RUBBER was undoubtedly one of 2019’s most underrated albums. As the collective work of a handful of geniuses, namely KaTT, underscores, OMNIPONY (fka OMNI), Script and Helvetican, all under the guise of six impala, RUBBER was an unparalleled expedition into the idea of exploring a narrative through music, offering a unique story as well as exquisite, boundary-pushing music. Well, unparalleled until now that is, as the artistic geniuses, along with their newly-created (yes, created) member NEUTRA have returned with their sophomore project titled WFLYTD (the short form of WE FUCKING LOVE YOU TO DEATH), and although difficult to believe, six impala have outdone themselves.
There’s so much to be said about WFLYTD that it would be impossible to do it justice with words. The highlight, however, is the vocal star NEUTRA, a character created by six impala that is uniquely herself, with everything from her personality to her actual voice having been constructed from the ground up. The music itself is an eclectic, experimental and downright entertaining mix of just about every genre imaginable within the electronic realm (and beyond). The punk-leaning opener, ‘WFLYTD (GOODMORNING)’ will immediately grasp your attention, while six impala take a complete one-eighty in the cutesy rave anthem ‘Toy Car’ that is unexpectedly capped off with a finishing touch of heavy bass. If you think going from hardcore to a fun, bouncy bop is peculiar, you’re in for a wild ride. There are few styles that WFLYTD doesn’t explore, and the members of six impala have executed all of them with an incredible finesse, attesting to their true talents. Beyond the music, the project is packed with layers of fun, such as ‘tying bows to each of your teeth’ being intentionally two minutes and thirty seconds long, a pun on “tooth hurty.”
We had the extreme honour of connecting with six impala to discuss NEUTRA, their new album, the differences between RUBBER and WFLYTD, and so much more. Similar to their album, this interview is equally insightful as it is fun, so jump into both below!
With the plethora of talented artists out there, what prompted the idea to create a sixth member instead of picking up someone new?
All: When we initially talked about finding our 6th member we agreed that it would have to be someone that brings something totally fresh to our dynamic. We had some people in mind, but ultimately landed on what felt like the most fresh and manageable addition to our band.
Describe the creation process behind NEUTRA. Was everything mapped out from the get-go or was it a process with many changes along the way (from actually building her to building her character)?
KaTT: Vocal synthesizers like NEUTRA can be built in one of 2 ways: either by voicebank or by synthesis. We collaborated with a voice actor (who will remain anonymous) and used her voice to create NEUTRA’s voicebank. Her character is very much an amalgamation of the personalities that work on bringing her to life. We all have some kind of edginess in us and her character really allows us to put those qualities on display.
OMNIPONY: I have a lot of friends that have been involved with vocaloid and the technology behind it, I thought it would be really cool if we could build our own – independent of the existing technologies. We wanted to use vocaloid initially, but went with creating our own from scratch. It was worth it, as we are totally independent of the existing landscape of vocal synths.
What is her backstory? What inspired her aesthetic/character/personality/attitude?
KaTT: The decision to give NEUTRA this sort of “bratty” personality really stems from the lack of diversity in the way most vocal synthesizers are characterized. A lot of the existing titans of the vocal synth scene have a heavy focus on the family friendly “idol” stereotype to be as marketable as possible. We felt like it would be interesting for us to do the opposite by making this edgy, rude, antagonizing character that drinks, swears and doesn’t give a fuck about being some weird image of positivity and perfection.
OMNIPONY: Parts of us live vicariously through how we represent NEUTRA, she’s the pinnacle of not caring about anything and making something awesome in between.
underscores: I want to be NEUTRA sometimes.
How many tracks NEUTRA a part of in WFLYTD?
NEUTRA: I sing on 9 different tracks on this project, sometimes as a lead and other times as a backup or something to make underscores sound better…
How many tracks did everyone contribute to? How is work divided among the six impala members? Do you all contribute to every track?
KaTT: We all work with varying degrees of input, it can be pretty limiting when you try and slice everything up to be perfectly balanced. When operating as a band you get to sacrifice the whole equal representation thing cuz by default we’re all on equal footing to the listener.
OMNIPONY: Working in six impala feels like two trucks having sex, two trucks having sex, my muscles INVOLUNTARILY flex I have a chance to breathe between projects, while there are always optimal deadlines and organization. We have a lot of freedom to work on ourselves and incorporate our natural inspiration whenever we can. There is a lot of unspoken pressure feeling like you can’t contribute when your body or mind simply doesn’t want to, six impala operates in a way that allows us to work through those tougher moments as individuals. Small contributions can mean a lot to a big project when given the freedom to breathe.
Script: what the fuck James said about trucks…
Are there ever any conflicts when creating (music or beyond)? How are conflicts resolved?
NEUTRA: Yea, disagreements happen all the time. working in six impala means being okay with someone else’s shitty idea – that way they can’t complain about your own shitty ideas ~
underscores: I think RUBBER was a chance for us to learn how to work together and for WFLYTD I personally tried to play the devil’s advocate a bit more. When multiple people are joining together to create a product, conflict is necessary in my opinion to create something that not only the creators can be happy with but listeners can as well. I think if you don’t get outside opinions of your work before you put it out, you would be missing out on important aspects of how your work comes across to those who haven’t been steeped in it like you have.
