The Rumpus Mini-Interview with The Gregory Brothers

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gregory_smallThe Gregory Brothers, a Brooklyn-based quartet, remix speeches and news clips using an audio processor called Auto-Tune to create catchy musical news mash-ups that Rachel Maddow dubs “newsicals.” By auto-tuning the voices of politicians, pundits, and TV journalists like Katie Couric, the Gregory Brothers have produced a YouTube phenomenon that makes history accessible and entertaining to people who might not ordinarily tune in to news shows or the History Channel.

The Gregory Brothers’ Auto-Tune the News #3 was featured in The Rumpus Video Interruption section this weekend.

I spoke with the Gregory Brothers (Michael, Andrew, Evan, and Evan’s wife Sarah) via email to find out more about the process of making an Auto-Tune segment.

The Rumpus: You guys began auto-tuning news segments around the time of the Presidential debates. How did this idea come about?

The Gregory Brothers: The first debate musical was created without the use of Auto-Tune. When Evan encouraged Michael to do a follow-up, we brainstormed on how to keep the videos new and fresh, and decided the politicians should be singing back at us. Having Auto-Tuned extensively for a couple pop records, Michael knew the software was powerful enough to deliver.

The Rumpus: What is it like to work collaboratively on these videos? Who does what?

The Gregory Brothers: Until recently, Michael was doing most of the legwork. For #3, the writing was more evenly split, while all the technical work was done by Michael. Some of those responsibilities may also soon be distributed, expediting future productions.

The Rumpus: Which part of the process (finding clips, auto-tuning voices, greenscreening, editing) is most challenging? Why?

The Gregory Brothers: Finding clips that we like. We’ve become pretty speedy at everything else. Of course, being speedy at greenscreening doesn’t mean we’re good at it. Once we have a budget of more than $0 and stop shooting video underneath Michael’s bed, that aspect of the videos may improve drastically!


Steven Tagle is a writer and filmmaker living in Los Angeles, CA. He produces short-form documentaries for Current TV, and his work has appeared in Leland Quarterly, Word Choice, and Rainy Day. He is finishing his first novel. More from this author →