5 SHINY QUESTIONS: Talking to the minds behind the YouTube phenomenon Autotune the News

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If you thought autotuning was just something Kanye West and Britney Spears use to make their singing sound respectable, think again.

Thanks to three brothers, Evan, Andrew, and Michael Gregory and singer http://www.myspace.com/sefullen, autotuning may have found its higher calling - broadcast news. The Radford, Va.-natives rock the Gregory Brothers band as their respectable gig, but in the off-time they cull the news for melodious moments to bring to YouTube - the most recent installment was posted today.

With a varied musical background - from songwriting instruction to "American Idol" appearances - and a keen interest in the news and state of broadcast journalism, the Gregorys took their social commentary through the computer.

Here's a lightly edited transcript of an e-mail interview on what's behind their autotuned ambitions and what's next after the jump:

1) The autotuned news is a great concept. Did you start doing it as some sort of comment on the state of broadcast journalism, was it a lark that sounded like fun. What was the genesis of the idea.

Michael started producing videos about the presidential campaign debates in October. Eventually they included autotuned candidates singing their arguments. Once the concept of autotuning regular speech was mastered, we wanted to apply it to something that could become episodic and stay current. The news was an easy answer. Then, yes, one of our favorite targets is the "state of broadcast journalism" - broadcast journalism often being a very self-serious medium.

2) Katie Couric is so standout she should do her broadcasts like this all the time. But it must take quite a bit of work to find the right clips to work in this idea. Did you pick randomly or were these stories you had an interest in showcasing?

There's a combination of finding clips that are relevant, current, and interesting, and then culling them so we only have clips that have the right sonic properties. Over time, we're learning there are certain people (*cough Katie Couric*) whose voices are crisp and clear and just take very naturally to a melody that we mold.

3) Will you continue to do the news? Or are there other avenues to explore with autotuning? Or is autotuning over and you're on to the next effect? What's next in your YouTube bag of tricks?

For the time being, we will continue to do the news, because there are still a lot of jokes to be had and we just haven't tired of it ourselves yet. There will also be other autotuned ideas - see Michael's videos of famous speeches by Churchill and MLK Jr. But in the long run, we'll be onto other projects and will probably come up with some other weird ways to get our stuff out there.

4) BarelyPolitical has slapped its logo on your work and posted it on their own channel and site. Was this done with your permission? There was quite an outpouring of outrage on Digg about it - the autotune videos were originally Dugg from BarelyPolitical and many Diggers reposted the video from your channel in the comments.

This was done with our permission. They've been a partner for months now and all the exposure we now have wouldn't be possible if Barely Political's army of subscribers hadn't seen Auto-Tune the News on their channel. Michael has helped write some content for Barely Political that you can check out if you troll through their archives; for example, the election night recap.

5) Tell us a little about the band, which seems completely different in every way musically from what you're doing on YouTube.

All of us have very different musical influences, and they kind of come together in our band The Gregory Brothers, which has kind of an old soul sound. It's very different from what we put out on Youtube, if only because it's much easier to produce the Youtube videos solely on a computer workstation without recording live instruments - that lends itself to a certain kind of canned beat. And of course the auto-tuned vocals sound most familiar laid over a hip-hop-esque sound, so that's why we primarily write that way for the videos.

But we put a lot of our energy into the band, including touring around the country, writing and arranging all the songs, and recording. We're putting out an EP that captures what we do live - it comes out officially May 29 when we have a show in NYC.

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    This page contains a single entry by Craig Newman published on May 15, 2009 2:03 PM.

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