Last July, pop-rap duo Timeflies released a six-song mixtape, “Under The Influence,” that featured covers of radio hits like Rihanna’s “We Found Love” and Adele’s “Someone Like You.” The project made sense for a group that had earned a following covering other artists — their techno take on Carly Rae Jepsen’s “Call Me Maybe,” posted online in April, has garnered 2.2 million YouTube views — but Timeflies has proven to be more than just a one-note Internet sensation since its release. In September, the duo headlined a show at New York’s Terminal 5, and sold out the 3,000-capacity venue with ease. And on Tuesday (Nov. 27), Timeflies released “One Night,” a new EP with five original songs, including a title track that has amassed 140,000 YouTube hits in six days.
For Rob “Res” Resnick and Cal Shapiro, watching Timeflies’ viral presence slowly translate into real-world success in less than two years has been a surreal experience. “YouTube is really where we started making moves,” Shapiro tells Billboard. “Everything kept growing, and next thing we knew we were at Terminal 5.”
While students at Tufts University in Boston in the fall of 2010, the pair met at a party, when Resnick started beatboxing and Shapiro decided to freestyle over the stranger’s rhythms. Shapiro was a blues fan, while Resnick was an EDM nerd; together, they began recording covers and original tracks that fused heartfelt pop and unexpected dubstep wobbles in Resnick’s bedroom. “The first song we put out was laid-back. The next one was a 130-BPM song. And then, an acoustic song,” Resnick recalls. “I think it was really exciting for the blogs and the whole Internet community to watch.”
In March 2011, Timeflies tapped into that community by launching “Timeflies Tuesdays,” a weekly video series that often finds Shapiro freestyling over worn material. Their inspired riffs on popular songs began amassing more viewers during the regular series — a hip-hop take on the Disney classic “Under The Sea,” for instance, has gotten 2.2 million hits since debuting on a Tuesday in June 2011, despite featuring little more than Shapiro and Resnick goofing around with a steel drum in a makeshift studio.
Timeflies self-released their debut album, “The Scotch Tape,” in September 2011, and the set has sold a modest 21,000 copies, according to Nielsen SoundScan. In the year that followed the release, Timeflies continued playing college shows, releasing new weekly videos, and, according to Resnick, improving their all-around craft with a larger audience in mind. “I think it was just really raw, because we were not worried about anybody hearing it,” he says of Timeflies’ debut album. “‘The Scotch Tape’ was great, but it was a really long time ago. Until now, we haven’t had the opportunity to show with original music how far we’ve come.”
The “One Night” EP is more technically proficient than the group’s past work, but retains the crowd-pleasing impulses of the early material. The single “Swoon,” for instance, is a synth-heavy piece of cotton candy that mixes flat-footed flirtations with more radio-friendly hooks than some of the songs Timeflies has covered. Resnick says that “One Night” is “definitely a little bit more EDM than some of our past stuff, but obviously the industry’s moving that way. We listen to a lot of stuff that’s underground and wanted to incorporate that into our [music].”
Timeflies has already plotted tour dates for early 2013, including a return to Terminal 5 on Feb. 8 and stops in Chicago, St. Louis and Los Angeles through March. Before that, however, Resnick and Shapiro will focus on the follow-up to “The Scotch Tape,” and head back into the studio next month. They name-check pop producers like Max Martin, JR Rotem and Dr. Luke — as well as EDM maestros like Skrillex and Porter Robinson — as dream collaborators, but clarify that nothing is set in stone following the release of “One Night.”
“If this EP does really well, we’re going focus a lot more on recording,” says Resnick. “Hopefully we can have a single out by January or February.” Meanwhile, Resnick hopes to have a new Timeflies album on shelves by “the middle of next summer.”