The Gregory Brothers
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The Gregory Brothers

New York City, New York, United States

New York City, New York, United States
Band Comedy Spoken Word

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Music

The best kept secret in music

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They were great!

The students definitely enjoyed their presentation. We had about 200 or so students in attendance, which is great since a lot of students went to Houston for the Final Four.

Thanks for all of your help in coordinating their performance. - Butler University


This is the summer of Auto-Tune.
No matter how hard some people -- notably Jay-Z --have tried to kill the trend of musicians using computers to make their voices sound like whiny robots, Auto-Tune technology continues to ride a cultural high.
Now the voice-altering effects are migrating from recording studios to YouTube and mobile phones.
An iPhone app called "I Am T-Pain" lets people manipulate their voices to sound like the popular rapper and Auto-Tune advocate.
The Gregory Brothers, a sibling band out of Brooklyn, New York, has become a hit on YouTube with a series of videos that Auto-Tune cable newscasts and political speeches.
The group, which also tours as a low-fi soul band, started its series of videos called "Auto-Tune the News" during the 2008 presidential debates and has gained millions of fans in recent months.
CNN spoke with Andrew Gregory, a 27-year-old member of the band, about the popularity of Auto-Tune -- the trademarked name for the popular pitch-correction software -- and the role of technology in music and society.
The following is an edited transcript of our conversation:
Why do you think your videos have taken off like they have?
I think with any sort of viral video there's a little bit of luck involved. So we're counting our lucky stars that we've been lucky enough to have it take off like that.
At the same time I think the novelty of seeing people like Katie Couric and Newt Gingrich sing has really captured peoples' attention.
How do you make the videos? What actually goes into it?
Michael likes to joke that there's a huge Auto-Tune lever that he hooks up to his computer and whenever he sees video footage he just pulls the lever, and anything that strikes his fancy is automatically Auto-Tuned.
But there's a lot of technical stuff that goes into it. ... We scour a lot of footage to see what's going to work and what's not going to work. We try to find what people are going to tune well and what people won't tune well. ...
Really, by the time the video gets made I'd say it's eight or 10 days of work that goes into one of these videos, between the four of us.
What makes someone a good candidate for Auto-Tuning?
An example of a great candidate for Auto-Tuning would be either Katie Couric or Joe Biden. Both Katie Couric and Joe Biden have just continued to astonish us with their unbelievable, almost hidden melodies in their speaking voices. A lot of it has to do with how they project their voice in terms of their soft palate. But it also has to do with how much of an oratorical fashion they speak. Joe Biden, in a lot of his speeches, is delivering them in a preacher sort of fashion that tunes really well.
While someone who ended up tuning really poorly -- we thought he would tune really well! -- was Sean Hannity. We thought he'd tune really well just because Sean Hannity is always talking really loud. But it turns out that despite the fact that he was talking really loud, it was a nasal talking and it was a harsh and abrasive loud voice, so it ended up not tuning well at all.
Does President Obama make for a good Auto-Tune?
You know, what was great from Obama was the campaign speeches. His campaign speeches were excellent, because he was sort of using that almost gospel-preacher rhetorical style.
Since he's been president, he's been so relaxed and sort of so laid back and cerebral and sort of intellectual. He's not been quite as excellent for Auto-Tuning because there's a lot more of a mumbly tone about him. A lot less of the "Yes we can!" and a lot more of the "Weeeeell, as we see ..."
Has "Auto-Tune the News" helped your other musical efforts or do you think it's pulling you away?
It's certainly making us focus a lot more on "Auto-Tune the News." As the videos have sort of grown in scope and become more popular, we can't help but continue to work on them as our fans clamor for more.
Do you ever use Auto-Tune in the other performances, like in your band?
We've never used it live. We're no Ashlee Simpson. But I think we've used it a little bit on our record.
Right now it's a huge fad to Auto-Tune the crap out of people so that they sound like robots. But on pretty much any record you listen to these days there's some level of Auto-Tune on it, even if it's a very, very small amount.
If there's just one small note that's just a little bit flat, why wouldn't you Auto-Tune it to make it sound OK?
Do you think it's hurting music at all that people expect a singer's pitch to be perfect?
It means that people who can't sing as well are becoming famous singers. But I don't know, that's why I love going to see live music, because that really sorts out the real singers from the not-so-real singers.
If you could invent any technology or pick a technology that you would like to see invented, what would it be?
Oh, wow. I'd probably go for a teleportation machine myself. ... Like the one they used in "Star Trek," hopefully, right? Where you can jump in the teleportation mach - CNN - by John D. Sutter


