The lifelong collaborators talk large-scale storytelling, their early influences, and art in the age of Instagram.
When Groundislava walked onto the packed floor of the WEDIDIT showcase at Los Angeles' Regent Theater this past November, he was mobbed almost instantly. Unmissable at 6'5, with a cherubic, freckled face and platinum-dyed hair, the 24-year-old producer, whose real name is Jasper Patterson, spent the next ten minutes greeting and taking pictures with fans, looking both flattered and overwhelmed. Had he been there, Jasper's 27-year-old brother, WEDIDIT go-to visual artist Sus Boy, would probably have been equally swarmed, except for the fact that he routinely wears luchador and ski masks in public, so that nobody really knows what he looks like.
When I sit down to interview them in the backyard of their childhood home a few days later, Sus Boy is bare-faced, revealing a broad, smiling resemblance to his brother. (FULL DISCLOSURE: I went to middle school with Groundislava and high school with Sus Boy, so it's probably hard to play bad-boy anarchic artist with someone you used to share a free period with.) The sons of professional animators who let their kids graffiti the kitchen walls growing up, Sus Boy and Groundislava have since established their own distinctive creative identities as integral characters in the WEDIDIT crew. While Groundislava produces playful, video game-inflected instrumental pop, Sus Boy has a much more diffuse role: engineering live visuals, directing music videos, and designing promotional materials for nearly every member of the squad, in addition to riffing on pop culture iconography via his popular Instagram account. Here, the brothers talk about their enduring creative symbiosis and carving out a home for themselves inside the vastness of the Internet.
I remember walking into your kitchen in high school and seeing graffiti and drawings on every surface. How did that start? GROUNDISLAVA: I met [WEDIDIT founder] Nick [Meledandri] in sixth grade; we were 11 years old and best buds. One day he was over, and my parents told us they were going to fix up our kitchen. We asked if we could draw on the walls before they tore them down. They said "Sure," and of course, they never got torn down. Towards the end of high school it got a bit bleak. It was a mini shitty art sanctuary. I could look at our walls and be like, "I remember Nick drew that high as fuck when we were 15 years old." Shitty Neckface-style drawings. There are definitely a lot of roots of WEDIDIT vibes. SUS BOY: We all felt so cool to be able to do art at the house and have my parents sit down and take it seriously. There were no judgmental vibes; it was very open-minded.
How do you think you were impacted by growing up in an artistic household? GROUNDISLAVA: My parents are professors at USC now, teaching animation. In the '80s and '90s, they were doing a lot of music videos. We grew up surrounded by art and music and animation. SUS BOY: Our dad did a lot of experimental rotoscoping stuff. He did the A-Ha video that's inspired in part by old Fleischer Brother animations of Betty Boop. GROUNDISLAVA: We had this huge VHS collection of classic cartoons that we would watch instead of Nickelodeon. It was all just animation and inspiration fuel. That was the shit we grew up on. Comic books, too: Spawn, The Mac, Bone. Growing up we were both great illustrators; that was our parallel. We were sketchbook dudes. SUS BOY: Then we went to different high schools. At Crossroads, I could do graphic design, film, and studio art at the same time. [Jasper went to] Hamilton, and took his first electronic music class there. We were drawn to different mediums, but retained a parallel aesthetic and mindset.
Groundislava, what was your transition from art into music like? GROUNDISLAVA: I'm still a visual artist. It wasn't really until my music stuff started to take off that I put [visual stuff] on the backburner. I actually did animation in college, but it was just too fucking tedious. Now I'm finally able to tell stories through my music—I think that's the arc that connects all of it. This loose sort of storytelling core runs through all of my practice. SUS BOY: Like with your third album, Frozen Throne, you end up getting [singer] Anthony [Calonico] from Rare Times almost as a narrator. And then me or Nordic Swordfight do the interactive music video to flesh out the story. GROUNDISLAVA: I've always been obsessed with cyber-punk literature and that whole subculture of sci-fi. And I always wanted to write or create something in that realm. With this album, I was finally able to write this cyber-punk narrative and have this really talented singer [Anthony] tell the story through the lyrics.
