Niles Gray, aka Tribe One, is moving up in the world. He’s going on tour with nerdcore icon mc chris, his group The Remnant just dropped a new album, and his latest project Malibu Shark Attack is not only a genre defying cross Atlantic trip, it is also possibly the raddest name I have heard in a long time. Tribe oh so graciously agreed to sit down for a chat so we could talk rap, the indie struggle, and how Daredevil would be the baddest MC in the Marvel universe
Ronzo’s Word: Alright, first off, how did you first get in contact with Rocky O’Reilly?
Tribe One: He actually contacted me first. I was just off of mc chris‘ Race Wars tour in 2011. I had joined up about three weeks from the end to support Adam WarRock and ended up meeting all around awesome dudes K-Murdock, Mega Ran and MC Lars. Apparently I ended up being mentioned on Lars’ facebook page at some point and Rocky, who is a huge MC Lars fan, saw my name and decided to email me out of the blue. Before that I had literally never heard of or from him.
RW: So was deciding to work with him was just a spur of the moment kind of thing? Did he show off a few beats?
TO: Haha, yeah pretty much. I was just sort of beginning to form the idea that becoming a touring musician was something that was a possibility for me. So I knew the first step to doing that was making music. In his email he attached the music for what would become our songs “Yo Into New York,” “Moment of Truth,” “No More Tears,” “It Takes Time,” and “BDMTHRFCKR.” The first thing I noticed about his production was that it was NOT rap production, which was immediately intriguing to me. The second thing I noticed about it was that it was INCREDIBLE.
RW: Would you say that him being outside of your genre was the biggest draw? Besides the incredible-ness, obviously.
TO: Haha, yeah. Other than the incredible-ness I was definitely interested in the challenge of writing to music waaaaaay outside of my comfort zone. This sounds really pretentious and awful, but I really did have to stretch my brain to come up with flows and rhythms that I thought sounded good over his music. Imagine me sitting in a lounge chair with a glass of red wine and my legs crossed and you’ll have a good idea of how I look as I say these kinds of things. Also, I’m wearing Batman pajamas.
RW: The very image of elegance. I actually really like to hear that kind of thing, I don’t find it pretentious at all. Now, here is a question where you might get a bit pretentious: how would you describe Malibu Shark Attack’s music?
TO: Hahaha, oh god. Rocky and I were emailing a while back and trying to come up with examples of bands and rappers that we thought we sounded like and we couldn’t. I think we’ve honestly made an album that doesn’t sound like anything else. At least anything I’ve ever heard. And, yes. I do realize how douchey that sounds. On the first song of the album I say “Rocky’s still making that post new wave-prog-electronica-indiecore synthpop/ He said to put on it whatever I wanted but all I could think of was Hip Hop.” I think that’s a pretty good summary.
RW: Now Malibu Shark Attack isn’t your only project you’ve been working on, there’s a new Remnant record out today. What can people expect from that?
TO: OH MAN. I’m so proud of the new Remnant album, dude. It’s honestly the best thing we’ve ever done. It’s definitely more traditional Hip Hop, but all of our friends are soul singers, so all of the features on the record except one are suuuuuuper dope singers. If you’re more on the xenophobic end of the rap fandom then The Remnant is totes for you.
RW: What influenced that? Was there a conscious effort to make it more old school or did it just come out like that?
TO: It kind of just came out like that. We knew going in that we wanted to do more of a “rap” record than our last one, which was a theme-album about love and relationships. The first beats that we got for the album were from Deacon the Villain of CunninLynguists and NWL. And when heard them we basically said “THIS IS WHAT OUR NEW RECORD WILL SOUND LIKE.” Because when one of your all time rap heroes gives you beats, then by golly you make them the foundation of your album.
RW: That’s a quote to live by, “by golly” included. You know that’s on the record, right?
TO: IT GOD DAMN BETTER BE, SAM
RW: Now you mentioned that, around when Rocky first got in contact with you, you were thinking about becoming a touring musician. How does the move from being a guy with a regular paycheck to a full time artist feel?
TO: It’s incredibly terrifying. Also, incredibly liberating. I think a lot of my coworkers were expecting it to happen. I’d been requesting more and more days off to play out of town shows and tour and then when I’d come back, instead of being energized and exhilarated, I’d be more and more distraught at being back at work. Haha. I really love what I do and I 100% believe in the Public Library as an American institution (I’m a public librarian, btw) but I think I honestly have a chance at making music work and I’ve been dreaming of it for too long to pass up this opportunity. My last day of work is July 3rd, making July 4th my first day as a full time indie rapper. Independence Day!