This is the summer of Auto-Tune.
No matter how hard some people -- notably Jay-Z --have tried to kill the trend of musicians using computers to make their voices sound like whiny robots, Auto-Tune technology continues to ride a cultural high.
Now the voice-altering effects are migrating from recording studios to YouTube and mobile phones.
An iPhone app called "I Am T-Pain" lets people manipulate their voices to sound like the popular rapper and Auto-Tune advocate.
The Gregory Brothers, a sibling band out of Brooklyn, New York, has become a hit on YouTube with a series of videos that Auto-Tune cable newscasts and political speeches.
The group, which also tours as a low-fi soul band, started its series of videos called "Auto-Tune the News" during the 2008 presidential debates and has gained millions of fans in recent months.
CNN spoke with Andrew Gregory, a 27-year-old member of the band, about the popularity of Auto-Tune -- the trademarked name for the popular pitch-correction software -- and the role of technology in music and society.
The following is an edited transcript of our conversation:
Why do you think your videos have taken off like they have?
I think with any sort of viral video there's a little bit of luck involved. So we're counting our lucky stars that we've been lucky enough to have it take off like that.
At the same time I think the novelty of seeing people like Katie Couric and Newt Gingrich sing has really captured peoples' attention.
How do you make the videos? What actually goes into it?
Michael likes to joke that there's a huge Auto-Tune lever that he hooks up to his computer and whenever he sees video footage he just pulls the lever, and anything that strikes his fancy is automatically Auto-Tuned.
But there's a lot of technical stuff that goes into it. ... We scour a lot of footage to see what's going to work and what's not going to work. We try to find what people are going to tune well and what people won't tune well. ...
Really, by the time the video gets made I'd say it's eight or 10 days of work that goes into one of these videos, between the four of us.
What makes someone a good candidate for Auto-Tuning?
An example of a great candidate for Auto-Tuning would be either Katie Couric or Joe Biden. Both Katie Couric and Joe Biden have just continued to astonish us with their unbelievable, almost hidden melodies in their speaking voices. A lot of it has to do with how they project their voice in terms of their soft palate. But it also has to do with how much of an oratorical fashion they speak. Joe Biden, in a lot of his speeches, is delivering them in a preacher sort of fashion that tunes really well.
While someone who ended up tuning really poorly -- we thought he would tune really well! -- was Sean Hannity. We thought he'd tune really well just because Sean Hannity is always talking really loud. But it turns out that despite the fact that he was talking really loud, it was a nasal talking and it was a harsh and abrasive loud voice, so it ended up not tuning well at all.
Does President Obama make for a good Auto-Tune?
You know, what was great from Obama was the campaign speeches. His campaign speeches were excellent, because he was sort of using that almost gospel-preacher rhetorical style.
Since he's been president, he's been so relaxed and sort of so laid back and cerebral and sort of intellectual. He's not been quite as excellent for Auto-Tuning because there's a lot more of a mumbly tone about him. A lot less of the "Yes we can!" and a lot more of the "Weeeeell, as we see ..."
Has "Auto-Tune the News" helped your other musical efforts or do you think it's pulling you away?
It's certainly making us focus a lot more on "Auto-Tune the News." As the videos have sort of grown in scope and become more popular, we can't help but continue to work on them as our fans clamor for more.
Do you ever use Auto-Tune in the other performances, like in your band?
We've never used it live. We're no Ashlee Simpson. But I think we've used it a little bit on our record.
Right now it's a huge fad to Auto-Tune the crap out of people so that they sound like robots. But on pretty much any record you listen to these days there's some level of Auto-Tune on it, even if it's a very, very small amount.
If there's just one small note that's just a little bit flat, why wouldn't you Auto-Tune it to make it sound OK?
Do you think it's hurting music at all that people expect a singer's pitch to be perfect?
It means that people who can't sing as well are becoming famous singers. But I don't know, that's why I love going to see live music, because that really sorts out the real singers from the not-so-real singers.
If you could invent any technology or pick a technology that you would like to see invented, what would it be?
Oh, wow. I'd probably go for a teleportation machine myself. ... Like the one they used in "Star Trek," hopefully, right? Where you can jump in the teleportation mach - CNN - by John D. Sutter


