Indy native ThankYouBus (Terrence Strader) and Philly’s own bylameboy (Sam Parker) released their debut collab EP yesterday. The project is titled BusBoy and it’s first-rate. Clocking in at 15 minutes the endeavor is compact and demonstrates the prowess of both artists in their respective disciplines of rapping and producing.
BusBoy embodies the lives and sounds of their current residence out in L.A., with tracks like Nah Mean (feat. Sir Michael Rocks) and 38th Street (feat. Ross Collins) fashioned for cruising. The EP also demonstrates range with the deep cut Birthstone Girl and party anthem Flatline/Wild.
On February 7th, I spoke to both multi-hyphenated artists about their paths to L.A. and their new project, which sounds like it will be the first of many for BusBoy.
Euan Makepeace: It sounds like the arts have played a role in both your lives since you were young. Can you talk about how your relationship with the arts began?
BUS: I grew up on the Far Eastside of Indianapolis and I didn’t really have any sort of musical outlets in school. I remember in middle school, I would wake up in the morning, download music, go to school, come back home and then listen to it with my close friend Justin and we’d add it to our MySpace. We would put out our favorite songs for two weeks and then we’d rotate it. We were playlist curators before that was actually a thing. That was our outlet, and it wasn’t strictly Hip-Hop. I was listening to In My Mind by Pharrell [Williams], Natasha Bedingfield, Miike Snow, Black and Blue, Maroon 5. It was what ever made me feel good or resonated with me at the time. I always had a great ear for music and that has stayed with me. I still to this day have people ask me to make playlists for them because they like my taste.
BOY: When I was young, my Dad used to book artists out of Philly. He was a booking/road manger and when I was 12 or 13, he’d ask me to come on trips with him and take photos. My mom wasn’t too fond of it because we were going to nightclubs or we’d be backstage, blowing smoke everywhere. But I was a fly on the wall during that time. I got to see a lot of the work that goes into putting a show together. I also got to go to some studios if he was doing features for people. That’s definitely where things started changing.
EM: Tell me then how you both made your way to L.A.?
BUS: In 2015 I had an interview that could have put me in L.A., but I passed on it. Then, a different opportunity came around in 2016 and I thought to myself that I had to take it. When I got to L.A. I wanted to do all the things that I didn’t do back at home. Back at home I didn’t feel I could truly express myself. But, when I got the job offer in 2016 and I moved here I thought, “let me get a camera so I can start taking photos and working as a videographer”. I leaned more towards the videography because I like film more, like documentaries. I was also working with an artist by the name of Paige Wells. She wanted to bring me on to help her with some music. I don’t mind writing for someone, but to be the artist, that was a harder transition for me.
BOY: I just wanted to get out of my area. I knew I was only going to be able to accomplish so much with the way I worked. I saw people creating music or doing something, but with a hobbyist mentality. I wanted to see how everything moved and know how to work within the business. And it was my cousin who called me in 2016 and said, “Hey, my roommate just moved out and if you want to move out here finally you can now.” I took advantage of that and I jumped for it.
EM: Sammy, since you’ve been in L.A. you’ve worked with a number of prominent artists in the music industry, but what is it about working with indie musicians that you enjoy?
BOY: I think it’s their willingness to be open to ideas. I find indie artists have a mentality that says, “Hey, I know you do it like this, but let’s try something like that.” And I’m sure there are a lot of indie artists who are happy doing their own thing. But a lot of them that I’ve worked with are very open to trying new things. They do exactly what they want to, and just have fun and grow really quickly from idea to idea. It feels untethered working with independent artists.
EM: That must be freeing. So, tell me how you got involved with ThankYouBus?
BOY: Initially, I was introduced to him through a mutual artist-songwriter-creative Ross Collins, who is also from Indianapolis. For some reason I keep working with people out of Indianapolis. I don’t know what it is but I’m rocking with it. [Ross] told me he knew someone who wanted to book some time and Bus reached out. It took us about a year to get together in the studio. We were just going back and forth. He was working on things and so was I. When we finally got together, we recorded a lot of the EP in a couple weeks. We just started knocking it out.
