Jordan Witzigreuter and Colin Dieden are finally able to write more honestly
It seems like TikTok is influencing everything, from making pancake cereal to dance crazes inspired by Grammy winner Megan Thee Stallion all the way to fascinating genre-crossover covers. You may be familiar with the viral track, and now radio hit, “Put Your Records On” covered by Ritt Momney.
It was this very song that inspired vocalists and producers Jordan Witzigreuter (The Ready Set/Onlychild) and Colin Dieden (Ex-The Mowgli’s/Little Hurt). The two hopped into a spacious garden, set up their synths and recorded a delightful, groovy reimagination of the Jackson 5’s “I Want You Back.”
The two friends have not only found incredible success in their past and current projects—they have also found even greater success in their collaborations over the years. Along with fellow L.A.-based synth-pop acts TWIN XL, American Teeth and more, their musical minds are running wild and delivering us everything from the phenomenal new track “Lonely” to a brand-new creative conglomerate SwimTeam Records started by Witzigreuter and Cameron Walker-Wright.
On an individual basis, Witzigreuter took a temporary step back from the Ready Set to create Onlychild. With that project, he zeroed in on the reason he fell in love with music in the first place, creating such raw tracks as “Teeth” and “Crimson Red.” Meanwhile, Dieden has been climbing up the alt charts as Little Hurt with his feel-good instrumentals that delightfully counteract his dark and inherently honest lyrics in tracks such as “My Head Hurts” and “Alaska,” among others.
We decided to catch up with the two artists after their time in the alt scene and ask them about where they came from and where they’re going. Plus, we checked in to see how the duo put their wholesome Jackson 5 collab together. Check out the video and full interview below.
So all this track, video included, just happened on a whim?
JORDAN WITZIGREUTER: Yeah, pretty much. Because we work together pretty often anyway. So, we were able to knock it out pretty quickly. And I think we did that video [in] maybe two hours because Ryan [Blewett] was just incredibly fast at getting stuff done fast.
Nice. So you did that project, and I know that Mike Naran, your buddy, gave you a shoutout with the new track with you, Rad Horror and TWIN XL. Jordan, you produced, right?
WITZIGREUTER: Some of it. There are like a thousand producers on it, I believe. Me and Cameron [Walker-Wright] from TWIN XL had worked on it way earlier last year for a little bit. And then it just got passed around a bunch of times and then became what it is, which is cool.
COLIN DIEDEN: My favorite story about "Lonely" is that every single time [me and] Cameron would sit down and have more than three White Claws together on his couch, he would play me that hook every single night because I was like, ‘Yes, Cameron, it's good. I love it.”
WITZIGREUTER: Yeah, he just willed it into existence. I feel like he just figured if he plays it enough times, somebody will be like, “Fine.”
DIEDEN: It was almost like A Clockwork Orange shit. [Laughs.]
So are you doing more collabs in the future? I know you're all very close. You all have a similar style of music that’s just upbeat and happy, even if it's a little dark lyrically.
DIEDEN: One thing I love about our little crew that I find very special is in L.A., there's a lot of little pockets of crews who work together, like Quinn XCII, Chelsea Cutler [and] Louis The Child. There are all these people [who] hang out together and play a lot. And we have our little crew, too—me, Jordan, Cameron, our friend Rob, Mike Naran, [Eli Noll from] American Teeth. We [have] these little pockets of people that [play] songs together. And I love that aspect of how close it feels.
WITZIGREUTER: Yeah, just some fellas making a couple of tunes. And just enjoying each other's company and being friends.
So wholesome. Has that been keeping you afloat pretty well, as we're coming up on a whole year of being in lockdown, when not really touring? How have you been able to stay creative during that time in your pod of musical friends?
DIEDEN: We do extracurricular stuff, just like finding things to do outside of work to keep us all entertained and stuff. You know, you can't do music all the time.
WITZIGREUTER: I feel like there are certain days where it may be harder to be particularly creative just because, being here, you're only now doing music every single day, the same kind of day in, day out thing. Whereas before, you would get to reap the benefits of living in a city like this. You can go and do fun stuff after you work, and you can be with people. I feel like that drives some creativity, so it's a little weird sometimes, but I think we've managed to be productive in a bunch of different ways. Even beyond our artist projects and stuff, for sure.
DIEDEN: I found in the pandemic times, like in every interview they asked me, "How has the pandemic affected your music? Is it making you more or less creative? Are you writing about it?" And that was the pressure to be like, "Yes, it is affecting how I write and my creativity," but it actually really didn't. Once I realized, like, "I don't have to write about this." It's the thing that's happening, but I can just do my own thing and not bring it into my life. It's not inspiring to me. Writing about a pandemic is not sexy to me. [Laughs.]
