TuneDig is an in-depth and informed conversation between two lifelong friends about the power of music — one album at a time.

In each episode, we go down the rabbit hole to spend a while in the strange world we discover. We take an honest look at creativity in all its complexity—from writing and production to history and cultural impact.

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Episode 014

IV

BADBADNOTGOOD

If you’re worried about kids these days and/or the pitfalls of technology, we’d like to point to an antidote to all those fears. Meet BADBADNOTGOOD, the jazz quartet you can crowdsurf to, and IV, the album where they found their own voice. What a time to be alive.

Transcript

Note: our transcripts are mostly AI-generated for now. 

Episode 014: BADBADNOTGOOD's "IV": Audio automatically transcribed by Sonix

Episode 014: BADBADNOTGOOD's "IV": this mp3 audio file was automatically transcribed by Sonix with the best speech-to-text algorithms. This transcript may contain errors.

You're listening to TuneDig, a podcast for music lovers. The premise is simple: in each episode, we dig deep into an album we love and then we give away a copy to you of that album on vinyl. Go to TuneDig.com To see what's up for grabs and learn more about us.

You're listening to BADBADNOTGOOD's "IV".

There was a quote that is maybe overly simplistic and a little too positive, but it still captures the idea around one, why this was a record we're talking about for us. And then to it highlighted why I had the experience with him that I did. Eventually when I went to see them live, there was a different feeling that I've really only experience when I saw, like McCoy Tyner with you right there, there is something different about a sense of free jazz or at the very least, being in the presence of musicians who are comfortable expressing exactly what they're trying to express at the time and are comfortable having a moment of going back and forth between improvization and things that they've written. And you can just tell that they have fun. Right. So that was the thing that stood out.

Yeah. And there's a lot of gravity in the music itself, but it's played joyfully.

So the quote, though, it's easy to see why bad, bad, not good, or the type of jazz group that appeals to people who normally don't care for jazz. They're music lovers first and foremost, and they're directly in tune with what's happening in the music world. They blend numerous influences and they don't conform to any traditions. More than anything, their music is exuberant and immensely enjoyable. Ride a little positive, but it does capture why. This is a band I like to tell people about because it's not just a look. Talented jazz musicians also like hip hop, and they found a way to recreate some of them in a fun way. It's literally fun. It really does feel like they're having fun when they play. It sounds fun to listen to it. And that's a unique experience when some of the songs on this record are soul songs.

Yeah, very. Almost Motown. Yeah. Yeah. They go to some interesting places with that on this one.

But to me that's that's one big theme from this band. And one of the reasons I love this record has been watching them use the culture of the Internet to build a following. When that quote talks about that, they're in tune with what's happening in the music world. It's kind of an old fart way of saying that they're on the Internet, you know, but they're not just redoing 20 year old hip hop songs. They're they're finding new influences all the time and channeling them back into something very unique.

And they make so much sense through the prism of Internet culture where the walls have all broken down and only what's interesting and original floats to the top. It's really heartening that kids who were like just on the other side of the digital divide where the Internet was always there for them as opposed to us, where we can remember the first time we got on the Internet, having had access to basically all the world's recorded music with young creative people like bad, bad, not good. And Mac DeMarco and Tyler, the Creator and Anderson PAC, you can see the benefits like the Internet is just old enough now where we can see the ROIC for kids that have grown up with it. Right. Because they have these extraordinary broad and varied tastes and touch points and influences in a way that wouldn't have been possible even the time that we grew up when it was about scenes and referrals to albums and bands from people you knew.

This is a band that has to have the power of the Internet behind it to spread some of it, because there's no other place that you would magically hear about a band like this and the openness on the other end of the fan base.

I love what you said from that quote. It's like jazz for people that don't like jazz. I read something in a review that said there are there meteoric rise could be traced to one conceit. And that's the convergence of highbrow and lowbrow culture.

Right. They make prolific playing and dexterity and improvization and all these things that take a lot of skill and study. And they make it really accessible and like you said, fun. And that is what makes them really smart. And this album, we find them at a point in their career where they've gone from doing other people's stuff, riffing on ideas that inspire them to finding ideas of their own.

The reason this album specifically has stood out to me is that this was a period in their career so far where they went far enough into the hip hop covers and they were coming off the album with Ghostface Killah and all that stuff all the time.

It's a common phenomenon from this, on the contrary, I get a pop in my gut every damn time you can declare.

