Remix albums are often little more than a fans-only curio or an excuse to reboot an album’s promo campaign. But that’s not the case with 1000 Gecs and the Tree of Clues, which reimagines all ten tracks from 100 Gecs’ 2019 release 1000 Gecs – the debut full-length effort from Laura Les and Dylan Brady.
1000 Gecs was released on the final day of May 2019 through Brady’s Dog Show label. It was accompanied by minimal promotional buzz but has since spread like wildfire thanks to ecstatic discussions on internet message boards, endorsements from influential fans (including Charli XCX, who said she listens to the band “constantly”), and eventually, a shedload of critical praise.
It’s fascinating to compare the early, more tentative appraisals of 1000 Gecs to the way it was lionised in year-end lists six months later. Noisey named it their album of 2019 and The New York Times, Pitchfork and The Needle Drop’s Anthony Fantano all placed it in their top 50. Along the way, 1000 Gecs was called “one of the year’s most fascinating, exhilarating experimental pop albums,” the “future of pop to come” and “some of the savviest pop music of the year.”
As a result, an anomalous amount of hype surrounds the remix album, which was announced last October and finally arrived in early July. Anticipation for the release was only heightened when the credits were revealed to include names like PC Music boss A . G. Cook, Charli XCX, Dorian Electra and Fall Out Boy.
But that’s not to say the Tree of Clues was a hands-off project for Les and Brady. Alongside remixes from Cook, Injury Reserve, Danny L Harle, Black Dresses and umru, the band remixed a bunch of tracks themselves. They then enlisted a variety of famous faces – including not just Charli, Electra and Fall Out Boy, but also Rico Nasty, Hannah Diamond, GFOTY and Chiodos’ Craig Owens – to reshape the tracks even further.
Les and Brady both grew up in St Louis, Missouri, but they’ve been located in separate cities (Chicago and Los Angeles, respectively) since conceiving 100 Gecs five years ago. They tend to uphold this distance when working, and 80% of the genre-subverting dizziness that constitutes 1000 Gecs came together through a process of email ping-pong.
This makes 100 Gecs uniquely well-suited to producing a remix album. Not only is fucking with the form an essential part of the band’s DNA, but Dropboxing Logic files is their version of jamming out ideas in a rehearsal room. As a result, 1000 Gecs and the Tree of Clues is that rarest of things: a remix album that asserts itself as an album in its own right.
Music Feeds got Les and Brady on the phone to talk about the origins of the Tree of Clues, the inclusion of various famous names and lesser-known artists, and how it feels to be at the vanguard of pop’s future.
Music Feeds: Two months after 1000 Gecs came out, you released all of the stems online for free. This reminded me of Yoko Ono’s concept of unfinished art, which invites the audience to either conceptually or physically add finishing touches and tweaks to a piece of art. Is that something you’re attracted to – letting your songs get twisted and re-arranged, and not being too precious about your original versions?
Laura Les: Yeah definitely. I like the remixes that take the most liberties, that try to be as transformative as possible. It’s really interesting seeing other people’s perspectives. I think that unfinished art is really important and they should let people post remixes on Spotify for free.
MF: How closely were you steering the direction people took with their remixes?
Dylan Brady: For the actual remixes, we didn’t give anyone direction or anything. The ones with new vocals on them we remixed, but the producer remixes, we didn’t steer them in any way.
LL: “Hey, you should do it in this style” or whatever? No we didn’t do any of that. We just found people that we thought would be cool or we found remixes that we thought were cool and took them as they are. And then it was a lot of curatorial type shit.
MF: I wanted to find out about some of the lesser-known names on the record. Specifically, Ricco Harver (who remixed ‘800db cloud’) 99jakes (who remixed ‘xXXi_wud_nvrstøp_ÜXXx’) and N0THANKY0U (who remixed ‘hand crushed by a mallet’).
LL: 99jakes is a friend of mine. They are defending hardcore from 2020 and they are the sole heir to the hardcore throne. So I knew that they should do one because they’re amazing and their live shows are some of the most energetic live shows you’ll go to.
DB: Ricco Harver and N0THANKY0U, we found those on Soundcloud after posting the stems. Those are just ones that we really really liked, so we included them.
MF: Was it important for you to shine a light on some underground artists while also including bigger names like Charli XCX and Fall Out Boy?
LL: We think an interesting song is an interesting song. We weren’t specifically going after, “Oh who’re the biggest names we can get?” Or “we need to shine a light on small producers.” Even though that is definitely an added plus, to let people have a platform that they didn’t have as much before. But I think that’s secondary to us just trying to find remixes that we thought were cool and that we liked a lot.
MF: Hearing these remixes, or hearing what the guests brought to the new versions of the songs, were there occasions when you felt like, oh, I wish we’d done that?
LL: There were a couple that I listened to and I was like, “Fuck that’s incredible. I wish I’d made that.” I’m incredibly competitive. I’m trying to not be. But we’re all working together to make the best music that we can. It’s competitive but in a friendly spirit. It’s certainly not competitive just to be competitive.
MF: Are you competitive as well, Dylan? Is that part of the 100 Gecs process, the two of you trying to outdo each other?
DB: Not in a negative way. I think we just want to make really good shit. Sometimes the competitiveness gets a negative connotation. We’re just eagerly fixing to make good songs.
LL: We build off of each other. It’s not me versus Dylan. We each try to bring each other up. Dylan will send something to me and I’m like, “Oh my god that’s incredible,” and try to match the energy. Maybe sometimes it encourages me to write something better than what I had previously, ‘cos I don’t want to be making it worse. So a song is done when we’re happy with it and we think that it’s a total banger.
MF: A lot of the discussion around 1000 Gecs has focused on the merging of various genres, the reviving of what wasn’t considered fashionable or hipster-approved subgenres, and the ways in which your music reflects our fragmented online reality. I agree with these comments, but the record also seems to depict your personalities, from its more earnest, heart on sleeve moments to its more ridiculous and fun moments. Do you feel the record reveals a lot about the two of you individually?
LL: Definitely. It’s more natural than people think. We weren’t thinking incredibly hard about what people would say about it after. We just tried to do what felt natural. And reflections of ourselves in the internet age, I think that just comes from either anxieties or things that we deal with on a day to day basis because we are online a lot.
MF: Some of the praise for the record has been pretty amazing. It’s been described as the “future of pop”, for example. When you finished making it, were you thinking of it as a completed body of work? Or did you just think it was a cool bunch of songs?
DB: Both maybe, but I don’t think we expected what happened, for sure.
LL: Yeah we didn’t expect that it would resonate with people so much. We just tried to make a record that we really liked. And we did that and then we were pleasantly surprised at how much other people were resonating with what we were putting out there.
MF: It’s probably healthy to not get too carried away with the things being said about you, but also, are you pretty excited to represent the future of pop music – as ridiculous as that might sound?
DB: We just love making music.
LL: I think we’re going to keep trying to make good songs and that’s all that we can do. The whole, like, “vanguard of pop”, or people saying that we’re experimental or whatever, those aren’t things that we’ve described ourselves as. We’re going to keep trying to keep making good music and hopefully, people will also like it.
1000 Gecs and the Tree of Clues is out now.