Gregory Brothers talk success, ‘Songification’
Editor’s Note: Alex Meier conducted a phone interview with Evan and Andrew Gregory prior to Rutgers University Programming Association’s “Tune In with The Gregory Brothers.”
The Gregory Brothers, YouTube sensations famous for their “Auto-Tune the News” series and “The Bed Intruder Song,” said that by coming to the University they planned to motivate college students.
“There’s going to be a bed of nails, we’re going to lift a lot of weights. … We’re actually going to do a thousand pushups,” said Andrew Gregory, the second oldest of the three brothers. “We’ll drop the [microphone] and walk off stage, and everyone there is going to be motivated to do a thousand pushups.”
But the Gregory Brothers did not practice what they preached, and last night, the quartet spoke to University students at the Rutgers Student Center about their history as a musical group, their process of “Songification” and changes in the entertainment industry.
All four band members, consisting of brothers Evan Gregory, Michael Gregory and Andrew Gregory and Evan Gregory’s wife Sarah Fullen Gregory, have involved themselves in music since childhood.
The brothers met Sarah Fullen Gregory in the music scene, and afterward, the four set out on a self-booked three-month tour, moving from state to state in a van without air-conditioning during what Andrew Gregory described as an interminably long heat wave.
The band experienced some of its worst shows on the tour, sometimes performing for audiences of zero, but Andrew Gregory said they played many shows for more than 100 enthusiastic college crowds.
On other days, the Gregory Brothers took the day off, visiting friends and exploring national parks.
“One of the most magical memories is eating at a pancake restaurant that you could swim,” Andrew Gregory said. “In the middle of your pancake meal, you can walk away from the table, go swimming and [eat] more pancakes.”
The group settled down in New York City after the tour, where Evan Gregory said the band constantly worked on new projects, played for other bands and wrote songs.
During this time, he said the youngest brother, Michael Gregory, decided to make a video themed around the 2008 presidential debate, and impersonated President Barack Obama. The video received over 40,000 views on YouTube, and the rest of the group hopped on the viral video bandwagon.
“We had a realization at that time that we could use both songwriting skills and technology to explore this new area — this strange niche that we were kind of carving out for ourselves,” Evan Gregory said. “We just really wanted to play around with it because it was so fun and different.”
The band developed their signature ability to “songify,” using Auto-Tune software to transform newscasts and other videos into catchy parody tunes.
After releasing their video “Auto-Tune the News #2,” the video went viral on a large scale and marked a pivotal moment for the band, Evan Gregory said.
“It almost took us aback, like, wow,” he said. “This thing really found an audience. It kind of went organically viral. It got viewed a million times in two or three days. That’s what kind of demonstrated this is fun and interesting — not just to us, but to other people as well.”
The group released their “songified” version of a news report within the next year, featuring Antoine Dodson, an angry resident reacting to house intrusion and the attempted rape of his sister.
The remix, called “The Bed Intruder Song,” received over 100 million views on YouTube and appeared on the Billboard Top 100.
Evan Gregory believes a couple of key factors drove the song to the top of the charts.
“In a sense, Antoine Dodson’s voice was already very akin to singing,” he said. “The journey that we had to take to get him from a non-song to a song was much shorter than the trip we have to take with other people that we work with, like politicians.”
Dodson’s pop-star personality also made him the perfect collaborator for the band, Evan Gregory said. Because of this, Andrew Gregory said the band always keeps an eye out for unintentional singers.
“Bob Dylan, Alicia Keys and Kanye [West] are all amazing, but they’re very different styles of singers and artists,” he said. “Just like Joe Biden, Antoine Dodson and Daymon Patterson are all very different unintentional singers in our videos.”
The band continues to focus on their music, while working on a pilot for a Comedy Central Show that will act as a 30-minute extension of their musical and video work, Evan Gregory said.
To share their success story, the Gregory Brothers now tour colleges across the country, demonstrating how the group is an example of a new kind of entertainment powered by virtue of the Internet.
“Don’t underestimate the power of the Internet to level the playing field in your favor,” Evan Gregory said.
Evan Gregory also wants those trying to make a name for themselves to strike a balance between creative instinct and demands from their audience, and finding this balance is a constant learning experience for the brothers themselves.
“You want to respond to your fans and your audience, but take it with a grain of salt,” he said. “Striking that balance is so different nowadays when you can get that feedback directly from all these different outlets — whether its crazy trollish YouTube [comments] or heartfelt Tweets.”
Lauren Iacobucci, a School of Environmental and Biological Sciences first-year student, attended the talk and enjoyed learning how YouTube launched the band’s career.
“It was interesting learning about the ins and outs of YouTube because that’s where they started,” she said. “I know a lot of people now get their start there.”
Maria Bayas, a Rutgers Business School first-year student, said she saw the Gregory Brothers’ videos before, but she was impressed by their story.
“Technology has been progressing a lot,” she said. “It’s interesting to see it in a YouTube perspective because people don’t see it as a technological advancement, but it’s interesting how they put it in that way.”