Auto-Tune the News: 'Stay Away From Auto-Tuning People at Bar Mitzvahs and Adolf Hitler'
DigiTour 2011 hopes to turn viral audiences into the real thing for YouTube stars during a live six-week 27-city US tour. Their videos may range from cinematic to DIY-simple, but they all have one thing in common: extravagant numbers of Internet views.
Eighteen-year-old Savannah Outen from Portland, Oregon, plays guitar
and sings while standing in front of her white closet door. Is she surprised
by her success? Totally. "Yesterday on my YouTube channel, I got, like,
70 million channel views altogether. I'm like, what? This is so weird.
I'd always hoped that something cool would come about, but I never,
never thought it would become this big."
Or the Mystery Guitar Man, rated at No. 6 worldwide. At 23, the
Los Angeles resident says he's making coin posting goofball videos such
as his Guitar Impossible. "It was a classical song by Mozart that I
was trying to play, but it was way too fast. I discovered that the only
way I could play it was if I played each note for two seconds and just
cut it all down in editing. I put it up on YouTube, and the next day, it
had more than a million hits."
The Gregory Brothers are a blue-eyed soul
band based in Brooklyn, New York, where they have been making fun of news
and politicos on YouTube as Auto-Tune the News for two years. They are
in truth the brothers Evan, Michael and Andrew Gregory and
wife/sister-in-law Sarah. Andrew and Michael were not available at
OC Weekly: Describe what it means to Auto-Tune something.
Evan Gregory: It's the brand name for pitch-correction software with which you can accomplish a range of things from subtle to not so subtle. Every major pop singer you hear is using it. You just don't know it except for the 5 percent of artists who choose to crank it up to [level] 10 for that robotic effect.
Lately. that robotic effect is present in pop music almost to the point of cliché.
Evan: Two reasons. One is an aesthetic choice. It hasn't quite worn out its welcome yet, nor do I think it'll ever solely go away. It's another choice in a range of options for how you can put effects on your voice. But you don't have to crank it up to 10 so that you sound like robo-Kardashian.
Were you surprised by the response to Auto-Tune the News?
Evan: The short answer is yes. The long answer is there is no way we could have predicted the kind of earth-shattering reception we got.
Your videos are complicated. How will they translate to the stage?
Evan: What we're gonna do is play the music live and also sing our parts live alongside the video as it rolls.
Sarah Gregory: Imagine that you are sitting in your office at your computer watching the Smoking Lettuce video and singing along to it. Now, expand that to a 300- to 500-seat venue.
Who scripts your videos?
Sarah: Why don't you ask our politicians? [Laughs.]
Got it. So what do you look for in terms of raw material?
Sarah: In our line of work, it really begins and ends with [what we call] the unintentional singer. A lot of what we do is to scout out those fantastic unintentional singers. Some voices lend themselves to being [Auto]-Tuned.
Vice President Joe Biden shows in your stuff a lot.
Sarah: He's actually become sort of the Beyonce of unintentional singers. He just has these soaring melodies mixed with these memorable lyrics. He's just a true star.
Evan: That's right. And we're hoping that if his political career comes to an end after he leaves the Obama administration, maybe he'll consider a recording career.
Does the Vice President know he's an Auto-Tune the News star?
Evan: We heard from someone on his staff that he's seen some videos and had a giggle.
Are there subject areas that you won't Auto-Tune?
Sarah: The only rule of thumb that we've come across so far is stay away from Auto-Tuning people at bar mitzvahs and stay away from Auto-Tuning [Adolf] Hitler.
Your gig is finding political or news clips that border on the corrupt or the idiotic, and then you make them funny. By the end of a day, do you feel a little jaded?
Evan: It stands to reason that if you have people just talking 300 days out of the year on the floor of Congress, some zany stuff is gonna get said. But a lot of the things that we highlight aren't necessarily the major stories of the day. They're just kind of little moments of absurdity that pop out to us. We lend personality to the people who are up there making our laws.
What lies ahead in your collective future?
Sarah: We just hope we can continue doing stuff that amuses us. We've got this tour coming up. Comedy Central has hired us to create a pilot for them. We'll see where that goes. And we'll keep putting out groovy videos.