GET FAMILIAR: HANKNATIVE of 99 Neighbors

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The 99 Neighbors team are in the middle of a very, very good year. They’ve been on a killer run of live shows, and the crowds keep getting bigger. Along the way, they’ve dropped two outstanding solo projects: Sam.’s Collision and then, weeks later, HANKNATIVE’s debut, Problem Child. Both albums are distinguished by their professional production and musical ambition.

But the music is only part of the movement with 99 Neighbors. This is a big multimedia collective and we haven’t even seen the true extent of their work yet. I caught up with HANKNATIVE to talk shop about his album, his team, and his future.

VTHH: Great work on the album. It is crazy cohesive, front to back. Clearly, that wasn't a quick process -- were you surprised at all by how "Problem Child" finally turned out, sonically?

HANKNATIVE: I was completely surprised with the final product. It was originally supposed to be 13-15 tracks, as well. I went into this project understanding how vulnerable and open I wanted to be, but I didn't necessarily have any real idea of what the soundscape was going to be like until we developed some themes behind songs. Somba, Juju, ( two 99 guys ) as well as another artist I work with named Kurt Stewart, they did an amazing job of understanding the concept of the album and running with it.

The way they were able to convey some of the things I was thinking and talking about into music was amazing. Especially on tracks like "Toes in the Water." Sonically, I wanted to branch out from stuff that I've done before, and I think that definitely happened throughout the 4+ month process.

VTHH: How much of the album process was improv and experimentation? Do you show up to the studio with everything laid out in your head, or do you like to stretch out in the session?

HANKNATIVE: There were definitely a few songs like “Toes in the Water”, “Pressure Cook”, and “Backseat” that had pretty solid plans for them, but even with those we just started with a base idea and spiraled from there. A lot of the time if I get stuck when I’m writing, I’ll start freestyling or switch around to a new beat and come back to it. So I’d say a combination of both, but for the most of the album it was feels driving the process.

VTHH: Congrats on selling out Higher Ground. That is some Grace Potter type shit. What is the next big goal for your team -- touring?

HANKNATIVE: Thanks, that was unreal for us. We've been going there and watching some of our favorite artists since we were little, and to be able to do it and have that much support was amazing. Touring is definitely one of our goals. We've been traveling a lot more lately in the surrounding states to local colleges and had the opportunity to perform at OTIS (so much fun). Which is a good start, but we'll have to see what the year has in store for us to gauge, I think.

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VTHH: What inspired you guys to make 99 Neighbors such a full-spectrum media x culture operation? Was that just a matter of too much talent in the room all the time or did you have specific role models?

HANKNATIVE: Honestly its a mixture for everyone in the group, but those two points kind of sum it up. I know there are guys in our group that are super inspired by OFWGKTA and BROCKHAMPTON in the sense of their interchangeability in songs and ability to create, but others that look up to single specific role models and just want to be a part of something bigger than their craft as well.

When we started doing more performances and promotion for our music, we all kind of had to savvy up. Branding ourselves and the culture just kind of came naturally from what we do. Skating, tangible as well as media arts, are what brought a bunch of us in 99 together so it only seemed right to make it us.

VTHH: Are you looking to do an actual 99 Neighbors LP in the future?

HANKNATIVE: Man, the group chats been formed. Expect that this fall...

You can catch 99 Neighbors with Chyse and Loupo on October 31st at Club Metronome’s Graveyard Smash. Whalam.

Justin Boland