The Gregory Brothers—Evan, Andrew, Michael, and sister-in-law Sarah (married to Evan)—had been musicians for a long time when Michael, working as a sound engineer, had the idea to start using studio tool Auto-Tune on TV news clips to turn talking heads into unintentional singers who interact with the green-screened-in Brothers. The videos (and some of their other efforts, especially the song they made featuring Antoine Dodson of “hide your kids, hide your wife” fame) went viral; The Gregory Brothers have been watched nearly 23 million times on their channel alone and now make videos full-time.
The group is now on tour with a bunch of other YouTube celebrity musicians as the DigiTour, which will be at the Note April 28 and the Chameleon in Lancaster April 29. The A.V. Club dove into the YouTube comment cesspool for some questions for the Brothers, emerging with a few that we asked them to respond to. They talked about Katie Couric leaving CBS, gorilla-suit bequeathments, and (for the first time) the script for their prospective Comedy Central pilot, which is either kind of like a grownup iCarly or 22 minutes of squirrels doin’ tricks. It could go either way.
Sarah Gregory: [Laughs.] You must have had a really entertaining morning.
A.V. Club: Oh, you betcha.
Evan Gregory: My channel, me sex you!
AVC: I learned that a lot of people really, really want you to Auto-Tune Rebecca Black.
Andrew Gregory: This might surprise people, but Rebecca Black is already Auto-Tuned.
SG: If we Auto-Tune he who is already Auto-Tuned, I think it would open up a black hole in music.
Michael Gregory: We would tear a wormhole in the T-Pain space-time continuum.
AVC: All right, let’s start with an easy one:
do u guys have parents? and why are you called the gregory brothers if u have a girl in there?
SG: We all do have parents. We are not products of asexual reproduction.
EG: Budding off some tree somewhere... [Laughs.] All the guys are brothers; Sarah is married to Evan. In our defense, we are more family than most other brothers-named groups out there. Look at the Allman Brothers—there are a ton of non-brothers in that band. Sarah is even closer to being a real brother, because she’s a sister in-law.
AG: Punch Brothers, Flying Karamazov Brothers—bunch of posers. Only people that got us beat are the Smothers Brothers.
Why is the Gregory family so cool? what did their parents feed them?
AG: Both of our parents are really talented musicians, in an amateur sense. We sang in all sorts of church choirs, Lion and Rotary Clubs. It’s not like it was the Von Trapp family or anything, but we still grew up singing and playing instruments around the house and listing to our parents playing instruments. And we were often supercharged by our mom’s homemade tomato sauce, and by my own personal invention—the peanut butter, jelly, and mustard sandwich.
...you actually know how to sing!
Can you imagine these guys at christmas time?! Holy crap! They could chrage [sic] you for their caroling!
EG: Our choral experience runs everywhere, from The St. George Episcopal church in San Antonio’s Christmas service, to Virginia All-State high school choir, to collegiate a cappella groups, to classic rock cover bands in Staten Island. You name it, we sung it.
SG: You missed opera.
MG: Yeah! I was in an opera, and I played a mute.
AVC: Which opera?
MG: The Medium.
AVC: And you played a mute?
MG: Yeah, it was my greatest singing ever!
AG: Michael just nailed every note.
SG: He used Gary Busey in Hider In The House as inspiration.
is andrew the middle child cuz [sic] he always seems left out
SG: You wanna take that one, Andrew?
AG: I think—
MG: I don’t think we should let Andrew answer that one.
EG: Michael and I’ll handle that question.
SG: Andrew is the middle child; however, Andrew and I share almost the same birthday, so I have joined him in his middle-child-ness.
Evan is HOT!
AAAAAAAAH MICHAEL GREGORY IS SO SEXUAL!
the brother with the beard is so... unbelieveably... hot... wow....
That Gregory Brother with the vagina is pretty hot.
Do people really think these childish retards with dumb hats and glasses are funny? They’re children. It’s like finding dick jokes amusing.
EG: Insults from certain people can be a form of praise.
SG: I’ve been surprised by all the, uh, shall we say, positive feedback about my appearance. I never knew that all I had to do to be attractive was put my hair on top of my head, wear no makeup, and dress in men’s suits. Apparently, that’s what the Internet goes for.
EG: We’ve developed a very statistical approach to looking at comments. You can never take any single comment seriously; you look across broad trends. We get a thousand comments about something in this video, as opposed to 20 in the last video—something changed. And it’s probably Sarah’s dress.
MG: Also, I think dick jokes are hilarious.
These guys are so hot! Wish I could meet you
EG: The average fan experience is where someone runs up to you and says,“Ohmygodiloveyourvideos! Youguysaregreat! Seeya!” But Michael and I were riding the F train a couple months ago, and this youngish guy, maybe 18, came up to us very calmly, maintained direct eye contact, and simply said, “Your music—I respect it! Your videos—I respect it! Everything y’all do—I respect it!” And then he just left.
SG: We sometimes will get recognized, especially if we’re all in a group together.
AG: The other day Michael caught on Twitter that someone tweeted about one of us being out at a concert. And it was like, “Yep... Those people were looking at me funny because they recognized me... and now they’re tweeting about it while they stand right next to me, not saying anything to me.”
WTF man, wheres your new video?
You need to do something with Rebecca Black - Friday!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
MORE AUTO TUNE THE NEWS PLZ!!! [sic] No More of that boring song stuff. I want babies or autotuned news!!!
SG: I think generally, we interpret the fans’ demanding nature as complimentary. Our fans are often way more up with awesome videos and current events than we have time to be, so we really appreciate their suggestions.
