You're Gonna Love This: An Interview with 3OH!3's Nathaniel Motte
Before I spoke to Nathaniel Motte, one half of the Colorado-bred electro-pop duo, 3OH!3, I half expected fart jokes and ADD-addled teenage trouble. Okay, so I did get one fart joke in the form of a pick-up line, but to be fair, it was a really good pick-up line. After all, these are the guys that brought us, “Do the Helen Keller and talk with your hips” in loin cloths and little boy-briefs (from their 2008 single “Don’t Trust Me”). Turns out that Motte, 29, and Sean Foreman, 27, who’ve had hits with Katy Perry, Lil Jon and Ke$ha, are only ADD in that they’ve had their jam-hands in a multitude of projects over the 3 years since their last album came out.
Omens, which hits stores today (June 18th), was gradually streamed over the course of a month to 3OH!3’s fans via a series of interactive games on the band’s website. Now fully available in stores and on iTunes, Motte is a proponent of the try-and-buy model that the music industry has been forced to adopt and hopes it will encourage fans to support the bands they like.
While he’s not at liberty to discuss that alleged Diamond Dallas Page lawsuit, Nate did take the time to talk about the band’s new album, pretending to have game and how his self-proclaimed bromance with Sean first began.
So what’s good over there? What do you have going on today?
It’s a beautiful day in Colorado! Doing some interviews, gearing up for the album release, which is exciting. Kind of scrambling to get ready for our tour, where I do all of our musical direction too.
I understand that you and Sean met for the first time in a Physics classroom in Boulder and ended up bonding thanks to a similar taste in music. What exactly were you listening to back then that made you guys click?
Sean and I were both raised by real music-lover families and we inherited their taste. Our parents grew up in the ‘50s and ‘60s, so they played a lot of old blues, folk and classic jazz. And then Sean and I really came together through electronic music and hip-hop. There’s a pretty and developed underground hip-hop scene in Boulder. But our relationship, what we have is a total bromance.
When I was in high school, I did a lot of video production stuff. Our videos would end up on public access television, which Sean was an avid fan of. I used a lot of underground, experimental hip-hop in those videos, so when we first met in Physics class at University of Colorado, Sean kind of put two and two together. It was a true bromance [laughs]. Sean came to class wearing the shirt of a hip hop collective he knew I was a fan of – Anticon. It’s been true love ever since.
How would you describe your sound to readers of our site that might not be familiar with your music?
The basis of our sound, the fundamental building block is electronic composition. I think we try to, overarchingly, put a lot of fun into our music. So whether it’s a serious song or a ballad, it’s pretty jokey. I think that’s something that we used to do consciously, but I guess at this point, it’s kind of unconscious.
We’re always interested in making records that aren’t just the same thing. So hopefully Omens is an expansion of our aesthetic and will appeal to people who have liked our music in the past and attract some new fans as well.
It’s been 3 years since you guys released your last album, Streets of Gold. What have you been up to?
We’ve been really busy since our last album. We’ve been touring a bunch and then Sean and I both do a lot of co-writing and co-producing for other artists, so it’s been nice to come back and do another record of our own now. Hopefully it’s a healthy kind of back-and-forth.
The majority of Omens was, A to Z, done by us here in Colorado. Everything from engineering to producing and writing and mixing. On the co-writing tip, the marquee thing that came up for me was working with [producer, fellow Coloradan and OneRepublic frontman] Ryan Tedder on a Maroon 5 song called ‘Love Somebody.’
I also did some songwriting sessions with Karmin for their new album. We did 2 full songs in 3 days – they’re really cool. Those two are so talented!
I saw that you two were guest music supervisors for an episode of The Real World: Portland.
Yeah, we actually got to put a bunch of music from our Colorado buddies in there: American Tomahawk, Thanks For Everything, Wuki. That was really educational and interesting for us to step into that realm of music. That place where music serves the image more than vice versa.
I’ve also been working on some scoring projects with my friend Joseph [Trapanese], who did the soundtracks for Tron and Oblivion. He came to Colorado to help us out on a song for Omens called “Do or Die,” but now we’re currently just putting reels together and assembling a CV of sorts for future scoring projects. We were initially trying to score a new version of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and ended up making a lot of crazy shit in that direction, but the overall project fell through. We’ll continue making music and having fun.