OMNIPONY: I’ve learned that conflict with your members also builds a sort of shield from the anxiety surrounding how other people might view the end results. It’s much more comforting having all of our conflicts resolved amongst ourselves to ultimately build a really good product – it’s like I don’t have to give a fuck what anyone else says, we spent a year working through it together. That rules.
Script: Conflict and disagreements are part of six impala and that’s totally fair because at the end of the day we all get to the point where we agree with something. Everyone shares a same goal regardless in six impala so it’s not a huge issue.
What inspired the name of the album?
All: There’s no singular answer to this. ‘WE FUCKING LOVE YOU TO DEATH’ was primarily driven by the narrative we initially conceived, but has also grown to cover both the positives and negatives of being a part of a loving community. There’s a lot of complicated emotions surrounding that environment.
The track titles are also quite eccentric. How do you go about naming tracks?
KaTT: underscores and I do 90% of the naming for six, something about the process just clicks for us.
underscores: I remember for this album we made like a TextEdit file with all the titles and a bunch of meaningless symbols attached to them like very early on. In fact, I think we named most if not all of the songs on the album before we even worked on them. There’s something really captivating about the way an album looks before you even hear any of it to us. I think I personally judge a book by its cover a lot; I’ll usually listen to the album if the titles are interesting.
Omni: I prefer underscore’s (or my own) right-out-of-the-daw naming schemes such as ‘johnny_test_official_soundtrack_(dookie_died).wav‘ or ‘yeah_babeyyyyyyy!_st*rsh*ne_melody_more_complex_tho_u_kno_what_im_saying_gotta_keep_it _more_complex_for_the_ladies!!!!!_aha_hhhh_yeahhhhh_babeyyy_u_kno_what_it_is_babeyy_yEAH.mid‘
Script: For me personally I like sending it to Dan (KaTT) and let him name it.
What’s the story behind the tracks with ‘/TAPE’ in their title?
KaTT: ‘/TAPE’ tracks are simply cassette tapes that exist in the universe we’ve built. In regards to the one on this album, one of our biggest internal criticisms with RUBBER was the exposition taking up more space than it needed to. There is so much damn waiting on that album, and we felt like the idea behind ‘PLASTIC/TAPE 4’ allowed us to explore a lot of different narrative cues in a way that fits the chaos and abrasive qualities of the rest of the project without wasting the listeners time.
Omni: Then who was phone
How was the creation process behind WFLYTD different from the process behind RUBBER?
All: WFLYTD was a much more collaborative project than RUBBER. We really took the opportunity to collaborate with a lot of different voice actors for the various roles and samples played across the whole piece. We also had a solid week in Toronto where KaTT, OMNIPONY and underscores worked a bunch in person as opposed to online – I think that really contributed to some of the “fun” energy that went into the project as a whole.
What were some lessons learned during RUBBER that you applied to WFLYTD that made the creation process much smoother?
KaTT: From a creative standpoint, we really learned to let loose from the narrative elements and really focus on having fun with the music. On a technical level, there’s a lot of logistical stuff like mixing techniques, file sharing methods and other processes that we streamlined for WFLYTD.
underscores: With RUBBER we also put pressure on ourselves to have each member contribute equally to the music. This time we kinda let that go a bit. I think we sorta realized that there are other mediums like visuals or graphic design or fashion that serve an incredibly important role in showcasing who we are, and just because a song might not have a perfect balance of all six of us doesn’t mean that we can’t contribute in other non-musical ways.
You described the project as “an album of ‘FARAWAY’s,” can you elaborate a bit more on this?
KaTT: With ‘FARAWAY199X/TAPE 2’ being the last song made on RUBBER, we knew our second album was going to use a much brighter palette to tell its story. I like to think WFLYTD is us going full throttle and expanding upon the blend of dance pop and chaos we introduced on that track.
Omni: I saw this coming from a mile away, given that all of us have huge inspirations off super bright and hyper colorful music. RUBBER was a great dive into the dark and technical, with only glimmers of fun melodic elements like in ‘FARAWAY199X/TAPE 2.’ What if we just made a whole ass album with that palette LOL and then we did.
You recently announced an online tour. Can you give us a brief rundown of this tour?
All: We’re gonna be performing at many different online events these next few months with the goal of presenting our album in different contexts – but we’re mostly just excited have fun with our community.
How has COVID affected your plans for the online tour and the album creation as a whole?
KaTT: Aside from the obvious negatives surrounding it, we were supposed to all meet up for the first time this July in Toronto. Having this plan cave on us due to closed borders and events has been a really deflating experience – we can’t wait for this whole thing to blow over so we can finally all meet face to face.
Script: It fucked up the whole experience, I was supposed to meet with everyone in March.
In your why you delete? interview, you mentioned how saturated the music industry was and how good artists couldn’t reach an audience. How do you feel that has changed over the last two years?
KaTT: Platforms themselves kinda remain the same, but I feel like the explosion of online events has created a lot of opportunity for smaller artists to make a name for themselves – Murder Club is an artist that really started to explode by playing as many of these as he could, absolute legend.
Script: It feels like people have more ways to approach audience now through discord servers and url events which makes everything easier than before. SoundCloud is kinda dying though and Spotify is not so community friendly which sucks but it feels like the underground scene is being heard.
In that same chat, you specifically mentioned that Helvetican was always ahead of the curve when it came to knowing what will be popular. So, what’s next?
Helvetican: I think genres are colliding and bleeding into each other so much right now it’s impossible to predict the next popular thing, it could be anything. Himera is going to be huge though.