So the process basically has stayed the same. There are just more ways to feel burnt out. Is that fair to say?
WITZIGREUTER: Yeah. And it's just because there's nothing else to do. I get in a spot where I start to feel guilty if I take a day and just don't work on music. I'll be like, "Well, that's one day I've wasted that I could have made something really cool." Then I feel bad. So it's it's hard to balance that without the actual structure of regular life. It's harder to keep yourself [on a] healthy trajectory day to day. But you do what you can.
DIEDEN: I feel like if I take a day off, I feel very guilty, which I'm trying to like get better at. Because that's a very good point. We're so locked in this little small world now that you feel like you have to work all the time.
So Jordan, you just created a record label or more of a creative conglomerate, SwimTeam Records. Did you just start this in January?
WITZIGREUTER: Me and Cam [Walker-Wright] had the idea for it a long time ago. But I think we created it in January to help release a bunch of projects that we work on with other people. And it's been cool so far, really. It's getting it off its feet. But it's been very fun, we have a ton of artists that we work with, and it's just basically a way to make sure that we can give a lot more songs a visual value and more life than they would if we just put stuff out on Spotify or whatever.
You were both in projects before your current ones. What’s the biggest difference between your original projects and what you’ve been doing now?
DIEDEN: So I was in the Mowgli's for like 10 years, and I left the Mowgli's about a year-and-a-half, two years ago to do Little Hurt. In the Mowgli's, there was at one point like 13 people, and at the end there was like six. So, it's been cool to be able to write from my own perspective, not having to worry about my stories related to anyone else's, or I spent a lot of time having to navigate a lot of personalities. And I just decided one day, I wanted to. I made the Mowgli’s songs for, I feel like, for everyone, [and] I didn't make it for me in a way. And it was like trying to make the fans happy, which I still try to do now. But I realized one day I want to tell my own stories in a way that I couldn't in that particular lane. So I wrote a few songs for this little thing. And so Sony Red picked it up, off a song called "Better Drugs," and then I did an EP called Every Second, which is out now. Jordan wrote, "It's Ok Not To Be Ok" with me. It's been cool to explore myself in a way that I wasn't able to before.
Awesome. So is that the first time that you collaborated?
DIEDEN: No, the first time I ever met Jordan was when you wrote a song for the Mowgli's called "I Feel Good About This," which is actually my favorite Mowgli's song. That was a good song. And if I'm not mistaken, Jordan, that was the first time he saw a song that you wrote for someone else played live at The Troubadour?
DIEDEN: It must've been a very fulfilling feeling, watching someone play a song you wrote?
WITZIGREUTER: Yeah. Way, way different. I like it.
DIEDEN: And that was cool. And then me and Jordan wrote a song for his project [Onlychild] called "Chardonnay & Tangerine." So we've done a lot of stuff together.
You both have been in the alt synth-pop space for a while now. What have you learned that you wish you knew back when you first started?
WITZIGREUTER: I just wish I would have figured out that not every decision is a "do or die" thing. You can say no to things, and you don't need to chase something. Sometimes I think an easy thing to fall into is when something works. So you want to stay on that path to keep finding that. And I think it's good, but it's also to make sure you keep track of exactly why you start doing something where the initial love of the thing came from, which is why I wanted to start Onlychild stuff, because I obviously still love Ready Set stuff. And I will do that again at some point. But I just wanted to be very completely only doing something just because I like to do it. And that's probably the main thing. Just don't overthink stuff so much. Just make stuff because you want to.
DIEDEN: I feel like for me, it was like a period in the middle of the Mowgli's where I was caught up in the mild relative success we had, where I was making music because I thought that's what the radio sounded like, and it wasn't authentic. I think the reason why "Alaska" works is because the lyrics were like, “No one's said shit like that.” And I was chasing something very accessible because I thought it would be for the wrong reasons almost. I think authenticity is everything. People can hear through an inauthentic lyric. And it's not just about the lyrics but the delivery. So if I write a song for another artist and she or he sings a lyric, I can tell [they] didn't write it because of the voice. So this whole game to me, in my opinion, is all authenticity.
WITZIGREUTER: And also people who are listening to music, I think I can see through that, too. So, I think the type of person who makes stuff and they think that they're smarter than the audience... You can't do that. People can tell when something's not genuine. I always felt I could tell when something was contrived or whatever. So, you know, it's gotta be honest.
DIEDEN: I think trends in music don't really matter. People are always trying to find what's next. It doesn't really matter as long as you're being fucking honest. That's why good music is good music. That's why big songs get big. You know, even if the songs are about nonsense, you know like "Sunflower" by Swae Lee and Post Malone. It's an amazing song. I love it. Wish I had written it. The song is about nothing, but the vocal performance is amazing. If you can deliver something with authenticity, that matters way more than following a track.