’s three people I’ve worked with that are so talented that it blows you away on the microphone when they hop on, as far as singing - Elen Levon, Ariana Grande, and Katy Perry. The greatest thing is that you write a vocal or lyrics and they are singing it. It’s the biggest gratification. I obviously write my own stuff and sometimes we as songwriters and singers can be so self-critical. When you hear someone else and it’s so pristine, it’s just so amazing. That song [Levon’s “Dancing To the Same Song”] we are so happy with. And with Ariana Grande, we wrote “Tattoo Heart”. I’m not entirely too sure if it’ll make the cut, but even if it doesn’t, it was such a great experience. Nat also worked with Ryan Tedder for Maroon 5’s new album Overexposed. We love collaborating and we learn so much. At the same time, when we got back into the studio, it took us a couple days to break through the mental barrier that we’re not writing for someone but ourselves instead. Once we did that, we were in the zone.
How do you guys decide to give a song to someone else? Or do they come to you and then you collaborate?
Nat: For us it’s been kind of the latter. Usually when we set out to write a song that’s for another artist, we write it for another artist. Thus far, we’ve never given a song for 3Oh!3. I think a lot of the times a lot of the songs that are for 3Oh!3 are kind of...
Nat and Sean: (in unison) ...weird!
Sean: They work for us because we’ve carved out a kind of weird niche. We’ve just formed something that for better or for worse, it’s something that’s totally us.
Recently you have been compared to LMFAO. How do you feel about this comparison?
Sean: I don’t mind.
Nat: We were actually just talking about this. We played a show with them in December of 2007 at the Roxy in LA. There were probably 200 people there.
Sean: We came up in the same scene. Those guys have worked hard.
Nat: They’ve been working their asses off and doing their thing. They’re funny dudes. They’re good at what they do, and I have nothing but respect for them. For me on a whole, it’s really fun to see electronic music make a bridge into other areas of music. We do that with our music because everything is electronically-based.
So do you like the direction radio is headed?
Nat: I think it’s awesome. Honestly, if you get bummed out on the direction of music as a whole or popular music as a whole, I think you need to investigate your own sources of music. People are always going to be making music that sounds good to them.
Sean: This is my opinion. In the top twenty songs, fifteen of those songs are formulaic with big names attached. Five of those songs are so unique. They made their way to the top five and you cannot design that in anyway. There’s no formula. Whether it’s a fun. record, a Gotye record, or a Katy Perry record. Ellie Goulding, for example, took two years to reach the top of the charts with “Lights.” Her album and songs are great. I love to see that slow build to success with a unique song. It reinvents pop.
If you could take any one song by any artist and call it your own, which would it be?
Nat: I would take “Sittin’ On the Dock of the Bay” by Otis Redding.
Sean: “Kiss From a Rose” by Seal. Not only is that an amazing song, but it’s so hard to sing. If that was my song, I’d be set.