How did you incorporate the visual aspect to the group, Bear?
Bear Witness: I've been a media artist for 10 years now. My work has always been really music-driven, music-based. Before it was always about finding music that worked with what I was trying to do visually. So when Tribe started, it was kind of like a no-brainer. And bringing that into a club environment came out of my interest in deejaying. It was something that I hadn't really done much of before but I had some experiences with. Once we started the parties and they were taking off, it was just another aspect that we could add to it.
When you create more socially conscious tracks like "The Road" or "Woodcarver, [about an unarmed Native American man and seventh generation wood carver killed by a Seattle police officer], do you have a different mindset than with your other songs, or does it all come from the same place?
DJ NDN: Well, "Woodcarver" came out of extreme frustration. When I saw the [dashboard-camera] video, I cried. Like I was super upset but I was like, "At least it got caught on video and this guy's gonna get what's coming to him […] He's gonna get the book thrown at him 'cause there's video this time." And he got let off. And then that's when we said something has to be done. And that's what came out of that.
"The Road," on the other hand, we already had that track. I felt the spirit of what was happening and all this craziness with Idle No More that it'd fit perfect.
What are your thoughts on Idle No More?
DJ NDN: It's a civil-rights movement that's never been done yet for Canadian aboriginals. Super important. Needs to be done. There's going to be lots of growing pains. There already is. It's bringing out all of this racism. Like rain does to a lawn and worms come out, that's what its done to racism. It's pretty crazy. But it needs to be done—
Bear: There's been an ongoing civil-rights movement as far as aboriginal people go. It's just we're becoming stronger and that's where things are at. DJ NDN: And organized. Bear: Well it's been organized as well. DJ NDN: Yeah but not that quickly. You couldn't tweet "Yo, there's gonna be a flash mob in two hours, everybody come out" and then it happens. Shub: Social media has definitely played a huge part.
So do you see yourselves as organizers with your music?
DJ NDN: Of the movement, no. Bear: We've always used Tribe as a way to raise awareness of aboriginal people and who we are now—who we are as contemporary people. So we could continue to use Tribe in that same way around what's happening in Ottawa and what's happening with aboriginal people around the world.
Your new EP, "Trapline," is more hip-hop oriented. Was that a deliberate decision or did you step back afterward and notice it?
DJ NDN: That's kind of how it was. We had it already made—different edits of different tracks. [We] just wanted to go into the trap scene, you know what I mean? Just like that whole trap style got pretty hot pretty quick so with all these trap edits we just kind of had them and was like, "We should kind of put them out there somewhere somehow." Bear: It's also just the way production, media, and music's going right now. It used to be you were a jungle producer or a house producer and that's what you did and you spent all your time just crafting that one sound. Now it's more about different sounds that come up to be like the sound of the moment but it's about your own personal flavor that you put on that.