In recent years, there has been a flood of alternative hip hop. Artists like Chance the Rapper and Childish Gambino have found success by focusing on more personal and emotional themes with a variety of musical influences in a genre that is known for favoring artists who would rather tell you about their cars than their own personal lives.
Orlando hip hop act Dear Tatiana’s new EP 95407, take on this alternative style is a memorable one. Through the five tracks, vocalist Thayne Brown touches on a variety of topics in a way that makes you feel an instant connection to the songs. The danceable beats on “Don’t Know Everything”, “Wanderlust”, and the breezy “Staycation” will be stuck in your head long after the EP ends. From start to finish, it’s a solid offering that makes it easy to picture Dear Tatiana making a name for themselves outside of Orlando and across the country.
Thayne took some time out to discuss the new EP, hip hop, and all things Dear Tatiana with us.
When listing your influences, you’ve listed Kanye, Childish Gambino, Air Dubai, and Chance the Rapper. Who do you think is leading hip hop right now?
It’s got to be Kanye. He just put out The Life of Pablo and it’s doing really well. It’s the first album to be number one with streaming only numbers. That’s huge. But, I will say Chance is supposed to be releasing another record, so I don’t know.
You guys are definitely a part of the alternative hip hop movement that’s been gaining ground the last decade. Why do you think that fans are gravitating to acts like yourself, Childish Gambino, Chance the Rapper, and others?
I think we’re not afraid to take it both sides. We’re not afraid to have fun, not afraid to be serious. We use what we’ve been through and appeal to everyone, and legitimately everyone. That’s what makes it so great. So I think that that’s why everyone is starting to gravitate towards it. You know, pop music isn’t really for everyone, so I think the fact that music like ours can give people both sides definitely helps with bringing in a lot of fans.
What sort of influences do you pull from besides hip hop influences?
I love this question. (laughs) We pull from a lot of different places just because we listen to so much different stuff. I know personally, as a producer and one of the main songwriters, I pull a lot from All Time Low and Fall Out Boy just because I love how they write lyrics and their vocal harmonies are really great. When it comes to songwriting and production, I’ve listened to a lot of that stuff.
Also a lot of Pierce the Veil and Dance Gavin Dance for the same things, especially vocal harmonies and regular harmonies and melodies. Just pulling stuff from all of that is so amazing because those guys can play all types of different instruments. Guitars, drums, etc. You can pull so many different things from there.
So are those the artists that mostly influenced the alternative direction on 95407?
100%. Especially the songwriting. They have a lot more to do with the songwriting than the production, but that’s definitely where it’s coming from.
Orlando is not known for being one of the major hip hop scenes. It’s not Houston, it’s not New York, it’s not LA. (laughs). How do you think calling Orlando your home base has affected your style?
It hasn’t put it out at the forefront as much, but I kind of like that too. It helps us help a growing local scene as well. There are a lot of great artists in Orlando. You have a ton of different bands and hip hop artists and singers out of the area, so I think even though it doesn’t put us immediately at the forefront, we get to be a part of this immerging, strong local scene that’s coming up and that might be even better.
Would you say that having an area that doesn’t have a defined “sound” kind of allows you to branch out a little more or would you be doing that either way?
I think we would be doing it either way because music is just so attainable right now with Spotify and Tidal and Soundcloud.
Music is just so attainable. I think we’d be doing that either way, but the fact that there is no defined genre… it’s kind of like everybody does everything. You can go to a hardcore show, you can go to a hip hop show, you can go to a pop punk show, and so all those different scenes being involved here and being able to get involved in all those scenes is great.
Having a live band and not just production… how does that allow you to differentiate yourself from other acts that are around?
I always said ever since I wanted to do this which has been for a while (laughs), I always said that I didn’t want to do just myself and production. I always wanted to do it with a full band just because I feel like you just get a little more.
I don’t want you to come to the show and just hear the record again. I want the show to be a whole new experience in its self and that’s kind of what the full band does. It’s like you have the record and you have a whole experience with that and then you come to the show and you’re like “Whoa. As much as I love the record, I have a whole new experience with this live show.” That’s what we’ve built and it’s really cool. I can’t wait to go out on tour this summer and share it with everyone. It’s amazing.
In the track “Millennial”, you seem to be talking about the growth with age that everyone experiences and how that relates to your musical career up to this point. What was it that led to a track like this? Was there a point where you felt yourself maturing or was it more of a natural thing?
The best part about this record is that all of the songs were really natural. A lot of them weren’t necessarily even written down until they were “finished finished” and “Millenial” is one of those.
I made the beat a year ago or maybe eight months ago and then after a little bit the songs just kind of came to me piece by piece. I got the first verse almost immediately and the second verse took a while. It just felt good. It felt perfect, especially for right now. It just goes with the theme of the record. It felt like the perfect song to put on this record because it sums up the whole thing even though it’s at the beginning, so that’s why I really like it.
The process for writing that song was really natural and it just came to me because it’s what I’m going through right now. I just had my 25th birthday and so that’s just all the things I’m feeling right now, and I’m just ready to take my dreams and push them and I want everybody to feel that.
Which track from 95407 do you think best represents Dear Tatiana?
Oh man… (laughs).
Did I make the question too hard?
No. It’s like all five songs on the EP are little pieces of us, but if I’m going to pick a song that really, really defines us…. I don’t know. That’s really, really hard. There’s the pop side of the band, you know, and that’s “Staycation” all the way. It’s kind of cool, it’s kind of chill, and that’s kind of our personalities, but then you have a song like “Came Here To Win” and that’s really big and so… Definitely, you know what? I’m going to pick “Came Here to Win.”
“Came Here to Win” will be the song that defines Dear Tatiana.
In the song “Wanderlust,” you say that you won’t stop rapping until “the day you beat Jay-Z.” Definitely setting your sights high. (laughs). What is the ultimate goal for Dear Tatiana? Is it to destroy Jay-Z?
(laughs) Not to destroy Jay-Z because that would be super hard.
The goal for Dear Tatiana is to write one of those songs that everybody likes. I want to write one of those songs that everybody is singing and happy with. Kind of like a Pharrell “Happy” kind of song. Just something that makes you feel good and you can’t get it out of your head, it’s stuck in your head and you’re singing it all day. I think that would determine success.
Actually, success would be a few of those. I want a few of those. I just want to get stuck in your head (laughs).
I know it’s probably a little early to ask about this since you just released 95407, but are there plans for a full-length album anytime soon?
Yes, there are. We actually just started kind of piecing that together. We’re going to do things a little bit different because our last two EPs, it was all of my production, but for the full-length we’re going to release for our next record, it’s actually going to be full band too. Live drums, guitars, bass, piano, just everything. We’re going to put it all together and it’s going to be a full-length record so that’s going to be really fun and we’re really excited to get working on that.
Is there something big on the horizon besides that?
There might be. You’ll just have to stay tuned to see. Hint hint. There might be.
95407 is available now.