Behind the Beat: Two Friends
Matt Halper and Eli Sones otherwise known as Two Friends sat down with us ahead of their show The Albion Hotel during Miami Music Week 2016. The L.A.-based duo opened up about coming up in the industry, what makes them tick when it comes to music and more. Needless to say after a pretty long and hilarious at times chat, we are even bigger fans of these two now.
Only The Beat: So, you guys are LA natives? Yes?
Eli: I’m for real, he’s fake.
OTB: So why is he fake?
Matt: So, I was born in New York, moved to Connecticut and then Poland. And then LA when I was in 5th grade.
OTB: Got it. So when did you guys meet?
Matt: We were best friends, same friend group from 7th grade to 12th grade. Then we split up.
Eli: Yeah, now we are strictly business partners not friends.
OTB: So, that whole name is totally false. (This is a joke.) So, can you speak to how Two Friends came to be as a duo? Do guys both have a music background?
Matt: I think the motivation came in that we both always have loved music, whether it was listening or somewhat artistically in it. But, we were second semester seniors in college and thought let’s do something fun so we kinda went with it. Our background, Eli was kind of in the mashup scene early. You know when 3LAU, Kap Slap, those guys were coming up. He was right after them. He was really good at that. I’ve always played guitar but I was the worst one in our school choir.
Eli: Not that he has a super formal background but he’s more musically-inclined of the two of us.
OTB: So you are both full-time in LA now. Are you always in the studio together? Working on things separately?
Matt: Yeah, we are now.
Eli: I don’t know if many people know this or not but for the past four years up until pretty recently we were both in college and we didn’t go to the same school. It was a lot of FaceTiming, Skyping, sending stuff back and forth, texting. We got to a point about halfway thru college where we were like this isn’t just a hobby anymore. Let’s go for it. Let’s really commit to it. By the time we graduated it wasn’t even a question of should we go for it.
OTB: College, what did you go to school for?
Eli: I went to Vanderbilt in Nashville, TN and I studied Human and Organizational Development. It sounds complicated. But, it’s a mix of business and psychology.
Matt: I did product design which is design with mechanical engineering. Absolutely nothing to do with music.
OTB: Sometimes seeing success very quickly gets to people’s heads. You two seem very grounded and humble. Just talking to you this little bit I feel like you guys won’t ever lose that. You have had a lot of success in the past year. What keeps you guys grounded?
Matt: People in general, in any industry see the successes. They don’t see any of the humbling defeats. There are so many little ones every single day. Whether a label head doesn’t like the song that you worked so hard on or whatever it is. There’s always room to improve, there’s so much more to do. If you get stuck in your head, you are never going to progress.
Eli: I think starting while we were in school was a blessing in disguise. It’s really hard to just start producing and commit to it full-time. It takes a while for you to really build up your foundation, make money even. We kind of had the luxury of being a little patient, if a year into it we weren’t really touring, it was OK because we were in school. It kind of gave us time to build up a foundation, build a good team surrounding us, figure out works for us and what doesn’t. So by the time we did graduate and go full-throttle with it we really had a good grasp on what we needed to do to achieve what we wanted.
OTB: That’s really good, it seems like a lot of people rush it.
Eli: They rush in and it’s hard. If you are just picking up producing and you quit your job…you need to really, really hustle and it’s going to be frustrating.
Matt: Even if you don’t quit your job you need to hustle. You need hours. If you’re not going to put the hours in you are always going to be frustrated. But, on the flip side if you do and you don’t have high expectations in the beginning you will do great. That probably parallels with many things. It’s all about little victories.
Eli: There might be some people in it for the wrong reasons. But, overwhelmingly the people we work with and talk to and collaborate with are all amazing. It seems like our genre is so much more collaborative versus competitive. Being in Miami is amazing, there are so many people that all we know of them is from Twitter and going back and forth on e-mails and we’ve never met. And here we just get to hang out and everyone is happy to see each other.
