Here’s how electro-duo 100 gecs got FOB and Craig Owens on their LP
The kingpins of weird-electro America are more than happy to represent for the scene.July 17, 2020
Dylan Brady and Laura Les are the sonic brain trust that is 100 gecs. Their 2019 debut, 1000 gecs, was a staple for both bored youth damaged by TikTok and cosmopolitan hipsters alike. No genre is overlooked, all beats are considered and there’s always space for some fucked-up noise. When asked if there’s anything that 100 gecs won’t do in their music, Les was philosophical: “We will not spread hate.”
100 gecs’ major-label debut is actually a remix album. For 1000 Gecs And The Tree Of Clues, songs from previous digital singles were reworked by a bevy of known and unknown quantities. “I think we ended up using everything we liked,” Les says. “We would start ideas, and if it made it past working on it for one day, then it pretty much made it onto the album.”
The branches of electronics on Tree Of Clues were born out of some crazy cross-fertilization. No idiom was off limits. Twitter-famous rappers and saccharine princesses represent alongside pop royalty (Charli XCX). Everything was allowed, from electro-cutie pop to gritty hip-hop beats to straight-up room-evacuating noise. Sometimes within a three-minute timeframe.
Both tastemakers and generations of swipe-left culture arbiters were accustomed to 100 gecs’ way of doing things. But heads swiveled when Fall Out Boy members Patrick Stump and Pete Wentz and Craig Owens (D.R.U.G.S., badXchannels, Chiodos) made it onto the album credits. The trio appear alongside Nicole Dollanganger for a remix of “hand crushed by a mallet,” one of the record’s most cool and confrontational tracks. Stump belts out the main vocal hook, while Owens and Dollanganger’s vocals weave in and out of each other like high-thread-count sheets. Or prizefighters. Chalk that up to the track’s reactive energy.
“Very perceptive of you,” Owens says in a separate interview. The singer had been friends with Brady for a couple of years, working with him on badXchannels tracks. “Dylan sent me the track with Patrick’s vocals on it. I didn’t really know what he expected or wanted. He had mentioned that Nicole was gonna be on it, as well. He gave me rough things, so I learned the first half of it.
“But then when I was in the studio, we just had fun and tracked the entire song minus the intro. There were actually some video recordings, which are pretty cool of me doing the chorus, just me screaming the entire thing. It was very heavy, very moshy. But Nicole’s angelic voice came in on that part. Yeah, I was just reactive.”
Owens and Team FOB bring the rock elements to a record that can trigger both insulin shock and massive migraines. It’s not that Les and Brady were hiding their respective scene-kid pasts. Nobody ever asked them about it in the first place.
“Dylan went to Warped Tour and everything,” Les reveals. “I just listened to some stuff online. My husband, though—Mason Powell, who shot the original picture for the cover—is the world’s biggest Fall Out Boy fan. He has a Clandestine Industries tattoo. He’s fully in it. I feel like I’m not even allowed to say I’m a Fall Out Boy fan, even though I definitely fuck with it. But he is a super-fan. Since I have met him, he has made sure that I know all the words for every Fall Out Boy song.”
“Yeah,” Brady says. “I was much more into it than you. I was into a bunch of things between Warped Tour and now. I’d say the Attack Attack! record was pretty big. There were thousands of other things that weren’t Warped Tour after that. At that point, I wasn’t really making music or thinking that I would ever make music. I was just a big fan.”
When asked how 100 gecs enlisted Stump and Wentz, there’s a silence that’s long enough to be secretive but not enough to be palpable. “I don’t know,” Brady offers. “The file showed up, and we just dropped it.”
“I remember I was just sitting in my living room with a bunch of friends,” Les recalls. “And then we got this ZIP file, and I was like, ‘Oh boy, look at that.’”
“It’s the whole fucking magic and the tree,” she retorts. “And they dropped the clue in my inbox. I think they just liked the original record, and they heard that we were putting together remixes. So they just reached out. They thought it would be a cool thing to be a part of. So we’re really thankful that they would give us the fucking time of day to want to be on it. But it was very natural. We were still meeting people and everything at that point. So I think it was just a really natural progression with it.”
Owens and Fall Out Boy’s participation in 100 gecs’ cut and paste ’n’ stretched madness is both surreal and massive. Having scene-bred rock dudes in the midst of synths and circuitry is pretty obtuse. This writer assures the duo if they had avant-garde jazz musicians instead of Warped-approved band dudes, the metaphor still would’ve worked. Not surprisingly, 100 gecs did send an invite to an avant-garde jazz musician. “I don’t know if John Zorn reads AP,” Les says. “But if you’re reading this John, hit us up. We want to do a thing.”
100 gecs stanning Zorn makes perfect sense. The composer/multi-instrumentalist built his reputation on shoehorning multiple disparate genres together. If people reacted adversely to it, the conventional wisdom was to wait a few seconds because it would change soon. Nothing epitomizes that headspace more than 1000 Gecs And The Tree Of Clues. It’s the equivalent of 19 Hi-Bounce balls in a racquetball court at top speed. You’re gonna get beaned in the head with at least eight of them.
“That’s just how fucking life is like,” Les resigns. “Trying to dodge 19 extremely fast, dangerous objects in a very small room like that. It’s just whatever. So I think if that comes off, it’s good. If it sounds anxious, it was because we were anxious that day. If it sounds happy, we’re happy. We try to channel whatever we’re feeling into the record. It’s not a lot of pre-planning. It’s just whatever we’re fucking with at the time.”