They in this record started swinging their way back to jazz to figure out what the right balance of jazz traditionalism with new music and with new ideas would be and how to execute on that for features a number of songs that show some of that same sensibility that they've had on previous records that gave them some momentum. But at the same time, this record is uniquely theirs. They even when they collaborate, there's an angle or an approach about the collaborations that not only is clearly unique in the songs themselves, but the other collaborators who are working with them seem to appreciate them in a way that you don't usually hear two people talk about. These aren't, for the most part, big names. And when they are, they're not there to create publicity. They're there for some really unique reasons and for they have some cool stories behind them, which I think we'll get into.

You shared that podcast with me, that they were on creative control. And it's over two hours of conversation about this record and it gets really in depth. And one of the things that really stood out to me in that conversation was how was exactly what you said? Right. They'd done three. They toured heavily on three, which has some of that like trip hop straight ahead groove. A lot of people talk about them as beat makers.

And then they did the thing with Ghostface. But then the first writing session where they sat down, they had a deliberate, like return to roots moment. Very little of that material found its way onto this record.

There are one or two straight forward, whatever the template of bad, bad, not good as songs on this record. So it is interesting that they did that like three thirds of a brainstorm thing where they got out all the ideas that they had at the time. And it was like, let's let's go all the way to the core of who we are as a group and just do all the straight ahead jazz stuff. They pushed all that out there like, OK, now what? And this whole record is the extra 10 percent for them. You know, this is a maximum effort record and it really shows these guys are real, true creative spirits.

There's like infinitesimal reference points. And it was cool to hear these young cats talk about everything from working with Renata to like Steve Reich, influencing the first song on this record.

They love Steely Dan to you. They love Steely Dan.

Break your back down. So that was another thing that really stuck out to me and listening to these interviews is not only do they have enough clarity to understand what they like about their influences from a songwriting perspective, they also produce and engineer their own records. Right. So they understand it down to the level of the hertz in the vocal range and how that's going to be affected in mixing and mastering and what affects on emotional resonance that the dynamic range of the mixing has, like these guys are really, really, really about it.

Yeah, they have a really interesting production technique where they seem to record the basis of the track directly to tape. Yeah, and that seems to be some different combinations on different songs. But for the most part, you know, if you take a time moves slow. They talked about how they kind of laid down the three instruments, including the drums at once, one big live take at one time and on tape again, this is literal tape. This is not the same as laying down a bunch of tracks inside of a digital editor and then being able to kind of go back and chop it up again. They're taking one take, putting it down on physical tape. And then they talked about when they recorded the vocals that they were literally recording on top of what they've already recorded so far. Right. So if you lose it, you lose it, you mess it up and it's all got to be redone from scratch. I found you again.

Look how much he leaves falling in.

So clearly, that's not the most efficient way to do things, but there's so much this is that theme of earnestness and adherence to tradition that they have that merges with the newness and the Internet culture that makes them so fascinating because they're still using a very traditional recording technique and it produces something different in the recordings themselves. There's that actual pressure of recording the right thing, of not messing this up. And it's an extremely difficult thing to do as a musician, especially when you're dealing with technical music like this. And so there's there's a real urgency to these songs, even when the tempo of the songs itself is not urgent.

And there's a lot of the thing that I first learned to appreciate from Led Zeppelin, where they very much believe that the way that they've recorded these songs is just a snapshot and it's never going to be the same again. One thing that was cool, I'm going to keep referencing that creative control interview because it went everywhere and it was directly from them. And it was kind of an unprecedented level of access into the headspace of the making of such a unique and distinctive record.

Yeah, they went through every track one by one, and it was phenomenal. They interviewed three out of their main four collaborators. It was fascinating.

They talked about they almost wish they could tour on the record for a year and a half or two years and then go in and record it like that to me is another good nugget that shows how different they are and how they think about their creative process and what their art means and how it is to be experienced and digested. It's very much in the vein and we talked about that with college drop out a few episodes ago where kind of sort of did the reverse write.

He would record it and get feedback on it and then rerecord it there, say just let it breathe, let the energy of a room dictate what's cool and and what works and then capture it to tape. So there's real artistry there in both cases and actual creative genius.

I think it's fascinating to you to hear them mention that they don't play songs live without their collaborators. They talk about, like you're mentioning, that, you know, songs need time to breathe, that they rarely end up sounding like they were first sounding like when they were recorded. And so they're naturally kind of creating new variations on it, adding to it as they're playing it live. It almost sounds like they feel like it would betray the collaboration to try to create a version of it without all the proper people there, whereas they clearly feel comfortable manipulating their own songs because everyone's there for the most part, unless they happen to have a collaborator with them, they're live at a festival or something. There's an instrumental jazz and they make it an incredible set with only their own songs where they don't have vocals.

