Q&A: The Lonely Island On The Wack Album, The Hurdles Of Putting Together A Tour, And Stinkë Diqué
For the past month, fans have been getting peeks at the Lonely Island’s upcoming release, The Wack Album, through the group’s #WACKWEDNESDAYS campaign, beginning with “Spring Break Anthem” and most recently “Spell It Out.” The heavy Internet presence seems natural for the group, much of whose initial success went hand-in-hand with the rise of YouTube and the e-popularity of their “Lazy Sunday” video. It’s possible that fans might think, “Wait, though – we’ve gotten so many songs already. Are there going to be any songs left on the album that we haven’t heard already through #wackwednesdays?” And there are! Why would you think that there wouldn’t be? There are like twenty more that you haven’t heard, get out of here. The album will be released on June 11th and features guests spots from Hugh Jackman, Kristen Wiig, Robyn, Too $hort, Billie Joe Armstrong, and a bunch more FAVES. I recently talked to the guys about working with all those guys, the possibility of touring, and even a few other things!
STEREOGUM: So you wrote and recorded your last two albums, Incredibad and Turtleneck & Chain, over a set period of time while living together in a house in LA. Was the process at all different this time around?
JORMA TACCONE: It was a different house this time. The first two were recorded in Encino, where we all lived together. We just picked the crappiest room in the house to set up our little home studio ProTools rig, in what was not even a soundproof room, and we recorded there. This time we had a house in Los Feliz that had a studio in it, and we took that same crappy rig that we recorded the last two albums on and just put it in that studio, and we just used that. There was a lot of sweet equipment.
ANDY SAMBERG: And this time only Jorma and I lived there together. Akiva has a house in LA now, because he has two kids and a wife.
JORMA: So he just came over every day.
ANDY: It was sweet!
JORMA: And he got a new nickname out of it, which is Young Dad. It’s his new fake rapper name.
AKIVA SCHAFFER: It’s an alias.
ANDY: Yeah, he’s in the new Alias. He’s replaced Jennifer Garner.
AKIVA: Well, it’s a revamp of Alias. Kind of like Hawaii Five-O, or something.
JORMA: It’s a reboot of Alias called Young Dad. It’s a weird thing to reboot a series and choose a new title, it kind of defeats the purpose, but they’re doing it!
ANDY: Well, we made a remake of Indiana Jones called Hot Rod.
AKIVA: So wait, we could have made so much more money if we had just said that that’s what it was!
STEREOGUM: Oh yeah, that was a big mistake.
AKIVA: Big mistake. To answer the question, though, we did it exactly the same. Unless you’re really familiar with Encino and Los Feliz and all the different restaurants you can order lunch from. That would be the difference.
JORMA: And we had a sound booth.
AKIVA: Which you’ll notice in the fidelity of the recording.
STEREOGUM: In either the writing or recording process, does much collaboration go on between you and the guest artists? Or do you try to set up songs in a way that they’re going to feel comfortable with? On this album especially they all seem to perform at least somewhat in their own style.
ANDY: Often times we won’t know which artist we’re gonna ask yet. We just come up with a premise, and we’ll write the choruses or whatever parts we’re gonna ask somebody else to do, and we’ll put in temp vocals.
JORMA: Which Andy does. There’s a version of every one of our songs that has a singer with Andy singing on it, beautifully.
ANDY: Yeah, they’re terrible.
STEREOGUM: And then they come in?
AKIVA: Yeah. Sometimes though, like with Rihanna – We knew she was coming in, so your temp vocal is you going “Ay!”
ANDY: But none of the songs from the albums themselves.
STEREOGUM: Sure, so on–
AKIVA: No, there’s “I Just Had Sex.”
ANDY: How about this album? I defy you to name one from this album that we’re promoting right now. Just stop. JUST STOP!
AKIVA: Well, for this one we were more secluded so we just recorded them all and then said, “Who would be the best?” But that would explain why they’re doing them in their style, because we would envision them in their style on the track. Like, “That would sound cool.”
