Sloughing Egos With The Internet

The alternative R&B quintet has no qualms about sharing the limelight with each other.

With three albums under their belt, The Internet could easily pull songs from their back-catalog to play on their current 11-date tour. But they won’t. At least, not entirely.

While you’ll hear some classic cuts, like “Girl,” “Dontcha,” and “She Dgaf” at their upcoming Bay Area shows on Sunday, March 12 and Tuesday, March 14, the absurdly young quintet will also be performing a slew of new tracks, culled from recent solo albums by three of its members.

That might sound weird to some, and disappointing to others hoping to only hear material from the main band’s oeuvre, but it’s actually pretty cool when you think about it. The Internet hinted at their pluralistic nature in the title of their 2015, Grammy Award-nominated album Ego Death, and now they’re proving those sentiments true.

We chatted with keyboardist, vocalist, and co-founder Matt Martians about learning how to play a new instrument, staying true to The Internet’s quirky R&B sound, and how they’re all old people stuck in young people’s bodies.

SF Weekly: In the last month, three members of The Internet — you, Syd, and Steve Lacy — each dropped a solo album. Was this a coordinated release?

Matt Martians: We planned it, but we didn’t plan it down to the dates. It made sense for us to release our stuff around the same time, as opposed to doing it separate, because if we didn’t do it like that, people might think we broke up. But that’s not the case.

SFW: Lacy plays guitar for The Internet, but in his solo album, he sings. Is that something new he was trying out?

MM: See, that’s the thing. He is a vocalist on our stuff, it’s just when we were making Ego Death, he was really learning and starting out. Because he was 16 when we made [Ego Death] and now he’s 18. So his solo album is really him finding his voice and becoming comfortable with it. I’m sure in the next Internet album there will be a lot more dual singing, a lot more harmonizing.

SFW: What about you? Did you try anything new with The Drum Chord Theory?

MM: I didn’t really try anything, I kind of just accepted the sound that I’ve always had, embracing the weirdness and quirkiness that I’m always sort of trying to suppress because I think it might make the music too left-field. But with this album, I was like, ‘Somebody’s going to like it. Somebody’s going to think its dope, so I might as well put it out — because if I don’t, I might regret not ever doing this.’

When you and Syd started the band in 2011, did you expect it to get this big or go this far?

MM: No. We had many times where we thought we couldn’t do it or we weren’t going about it the right way, or we did a show and nobody came. We would think, ‘Maybe we’re doing something wrong? Maybe this isn’t going to work?’ But we realized it’s all about the journey. I feel like a lot of times, a lot of us pursue things that older generations might think are far-fetched and reaching for the stars. Like for me, in my family, what I’ve achieved is crazy. They never thought this might happen to me.

SFW: The entire band is comprised of self-taught musicians. Have you gotten any lessons since blowing up in recent years?

MM: Yeah, I got some lessons on playing keys because our former key player is not in the band anymore, so I had to really step up. My dad was telling me that in Sly and the Family Stone, the bass player left and Sly had to play bass on the next album, and it ended up being one of their best albums. So where I used to be the producer on stage and kind of just be there as a presence, now my role is a little bit bigger and I play the key section of the band. I’m really proud of myself.

SFW: What’s the future look like for The Internet? Will you guys be trying anything new or different?

MM: No, that’s why we just did the solos, to get some of the adventurous stuff we’d been wanting to try out of our systems. Because you can always depend on The Internet’s sound for being what it is. I know that a lot of times people get mad when bands change their sound up or when they try new things too out of the box. We just thought instead of doing that, we’d do some side projects to get that off our chests. They’re sort of buffers to not having to change our sound as The Internet.

SFW: You sound wise beyond your years, and I’m sure the rest of the band is, too. Are you all kind of like old people in young people’s bodies?

MM: Syd is for sure. Syd is way more mature than me. But honestly, we understand the process and we got lucky to find a real group of people that all understand that we’re not looking for instant gratification. Like, Steve wanted to release his solo album a long time ago, but we’ve been waiting until he found his voice. So I think we understand timing and we understand patience and we understand what it really means to respect the process. There’s no rush. I like that it took me and Syd six years to get here. It feels better that way, because it’s not a flash-in-the-pan situation.

The Internet
plays at 9 p.m., Sunday, March 12, at the Independent. $25-$30;
And at 9 p.m., Tuesday, March 14, at the New Parish. $25-$30;

Jessie Schiewe is SF Weekly’s music editor.

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