Among the rusty Web 2.0 jokes, Anne Hathaway's cornball hooting, and all the precious air Oprah breathed, there were a few redeeming aspects to last night's Oscars. Coincidentally (or not?), they tended to have local ties. Staten Island's PS22 Chorus, "the only remotely competent performers at the Oscars." Pom-pom-headed Luke Matheny, who gave a resolutely human acceptance speech and shouted out NYU. And "The Year's Unintentional Musicals," a minute-and-a-half digital montage of AutoTuned scenes from Harry Potter, Toy Story 3, The Social Network, and Twilight--the latter, a deeply amusing riff on Taylor Lautner's perpetual toplessness called "He Doesn't Own a Shirt." Behind this spot were Brooklyn's very own Auto-Tune the News Guys, the Gregory Brothers (Andrew, Michael, Evan, and Sarah), who all watched the show last night at home, drinking champagne, and snapping pictures of the TV screen with their phones--you would too.
We caught up with three of them this afternoon, amid the telephonic chaos of moving offices, to talk about working with the Oscar producers, Ron Weasley as a booty-jam balladeer, and what should have won Best Picture of the Year.
How many e-mails, phonecalls, and Facebook postings have you gotten in the last 16 hours?
Michael: I stopped trying to keep track.
When did the producers reach out to you?
Michael: Early January. They reached out to us through our management.
Evan: Maybe 4th or 5th?
What was the original concept? What were they looking for?
Michael: They were really looking for to what we ended up with--just a look at the world if every movie had also been an accidental musical. It's really a better world that we're looking at--or a dystopian world, whatever you prefer to see it as.
Andrew: They were just really in touch and really hip. It wasn't like they got in touch and were like, 'What do you guys do?' They were like, 'We've seen your videos, we really like them, do you think you could do something like that.'
At the time it was broadcast, there was a Twitter outcry about whether or not they'd ripped you guys off.
Evan: We're proud of the piece, so we want our names to be associated with it, and for people to know that it was us. We're also proud that they wanted to go right to the source, rather than imitating the concept. So I think it turned out well.
How did you decide what films would be included in the piece?
Michael: We watched a lot of movies. We also had to think about the context. Like what other movies were going to be used throughout the broadcast. That's one of the reasons we thought it would be fun to give Harry Potter and Twilight some love. I just thought they had some great musical moments. When I watched Harry Potter and I saw the monologue from Ron Weasley, I just thought "This needs to become a booty jam as soon as possible--the sooner the better."
You guys have talked about what makes public figures good unintentional singers. Who wouldn't work from the nominated films?
Michael: From the beginning, we've done this enough that we didn't have to watch everything to know who would be malleable. Jeff Bridges in True Grit--he has a really gravelly voice. So he wouldn't be a good unintentional singer. Maybe he'd be a gangster rapper, but we decided not to go that route. I knew that Justin Timberlake would have a great singing voice because his voice is always supported on the breath.
What about The Fighter? And those Boston accents? Would they be good or bad unintentional singers?
Evan: Singers can have accents. For example, Shakira is a singer who is just hobbled by a heavy accent. Yet she turns out hit-after-hit. So I think somebody with a regional accent, say, from Boston or New England could find success with the right song.
When you were working on it, were you ever doubtful it would air?
Michael: You never know with a live broadcast. Somebody's speech could go over 10 minutes, and something's gonna get cut somewhere, but we were pretty confident.
Andrew: Imagine, theoretically, a world in which nonagenarian actors are invited onstage and allowed to improvise for long periods of time. If something like that ever happened, then your piece might be cut. But we were very excited that it aired.
What was the most surprising thing about working with the producers?
Michael: Maybe the most surprising thing was that they called us in the first place--that pros like them would be willing to work with jerks like us. They were really pro in every aspect, just working with us and getting us the footage.


