Thursday, January 11, 2007

Take What You Get, Like What You Got

My Parents Favorite Music began as a joke, and now, some eight years later, founding members Steffen Messinger and Matt Steller are still laughing. With Steffo handling the bulk of the vocal duties and Matt seeing to production, the duo have taken their unique brand of dorky hip hop from their small Michigan suburb to a place where nerd music can truly flourish: the Internet.

Like most independent bands, MPFM found a new home at MySpace that supplemented their success in the local scene with a broader audience eager to hear their eclectic mix of hyper hip hop flow, classic rock hooks, videogame samples, and irreverent sarcasm. Along the way, Matt and Steffo discovered that they weren’t the only nerds making music, and this breakthrough afforded them a vital connection to the newly thriving nerdcore scene.

My Parent Favorite Music took some time away from working on their new album (and their fervent responses to friend requests) to talk about where they come from and where they’re going. Read on to pick the brains of Michigan’s nerdcore torchbearers, and read further for a delightful auditory surprise from a pair who are, in their own words, “relentless in their pursuit to give video game inspired punk rap to the masses, or even just the small town arcades.”

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I guess my first question is fairly obvious; where did the name My Parents Favorite Music come from?

A lot of people ask us this, and I think it was conceived by some epiphany I had while in my g It's a mixture of nerds being driven to the edge of the ball crawl at Chuck E. Cheese’s…randma's attic looking at old Lovin' Spoonful and Carly Simon records. But we were sitting around my [Steffo’s] dinner table one night eating spaghetti, and my mom asks us what we were going to call our band for the "High School Battle of the Bands" that we signed up for as a joke. (Yeah MPFM started as a casual joke. Still is, but it's okay.) Anyway, the first idea we had was "This Band Sucks". Then I got one of those 'looks' that a mom gives you when you're being retarded. So I said how about "My Parent's Favorite Music?," and she chuckled. So it stuck.

How would you describe the sound/style of MPFM?

You know when you hear a sound that is similar to your alarm clock and you have that sense of "OH FUDGE, WAKE UP, IDIOT!" even though you're awake and you freak out for a split second? It's definitely NOT like that. It's a mixture of nerds being driven to the edge of the ball crawl at Chuck E. Cheese’s, and whatever music sounds good to us at the time. Our style is sloppy and horrid.

I’d say your style was varied and imaginative, but fair enough. Did MPFM begin as a hip hop outfit, or did the rap sound develop over time?

We started out as a band that did Bloodhound Gang cover songs, then our band ditched us and we said screw it. The main reason we made these songs is because we wanted something to listen to in our car and drive around town and have somebody say "What the hell is that awful stuff?" and we say "That's us, we're MPFM! And we're crazy." and have a story to tell our adopted grandchildren. I honestly have almost no clue what the difference between rap and hip hop is. I just know that it's fun to make the words rhyme and have a good song to do it to.

Is Michigan a hotbed of nerd rap? Was there anything else similar to MPFM going on up there when you first started the project? How about now?

No. Oh, God no. LOL. No. Maybe in other areas. I can only hope there's more now. We were in the Flint area which is known for either the heaviest rap, heaviest metal, or most off-the-hinges emo-punk you've ever heard. And crime.

I think you forgot Michael Moore! ;)

And we were less than an hour away from Detroit, so we got a lot of retarded Eminem comparisons as well. We mostly had people calling us 'Nintendo Rap', 'unique', or 'different'.

What is the genesis of an MPFM track? Does a typical song start out as a beat or a collection of rhymes on a cocktail napkin?

Napkins? What is this the Regency Hotel??? We write on our shirts. LOL. We basically get ideas from the samples we get, then start working on which song idea is best or worst suited (sometimes the worst one works the best), and put a beat to it and work from there. By the end we say "this is BS!" or "this is wow-o!" and make up words to use for another day's song.

With Matt still firmly in Michigan and Steffo now in Tennessee, how has that creative process changed?

It's actually changed drastically, but we don't let it get us down. We talk on the and whatever music sounds good to us at the time. emails and phone and send songs back and forth with email to compare vocals. Occasionally we'll take a trip to each other's place and record at that person's apartment. This is our biggest problem since we used to go to a studio back home, but neither of us have been able to make it back there since we both moved away from our hometown.

When did you first become aware of the nerdcore hip hop community?

The second we made a MySpace. We get on the Internet as much as any nerd and we're pissed off at ourselves that we somehow missed it. We are grateful that there's not just a little community, but a whole other world of people that we can be a part of when it comes to Nerdcore.

Was their any trepidation about associating yourselves with the fledgling scene, given the fact that MPFM already had such a lengthy musical history?

Not a drop. If anything, we have been doing this since '99 and didn't feel we were reaching all of the people that we could've because we weren't techno enough for the electronic music scene, and we weren't serious or heavy enough for the rap or heavy metal scene. Stuck between a rock and a McDonald's PlayPlace. We played at the metal, rap, and indie venues. Even a few coffee shops, which, ironically, didn't really dig the coffee song. They said it was "too much." To each his own. I don't care; we rocked that place. So when we found MySpace and realized that we were part of a group of people that were doing the same thing, we didn't feel at all like jumpers of a wagon with a band. We don't even have a band.

