“To use the most overused saying ever, we treat every show like it’s our last show period, like for real, and it hasn’t been our last show in a long time,” says Andy Suzuki of Andy Suzuki and the Method. “When you see the show tonight, our whole show is from the heart.”
That’s exactly what I saw when Andy, his musical partner Kozza Olatunji-Babumba, and their phenomenal band took the stage at Mercury Lounge on March 2nd. From broken mic stands, to drumsticks in the eye, to Andy’s high kicks and Kozza’s contagious effervesce, this show had it all. This was the band’s New York City record release show for their most recent album, The Glass Hour, which came out the beginning of February. This album encapsulates the sexy, electronic-infused r&b that’s all-the-rage right now, sprinkled with a little folk, a little rock, and a bit of the in-between.
Though they’re just now starting to get the recognition they deserve, Andy and Kozza have been growing together as musicians for over a decade. The two met through mutual friends while attending Brown University in Providence, RI; Andy was studying economics as well as jazz piano and Kozza was studying international relations. “We had seen each other around campus and we were like, let’s try to play music together,” Andy remembers.
“Andy says we were trying to play music, actually he was trying to play music with me,” Kozza says.
Music was never a thing that Kozza saw himself making a living off of even though he was surrounded by music at an early age. He grew up listening to, and playing with, his grandfather, Grammy Award-winning Nigerian percussionist Babatunde Olatunji. During his summers off from attending the Boston Arts Academy, Kozza would travel with his grandfather and play shows together all over the world. Berklee College of Music even offered him a scholarship but he turned it down to go to Brown.
“Music has always felt super hobby-like – something I do on the side,” Kozza says. “Andy was kind of the first person to be like, ‘bro, this could be a thing, you can do music for real.’” Kozza saw Andy as someone who was taking music very seriously – investing in equipment, investing in lessons and learning the piano from scratch at a later age than most people do – 18 to be exact. “It was cool to see somebody that dedicated to it,” Kozza says. “He inspired a passion in me.”
Though the excitement was high between the two new friends, Andy says their first time playing music together was “infamously mediocre.” “Nothing was clicking,” Andy remembers. “[Kozza] was playing djembe, he grew up playing West African percussion, and I was playing piano and there’s a reason you don’t see djembe and piano duos.”
Even though internally they were both sure their musical endeavor was going nowhere, they didn’t want to give up right away. They decided to give it one more try before throwing in the towel. “We did this one thing and there were like two hits that Kozza did that seemed to like fit and resonate with us really well and 10 years later we’re still at it,” Andy says.
As they started to mold their sound, they were inspired by the duo of Jason Mraz and Toca Rivera. Andy sent Kozza one of the songs that Jason and Toca played together just to listen. Toca played djembe and Jason played guitar, an instrument, that Kozza points out, is better suited to be played alongside djembe.
“[Andy] wasn’t even like this could be us, he literally was like, ‘this is a song I like, check it out,’ and I kept playing the song over and over,” Kozza explains. “My girlfriend at the time was like, ‘can you please stop?’ and I was like, ‘have you heard this song?’” Their first two albums – now erased from streaming services – began their journey working with a folk/pop/rock sound. It wasn’t until their third album, Born Out of Mischief, when they started to have pride in their work.
“I remember, I was like dude this is our best work, we’re right there!” Kozza says. Even though they knew they still had room to grow, they decided it was time to take a chance at reaching out to a publicist and they sent over their stuff to Girlie Action. “Before that, when we would reach out to people, we would get zero response, as we should, because if 1000 people write to you at a time you can’t pay attention,” Kozza says. “I remember getting a response back where [Girlie Action] was like, ‘we’ll look at it,’ and we were like, ‘you’re gonna look at it?!’”
That was a celebration for them. Though the PR company did pass on them the first time around, the guys were happy enough that they got a response, even if it was a no. Fast-forward 3-4 years later, the band sent what they thought was their strongest work yet, The Glass Hour, and Girlie agreed.
The Glass Hour was a labor of love that took about a year plus of songwriting and then a year plus of production work/recording, hence the large gap between it and Born Out of Mischief. “We wanted to milk that last album for all it was worth,” Andy says. “Sometimes it’s good to have a manager to kind of keep you focused and say, ‘hey, you need new music.’”
In era of music we’re in now, fans expect artists to constantly release new music. Andy and Kozza had toyed with dropping singles or an EP but they wanted to make sure that they had a strong body of work to put out all together. “People want you to have dropped the day before they find you [online],” Kozza says. “We felt that pressure as well which is good, it gives you a little bit of an incentive.”
They wanted to go in a different direction than their last album but still keep the integrity of their sound. “We were like, ‘what do we like, what does Andy’s voice sound good singing and what can we do to capitalize on that and make more people like you care?” Kozza says.
They ended up playing with combining sultry electric beats, smooth r&b licks, and a super dance-y vibe. They also recorded songs in different styles of music that they liked. “Our album to a fault is so diverse, we like so much shit,” Andy explains. “There’s kind of a country inspired song or two on there so yeah our manager is always pissed off at us because he’s like why can’t you just be [a specific] kind of band and we’re like, we just like to make music that we like to hear.”
When it came to producing the album, they took a chance on their colleague Juny Mag. Juny, who has been working with the Method on and off as a keyboardist, mentioned that he was a producer. When Andy and Kozza were looking for a producer for their newest album, they sent him some of their new material not expecting much, but ended up being pleasantly surprised and most of what you hear on the new album was produced by him.
“Sometimes the best stuff is right under your nose and you don’t realize it,” Andy says. “I don’t use the ‘g’ word, genius, very often, but he is right there.”
Between the new direction of music style and expert producing, the Method was able to put out an album that they were not only proud of but that was worthy of the eager ears of their fans. Over the decade that Andy and Kozza have been working together, their fan base has been growing and surprising them time after time, from getting band related tattoos, to flying across the country just to see them play. They even have one woman that has seen them play in 20 plus states.
“I remember very clearly the first show where somebody was singing in the audience and I was like, why the fuck does she know the words?” Kozza says. “Now we’re getting to the point where like last night we literally had people shouting loud, like not a private moment, like this is a public declaration of them singing all the verse and the chorus and we’re like the album just dropped, why do they know the lyrics?”
Those are the moments that humble them and keep them going for as long as they have. As Andy says, they still have a long way to go as a band – with goals of playing bigger stages, going on tours with other bands, and playing big festivals – but I think they’re on a trajectory of creating a great career for themselves. As I watched them perform that night at Mercury Lounge, I could feel their passion through their sweat covered bodies and strained necks vocalizing their deepest passions. They were excited about being on stage and, in turn, the crowd didn’t want them to ever stop.
“We’ve come farther than we thought we would,” Kozza says. “We’re trying to make everybody regret [saying no].”
Article: Merissa Blitz