OTB: Actually you just brought up social media, let’s talk about your man on street videos. The ‘Can you support Forever’ one is hilarious. I love what you guys do with social media, it’s creative, it’s fun.
Eli: No one ever asks us about the funny stuff we do. That’s on the Third Street Promenade which is a staple of Los Angeles. I think even in high school one of our friends ran for student government.
Matt: I did.
Eli: Oh it was you! That’s the go to place. There’s so many people walking around and they are used to getting bombarded for interview questions. So we knew anytime you need to go ask random people on the street, that’s where you go. So, it was actually the second time we did it.
Matt: We are trying to do a little series.
Eli: Like “Two Friends Take the Streets”
Matt: We’re naturally kind of shy, so it’s not fun. But, it’s worth it.
OTB: So, I felt like parts of it you might have felt uncomfortable. But, I appreciate that you put yourselves out there to do it. Because I wouldn’t do it.
Eli: The funny thing about is even if they aren’t or don’t wanna do it we still put those clips in.
OTB: So let’s talk about Forever, it’s been on repeat. The vocal is fantastic. How long did that process take?
Eli: That’s one of the long ones. We shelved it for a while. The singer KT Pearl, she actually went to high school with us. We actually wrote that one with her like 2 1/2-3 years ago. It didn’t really fit what we were doing at the time. As much as we wanted to release it we said let’s just put it on the back burner for a little. Let’s wait till we improve, our production can kind of catch up and we can really execute our vision in a way we really want to.
So I remember, fast forward at least two years. I did a semester abroad in Copenhagen. The time difference between me and Matt was tough, it was like 8 or 9 hours. So, I remember it was afternoon for me which meant it was like 4 or 5 AM for him and he sent me a Facebook message, “I think I got something cool.”
That was like the first time this Soul House, piano house vibe we have been pushing a lot in some of our recent remixes, that was actually the first time ever he had ever played around with that. Not only is this perfect for this song but let’s do that for some other stuff too.
Matt: It was a cool progression and we have a bunch more that have that piano house vibe that we are super excited about. Some deeper ones, some future bass, some pop.
Two Friends ft. ktpearl – Forever
OTB: So that makes me wonder when you guys to do a remix how does that work? You have so many great remixes. The ‘Heaven’ remix is one of my favorites. Where do you start?
Eli: It really depends. There’s not one specific formula that always works. For originals, it’s definitely all over the place. Sometimes you start with the instrumental idea and work on the lyrics and vocals. Sometimes you start with a cool vocal and try to fit some instruments underneath it.
Matt: A lot of that stuff, for originals the tempo is a lot more flexible. A lot of the originals we are doing, in the future won’t all be House. With remixes, a rule of thumb (but not always) is we try to start with the melody. If you have an awesome melody, you can really make it great.
Eli: And when he says awesome melody, we need to be really in love with it. Because there are times, we think it’s good but I will get a text in the middle of the night that says “Dude, it’s not good enough, let’s go back to the drawing board.”
Matt: This week has been a nightmare. He’s been in New York, so he’s been sending me stuff. Probably six different drops for this new remix we’re working on. And it’s just not working. Sometimes you just aren’t inspired. Sometimes it’s the chord progression. Sometimes you need to walk away from it for two weeks.
OTB: And sometimes you come back with a fresh perspective?
Matt: Totally, you gain perspective. A lot of times in production you hear something, you could hear something 10,000 times at that point you really don’t know what’s good. You totally lost perspective on that first listen.
Mako – Way Back Home (Two Friends Remix)
OTB: So what’s coming in the next few months? The next year?
Matt: We are definitely going to continue to do remixes. I think they have been a huge part of who we are and they are really fun. We are definitely focused on originals, we have been writing and producing some of them for a while. But, they are coming soon, it’s just trying to perfect them.
We are definitely excited to see what’s to come in 2016 for these two. Considering what an amazing 2015 they had, we can only imagine what 2016 and beyond will bring for Two Friends.
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