There's a beauty on both fronts, like you said, an appreciation for great traditions that have sort of been lost thanks to the recent history of the music industry, but also a willingness to break rules and innovate very much. And like the modern Internet lawlessness, it's very important to them to treat live as sort of the sanctuary still. And that's where the music really lives and breathes. And they obviously have a code there. But up until they signed to a label for three and four and for our soul, they released everything for free on Bandcamp and continued to release lots of free music.

We don't always need to do a history of the band. We don't have to do a thorough one here. But I think it's good to know how we traced our way to this point. You're so young Canadians with an affinity for hip hop who are also jazz musicians. So this becomes a very small club immediately down to exactly the size of a band. So there's there are three of them total and they found a fourth. And he's now a member of the band. Right. They loved Odd Future and they loved Makhdoom. But so one of their first collaborations with the cover eliminated from boogyman.

Yeah. Bangladesh, formerly Shondra Atlanta guy.

We mentioned that they love Odd Future, they did a jam session.

Well, yeah, but but before that, the thing they got Tyler's attention. They just channeled some odd future music into jazz when they were still playing together in school. And in fact, as the story goes, they actually played that for their professors.

Professors turned their disgust. And the videos from that first session where they're performing in a practice room at school, it's black and white and their videos have a similar editing esthetic to the videos our future was putting out at the time. Like very low fi, weird slowmo, the drummers wearing a pig mask, but then they rip.

But so, yeah, so they they made the odd future sessions, part one, it got the actual attention of Tyler, the creator who helped it spread and then resulted in a live jam session with Tyler, the creator, in the drummer's basement in 2011. And so that got viewed a lot because, of course, it did a little bit before that. They put out a debut album, had a bunch of cover songs, covers of A Tribe, Called Quest, Waka Flocka Flame, other odd future stuff on.

You skipped over to, though, and is where it really starts to get interesting, it's the last of the free records, but I think that's where they cover an Earl sweatshirt song. But there's also a James Blake cover and then there's on my Bloody Valentine cover at the very end, so you realize the palette that these guys have. So that's a little more of a declaration of intent than the early stuff.

There's only so much history we need to back our way into it. But some of that early stuff I think is important. And that's, again, one of the reasons I love this particular record, is to really see them come out as their own band, especially on a number of songs, the cream of the crop from the things that they dumped out after so much time kind of in the hip hop world, you know, spending time on that Ghostface record, apparently backing up Frank Ocean at Coachella as the house band. All kinds of awesome stuff.

Right. They knew they were really good and they were really inspired by each other's playing. So when you watch those the odd future session videos, they're letting her rep. But there's a lot of minimalism almost on this record. There's a lot of times where they back out to almost nothing.

A great example of that restraint is Time Moves Slow, a phenomenal solo song with guest vocals from the front man of Future Islands say, I'm hearing this song, rules suck in. The vocals are so good and it's an extremely soulful vocal take. Another example of Alex on drums being complex without being distracting. He had so much to the to the song to keep it from being simplistic and feeling like it drags really great control. I think my my favorite part about this one, though, was how this collaboration came about. Bad, bad, not good. Became known to future islands because bad, bad, not good. Did a remix of a feature island song Seasons.

And Jodhaa just.

So they did a tremendous job with it and apparently blew future islands away when they heard it. So traditionally in the music industry, the band who does the remixing doesn't retain the rights to it. You know, you get paid a fee basically for doing the remix and you signed the rights over to the original band. So what they asked for instead of money, not in addition to money, they just said, you know, what would we'd rather have is just to be able to collaborate with them in the future so that we can have a song that we can retain the rights to.

Sam Harring talking about this performance is unlike any other interview that I heard with him, because he was talking about how he was like sitting around smoking cigarets and trying to write lyrics.

And as the performance came together is that bass layer of instrumentation came together. He said the chords pulled something out of me.

Then the band comes back to the band and they talk about how it's basically his raw vocal track that made it onto the record. They didn't need it at all. So when we were talking about the Herts thing, they just left the top and bottom and didn't scoop it out at all. So you can hear the rawness and the edges of the hurt and the vulnerability in his performance, the same hearing performance. And the other really soulful song with Charlie Wilson had a common thread because the music was so evocative that they were both compelled to write about relationships that had fallen apart.

I think they choose their collaborators really well, Sam and Charlotte and Kay and Colin Stetson, who has an amazing solo career as a collaborator with Arcade Fire. They're musicians, musicians. Right. And that's why I think we were so excited to talk about this record that's so different from all the other records we talked about that all have a place in the pantheon or a place in subculture. This is the newest record we've talked about. I think outside of maybe Donald Glover.

