How They Built PYYRAMIDS



The mysterious PYYRAMIDS are a little bit spooky and a little bit moody. The duo’s album release on Halloween fits in with their enigmatic band personality. A collaboration between OK Go’s Tim Nordwind and He Say She Say’s Drea Smith, PYYRAMIDS’s music is a perfect combination of catchy songwriting, vulnerable lyricism and pop. Influenced by The Cure and Joy Division, it’s a vast departure from Norwind and Smith’s other musical projects.

The duo is looking forward to another EP or full-album release within the next year, as they have more songs cued up to work on post-Human Beings EP. In the meantime, they played their first show together at CMJ, are hoping to tour, and want to get cast (or have their music used) on American Horror Story. Norwind and Smith spoke to us about being email musicians, their “comparisons” to Jay-Z and Kanye West, and the trials and tribulations of Google-searching for PYYRAMIDS.

ILANA KAPLAN: How was CMJ? That was your debut, right?

DREA SMITH: That was fun.

TIM NORDWIND: That was our first show. I think it went about as well as it could have gone.  We’ve got a few more coming up in the next month, which is pretty exciting.

KAPLAN: How did this project begin?

SMITH: We met through a mutual friend who thought we would be a good fit to work on some stuff with each other. She email-introduced us. We bounced back and forth, basically, with what we both liked. We realized that we pretty much liked all the same stuff. We were looking to do something different than what we both were doing.

NORDWIND: I think she and I both had ideas and stockpiled music that we liked, but didn’t necessarily fit in with the projects that we were working on at the time. After a lot of conversation back and forth, we just realized that a lot of the initial ideas we had lying around were kind of the things we were referencing and talking about, as far as our favorite bands from Manchester and things like that. I started sending her beats and little tidbits of music that had a melody and asked her to throw something on it. The first song that Drea sent back was actually called “Human Beings,” which is the name of our EP and exists on our EP. That was really a bass line and a drumbeat, more or less. She sent it back with a fairly finished vocal line and harmonies. We just kind of went from there. We kind of just went back and forth online, without having met each other. Finally, I was going through Chicago, and we decided we’ve been working on music together so much that we should meet in person. I liked you, Drea. Did you like me?

SMITH: I liked you, too. We get along famously!

NORDWIND: We got along even in person. Sometimes you never know.  Sometimes it can only work online or over the phone.

KAPLAN: Or you could have a Jay-Z-Kanye West relationship.

NORDWIND: We’ve been getting a lot of comparisons to Jay-Z and Kanye West. Actually, our album was going to be called, Watch the Home, but it was a little too similar to Watch the Throne. So, we changed it to Human Beings. This past year in 2011, I made a New Year’s resolution to call Drea and see if we could actually record some of this stuff for real and actually get it out into the world. Around this time last year we had five to eight songs that had more or less been demoed as much as they could be demoed. It was really time for the two of us to get together and finish things. I called her January 2nd or 3rd and was like, “Do you want to come to Los Angeles where I live…”

SMITH: And I was like, “Yes, because there’s ten feet of snow here.”

NORDWIND: So, Drea came in March. We finished three songs. She came back and actually moved to LA in… when did you move?

SMITH: The first weekend of September. I’ve been here almost two months.

KAPLAN: Your EP is the first release on OK Go’s label. Are you guys happy that the album is going out on this label as opposed to another one?

SMITH: I know I am. I’m an OK Go fan. I’m a fan of Tim. It’s a nice little home for PYYRAMIDS. It’s a great fit.

NORDWIND: It makes sense. I’m glad that the OK Go family believes in the PYYRAMIDS project enough to want to put it out. It feels like the right place to put it out. Especially for me, I think we started this label to put stuff out that we believed in and liked.

SMITH: I agree.

KAPLAN: Why the two “Y”s in PYYRAMIDS? It is a lot easier to find you on the Internet.

SMITH: Well, if you Google “pyramids” everything “pyramids” shows up. One “y,” and it brings you to pictures of pyramids and a Wikipedia on “pyramids.” “PYYRAMIDS” brings you right to us: an ancient Egyptian band. [laughs]

NORDWIND: I like the kind of mystical elements of the name. It reminded me of the dark, moody music that we are making.

KAPLAN: Is the Human Beings EP release on Halloween intentional?

NORDWIND: It’s a little bit intentional. To me, it sounds like the mood of that holiday. It seemed like a good time to shoot for. We could have put this out whenever, but I felt like for the sound of it, that Halloween would be a good time to release it. I like doing holiday releases. I think there’s something festive about it.

SMITH: It’s a soundtrack to the holiday.

KAPLAN: What are you guys being for Halloween?

SMITH: I wanted to be Shona from The Last Dragon or Slash from Guns N’ Roses because I have the curly hair and the nose ring. I just need a top hat, a vest and the leather pants.

NORDWIND: I still don’t know. Certain people want me to go as Baberaham Lincoln, where I would dress up in a bikini or a one-piece bathing suit and a top hat, because I have the beard already. I don’t know if I would do that. It’s obviously a fantastic suggestion. I don’t know if I’m secure enough with my body to show it off.

KAPLAN: I vote for that.

NORDWIND: Everyone votes for that. I don’t know. Other than that I’m not quite sure. Baberaham Lincoln is still at the top of the list. I might go as Drea for Halloween. I spend enough time around Drea that I think I could pull it off.