Sus Boy, how did your persona evolve? SUS BOY: I was into graffiti for a while. I liked how it felt like it was corrupting the world around you; being a bad kid is really fun. I loved to indulge in mischievous nighttime activities, but I was really annoyed with the graffiti trends and that climate of ultra competitive pissing wars. I've always grappled with how to make large-scale art. Like, the web is a limitless, large, abstract thing that can be interpreted in massive ways, and live visuals and the whole A.V music experience is awesome. I try to take the biggest, most outrageous imagery I can think of. For WEDIDIT, we're doing weird stage stuff where you can't tell what exactly you're looking at. I try to be the most creative in how I take a pixel map and animation and invent like, new stages. Or just, over the course of a show, how the stage will grow and evolve and disappear and re-appear and stuff like that. There's so many cool visuals in front of you, but they just whisk by, and it's a crazy experience. I think that's where I got a lot of fans and lot of respect—just through like doing massive shit in a fleeting way, where you experience it and you're left bewildered.
Sus Boy, you studied at Cal Arts. Did the academic setting inform the creation of that persona in any way? SUS BOY: The college process where you have to address yourself and who you are as an artist really annoyed me, and the whole artist ego going through private school and trying to cultivate this perspective as an artist is just so obnoxious; I could never take it seriously. Art right now is kind of this cesspool of post-modern regurgitation or whatever. I think its appropriate to troll on the times. It's more of my duty to engage with what is current—that's the role of an entertainer. And the only way for me to engage with what's happening right now is to shit on it, so to speak. Sus Boy is this kind of this lens where I can destroy art and parody art, and create a satirical perspective based on what's trending or what people want to see.
Susboy is the only member of WEDIDIT who focuses more on visual art than music. How did you become integrated into the crew? SUS BOY: When it was kinda shapeless and nobody was in charge and it was just the crew hanging at whoever homie's parent's house. I was a little older, and I didn't make music, but Jasper and I were super close, and I made one of the first WEDIDIT logos. I couldn't really be a part of the crew until I'd really gotten on my feet with my own artistic identity, though. And my artist identity is this weird, formless thing where people don't really even know if it's a DJ or a visual artist or what it is, so in some ways it can be this abstraction, a mascot almost. My efforts have always been to help the visual end of it and add a lot to the live shows. Shlohmo and Nick have very original styles, so I work with them on theirs; and Jasper trusts me, so I make all of his myself. It's a little different for each one. But at every turn, I really try to help curate the vibe, adding in as much as I can, making all the live visuals for everyone.
What role does social media play in the Sus Boy project? SUS BOY: Sus Boy was purely an Instagram idea in the beginning, and now it's found a way to creep into every avenue of creative direction. GROUNDISLAVA: People are only just now catching up to the idea that your Instagram is the end-all. Being at the event is the essential experience and core, but it's then immortalized in photos, or the one vine of that crazy moment. And that's immortalized as content. SUS BOY: No matter what you do now as an artist—whether you're Skrillex or Groundislava—your show is going to be immortalized through instagram posts. Whatever you do is going to be experienced by the majority of people in this square, 650-pixel format. I think people are going to stop thinking about their social media purely as PR, and more as actual art platforms.
Where do WEDIDIT aesthetics fit in with the greater culture? SUS BOY: We made this RL Grime shirt that had a green sad face on it and it was playing into an idea of making fun of being young and already apathetic—this kinda young but jaded thing that's so spoiled and terrible, this idea that you're sitting at home bored with your first world problems. It's such bullshit, and you see a lot of that in LA, because there's a giant mixture of cultures and classes and public vs. private schools, so it's this cesspool of privileged kids that find themselves so apathetic at such a young age, almost burnt out on culture before ever even diving in.
It was really funny when the whole Sad Boys thing popped up, because it's really similar—a lot of the same fans and a lot of the same vibes, but those guys are really endorsing and celebrating that apathy. For me it was always like, a little more about making fun of it, taking the opposite approach—nihilism as opposed to apathy, even though I take life seriously and I value what I'm trying to do and what my friends are trying to do and in some ways the apathy thing is completely sarcastic for us. I think that's kind of what separates us from a lot of other kids in our generation, who kinda fester and sit and they don't know what to do with themselves after college, and it's really hard to kinda lock in and engage. We have this awesome group with a lot of synergy and all this energy, and so I kinda try to flip the script with the Sus Boy: the sense of nihilism is more this ultra, high-energy outburst. Kind of a punk thing.
Lead image courtesy of Groundislava