There's a longer version posted on the ABC site that has The King's Speech in it. Were there other films you had to cut?
Michael: I think The King's Speech is the main one we didn't get to broadcast. We're not hiding any aces up our sleeves. But I'm proud to say that I don't think the House of Windsor has ever sounded so gangsta.
What were you pulling for to win Best Movie?
Andrew: Personally I was pulling for The Fighter. And I wan - The Village Voice, Feb. 28, 2011, Camille Dodero


When Diana Radcliff stepped into a convenience store in Kansas City, Mo., on the morning of Sept. 1, 2010, she had no idea she’d be a witness to a botched robbery and a frantic escape accompanied by a hail of bullets; or that her account of the thwarted crime, as recorded by a local ABC television station, would become an Internet viral sensation; or that this video, in turn, would make her, at least for a short while, a pop-music star.
Speaking to a reporter for KMBC-TV, Radcliff described her ordeal. “When I’m on my knees, I’m backin’ up, backin’ up, backin’ up, backin’ up, backin’ up, backin’ up, ’cause my daddy taught me good,” she said, while hunching down and shuffling backward to recreate the scene. And that was how numerous Internet users were introduced to Radcliff in a video clip that was posted about a year ago.
Many millions of viewers know her from a different video, though, one in which she does not merely recite the story of her ordeal, but rather sings it, accompanied by snappy electronic percussion:
I’m backin’ up, backin’ up,
backin’ up, backin’ up,
’Cause my daddy taught me go-oo-d
I’m backin’ the hell out of there
And I’m like oh, my God
Oh, my God, my God
This might not seem like the kind of thing you would hear on a Top 40 radio station or see on MTV — not yet, anyway — but “Backin Up Song (feat. Diana),” a video produced by a Brooklyn-based group of musicians-slash-Internet comedians called the Gregory Brothers, has been viewed more than 10 million times.
Through a combination of old-fashioned musical ability, high-tech skills and the do-whatever-you-want spirit of the World Wide Web, the Gregory Brothers — a quartet consisting of siblings Evan, Michael and Andrew, as well as Sarah Fullen Gregory, Evan’s wife — have built a cottage industry around videos like “Backin Up Song (feat. Diana),” and previous videos like “Double Rainbow Song” and “Bed Intruder Song.” They do this by taking footage that has already been widely circulated around the Internet — a viral video sensation — and they, to use a word from their lexicon, “songify” it.
“The first time you hear most songs, it’s, like, awesome,” Michael Gregory, the youngest of the three brothers, told me when I visited the band’s Williamsburg studio. “And then the next time you hear it, you’re like, ‘Bo-ring.’ But if it’s a good song, you still care. And it’s the same thing with this.”
In other words, it was the Internet’s voracious appetite for found comedy — a primal need to laugh at things that are different or unexpected and not necessarily planned to be funny — that made Radcliff’s original “Backin’ Up” video interview a momentary diversion. But it took the Gregory Brothers, who give their mission statement on their official YouTube page as “spreading opera throughout space and time,” to turn that diversion into a worldwide pop hit.
When I first met the Gregorys, they had recently moved into their new headquarters, a wide-open workspace in a wing of an old, two-story brick building tucked in among a block of automobile and appliance repair shops. The studio’s minimal furnishings included an array of Macintosh computers, a microwave oven and a coffee maker, and a filing cabinet with pieces of cellophane tape stuck to where the handles should have been.
Sitting around a table and eating sushi and edamame, the Gregorys seemed like a youthful, exuberant clan, with a shared gift for effortless humor. Evan, at 32, is the oldest of the group, thin and boyishly handsome; his wife, Sarah, is 29; Michael, 26, looks like Evan’s younger, thinner duplicate, and Andrew, 29, probably would, too, without his scraggly beard. The brothers grew up in Radford, Va., and after Evan graduated from Swarthmore, he was the first to move to New York to try his hand at a musical career. Andrew followed, and along the way, they met Sarah, a native of San Antonio and graduate of Southern Methodist University, who was in transition from the theater thing to the music thing.
Sarah had a band and Andrew had a band, so the two groups hit the road together, often performing in each other’s sets. “On more than on occasion,” Andrew said, “we’d show up, and the sound guy would be like, ‘Guys, I have no idea where the other band is.’ We’d be like, ‘It’s us — we just switched instruments.’ ”
Eventually, to reduce confusion about whose act was whose, “we were like, let’s just be the Gregory Brothers,” Sarah said. They describe their sound as “blue-eyed soul,” a euphemism for R&B music performed by white people. But as they were preparing to release their first EP, called “Meet the Gregory Brothers!” the group started getting noticed for a very different reason.
During the 2008 election season, Michael, who had been interning at production studios, began creating music videos from footage of the presidential and vice-presidential debates and posting them on YouTube. In one, he digitally inserted himself into Barack Obama and John McCain’s - The New York Times - Dave Itzkoff


