Yesterday the viral music-video maestros from cdza (pronounced Cadenza) stopped into the Bedford + Bowery Newsroom to shoot footage for the backdrop of a their TED@NYC performance at Joe’s Pub today. The collective — founded by Joe Sabia, Michael Thurber and Matt McCorkle — is always up to something: next month, they’ll perform at the first ever YouTube Music Awards at Pier 36. We spoke to Sabia and McCorkle after they wrapped up at the Newsroom. Among other things, Sabia, who created 9 Minute Breaking Bad, revealed plans to expand his project into something resembling a fantasy tv league.
So what’s the backstory behind CDZA?
Joe: I met the two other co-founders Matt and Michael in August 2011 and we each provide different skill sets. Matt has background in audio, Michael has a musical composition background, and I have a video background. So the three of us joined forces and that’s how CDZA got started initially. From there we tapped into Juilliard where Michael went to school and got in touch with a bunch of his friends.
So how did the three of you meet?
Matt: Joe met another musician at Juilliard and did some work with him. And then from there Joe hooked up with Michael through this guy and then I got involved in the tail end of the project. I did work on some music and mastering the audio. But anyways we got to know each other and Joe told Michael and I about this idea he had — the History of Lyrics That Aren’t Lyrics. Michael had a few musician friends and we went to my studio in Times Square, where we inevitably ended up shooting all the other videos. We put it up online and it became a sensation. We worked well together and from there it’s history.
A major part of CDZA is the social aspect of music and public interaction. Was this an original goal when the group was founded?
Joe: Well before we stepped outside we had done about a dozen videos in the studio.
Matt: Human Jukebox was our first public video and the original plan wasn’t even to shoot it outside. But we had been thinking about getting out of the studio for a while at that point so we decided to do it for that video and people loved it.
CDZA is a collective. Just how many members are there?
Joe: There is a core group of about 8 guys, but in total there are 150.
The band organization must be crazy…
Matt: It all starts with Joe, Michael and myself. We all hone in on an idea and bring it to the core group and they add their own flavorings. Then we go to the outside collective and the add their own spice to it. It starts off with the top tier, then moves to the second tier, and then branches out to the third tier. The collective is not just a chaos of free flowing ideas. It is organized.
How do you decide who to bring in for each video?
Joe: When we first started out we brought in as many as people as possible. And we didn’t even have a core group at first. It was just the three of us on our own so we needed all the help we could get. That’s how the core group was formed, actually. We were bringing all these different people in to work with and bonded well with a handful. It happened naturally, which is awesome.
Also, all these people we work with are also doing other things. So our selections depends on what we have access to. We love to work with new people as well. It has got to the point where it’s a recommendation off a recommendation. Like a rippling effect.
You’re giving a TED performance at Joe’s Pub. What’s the concept of that show going to be?
Joe: We are doing something that allows seven musicians on stage to each have a minute to do a medley of whatever songs they want. We are going to isolate each musician one minute at a time and allow them to do a song based on that instrument. So, for example, our guitarist is going to have one minute to do seven songs of guitar solos. Then our drummer will go, then our violinist, etc.
What as the inspiration behind that?
Joe: Initially we wanted to do the history of 500 years of music in 5 minutes, but we realized that was quite ambitious [laughs]. So we decided to streamline it to keep it simple and allow each instrument time to shine.
Tell me some disaster stories from your video Wooing Women In Public.
[Laughs] Matt: Yes, there are disaster stories. A few of them just broke down and started crying.
Joe: So we shot the video and we didn’t know how women would respond. So yeah, some of them shut down. I mean, if they were shy, and in public, and ten musicians suddenly surrounded them. Other women just didn’t like it and were petrified with confusion.
Matt: There was one women on her phone like this [crosses legs and puts phone to ear], and she just sat there mean muggin’ while talking on the phone with 10 musicians around her and a guy in a suit who was waiting to give her a rose.
Joe, “Betting Bad” was another idea that was separate from CDZA…
Joe: Yeah, has no affiliation with CDZA. Basically people bet on plot turning points of the final season and whatnot and won points for being correct. There was no money involved, just bragging rights. But I’m working to design a platform for networks to use universally to begin doing this type of fantasy television.