Rockin’ With the 5th: Nashville’s BASECAMP Talks New “Greater Than” EP

Following up a widely received self-title debut EP in 2013, the boys of BASECAMP came together earlier this year to drop the Greater Than EP under electronic mogul OWSLA, sharing the umbrella with music’s pioneers DJ Slink, Skrillex and Kill the Noise, just to name a few. Individually, the trio cut their teeth as songwriters and collaborators for other artists in their hometown of Nashville, but came together to create a sound that was a bit above and beyond their origins. We caught up with BASECAMP vocalist Aaron Miller between the group’s Red Bull 30 Days in LA show and the tail end of the 2015 show schedule to talk about performing with hip-hop’s latest artists-on-the-rise iLoveMakonnen and Jazz Cartier, the Greater Than EP and group dynamics.

The 5th Element Mag: How was the turn out for the Red Bull show?
Aaron Miller:
It was great, the Red Bull show was awesome. It was a fun night just because of us being paired with Jazz Cartier and iLoveMakonnen, you could definitely tell certain people were there for us and others for Makonnen; it was just kind of funny watching everyone’s reaction. But overall, everybody got into it and it wound up being a really fun night.

5th: It was an interesting bill for sure; you guys have a more vibe-y sound, whereas Makonnen and Jazz are definitely hip-hop. But for this latest single, “In My Veins,” you feature Del the Funky Homosapien and Billie Black; normally you don’t have features in your music, how did this one come about?
We’ve been longtime fans of Del — I’ve been a fan of his since high school, since the Deltron 3030 record, and “I Wish My Brother George Was Here;” I was just a huge fan of Hieroglyphics. We just recently discovered Billie Black through Apple Music, and I loved her voice, her style, she had this modern-day Sade type of feel to it and I really dug it. We were brainstorming with Red Bull on who we wanted to feature and those two just happened to come up. We had been wanting to work with Billie for a while and they also wanted us to put a rapper on it, so we just threw a Del’s name into the hat, but we never thought we’d actually get it. *laughs*

5th: Do you guys have any plans to work with any other vocalists?
Definitely, we’d love to do a lot of collaborations, especially in the hip-hop world. We’ve always been big fans of hip-hop, it’s been a big part of our lives; matter of fact the way we met was because all three of us were working with a rapper out here in Nashville, Chancellor Warhol. The other guys were doing production for him and I was writing and singing with him, and that’s pretty much how we started. But in terms of specifics, there’s a list of people we have in mind, but for now we’ve been working on a track with Jazz Cartier. We definitely want to get in with people like Joey Bada$$ and GoldLink, but there’s a really long list of people.

5th: How does the Greater Than EP compare to the self-titled EP?
I think it’s just a bit more evolved. The first EP came together on accident really — we weren’t really trying to make a record, we were just writing for fun and being experimental and weird. The second record was definitely more purposeful because by the time we got around to making the second one, BASECAMP had become a real thing. There was a lot more intent and purpose behind how we made the record, but at the same time it was still very experimental because we had gotten our hands on all this new equipment and gear: things like synthesizers, keyboards and all this great hardware that really changed the way that we were making our music.

5th: In previous interviews you’ve said that each song you guys make can sound different, yet the overall project can still be cohesive. Can you elaborate on how that happens?
We tend to have a couple hidden, secret things that we like to do in every song, that we do consider our signature, but at the same time, it’s so subtle that we’re probably the only ones who can pinpoint it. But to be honest, when we were making Greater Than, I remember me personally thinking it was a little weird that we weren’t incorporating that signature, that coherence. For me it almost felt like it was a bit all over the place, but I still really liked it. I’ve had conversations with the guys about it too, and they feel very differently about it than I do. They think its coherent and it’s just funny in the sense that even though we are the ones that made it, we all individually see and hear it in different ways. But I do think a lot of it has to do with how we put so much attention and care into the details, and we do have stylistic things and certain sounds that we lean towards.

5th: The group dynamic with this type of music is always intriguing in that as listeners, we don’t know where one individual’s part ends and the other begins. What’s BASECAMP’s creative process like?
It normally starts pretty naturally, we’ll start messing with samples, and we’ll play until something hits us, or something that we like and then we’ll start building on top of that. It’s funny, we’re all very different people but still very similar in a lot of ways. I think it works to our benefit because we definitely butt heads creatively sometimes, but I think you want that in any creative process because then there’s this medium where we can all come together in the middle. We’ll tweak and tweak and tweak, then we’ll argue and debate about certain parts of it, but we’ll always know what it’s there, or when the song is going the right direction or when it’s finished. There isn’t any one song that any one of us could’ve done on our own without the other two, you know?

5th: When it comes to the vocal components of your music, who are some of your influences?
I’m a big fan of Yukimi Nagano and Bebel Gilberto; I grew up on a lot of Sting and Peter Gabriel.

5th: You guys are signed under OWSLA and they have some artists that are currently influencing electronic music — Skrillex, DJ Sliink, Kill the Noise, Vindata — what do you think your music brings into that evolving electronic music scene?
To be honest, I don’t really know. *laughs* At least for OWSLA, I know they’re trying to diversify, but I think it works because our music is very lyrical and has pop-ish elements. But as far as our place, it’s really hard for us to say because we started making music because it was fun. 

And then there are journalists that are trying to decipher every little thing that artists do. *laughs* 

I mean, that’s fine and everything, it’s just that when we started making music, we didn’t think it would catch on and about how it will resonate with other people or labels, we just were doing it because we liked making music. We knew how we valued our music, and at this point we’re just glad people like it. It’s just awesome by itself that people have gotten behind it and really like what we’re doing.

Nina Tabios

Nina Smoove aka Champagne Ninang. Certified hooligan. $F Bay Area born and bred.

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