Discography

Still working on that hot first release.

Photos

Bio

Heralded by Rachel Maddow as “contributing something very important to American culture” yet somehow simultaneously praised by Glenn Beck as “absolutely fantastic,” The Gregory Brothers unique, satirical YouTube series Auto-Tune the News has caught the ears of the world. And it’s not just Beck and Maddow that are listening. Since their videos went wildly viral, The Gregory Brothers have spoken on the Today Show, Google ZeitGeist, MacWorld, GEL, and inked a deal to create a pilot for Comedy Central.

Since 2009, Michael, Andrew, Evan and Evan’s wife Sarah have created hit songs out of non-songs. Using the popular studio software, “Auto-Tune,” they turn public speakers into a pop singers. The great - and the not-so-great - orators of our time serve as their muses, unwittingly lending their words to The Gregory Brothers’ satirical song-smithing. Such hits as The Bed Intruder Song, The Double Rainbow Song and many other ‘Auto-Tune the News’ installments - all created in a little Brooklyn two bed-room apartment - can now be heard around the world. Their greatest hits have been seen over 100 million times, and The Bed Intruder Song was the first YouTube video to ever crack BillBoard’s “Hot 100.” It also won the "Best Viral Original" award from Comedy Central in April 2011.

Masters at the art of social media and marketing, The Gregory Brothers offer a unique, fresh, and forward-thinking perspective on how to combine music, technical savvy, and humor to reach millions.

The Gregory Brothers have been featured in The New York Times, Rolling Stone, and Wired, and have collaborated with T-Pain, Joel Madden (of Good Charlotte), Weezer, and Sufjan Stevens.

What people are saying about The Gregory Brothers:

[The Gregory Brothers' Bed Intruder Song]...was a rare case of a product of Web culture jumping the species barrier and becoming a pop hit.
-NYTimes

It’s no exaggeration to claim The Gregory Brothers have invented a completely new art form that is perfectly suited to our meme-crazed times, and — most difficult to replicate — is incredibly well made. Their skills are obvious and their ears perceptive, as evidenced by the way in which they mimic pop music tropes to perfection."
-Wired.com

The Gregory Brothers are unlikely salvagers of our modern digital wasteland."
-The Village Voice

I love these guys. They are funny, cute and creative.
-Katie Couric

[The Gregory Brothers have] ...the will and enginuity to be blazing a different trail of unique satire. I have little doubt it will spawn legions of people who try to do something similar which is the hallmark of any good idea.
-Politico

There is no more sophisticated commentary on the intersection of popular and political culture in America. And if there is ... it’s not as funny.