You've previously released two independent albums (2000's ©®@~Z Mystery and 2004's Wheel O' Ex-Girlfriends). Are either still available for download or purchase?

YES! And no... and kinda sorta. We used to burn the CDs back in the day when we didn't have money, then we made so many hard copies and they all sold out, then we tried getting decent jobs while still selling WOEG to save up for Testing the Waters. We’re in the midst of finding a good place to print the CDs. We assure you, though, by the time TTW is out in June, both of the CDs will be available to purchase along with other merchandise. And as for downloading, we will put songs on our MySpace periodically to keep the songlist fresh until the new CD comes out.

So Testing the Waters is due out in June of 2007? How is this album coming along?

Oh ASS-KICK-TASTIC would be the correct terminology for that one. We were about 48% done with the album, but now we wanna put a couple of the songs on the backburner to make way for new songs with all of our new Nerdcore family. So get a-hold of us now to make history! You can be Abe Lincoln! But don't get blood on our pillow...

Is there a specific story behind the title Testing the Waters? To what does it refer?

It was an idea I had to make all of the upcoming CDs part of some mystical, far-away videogame/cartoony/land-world fictional geographical location map... thingy. And the first CD would be just like starting any cool video game: usually a ship hits a dock or a shore from a far off coast, and you don't know too much about the land. So 'Testing the Waters' is just that. It is where you start your quest into nonsensical rhymes and we are here to give you the map. But just a piece at a time. You could consider it testing the waters of Nerdcore too since we're rookies in this new world as well!

Aside from a new album, what else can fans expect from MPFM in ’07?

We should have the website up by spring, and we'll have shirts and things as well. We wanted something to listen to in our car and drive around town and have somebody say 2007 is gonna be the best year we've ever seen. We will be trying to book as many shows as we can afford to fly out to as well. After 2004, we hadn't picked up a pen to write in a while, but near the middle of 2006 we figured it was about time to get back into action. And since it's been a while I think the sound will be a little different, but not too much. A little evolved, but just in the parts where it matters. Like talent.

You already have songs about coffee and Kool-Aid. What are the chances of an entire MPFM EP devoted to tasty beverages?

Easter of 2099. It was a fluke that they came together on the same CD, but a lot of people that haven't heard us say "do a song about Crystal Light next" or "insert favorite alcoholic beveragatto here" but it's okay, more people will get a better understanding of what we're about with the new CD. And if not, we'll slash tires and retinas.

Musically, MPFM has a lot going on: the rhymes are fierce and sardonic, the flow fast and deliberate, and, while the beats themselves generally follow traditional precepts, the breaks that are often incorporated are endlessly eclectic. How broad are your influences?

We could go on all day about influences. I grew up with older brothers that listened to Run-DMC and heavy metal, while my parents listened to The Beatles religiously. We get inspiration from anything with passion - something that somebody wrote for a damn good reason, and that you can hear in their voice when they sing it. But the trick to that is to have fun WHILE having a vision or an idea. Rule number UNO: never take it seriously. If you do, then jump off of an old X-box controller. The climb alone will finish you. People know passion/fun when they hear/see it.

How did you Minibosses collaboration come about?

Technically it hasn't YET, but maybe one day. The Minibosses were the first Nerdcore I had ever heard, but I didn't know that. I just wanted to rap to [the theme from] Castlevania, and they had that song. I downloaded the song off of their website, cut that portion out of their medley and hipped a hop to it. I don't know if they've heard it or not. I've emailed them a few times, but no response. So if you guys are reading this, let us know if you like or hate it or want to sue us, okay please?

I notice that you use the term “nerdcore” (a word that is, for better or worse, used almost exclusively to refer specifically to nerdy rap) to describe The Minibosses. Do you see more rock-centered nerd acts as an entirely separate entity from those in the hip hop sphere like MPFM, Beefy, or Frontalot, or is that simply splitting hairs? To put it another way, are sub-genres like geeky hip hop, rock, and electronica intrinsically linked? Do you feel that we should compartmentalize these individual sub-genres, or is it more advantageous (to artists and fans) to enjoy all these flavors of nerd music together?

I think it's absolutely an advantage to have everybody come together on the terms of Nerdcore. I, for one, think it would be great to have everybody get together, whether you make electronic music, hip hop, rock, whatever the case may be. I mean if it's NerdCORE, then the CORE of the nerd shouldn't be singled out to any one sub-genre. It's for people that make nerdy music! What's there to segregate? There's not a lot of us; we need to stick together. I have noticed though, with sub-genres or not, nerds tend to be good to their own kind without regard to the type of music they make. As long as it's geeky people have something to be a part of. Same with us: we just wanted something to be a part of.

Are there any other artists with whom you'd like to collaborate?