EM: Bus, you said the goal of this project was to show some versatility and you did that. Why was that important to you this time around?
BUS: I have a smooth sound and I think people expect to hear me on certain beats, but I wanted to show that I can be different, like on Flatline/Wild. The beats [on those songs] are up tempo. Flatline has a grittier sound and I tapped into that. I don’t want people to go back to my first EP and think that that is what I am known for. I wanted to put more tempo on the project and try and change up my vocals a little bit. Sammy definitely helped me do that. He encouraged me all the way. He had me step out of my comfort zone when I was making these songs. With Wild I completely shocked myself.
EM: Flatline/Wild is a standout moment to me. The beat switch is shocking, and your vocals transition nicely between the vibes. Asides from showing versatility, was there anything else either of you wanted to show with this project?
BUS: Another huge focus with this new project was sonics. I wanted it to sound crisp and clean.
BOY: I was curious about entering Bus’ lane. Which is like this Funk, Hip-Hop, smooth player type of music that I’ve been wanting to get into, but I haven’t found the right person to do it with. He shed a lot of ideas and knowledge with me about that sound and what he liked to create and how to create it. That’s when I started making my own style of it. I was taking what I learned from him and applying it to the way I produce.
EM: Clocking in at 15 minutes, it’s a concise project, what was it about that format that appealed to you?
BUS: Honestly, I wanted it to hit people really quick. The songs are very potent, and when I say potent, I don’t mean in terms of lyricism, but in the sense of, “you’re going to feel them quick and then you’re going to want to listen to it again.” I want to make timeless music and I want replay value. I never make something for a trend. I want it to sound relevant at any time. I also wanted to make it real quick because people’s attention spans are short right now.
EM: BUSBOY has some nice features too. Kiana Lei’s vocals on the opener match well with your style and then you have a big feature from Sir Michael Rocks too. How did you get that verse?
BUS: That’s funny because I’ve been listening to Sir Michael Rocks since 2009-2010. So, for me to be able to grab that feature I was pretty excited. But that came about through my friend B-Rich. He’s also good friends with Sir Michael and he put in a word. Sir Michael then listened to some of my tracks and said that he rocked with it and would hop on a song. When I heard his voice, it was crazy, and I knew this was going to be a shocker.
EM: What’s your standout moment on the project?
BOY: To me it’s 38th Street because it came together in the studio. A lot of the tracks I brought to the sessions and then we recorded over the top of them and did post-production. But 38th we did on the spot. It was how the room was feeling at the time. It was Bus, me and Ross and then a couple of Bus’ friends, and it just felt like that is exactly what the album needed. It was a perfect fit.
BUS: One of my favorites is Sweet Potato, I like the way it makes me feel. But I honestly don’t know because my favorite changes.
EM: You also released a short film to go along with the EP. Can you tell me about the process behind producing that?
BUS: After we decided we would release the collab EP, Sammy asked what we would call it. I just put the two names together. It came off as a joke at first but then it became a thing. That’s what made us play off the theme of being a busboy. I wanted a film or a music video that was shot cinematically and Sammy liked that idea. It’s cool because it transitions between different songs but follows a story and covers the whole EP. I think it came out pretty dope.
BOY: It’s the first visual I’ve ever made. We had such a good time doing it and I felt like it came out better than I had hoped. We had our videographer come out. I grew up with him and used to make music with him, his name is Tosh. We wanted to do something different than just the music video. Everyone has had more home time this last year and we wanted to deliver a short film in a cool way where it was like a trailer to the album. I feel like we accomplished that.
EM: Looking to the future, is this the diversity we can expect from your music?
BUS: Yes, so me and Sammy are already working on another project for the summertime. We have a bunch of songs, but it honestly might be more on the pop-side. I want to say it will be in the realm of Maroon 5 or have an Omar Apollo type of sound. I am still pushing that versatility.