ANDY: Even with my terrible temp vocals on “Go Kindergarten” we could tell Robyn would sound really good on it.
STEREOGUM: I was going to say, that one specifically sounds like a really comfortable fit. Kind of just like a great Robyn song.
ANDY: Yeah, that’s why we asked her. We were like, “You know who would kill this and who we love? Robyn.”
JORMA: And I had met her once and hung out with her a little bit, so.
ANDY: Quit bragging!
STEREOGUM: Yeah, I get it, you’re friends with Robyn.
JORMA: She doesn’t not know who we are.
ANDY: Well, we are friends with her now, actually.
JORMA: Yeah, we just shot a music video with her a few days ago. There’s a little dance rehearsal for the music video, but that was actually just the dance rehearsal.
STEREOGUM: Of course, yeah, I saw that.
JORMA: The real one’s coming.
STEREOGUM: Along with Robyn, you guys have guest vocals from Too $hort, Lady Gaga, Solange, Hugh Jackman, and on and on. Is there anyone you were particularly excited to work with, or any track that you’re particularly excited for people to hear?
ANDY: Besides all of them?
STEREOGUM: Besides all of them, right.
ANDY: We were definitely excited about all of the guests, and not just in a way of “We don’t hurt anyone’s feelings.” With everyone we asked we were like, “That would be awesome.”
STEREOGUM: They’re all incredible.
ANDY: I certainly get a particular kick out of Hugh Jackman being on a song. And for us, being from the Bay Area, getting Too $hort on a song was really cool.
JORMA: And the fact that the two of them are on the same album is particularly enjoyable.
ANDY: Solange we were really psyched to get, she sounds awesome. We really like the song with Pharell, so we’re excited for people to hear that.
JORMA: We’re just gonna name everyone.
ANDY: No, no we didn’t name everybody. Although it was pretty fun when we got Billie Joe Armstrong!
STEREOGUM: Is there anyone that you would want to work with but would feel hesitant about asking, due to the nature of what they’d be participating in?
ANDY: Because our songs are dirty and stuff?
STEREOGUM: Yeah, because they’re dirty and stuff.
ANDY: Probably like Martha Stewart or something.
STEREOGUM: No, I think she would be down!
JORMA: There’s also such an x-factor of how good she would be at rapping.
ANDY: There are people that you’re a fan of but that you’re not necessarily sure you would want to see them do what we do, cause it would ruin it. Like, I’ve always wished I could meet and hang out with Stevie Nicks, but I don’t know if I want to put her on a Lonely Island song cause people would be so angry about it.
JORMA: You don’t want to ruin the mystique.
ANDY: But you know, we always say that about people. I would say the same, truthfully, about Solange or Robyn – I don’t want to make people who love them not like us for doing something with them. So we try to choose things that let them do what they do well and not ruin what’s cool about them.
JORMA: Some songs are about people wanting to change their image or us thinking it would be funny if we played with their image. Then there are other people where they’re just joining our group and we’re just doing a song together – like with Solange and Robyn, we’re not changing either of their image or who they are, they’re just making a joke song with us. As opposed to, say, Natalie Portman or Michael Bolton who are deconstructing what the public thinks of them.
ANDY: Though I would say Jackman’s doing that, maybe a little.
JORMA: Jackman is on this album, I would say that goes into the other category.
ANDY: Which is maybe why it tickles us especially.
AKIVA: And I want to make a video for it the most.
STEREOGUM: Do you try to keep a video concept in mind while you’re writing? And do you know which songs that you want to make videos for, or is that something that comes later?
ANDY: You try and write visually, just because as a listener it’s easier to laugh and comprehend when you do that.
JORMA: And sometimes when we’re actually making a song we’ll talk about what the video would be, while it’s happening, because it enhances the joke to be able to see it visually.
