Interview with I Set My Friends On Fire: Almost Famous

I Set My Friends On Fire“Soujla Boy up in dat ho/Watch me crank it/Watch me roll.” Those words are not just pure poetry, but are also the opening lines to the single most downloaded song of all time, “Crank That Soulja Boy” by Soulja Boy. (It has been downloaded over three million times to date.) After hearing the infectious club anthem in the car one day, Miami, FL native Matt Mihana decided that he and his fellow band mate, Nabil Moo, in I Set My Friends On Fire, should cover the song—brutal hardcore style. After convincing Moo to start the band off by making this cover as their first song, I Set My Friends On Fire became a household name. With Moo reconstructing the song’s beats on his laptop and Mihana providing the raw intensity of rough throaty vocals, the boys’ do-it-yourself take on the anthem known as “Crank Dat Calvary Boy” became an instant viral hit through MySpace, with almost 900,000 plays to date (although the actual number is much higher since the band’s profile has been deleted three times because MySpace believed the band was using Internet cheat codes to gain plays) even though the band has never added friends or promoted the song.

Excited, yet nervous about their first interview, Moo and Mihana discuss the band’s enormous internet popularity, their apprehension about playing The Bamboozle Festival, penguins and manatees and the original music of I Set My Friends On Fire that allows them to break away from the pack of rising, young unsigned bands and stand on their own.

So, for starters, how old are you guys?

Matt Mihana: I’m a senior in high school.

Nabil Moo: I’m a freshman in college. I go to the University of Miami.

How did you two get started as a band? Was it originally a joke?

MM: We actually had a band before this. It was called We Are The Calvary. It was a five-piece band. What happened was that we were going to get signed, but kind of not really. We just had that band dream. Three of the members went to college and one of them went to the Grand Canyon or something…

NM: Our drummer took three months off to go to the Rocky Mountains on an outdoor expedition thing. The plan was originally, when we were reaching that time where we were all separating, that we were going to hold off on the band, either recruit new members to try and continue the band, but we found that kind of pointless to just wait around for three months for everyone to come together and find new members.

MM: Pretty much, I made Nabil promise me that we would continue doing music without the members because they weren’t there. He has all the equipment that we used to record for the old band, so we didn’t plan on playing shows, but instead, just make the music we like and put it all into one song. We weren’t playing shows, so our limitations were endless.

Your music is really scattered and progressive. What influences the sound of I Set My Friends On Fire?

NM: Oh man, we listen to a lot of different stuff. I don’t know…

MM: I listen to Grace Gale. There’s a lot of shit I listen to, but I did stop listening to music for awhile because my little creative player broke and I was too lazy to buy new music, so I have been listening to the same shit for a while. I like A Day To Remember though. So what do you listen to?

Aren’t I the one who is supposed to be interviewing you, not the other way around?

MM: (Laughter) I listen to myself a lot. I’m not gonna lie. I listen to my own shit. It doesn’t even sound like me. You can tell how gay I sound now, but when I listen to my music it doesn’t sound like me and I think, ‘Oh cool!’ It’s a different band to me.

Nabil, you have a side project called As The Plot Thickens. What is going on with that?

NM: Basically, I have it as a side project since in our old band all we did was straight-up hardcore and grind. My side project is just something that I do in between times that I’m not doing something with my main band. I just do it for the sake of it. It’s a learning experience for me. It’s just something I do for fun. I’m not looking to make it into anything big.

Have you played shows yet?

MM: Actually, we have never played a show.

Is The Bamboozle Festival really going to be your first show?

MM: Yeah, probably.

NM: Well, we might try to have a few shows around here [Miami] to get back into it because we honestly don’t know how we are going to do that show yet, whether we want to include other members or if we are just going to run everything ourselves.

MM: It’s most likely going to be the two of us though because that’s how we’re known. People would probably get mad if we have other people onstage with us.

NM: We’ll find a way to make it work. We always do. As for ‘Crank Dat Calvary Boy,’ were you scared you were going to be sued when you first posted the song?

NM: I spent like two hours listening to the song over and over again and actually remade the drumbeat. All the drum stuff I programmed, so that way we can’t be fully sued. What we do now though, because we sell the song, is we pay royalties to whoever owns the song.