After speaking with Beez and hearing him speak so highly about Gonzo’s musical talent, it was only right that I would get both sides of the story. A few days ago, I had the chance to talk with Gonzo and hear more about his history with music, the many ways Beez has helped his game, and plenty more. Note: Quotes are slightly edited for clarity.
At his core, Gonzo, born Andrew Gonzales, is a music-maker, and one that won’t be satisfied without it. He spoke at length about his love for music and what keeps bringing him back.
“Fear of not making this happen drives me to kill myself over it,” he said. “It’s just that fear of failing or fear of being disappointed of not self-actualizing, that’s at the core of it.”
And his life story backs that up; music has stayed with him his whole life.
“I was fortunate enough to be able to learn to play instruments as a kid. I learned guitar when I was 10, and I played in rock bands throughout my teens,” he said. “I think having that musical background is massively helpful in becoming a producer as well, just knowing how the sounds fit together.”
He didn’t start rapping until his late teens, and put out 19 Years in 2018, his first full project.
“I’d crossed that threshold where, for me, it was something that I felt I was proud of and I could listen to and something that never in a million years would be embarrassed of,” Gonzales said. “At a certain point, you pass a point in your skill level to where you’re not embarrassed to show people the music, and once you cross that point, that’s when you can start putting things out and pushing it and trying to turn it into a career.”
“Cause I feel like, the first shit that I made when I started producing was so garbage. Like I go back and listen to it sometimes from like three, four years ago and it’s like ‘Damn! Nobody told me to quit this?’ And now I’m so happy I didn’t ‘cause the shit I’m putting out, I’m proud of. It’s a weird progression to get to where you’re releasing things and proud of them.”
Listening to his music on 19 Years or None the Wiser gives plenty to delve into; his complex production style affords a depth of sound you wouldn’t expect to hear from such a young producer. But it didn’t come easy.
“It’s a long and painful process,” he said. “The way that I learned how to produce was I took a semester off, and I would come home, and ten hours a night just produce and throw shit at the wall until it sounded good to me. I’ll have a spark of an idea, and I will pursue it until it sounds good.
“Anybody that works with me will tell you I’ll send files at like five or six in the morning usually, that’s when I usually finish up, and it doesn’t sound like complete garbage. I might be an insane person for doing this, but it’s finally where I need it to be.”
And while it’s clearly a difficult process, he doesn’t necessarily think it’s an inaccessible skill if you have the means to pursue it.
“Music production is something a lot more people could do than they think,” he said. “1% of producing a song is actually having the idea and being inspired, and then 99% is having the motivation to pursue and make that idea happen. I think that’s true in a lot of fields, but I think a lot of people could produce music. It’s just about having the perseverance and patience to do it.”
That perseverance and patience has brought him many relationships in music, but perhaps none more fruitful than his partnership with Beez (Brian Macalla). They linked up after singing in an a capella group together at Elon University, where Gonzales has a few semesters left, and Beez just graduated.
“We knew we both rapped. We would talk about it sometimes, but I think it wasn’t until spring of my sophomore year we first decided to make a song,” he said. “At that point it had been a while since I dropped 19 Years, and I was feeling restless. With that in mind, we talked about it all summer going into the school year, and then as soon as we got back in the fall we made “Minute Steak.”
“Minute Steak” has amassed almost 100,000 streams on Spotify, and it speaks to their chemistry that they could make such magic right off the bat.
“Stuff that I’ve been doing with Brian feels like a massive leap forward creatively. It’s a much more organic process with Brian than when I’m working alone. It’s a lot of fun.”
Their genre classification has been difficult to box in. Both Beez and Gonzo spoke on the fact that they’re interested in creating hip-hop — they’ve both been rapping for some time now — but aren’t interested in limiting themselves to one sound.
“We both don’t wanna just make hip-hop music and on this album we’ve been working on it’s way more experimental and way weirder,” Gonzales said. “It’s still pretty rooted in hip-hop — we’re rapping on pretty much every song — but it’s a lot more singing. It’s a lot more glitchy instrumental shit. It’s a lot more lavish production.”
On the lyrical side, Gonzales kept it cloudy; he prefers to let listeners find their own meaning.
“I’m a big fan of just putting the work out and letting it mean to people what it means to people,” he said. “I threw a lot of pain over all of those lyrics and they mean something to me but I don’t wanna expand on that too much. It allows the song and the feeling you get from the song to apply to different situations.”
Considering his and the duo’s goals going forward, Gonzo emphasized the amount of work it’s going to take to be able to make what has been a side gig a full-time commitment after college.
“These days you can’t just be an artist and make an album and sit on it for a couple years,” he said. “You gotta keep working. Especially if you’re trying to build a career independently, there are no breaks.”
“I have been incredibly lucky so far that so many people have wanted to listen to the music and continue to and I’m incredibly grateful for that. But it is unforgiving and it is not profitable really at all. It’s difficult to make money as an independent artist right now.
“There is so much competition and 100k streams on Spotify doesn’t really mean anything. It’s a start, but it’s not where you want to be. Just gotta keep working, keep on every single day producing stuff and always having a project on the backburner.”
And while it seems stressful, Gonzales, like Macalla, highlighted the importance of having the support of friends and co-musicians.
“Relationships and leaning on the people around you and lifting them up when they need it is incredibly important. At the center of any good team is people that believe in the vision and believe the shit is gonna happen and I feel like that’s something that we got going on right now. I feel like we’re actually building something real.”
He took time to give thanks and shout out some friends with whom he’s collaborating. These included Kyle Walsh and Mason Robinson, the former of which is a Berkeley music student and has an array of collaboration with Gonzales. He was especially thankful for Mason; he said he put the team on his back in the music video production process. The team has teased some visuals for a to-be-released “Minute Steak” video, so stay tuned for that.
As we finished up our conversation, Gonzales likened None the Wiser to star Wizards basketball player Bradley Beal.
“Cause it’s gonna be a classic, like Bradley Beal’s gonna be a MVP soon, and it’s underrated as shit right now.”