Yeah, like Colin Stetson. Collaboration is a great example because that comes after time moves slow. And so you can see how the different types of collaboration bring out totally different approaches to songs. So confession is part two tends to sound like two forms of improvization kind of working against one another inside of the song. But actually no one's really improvising their.

Somebody said it had almost an Ethiopian feel, and I remember the first time I heard it, it reminded me of highly Murgia, the Ethiopian keyboard player.

In feel like in playing, it feels a lot like a classic, quote unquote, bad, bad night, good thing, but it also feels very different from all the other stuff on the record.

Having a song feel different from everything else on the record is almost not unique on this record, because if the cohesion of bad, bad, not good as a unit wasn't as consistent, this would feel like a compilation.

So after that, we have Lavender, which is a collaboration with a Haitian Canadian deejay and producer. But that song is interesting just because of the story that goes along with it in terms of what happened with the music videos of it, there were two versions. One of them was just an original music video released by Bad, Bad, not good. But then Snoop Dogg remix this song Lavender, The Nightfall remix in twenty seventeen, added his own lyrics to it, released a music video that is pretty clearly Donald Trump getting assassinated while he looks like a clown, drawing out tweets from the president and other people who would tweet about things the president would tweet about.

I didn't even realize that that video was for for that song.

That's the thing that's so interesting to come back to you with this group of kids is like they have had such an outsized influence already on hip hop.

All of that is a perfect emblem of the weirdness of the times we live in a convergence of highbrow and lowbrow culture.

Wait, is Snoop Dogg lowbrow culture at all? What is anything, man? Sorry. Yes, it is. Well, we're talking about great songs on this record. We can't not bring up his type of love, which has Mick Jenkins on it. We've already talked about two phenomenal soul songs on this record. And then this is a legit, awesome hip hop song. Even the lyrics are great to latch onto. Recognize the real coqui snow white sand to go find? And like we talked about at the beginning of this bad, bad, not good is a great example of a jazz group, that's for people who don't love jazz groups. And that's true. But they're just as much for people who do love jazz. Like these are songs written by people who really understand music in and out, but have a youthful both arrogance and energy about it in a way that makes it stand apart. And so it's an excellent entry point one for people who don't have as much room for jazz in what they listen to, but is also just as much of a great entry point for people who listen to jazz, who haven't had a great hip hop entry point. Bad, bad, not good interpolations are excellent examples of deeply understanding music that you might write off because it's a part of hip hop. And you might think, because I know a lot of people do, that it's simplistic music that it's all about the vocals and sometimes that's true. But you can hear them really draw out some of the intention and the production and musicality of songs that you might not otherwise appreciate. Lemonade sounds different after you hear their version of it. Totally. You know, it's almost like they've created a third song. You've got lemonade, you've got their version, and then you've got this new way to experience both of those songs that you didn't have before.

They're almost like a prism through which to experience all of streaming music and stuff. That's a really excellent point. It's a really exciting time to just be around music in general because of artists like Bad, Bad, Not Good, and all the people they collaborate with who share a similar headspace and ideology. As a result, there's all these new rabbit holes to explore. So if you're in a rut with music or you're bored, you're frustrated.

They're a good palate cleanser band where they're challenging enough, but they're minimal and groovy enough and intriguing and great sounding that they can teach you to love music again and then you can go like when you were 16 and like we're still doing. And a lot of ways, like we've really devoted our lives to doing, to being students of this thing and staying curious and going in all the directions that there are signs of signifiers point everywhere, from Robert Glasper to Ghostface Killah to Steve Reich to Charlotte de Wilson to C to Frank Ocean. Go out and appreciate all of the other stuff that's out there. Watch 30 episodes of Amoebas, what's in my bag and listen to everything that all of those people tell you is exciting to them and just get stoked about music again.

Go to TuneDig.com to sign up for our emails and click the link in the email when you want to win. That's it.

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Original "Bitches Brew" Art

To celebrate the endless creativity of Bitches Brew—and especially its famous album artwork—TuneDig partnered with two incredible Atlanta-based artists to create one-of-a-kind, handpainted gatefolds.

With the spirit of the original art in mind, each artist brought their own vision to life. These pieces will spark conversation for any jazz fan.

Each piece includes a new vinyl copy of Bitches Brew. 100% of the purchase price goes directly to the artist, so take this opportunity to support the arts in the raddest possible way.

