[Editor’s note: This interview originally ran in the latest issue of Flavorwire’s sister publication Earplug, a twice-monthly email magazine delivering a handpicked selection of news, sounds, videos, and original features.]
Thunderheist‘s brand of sexually suggestive, electro-tinged club rap doesn’t just heat up the dance floor: it cuts like fire through the Canadian cold. Now a revelation to dance and indie kids alike, beatsmith Grahm Zilla and chanteuse Isis began online, trading tracks and verses before officially joining forces in Toronto in early ’06. Since then, the group has courted international acclaim; its shows often descend into chaos, with Isis booty dancing with audience members and sipping strangers’ drinks (seriously, she owes us half a beer!).
“Jerk It,” the group’s similarly high-energy call to arms (or to hands, as the case may be), gained blog buzz for its fan-created music video featuring a girl literally choking a chicken. After the jump, Earplug’s Ali Gitlow hits a recent NYC show to chat with the group about its high-profile slot on The Wrestler soundtrack, a heroin addict who sent in a video submission, and the Canadian scene’s continuously rising cache.
Earplug: I saw The Wrestler and thought, “Oh my God, that’s ‘Jerk It!'”
Isis: We were like that too!
Grahm Zilla: We made a scene in the theater.
Isis: “Jerk It” was the song that liberated Marisa Tomei… I was trying to watch the movie, but at the same time, I couldn’t get past it. I was like, “OK, get to the song!”
EP: Was it your idea to do the video contest for “Jerk It”?
Isis:: It was my idea, but we all agreed to it. I’m a big believer in fans and artists melding. We need each other to co-exist, and I thought it would be a great opportunity to give them a thank you. All of our success has been because of fans blogging, fans talking, and fans coming to the shows. It was an opportunity to give them a chance to be part of the Thunderheist experience.
EP: Was the contest winner the video you personally would have wanted to win?
GZ: For sure.
Isis: I was stoked on the cock as well… and by “cock,” I mean male chicken.
EP: Would you do that with another video?
Isis: Have a cock in it?
GZ: Maybe other sorts of contests, like doing artwork, a different aspect. I think we were very fortunate with what we got, because it could have been disastrous. This one guy sent in a video of a junkie shooting up heroin.
Isis: An actual junkie, shooting up actual heroin and falling over.
EP: It seems like you guys have an awesome sense of the relationship between music and other media. Do you think that’s an important connection?
Isis: It’s been happening way before all of our times, when we first connected images to music. At the end of the day, as artists, when we make music, it eventually evokes an image. It’s all one big happy family that takes from each other and inspires each other.
EP: I read an interview you guys did a while back, where you called your music rave rap. Do you still feel the term applies?
Isis: That was like 1996, and I was awfully intoxicated. So no, that does not count.
GZ: There’s been moments of rave rap in our stuff.
Isis: But can you really say rave rap?
GZ: I don’t know, but you say a lot of things that you don’t really think about.
Isis: We’re on the verge of creating a new genre. You think so?
GZ: No. Rave rap is one of the many facets of our music.
Isis: I like your answer better. Depending on the amount of whiskey, yes, we can be rave rap.
EP: Was it a coincidence that all of the “Jerk It” remixes on the EP are by Canadian dudes?
GZ: We wanted to show people the current musical status of eastern Canada. I think we got a good snapshot of the scene last fall, and now they’re all pretty much taking off.
Isis: Before it was like, “Yeah, Canada. Cool.” Now Canada finally has its own sound.
GZ: Well, people did acknowledge the rock stuff.
Isis: All the other genres beside basically indie rock have been really difficult for Canadian musicians to break into. There’s barely an infrastructure for hip-hop. There’s barely an infrastructure for R&B. Or even something as obscure as opera.
GZ: If we put attention on other people, it will come back to us inevitably, because we’re growing as a scene.