RW: Symbolic as hell
TO: Yeah, I kind of wish I’d waited til the 5th, though, because I’m not going to get that sweet sweet holiday pay for the 4th.
RW: I think that’s becoming an increasingly common story for indie rappers and artists in general. People with day jobs or even careers deciding that they want to make a living making art. Do you have any advice for artists who might be on the same track?
TO: The advice I always give to people considering doing rap in ANY capacity is to perform every single chance you get. There really is nothing like being in front of people to force you get comfortable with yourself as an artist or just who you are as a person. There’s nothing like it to figure out which of your songs are crowd pleasers or just straight up terrible. And it’s legit the ONLY way to make money as a musician. And the only way to get to the point where people will want to pay money to see you perform is to get good at performing, which you can only do by performing A LOT. My good friend Mikal kHill always gives another piece of advice, which I’ve come to agree with him on. He says to read the poem “So You Want To Be A Writer?” by Charles Bukowski. The thing about Bukowski is that he’s an absolute asshole, but he’s completely correct.
RW: On the subject of performances, what are you doing to get ready for your upcoming tour? Is this the biggest tour you’ve been a part of?
TO: Basically I’m just freaking out about whether or not I’ll have everything ready by the time I have to leave. It’s definitely the biggest tour I’ve been a part of. I don’t count the other mc chris tour because I joined up towards the end of that one. We’re doing 51 shows in under 60 days. It’s crazy. Like, actually crazy. I couldn’t possibly be more excited, though. It’s gonna be amazing, dude. I’d be worried except for the fact that I’ll be riding the whole thing with my really good friend Jesse Dangerously, who I toured with last year for the NOFRIENDS tour.
RW: It’s always good to have someone like that. Is there any stop that you’re looking forward to in particular?
TO: I mean, the whole thing is going to be rad, of course. There’s a lot of places we’re going that I’ve never been or never thought I’d ever go at all, let alone to do rap there. I’m most excited about the West Coast leg, though, because that’s where I’m from originally and I don’t really ever get chances to go out there anymore. Plus, my family is still out there and they’ve never seen me rap before. It’s going to be super emotional and significant for me. Also, the Atlanta show because I’ll get to sleep in my own bed again.
RW: Nice. Well, we’re heading to the tail end, so I got a couple of corny interview questions I gotta get through. What are you listening to lately?
TO: Like most of the world, I’ve been listening to Yeezus. I don’t really like it, though. There’s a couple songs that are amazing but as an album I don’t think it’s anywhere near as good as Graduation, which is the last Kanye record I heard. I’ve been rocking the living HELL out of Hokey Fright by The Uncluded. Their song “TV on Ten” is just devastating.
RW: If I can get a plug in, I did a write up of “Delicate Cycle” over the weekend
TO: The new Vampire Weekend album is pretty great, too. Their song “Step” is probably the best pop song I’ve heard since their song “M79” from their first album. It’s pefect. It’s so pefect that it caused me to misspell “perfect.” I’ll put on some other album and get about 3 or 4 songs in and then just be like, “THIS ISN’T AS GOOD AS ‘STEP!'” And then I play it on repeat for like a half hour.
RW: Alright last question, time for nerdy speculative hypothetical nonsense. What comic book hero do you think would make the best rapper?
TO: Skill-wise, it would definitely be Daredevil. He would DEVASTATE people in mc battles. He’d use his super senses to hear elevated heart rates and smell the sweat on their foreheads as he just went straight for the kill. As far as most interesting… does it have to be a hero? I think Batroc the Leaper would make an AMAZING record. And it would, of course, be called “Ol’ Dirty Batroc.”
RW: Naturally. The dude already has rapper-level amounts of swagger
TO: EXACTLY. The only bad song on the album would be his cover of Kriss Kross’ “Jump, Jump.” His French accent would just sound terrible saying little-kid raps.
RW: That was an unbearably corny joke, dude
TO: I REGRET NOTHING!
You can stream and purchase Indian Summer by The Remnant on their Bandcamp page. Be on the lookout for the debut album from Malibu Shark Attack, coming in July. Catch Tribe One on the the mc chris Revenge of the Nerd II tour