Amazing ‘Potential’ for The Range
New York-based musician/producer The Range is just one guy - and other than, perhaps, admiration from afar -- he has nothing at all to do with Bruce Hornsby. The Brown University physics grad, whose given name is James Hinton, first gained attention for his 2013 sophomore full-length album, “Nonfiction.”
Its mixture of well-produced beats and soundscapes infused with obscure YouTube samples earned the beatmaker a coveted “Best New Music” tag from Pitchfork and introduced him to a far wider audience.
This year, Hinton released “Potential,” another critically acclaimed album that uses YouTube clips as both a main feature and to help tell an amazing group of stories behind it.
With its double companion pieces named “Superimpose” - both a seven-song EP and 27-minute Daniel Kaufman-directed documentary on the performers found on “Potential” - the voices from the videos that Hinton used on his album (many times with fewer than 100 views each) are finding new life.
DiscoverSD recently spoke with Hinton from his Brooklyn home ahead of The Range’s show with Phantogram on Saturday.
Q: First, congratulations on the album outside of the story. It’s great without it. But what was the genesis of doing something this extensive?
A: Well, a big worry whenever you make something that has a story behind it is that it’s the only thing that’s going to be carrying it. But it’s a musical piece first. So thank you. That was the idea. And it was just part my process for such a long time - interacting with YouTube and going there for vocals.
I was always interested in having vocal material in my music. I used to sing in bands all the time and didn’t want The Range to be part of it. There is a lot of pressure on electronic musicians now to work with featured artists on their records. And I think it’s fun to get to with people and make new material in one-offs.
But when you’re going to make a record, it’s a hard thing, in my mind, to go into the studio with a bunch of different people and come out with something that’s consistent. When I was making this record, there were a lot of those coming out and, to me, they were all falling short. And so I was really steeled to do something that was anti-that.
Yes, it was my process; yes, it was that, but in terms of the narrative and making sure it all had a low view count, it was proof of concept that you could do that. This is another way forward for people.
Q: Was it vocals first and build around them, or vice versa?
A: It ended up being around fifty-fifty. But I tried to be very circular. “Regular” is a great example of where I found the YouTube sample first. That’s where I said, “Oh my God! This is the lead song of the record. This is saying everything I wanted to say about going onto YouTube.” And “1804" is a great example where I already had the piano line and the vocal was coming after.
If you start with the sample, it’s going to be a very different song than starting with the composition. But I was trying to be very circular and not let them be totally driven by vocals. Hopefully, they came together and were joined in some way.
Q: Did you develop any relationships in the process that will develop into more creative work?
A: Yes. I’m working with Kai (the singer on “Florida”). She lives in New York and we’re going to try to do an actual version where she comes into the studio and completes the idea of “What would have happened if we worked together from the start?” And that’s interesting to me. And I’m going to try and hook up with Offkey, who is the singer on “Five Four” and “Skeptical,” when I’m in London.
Q: Do you think this kind of collaboration will become more frequent?
A: I think electronic producers have been using YouTube and alternative sampling for a while. But the idea of sampling not just for sampling’s sake, and using it this way is something that I’m hopeful people will use. I just found it so much more fulfilling than the pop model of picking singer A for song B - especially for younger producers who might not know you don’t have to do that way just because you hear it on the radio. That’s why I’m pushing this story out. There’s a lot to like about the process. And there is a huge ocean of talented people out there that are just going under the radar.
Phantogram with The Range
When: 7 p.m. Oct. 1
Where: Observatory North Park, 2891 University Ave., North Park
Cost: $30.50 in advance, $32.50 day of
Scott McDonald is a writer, on-air personality and consultant with 15 years of experience in the San Diego music scene. He has interviewed hundreds of artists, from the legendary to the underground, for print and television. Follow McDonald and his melodic musings on Twitter @eight24_ or Instagram @scotteight24. Send your music musts to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Sign up for the Pacific Insider newsletter
PACIFIC magazine delivers the latest restaurant and bar openings, festivals and top concerts, every Tuesday.
You may occasionally receive promotional content from the Pacific San Diego.