All those extra projects just kind of feed into each other and then hopefully come together in one crazy creative spot.
What’s the story behind the title of the new album, Omens? Were you guys really superstitious during the recording process?
Yeah, we were cutting off chicken’s heads and spraying blood all over the place [laughs]. We were looking for a title as we were putting everything together and Omens just kind of made sense — I think there’s a feeling of something big on this record. Kind of epic and looming. And I think the way we created each song, they’re all individual omens of their own. They kind of stand for their own things within a bigger project.
What made you guys decide to release the album to fans by streaming the songs in waves on your website?
We started out during the Golden Age of MySpace and really took advantage of that. We’ve always had great interactions with our fans online and Sean and I will personally go onto Facebook and Twitter to respond to fans. I think the streaming on the website was just a continuation of that. We have such a great online following and we really see that feed into our concerts and everything else. So the progressive lead-up to the record was just kind of a fun way to get fans involved and get back in touch with people. And obviously, people don’t really buy records these days like they used to, so you can take that as a positive to do interesting things.
In the video for the single “You’re Gonna Love This,” you and Sean pretend to act slick while trying to pick up the same chick. Do you guys usually zero in on the same kind of girls in real life?
[Laughs] I don’t think we’ve ever crossed paths that way, but that video is kind of truthful in that a lot of times, we’re just not that slick. And a girl can find that either a.) annoying or if she’s the right kind of girl, maybe she finds it charming.
Do you have any sure-fire pick-up lines you like to use?
I do! This one works pretty much every time: I go, “Did you just fart?” and then the girl’s like, “What?” and I say, “Because you just blew me away.”
Haha wow, I can’t say that I’ve ever heard that one before!
That’s what I’m saying! It’s very unique and sort of funny but kind of disgusting.
So you guys are doing some Warped Tour dates again this summer. I worked on Warped Tour one year and the atmosphere is just like this massive summer camp for adults. Did you guys click with any other bands in particular on previous Warped Tours?
Yeah absolutely. First of all, Kevin Lyman, who owns and operates Warped is just awesome. And it’s a tour that’s really fan-centric and totally for the fans. It’s 30 or 40 bucks for like 80 or 90 bands, which is awesome. And then they’ve broken down the very unnecessary wall between fans and bands with the walk-up meet and greets — people can get really up close and personal.
And yeah, we’ve made some of our best friends on that tour, from the bands to the production people who logistically allow Warped to happen. The first year we just did one day in Denver in 2007, but then we did the whole tour in 2008 and that was the same year Katy Perry was on it. That was kind of like her first tour and we were on the same stage as her, so that’s really where our relationship with Katy started. It’s such a great place and it is like an adult summer camp. Once you figure out how to prepare for the heat and not necessarily having access to the cleanest or the most frequent showers, you can kind of chill and have a lot of fun.
Is there anything you now have on tour that you consider a luxury? How have your touring conditions changed over the years?
Well, I’m 6’7″ and I don’t really fit in normal tour bus bunks, so I usually sleep in the back lounge, which is a pretty important place to have. I think we’ve grown at a pace that’s good, but also at a pace where we’re not overspending or outrunning our growth. So we have everybody on one bus and with our crew, it’s really just a bunch of our friends. It kind of becomes a travelling apartment. But I don’t think we’re too lavish.
Okay so we’ve got time for one more question: What ever happened with that Diamond Dallas Page lawsuit?
[Laughs] That’s going to be a no comment. But let’s try a different question!
Haha okay okay. You’ve deferred acceptance to medical school several times now since becoming successful with the band. Is that something that you’re still considering?
You know, that’s tough. I actually deferred four years in a row. The University of Colorado was so generous and accommodating, but at this point I’m no longer accepted. But I’ll always be interested — a lot of my family works in medicine. All I can say is that we’re having a lot of fun doing what we’re doing right now and hopefully it’ll be a long-term career.
Omens is out now on Atlantic Records.
Featured image via Atlantic Records