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The Lonely Island on Sweaty Writing Sessions, How Andy Samberg Tames His Hair, and Their "Smart-Dumb" Songs

Sure, they got famous off songs about Magnolia's cupcakes and gift-wrapped sexual organs, but with their third release, "The Wack Album," The Lonely Island is getting (a little) more serious, rhapsodizing about gay marriage and coming of age—in addition to their usual antics.

Details caught up with the comic rap trio—Andy Samberg, Jorma Taccone, and Akiva Schaffer—to talk about personal style, their limits (they exist, they swear!), and their disgusting writing process.

DETAILS: Let's start from the beginning—how did you guys get together and what's changed since then?

ANDY SAMBERG: We were friends from junior high and high school, so we knew each other for a really long time. There was moment after we all graduated from college when we decided that we wanted to actually try to work together. That was the first real change. And since then, what has changed is everything.

DETAILS: In iTunes you're listed in the comedy category. How would you describe your music to someone who's never heard it before? Comic rap?

ANDY SAMBERG: I would say it's comedy set to rap and R&B music.

JORMA TACCONE: And then eventually, it'll just be described as classic.

AKIVA SCHAFFER: That's a given.


DETAILS: What musicians, comic or otherwise, do you take inspiration from?

ANDY SAMBERG: We love Tenacious D, Flight of the Conchords, Spinal Tap, and stuff like that.

JORMA TACCONE: But we grew up listening to Weird Al [Yankovic]. We're huge fans of that guy. He's the king. And we're huge fans of modern hip-hop and rap music.

AKIVA SCHAFFER: We grew up listening to it. We're from the Bay Area, and that's the prominent music for kids there, rap, hip-hop, R&B, and a little bit of reggae.

ANDY SAMBERG: And honestly, as hip-hop changes, so do our songs. We ebb and flow with the culture.

DETAILS: But it's true that there haven't been a lot of music videos on a boat since yours (see video, below). You may have literally sank that boat.

JORMA TACCONE: That's a good point, actually. I haven't seen many either. We're ruining things for a lot of people.

ANDY SAMBERG: I do have to say, people took YOLO [You Only Live Once] from Drake and "The Motto," which we love. It's a great song. And then YOLO got so co-opted and watered down that it became like, "I'm gonna take a shit in an alleyway. YOLO!" And it's just, no. Some things are not.

JORMA TACCONE: Culture gets consumed so quickly, nowadays.

ANDY SAMBERG: So we're like, how about a little discretion, a little caution.

AKIVA SCHAFFER: We effectively ended it. I don't think anybody can say it with a straight face anymore.

ANDY SAMBERG: Except I still hear "The Motto" played everywhere, thankfully, because it's the jam. And it's set in the bay. You probably know that I'm going out of my way to specify that because I've heard people be like, "You guys are making fun of Drake" and I'm like, "No, we're making fun of people that are taking what Drake did."

DETAILS: You guys co-write a lot of your songs. How does that work, practically? Do you have any song writing rituals?


ANDY SAMBERG: A lot of sage in the studio.

JORMA TACCONE: Circular massages where everybody gets massaged. We don't want to leave anybody out.

ANDY SAMBERG: It gets really sweaty.

JORMA TACCONE: But it's worth it.

ANDY SAMBERG: We like to record with a fonk in the room. F-O-N-K.

JORMA TACCONE: A strong fonk.

ANDY SAMBERG: To make the fonk, you've got to smell the fonk.

DETAILS: That sounds pretty intense.

ANDY SAMBERG: It's disgusting.

AKIVA SCHAFFER: It just sucks.

ANDY SAMBERG: We've got to stop doing that.

JORMA TACCONE: But it's tradition, so how do you stop tradition?


DETAILS: Let's talk about your new release, "The Wack Album." One of the songs is called "I Fucked My Aunt." Do you have any boundaries? Is anything off limits?

ANDY SAMBERG: Yeah, even in that song, even though it's called that, we draw the line at actually having it happen. That song is outrageous in its title and its conceit.

AKIVA SCHAFFER: My verse is all about a really intimate evening with an aunt that just ends with her going home—

ANDY SAMBERG: To her husband.

ANDY SAMBERG: My verse is about an ant farm. Contemplating the coming of age.

AKIVA SCHAFFER: It's actually one of our smartest songs.

JORMA TACCONE: It's weird that it's one of our smartest songs.

AKIVA SCHAFFER: It's literally one of our smartest songs and people think it's the dumbest because they're not paying attention.

ANDY SAMBERG: It's smart-dumb.

DETAILS: Speaking of smart, in "Spring Break Anthem," you juxtapose beachside cocaine orgies with gay marriage. What was your intention with that song?

AKIVA SCHAFFER: It's like, one is considered crazy, one is considered normal. And then you see them and it's like, well, which one do you think is crazy? It's posing that question to the viewer. Which one of these two things seems crazy?

(Song starts at 1:44)

DETAILS: Since this is Details, we have to talk about fashion. How would you describe Lonely Island's style? How is it different—if it is different— from your own?

AKIVA SCHAFFER: I would call it, like, chic.

JORMA TACCONE: It's like, Band of Outsiders.

ANDY SAMBERG: It's really like our own style, except in the videos we wear more sunglasses and bigger sneakers. Other than that, it's pretty much the same.

AKIVA SCHAFFER:We like our stuff tailored to fit us, even though it's all a joke. We like skinny stuff that looks right.

DETAILS: Let's say your house caught on fire. What's one item you would save from your closet? And let's assume you already had time to collect your loved ones, pets, iPhones, yearbooks, and all that stuff.

JORMA TACCONE: I just got a bunch of starter jackets, so I would probably save my San Francisco 49ers starter jacket.

ANDY SAMBERG: I have a framed cell animation from the movie "Princess Mononoke."

JORMA TACCONE: Wait, it has to be a fashion thing.

ANDY SAMBERG: Oh, an item of clothing? Probably a pair of underwear so I'm not naked. Any pair of underwear.

JORMA TACCONE: See, my starter jacket is big enough that it'll cover my dick.

AKIVA SCHAFFER: I have a baseball hat that has graffiti written on it, BBD [Bell Biv DeVoe] that's a real one from their concert when they were on their "Poison" tour.

JORMA TACCONE: No way, really?

ANDY SAMBERG: So, you would grab your BBD, and I would grab my BVDs!

JORMA TACCONE: And I would grab a starter jacket. It doesn't rhyme. It just doesn't rhyme.

DETAILS: Andy, a style question for you: What's your secret to maintaining frizz-free hair in summer humidity?

JORMA TACCONE: Oooh, I want to know the answer to this one! I'm dying for this one.

ANDY SAMBERG: First off, am I maintaining frizz free hair?

DETAILS: You are. It looks like you have a wax situation going on.

ANDY SAMBERG: No, no product. I just, look, my hair is like its own animal and I've tamed it over the years. It is a lion and I am Siegfried and Roy.

DETAILS: Did you learn anything from Michael Bolton when you recorded the video for "Jack Sparrow?"

AKIVA SCHAFFER: Well, he doesn't have that haircut anymore. His hair's pretty short.

ANDY SAMBERG: What I learned from him is, at some point, you need to cut it short.

—Sheila Marikar is an entertainment and style writer based in New York. Follow her at @SheilaYM

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Photos courtesy of Lonely Island
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