Toronto’s Thunderheist move past their jock-jam party-starter

Grahm the producing half of Toronto’s fast-rap duo Thunderheist is doing exactly what he set out not to do and it’s the most animated he’s been during the entire interview. “Ahhh I ended up talking about that track” he says with a sigh after a 15-minute aside discussing “Sueños Dulces” the song that started Thunderheist on its way to much love on blogs and in clubs around the globe.

Originally intended as a jacked-up jock-jam party-starter for live shows only the track has become bittersweet for Grahm a year after whipping it up in one hour two days before he and the rapping half of Thunderheist — female MC Isis — performed it in front of a crowd. The track relies heavily on one of the most recognizable synth patterns in pop music history — “Sweet Dreams (Are Made of This)” by Eurythmics — and it’s the only Thunderheist song that actually uses a sample. “I had no intentions of even putting that out there. All these people were convincing me to just put it online” Grahm says.

Built around the sample the song pulses with a Baltimore-club beat with Isis flowing effortlessly overtop some gloriously grimy drums. The track caught the attention of Paul Devro a Vancouver-based DJ and producer who featured it on the Diplo-run Mad Decent blog back in January. Since then Grahm estimates the song has been downloaded 50000 times and offers to release it as a white-label have flooded in.

While Grahm admits it’s great that people are listening to the track it also means they end up getting the wrong idea about Thunderheist. “It was all they heard” he says.

Now after a year of extensive touring on the strength of Internet hype and a self-made EP Thunderheist is embracing the calm after the storm and working on an album. “I think the novelty of touring incessantly and not being able to make new music has definitely gotten to us” Grahm says.

After an extended period of striking while the iron was hot a new phase of development begins for Thunderheist and for Grahm as a producer. A former battle-DJ and turntablist Grahm became focused on making beats when he hung up the crossfader after shattering his wrist snowboarding. He soon felt restricted in the Montreal hip hop community he was a part of at the time though and began looking for something else. That’s when Thunderheist happened.

Initially the project was just Grahm making beats under a different name so his hip hop friends wouldn’t have a chance to clown him on his new style. Isis came on-board after the two were introduced through a mutual friend and the community that Grahm once feared would shun him has been more supportive of Thunderheist than he ever could have imagined.

“What I realized was that I was just ahead of that acceptance curve” explains Grahm. “So I realized that a lot of those people I thought were going to be negative towards (Thunderheist) were going through the same thing as me. They were just kind of tired of the way everything was kind of done to death.”

Now Grahm is looking once again to make something different. Recently after Thunderheist played different types of shows like outdoor festivals he realized a little more depth was needed in the catalogue. “Suddenly our club set doesn’t always translate well” he says.

Grahm is now working the common elements found in the current club bangers — the heavy bass and analogue synths — into some slower tempos to see what he can come up with. The duo just released a 12-inch on Bigfoot Records — the label run by Calgary’s own Smalltown DJs Mike Grimes and Pete Emes. It features the track “Bubblegum” with remixes by Wax Romeo Wicked Lester and Ghislain Poirier. Next up is an EP and Grahm is hoping Thunderheist will have a full album out by next summer. Getting records made is certainly different from tearing the roof off clubs night after night but Grahm is no less excited about it.

“It’s pretty amazing” he says. “It’s the first physical product that I’ve ever had out other than our self-made EP. I’ve been buying records for over 10 years so it feels kinda unreal. I know in this day and age that vinyl means very little in terms of how many people are going to buy it but for me it’s been a dream I’ve had for years and it’s finally happened.”