Seriously. There’s literally only one of each. Make it yours. 😎

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On the heels of one of 2020's most acclaimed albums — Fiona Apple’s Fetch the Bolt Cutters — we revisited Apple’s debut Tidal and wound up working to extract ourselves from the mostly male gazes that made its reception … much different. We arrive at a question much like writer Jenn Pelly had: “People would constantly prod Fiona on how an 18-year-old could write songs as mature as these ... Why did they not ask instead how she became a genius?”

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The modern world is accelerating beyond our control, shaping our reality in ways we can’t yet perceive or understand. Enter Death Grips, an art project capturing the chaotic energy and illustrating the absurdity of our hubris in trying to harmonize the surreal and extremely real — never more perfectly than on 2012’s prescient "The Money Store".

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TuneDig Episode 38: Augustus Pablo’s “King Tubbys Meets Rockers Uptown”

Reggae music is easy to take for granted, but its impact is underappreciated and massive — in the case of dub in particular, everyone from Radiohead to Johnny Rotten to Run-DMC owes it a debt. Augustus Pablo and King Tubby together created what’s regarded as “one of the finest examples of dub ever recorded.” Join us as we dive into the culture, history, and unique engineering experiments that made it possible.

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TuneDig Episode 37: Rihanna’s “ANTI”

By every measure — sales, awards, chart-toppers, global name recognition — Rihanna is objectively as big as the Beatles ever were. In fact, ANTI is so big it’s still on the charts, a record five full years later. Take a closer look with us at “the record you make when you don’t need to sell records”, and get a taste of the true freedom that comes from focusing on your inner voice when faced with insurmountable expectations.

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TuneDig Episode 36: Son House’s “Father of Folk Blues”

All American music traces back to the blues, and deep at the root sits Son House. That the recordings on "Father of Folk Blues" even exist is something of a gray area that cuts to the heart of the great American myth, but wherever you land after hearing these stories, you’ll find that what matters most is what the great Muddy Waters once said of House: “That man was the king.”

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TuneDig Episode 35: Melvins’s “Stoner Witch”

The futility of describing the Melvins has stretched critics in the direction of absurd words like “Dadaist” for nearly 40 years now. They’ve belligerently flogged any attempt to pinpoint their essence simply by being themselves, but "Stoner Witch" remains a reliable mall directory for the Melvins’ vast and wild discography. Grab yourself some pretzel bites.

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TuneDig Episode 34: Dolly Parton’s “Jolene”

We should talk about Dolly the way we talk about Prince. Her extraordinary kindness and unique kitsch both make her universally loved, but what gets left out of the conversation is the very thing that made her famous: the music. Join in as we focus attention on the sonics and songwriting of the low-key masterpiece "Jolene".

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RADIO EPISODES

SEASON 4 EPISODES

SEASON 3 EPISODES

SEASON 2 EPISODES

SEASON 1 EPISODES

BONUS TRACK EPISODES

Kyle and Cliff

BONUS TRACK: How We Got Here

We got a bunch of interesting listener feedback in our off-season, and it encouraged us to shed some light on why we do things the way we do ‘em. Also, we reflect on our first writeup, which was ... interesting.

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ABOUT US

We're Cliff (left) and Kyle (right). We’re two dudes born and raised in ATL with day jobs in tech and entertainment, respectively.

We met in middle school, and in one way or another, music’s been the thing that’s kept us close for the two decades since — whether it’s sharing and talking about new music (like this podcast, except in our texts or over beers), going to shows, or working with our favorite record stores to help them survive and thrive.

We started TuneDig as a little art project that connects us more deeply ourselves and to the world through the infinite gift of music. We hope you’ll join us for the conversations, let us know what you think, and share discoveries of your own.

More About TuneDig

TuneDig began as a little something called MusicGrid.me, which we created after realizing there was no place online to directly exchange music recommendations with your friends. Our aim was simple: to make rating albums simple, useful, and social. We got some love from places like MashableWiredEvolver.fm, and Hypebot. We managed to foster conversation between music lovers, get thousands of reviews, and meet great people.

Along the way, we realized that record stores were an essential part of the music lovers’ community. After many a conversation about how we could helpfully connect them to the people who loved them, we began helping them leverage technology to create new revenue streams and embrace streaming services without giving up what’s unique to them: expertise and curation. (Long live the counter clerk who knows exactly which record will be the right introduction to jazz fusion!)

TuneDig is our vision to connect music lovers with the music they love, because no matter how much has changed in the way we discover and enjoy music, recommendations from people you trust and respect will always be the best way to find new music you’ll dig. With this podcast, we’re channeling the spirit of trusted curation pioneered by record stores, and bringing you something to take you deeper into music you can love.