Interview: Producer B. Lewis talks studio fires, getting Bad Rabbits to play at his house, and the new Grieves record

[dropcap]B[/dropcap]ostonians know Bay Area producer B. Lewis is from his work on American Love, the latest album from homegrown funk rockers Bad Rabbits. Since helping Fredua Boakye and the gang craft their bright and pop-flavored LP, the talented beatsmith turned a corner when he hooked up with sandpaper-throated Seattle emcee Grieves for Winter and the Wolves, his fourth studio album, out Tuesday, March 25 on Rhymesayers Entertainment.

In anticipation of the record, we caught up with B. Lewis to talk about meeting Bad Rabbits at a bar, putting Winter and the Wolves together after a studio fire, and how Boston love was what made it all happen.

Jerard Fagerberg: So you co-produced and co-wrote Bad Rabbits’ last album, American Love. Being from Oakland, how did you get hooked up with those guys?

B. Lewis: I was going to school at Expression College, which is a digital arts college, and, at the time, I was dating a girl from Vegas, and she told me about this band called Bad Rabbits. I checked them out, and I was like “these guys are amazing, it’d be awesome to see them.” At the time, I was living in Emeryville, so it was just a quick drive over the bridge, ‘cause they were playing in San Francisco. We only caught like the last minute of their set, and so I was super bummed. I went over to the bar and Fredua, the lead singer, was standing right there, and he kinda looked at me, we kinda exchanged looks. I didn’t really say anything to him, and I walked outside and Sheel [Davé] and Salim [Akram] were out there, so I was talking to them.

I was like “yeah, I’m super bummed that we missed it.” And they were liked, “we have the day off tomorrow, it’s kind of a bummer, I wish we had, like, a show to play.” And I was like “well, you can play at my house, come play at my house tomorrow.” Sure enough, they showed up, and just played an awesome house party.

Then it went from there. I just started sending them stuff, and they were like “this is awesome, let’s start working on some stuff.” It took a long time, because we were all really busy, but I think we made an awesome record.

You said they refer to you as the “Seventh Rabbit.” Do you ever perform with them live or go on tours with them, or is it just mainly stuff in the studio?

I’m like the closest person they have to being another member, but I don’t perform with them ever. I know lot of the parts, I wrote a lot of the material for American Love. They pretty much consider me the seventh rabbit because we’re such good friends. I know Sheel kinda sees me like I’m a really good homie and a major producer, but lot of other guys consider me a seventh rabbit.

You also co-produced Grieves’ newest album, Winter and the Wolves. How did you end up meeting him before you started working together? Did you have him play a show at your house, too?

I met Grieves through Bad Rabbits. I know him through Warped Tour. On Bad Rabbits’ first Warped Tour, I flew out to Las Vegas for the show, and I just wanted have fun and hang out with them. They had a few days off, and then they were coming back around to play the Bay Area, so I was gonna get off then. I was gonna help out with merch or whatever they needed me to do. It just so happened that Grieves was playing the same stage as Bad Rabbits, almost on every single date. I knew who he was, but I didn’t know he was as cool as he was.

It was after our show in Pomona, it was either Vegas or Pomona, I started talking to him, and he said “oh, you’re working with the Rabbits, that’s awesome.” I was like, “yeah, they found me because I’m trying to start my production with hip-hop, and it went a little bit more electronic, but with a lot of soul,” and he asked me to send him stuff. A few days later, he called me up and he was like, “I’m really impressed, I don’t know when we’re gonna be able to work together, but I wanna work together.” A few months after Warped Tour, and he hits me up, and he’s like, “I get back from Sweden in a week, can I come out to your studio?” So, we made three songs in three days, and from then, it was pretty much a wrap. He was like, “this is the guy I wanna work with on the album.”

Grieves’ studio was building a home studio, which burned down while you were in the process of making the album. Did you lose a lot of the work you had recorded?

No, his studio burned down after we started working. I actually went to it, I actually saw the studio, and what he was building, and it was really sad, because he was putting a lot of money and a lot of work. He was actually doing a lot of the work on it. And it was gonna be awesome. I was out in the Seattle, and we were actually digging pretty deep into the record by then, and so we were planning on kinda finishing up and doing the final touches there. And then that happened, and we pretty much had to look elsewhere to finish the record.

How difficult was that, to start over again?

We luckily didn’t have to start over. He had a lot of it backed-up, and he had another studio at the time. He lost basically a lot of the building and a lot of his merch, but he didn’t lose any of the album stuff, because I had a lot of that stuff. He mainly just lost the building that it was in.

Grieves typically works with another producer, Budo, on his records. Was it difficult to come in and form a whole new dynamic with him?

Actually, it was really easy, to tell you the truth. He wanted something really fresh and new and different. He had been with Budo for a really long time. As soon as I started working with him, he was like “this is like so refreshing to me, this is what I wanted.” I mean, I played guitar on that album too and I was singing, all the things that Budo does.

By no means am I replacement for Budo.

There’s no beef between Budo and Grieves at all, they’re still really good friends, Budo just kinda left and he did his own thing. There’s no beef between me and Budo, Budo is an incredible producer, and we’ve been in touch, we really appreciate each other’s production, but it just kinda fell into pocket with [Grieves] and I. Once we started, it was just clockwork. We just started making song after song after song, and it just worked out from there.

So, what do you have coming up on the solo front?

I’m working on a few projects right now. I’m working on a solo LP for myself, mainly just instrumental production and stuff like that, and then I’m coming out with remix album. Those two are gonna be probably later in the year, so probably like summer, and then the next probably will be around winter time. So, I’m trying to keep it full circle and do my own thing. You know, kinda attacking from all angles at all times.