AKIVA: We’re working on every song thinking, “Well that would make a cool video.” Then we decide when we look at them all. We go, “Well, this is too many to do videos for, which ones do we wanna do?” And we know that some of them are going to have a more limited appeal. We know that there are some that we really like, and that people like us will really like, but that not everybody is going to like. And we know when we’re trying to make the one that appeals to all levels.
JORMA: Like we know “I Don’t Give a Honk” is a hit. We know “I’m a Hustler” is a huge hit.
AKIVA: Put that in sarcastic font.
JORMA: It’s not like everything we make has to be for everybody. Sometimes we make things that are more for people who are interested in a specific sort of thing, whatever it is, and sometimes we make things that we hope that everybody enjoys.
STEREOGUM: Sure, that makes sense. Like a real band.
JORMA: Like a real band.
AKIVA: But most normal bands only put out a few singles, and they’re all the ones that are gonna be big hits. We’re a little different cause we put out some and go, “This one’s definitely not going to be a big hit.” But we like it! Like “We Need Love,” which is the fourth in the trilogy – or, the quadrilogy of two guys who like sports.
STEREOGUM: Oh yeah, that’s one of my favorites on the album.
AKIVA: So we’re doing that for people like you — we’re not going into that thinking, “You know what, twelve year olds are gonna really love this,” ‘cause they never have. We have four others with comments from kids being like, “I guess Lonely Island’s run out of money!” Or like, “They suck without Andy!” We’re not under any illusions.
ANDY: In their defense, you guys do suck without me.
JORMA: And those videos don’t cost any money.
STEREOGUM: So they make some good points.
ANDY: I wouldn’t even say it’s about young people versus old people, though — it’s just about people who have different tastes in comedy.
AKIVA: There’s a certain portion of the population that can’t understand making yourself look ugly on purpose.
ANDY: Yeah, where the joke is how bad it is.
AKIVA: But we still made it and we’ve already shot a video for it, it’s on the album, and we love it. But we’re not thinking its going to be as popular as “YOLO.”
STEREOGUM: Your first performance was supposed to happen this summer in Chicago, but has since been canceled. Do you plan on rescheduling it, or do you want to tour at all?
ANDY: We wanna tour, and we’ve been about to tour like five different times. But the wrangling of all three of our schedules has constantly screwed it up.
AKIVA: Also, because we’ve never toured, it’s not as simple as a regular band who has a show, where they can just choose one night and go, “Yeah, we’ll have another show.”
STEREOGUM: Yeah, you have to plan a whole tour for one night.
AKIVA: Exactly, and we want it to be right. And every time we start going down the road we go, “Oh, we need this, and we need a video screen, and what could be on the video screen?” And we realize it’s like a month or two month-long process, probably, to get a real show.
JORMA: And to get a month or two just to prep in our schedules is very difficult, not to mention all the time actually touring.
AKIVA: But it’s basically that we want to do it right.
ANDY: The videos have so many bells and whistles that you don’t notice that we’re not real rappers, and we want the tour to be a similar experience.
AKIVA: We’re going to go to Chicago to try to make it up to the people who bought it and do a Q&A kind of thing, ’cause that’s something we don’t have to prep for. We were upset that we had to cancel, so we planned a whole thing and we’re inviting the people who bought tickets.
JORMA: Just as a weird plug, one of the things I was particularly bummed about not being able to tour this time is that we actually developed a new cologne.
ANDY: Oh, our fragrance.
JORMA: It’s a men’s perfume, really.
ANDY: Oh, is it not multi-sex?
JORMA: It can work for guys and girl.
ANDY: If you call it a fragrance it’s for guys and girls.
JORMA: It’s a fragrance. It’s called stinky dick. Spelled s-t-i-n-k-ë d-i-q-u-é.
STEREOGUM: Oh, that sounds great. That definitely sounds unisex.
JORMA: It actually smells great.
ANDY: Like the name would imply.
JORMA: Great smelling—
ANDY: Great smelling and it might be the first fragrance with the word “stinky” in it. We’ll have to find that out.
AKIVA: A rose by any other name.
JORMA: We might have to put the world “please” in the ad campaign.