Reefer is Nick Thorburn (Islands, The Unicorns, Human Highway) and Los Angeles-based hip-hop producer/engineer Daddy Kev (Busdriver, Freestyle Fellowship, Awol One). Mutual admirers of each other’s work, the two developed a close friendship over the years after being introduced by avant-rapper Giovanni Marks (Subtitle). The idea to create a record together was hatched at SXSW party a few years back where Nick and Kev decided they should take their disparate music backgrounds and create something in an environment much different than their normal lives in Montreal and Los Angeles, respectively. Quite possibly a drunken agreement — as Nick was ejected that evening from the venue for sneaking in booze — they still followed through on their brilliant idea and isolated themselves on the Hawaiian island of Maui to create their vision.
Thorburn has been no stranger to drawing inspiration from hip-hop, as evidenced in much of the work of Islands and especially in the post-Unicorns rap project Th’ Corn Gangg. Differing from MCs rhyming over the eclectic arrangements of Islands, Reefer is Nick crafting his darkly tinted pop over the foundation of Kev’s sweeping, smooth beats crafted from tropical samples with flourishes of steel guitar and ukelele.
Their self-titled mini album (previously entitled The Life Narcotic) contains six sun-dripped songs and three interludes, plus remixes from Dntel and Flying Lotus. The album was composed on the Maui coastline in Makena, and was finished soon after in Los Angeles at Daddy Kev’s studio, the Echo Chamber. Reefer is very much influenced by the beautiful tropical surroundings, the sounds of the ocean, and being far away from their regular daily routines. Not predictably sunny in tone, the minor-key arrangements and Thorburn’s playful wordplay conjures up images of something more sinister than cheeseburgers in paradise. Kev’s subtle, controlled production fits each songs mood nicely and draws from Hawaiian pop influences. Initially considered to be a one-off project, Reefer hopes to make another album when they meet again in a new exotic tropical location.