Any nerdcore artists that would have a good time with us and that would make for a good mix-up. We've been talking to Shael Riley, Beefy, and we're in the middle of a project with Fanatical for the new CD. We'd like to do a song with MC Router, maybe something about beating the crap out of people for random reasons. We'd love to do a song with Karl Olson too, we dig anime and his music is just perfect for what it is. If Front is the King of Nerdcore and Router is the Queen, we want to be the gaurdnerds watching over the Gates of William, keeping all the riff-raff out.

If you had to distill your entire catalogue of music down to a single song – one solitary track that would most clearly Rule number UNO: never take it seriously. demonstrate to listeners what MPFM is about – which song would it be and why?

A song called "Valuable Tension". It's a song that you guys haven't heard yet. I've got it for the new CD. It sums us up in deep levels, but still keeps the nonsense alive. This song feels like you do with your friends when you all squeeze into your car and play slugbug and enjoy the moment. Pointless with a point. LOL.

What kind of nerds are My Parents Favorite Music?

We're not THAT deep or intelligent. Hell, we're probably the stupidest nerds you will ever meet. We love video games, anime, comics, Magic, MMORPGs, and Pauly Shore movies. We don't really feel overwhelmed by the "everyday man", but sometimes by the pressure to be something. We're just lazy, crazy, and that's good enough for our horribly, HORRIBLY low standards.

And lastly, what, in your opinion, is the nature of nerd?

In our opinion, nerds are the ones that have the biggest set of d20s in the world. You have to think: this is the stuff that people cringe at. The stuff people want to have nothing to do with. But in their hearts, their souls, they know that this is their life. This is what they want. And fuck a mongoose, they actually DO IT. With nothing to stop them in terms of other people's thoughts or reactions. The nature of nerd is 'take what you get, like what you got' and then have fun and live life your way. And no I did not get that from Dr. Phil. He is not a nerd.

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My Parent Favorite Music represents an interesting phenomenon within the landscape of nerdcore; the duo is, at once, new to the scene itself, but already well-established in their own brand of nerdy hip hop. It’s an occurrence that is becoming more and more common thanks to the efforts of high profile projects like Nerdcore For Life, and, in part, to the very elastic nature of the Internet. Social networking sites like MySpace and video sharing sites like YouTube not only allow current scenesters to promote themselves and interested newcomers to see, hear, and interact with there precursors, but also help to build bridges between the established community and related artists still working in relative (cultural) obscurity, still unaware that countless other nerds are making similar music.

Furthermore, MPFM represent a welcome change from the purist ethic that sometimes blights contemporary nerdcore. While some in the scene would surely prefer that related genres and artists keep their chocolate out of nerdcore’s peanut butter, Matt and Steffo seem far more interested in fostering appreciation and crosspollination with other categories of modern nerd music.

But perhaps most importantly, MPFM stand out as a group who understands that music, nerdcore or otherwise, should be, at its core, fun. With all the recent press and exciting new projects in the works surrounding our little corner of the musical spectrum, it’s sometimes easy to forget that. Finding the proper mixture of silly excitement and serious passion is a tricky balancing act for anyone who creates, but, somehow, My Parents Favorite Music make it look easy.

Nowhere is this more apparent than in the following track, a WWW exclusive from their currently out-of-print Wheel O' Ex-Girlfriends that I am - to understate the fuck out of it - proud to present. So set down your controller, pop a cold one, and crank up the volume; MPFM are here to shake your ass and satisfy your soul.

Download My Parent Favorite Music - Sticks and Stones

10 comments:

ChurchHatesTucker said...

Huh. This was the most interesting interview that you've done Z. (from my POV)

I'm still trying to assimilate why exactly, since all your interviews have been enlightening.

Antisocial said...

if by "shake your ass" you mean "cause your body to go into convulsions", then yes :). MPFM has some hyper-good music.

Z. said...

Thanks for the props, Church. I think the reason that this piece turned out so interesting is due simply to the fact that Steffo is a ball of energy. Whenever I conduct an interview, I always try to let the artist know that it’s his boat and he can take it where he wants. Steffo just approached it like he would anything else: with his trademark wit and charm. He riffed and joked and elucidated yet still managed to say some shit that was pretty profound. But that’s just the MPFM way, I suppose. What they’d call “pointless with a point.”

Glad you dug “Sticks and Stones,” Soc. I was awful proud that MPFM gave me an exclusive track to present with the interview. I think the only other person who’s ever given me an exclusive song was… well: YOU! :D

Anthony said...

Excellent interview with MPFM, certainly one of the best bands I've ever heard. that's why I made them band of the month over at my website gamemusic4all.com. They definitely are a band like no other. Definitely loved the exclusive track as well. Your blog rocks! keep up the good work!

Z. said...

Thanks for the props, Anthony. You speak true; MPFM are like no other. Thanks for hipping me to your site. I do my best to cover game rock bands like 14 Year Old Girls and NESkimos, but there’s a ton of acts that I miss. Gamemusic4all will be a great asset to help me stay on top of all the game music and chiptunes that I inexplicably pass over.

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aj said...

i love mpfm but what happened to their myspace? is it some promotion or something?

Z. said...

I'm still trying to figure that out myself, AJ. :/

aj said...

MPFM is back!!

Z. said...

Damn straight! :)