EG: That’s true, it’s an awesome time-saving maneuver. We moved to a suggestion-based model, and no longer sit around combing through as many news clips as we once did.
AG: Anything that keeps me from having to read the Grudge Report every day.
SG: And not to get too sentimental about YouTube, but that’s kind of what we love about it, that it’s a community and people feel like they can weigh in.
MG: Everyone is part of a big family. Even when they’re typing, “YOU’RE GAY” in all caps—they’re just the jerky uncle.
it looks cool but i have no idea how they’re going to do their autotune songs.
this shit is gonna be stupid. why would people pay to see people that make youtube videos unless their [sic] 12 years old.....?
EG: Thank God there’s a lot of 12-year-olds out there.
SG: To that we say, “12-year-olds deserve good live music as well, mister.”
MG: Wasn’t that person 12 years old at some point?
AG: He’s, like, 14 or 15; can’t even remember the halcyon days.
EG: We are going to present the live-band experience of our videos; they’ll roll alongside the stage, but we are going to be playing as a live band, and be singing along in duets with our unintentional singers. And… uh, it’s going to be spectacular.
this is some of the greatest shit ever i mtv or someone should put this stuff on tv you guys should be famous
AVC: And by that, I mean I couldn’t find any comments explicitly curious about the state of the Comedy Central pilot you were writing.
AG: We’re just finalizing the first draft of our script.
EG: Well, it’s the nth draft for us. But now the network has it and is deciding whether to greenlight production.
SG: They have the draft and our fates in their hands.
AVC: Can you talk about it?
SG: Oh, yes, we’d love to! Michael?
MG: We figure we gotta fill up 22 minutes, so the first 12 minutes is gonna be squirrels doin’ tricks. And then the next 10 minutes is gonna be squirrels doin’ tricks with babies laughing and dancing in the background.
SG: And we might Auto-Tune the squirrels from time to time.
MG: We’re gonna title the show Totally Nutz! With a “z.” You gotta give the people what they want.
AVC: So then… you can’t tell me what it’s about?
SG: You don’t think that’ll work?
EG: Yes, we can share.
EG: Okay, then, I’ll go first—somebody jump in after me and say something funny.
It’s a 30-minute sitcom format in which fictionalized versions of the four of us make music and videos, and interact with other zany citizens of the Internet and also real-world musicians and antagonists. There’s going to be a lot of music and video in the show, akin to what we’re known for online, but those videos will be presented as part of a story, as opposed to just a variety show of clips.
SG: TOTALLY NUTZ!
AG: It’s like The Monkees for the year 2011. Except we didn’t have to go through a grueling audition process.
SG: We weren’t formed by a management team.
EG: Except for Mom.
You guys are the shit!!. One question though. If your [sic] so good @ fucking up video’s why dont you make your oen [sic] music?
andrew, evan, michael, and sarah are so fucking good at what they do, i love their music, if you havent heard about their album “meet the gregory brothers” and you like soul and r&b your listen to it i would love to jam with them they are some of the most creative people i have ever seen. i hope they go far with this.
oh my god... this song is so freaking good... i cannot believe, after listening to it 5 times, that it wasn’t composed by professionals.
MG: [Laughs extensively.]
EG: Thank God they didn’t lump us in with the professionals.
AVC: Okay, couldn’t find the perfect comment for what I was trying to ask there, but I was wondering about the effects of the success of Auto-Tune The News on your other musical projects.
SG: I think it has altogether been very positive. More people are checking out our other music and our shows.
EG: The only negative side effect is that the size of the audience of our videos demands attention, so if we’re not careful, it draws attention away from the other projects. So far we’ve been okay about keeping them up.
MG: I’ve been totally content to put my main focus on the unintentional singers for the past couple years, because I feel like that’s an area of music that’s been neglected for the past 200,000 years. Approximately. I mean, everyone’s been writing these original songs; it’s, like, played out. Everybody knows what a song sounds like! But now, people can finally find out what the song of an accidental singer sounds like.
EG: Some people ask us, “What do you like better, Auto-Tune The News or your real music?” And we say, “Stop asking us trick questions.”
AG: People may not notice, but Auto-Tune The News is real music.
How are they not already living like Kings (and Queen) ?
Ummm....Youtube stars do make money. A good deal of it actually. Not millions, but enough to live off of quite comfortably and not have to carry any other job.
EG: Well, we do live like kings. We even have a television in our apartment, and kings of the Victorian age didn’t have any of that.
MG: They had nothing even approaching a television set; they lived in relative poverty. We could tower over them, victoriously.
AG: Look at the life of a king in the 16 or 1700s—no heating, no air conditioning, no television, no DVD players; I mean, we live better than kings lived.
EG: You can’t even identify how a feudal lord would share videos with his friends.
AVC: I definitely cannot. But this is your full-time job now?
why is weezer everywhere?! Can they really not get any gigs besides youtube videos
How the HELL did T-Pain get on “Auto-Tune the News”?!?
AG: A lot of them have reached out to us, actually—
EG: All three of our major-celebrity guest stars—Joel Madden, T-Pain, and Weezer—contacted us saying, “We like your videos.”
AVC: Is there anyone you’d like to work with in the future?
EG: Let’s dream big here, guys, they all read The Onion… I’d like to get a real take from a newscaster. My number one pick might be Brian Williams.
AG: Also, now that Katie Couric is going to be leaving CBS, I think it would be really great if she had one last great hurrah with Auto-Tune The News, whether it involved her breaking into song on the evening news so that we could really Auto-Tune the crap out of it, or, after she’s not beholden to her contract… This is our full-time job, Katie—it could be yours, too.
AVC: Speaking of real news—
lol this interviewer is like 90 years old please explain the internet to him
meeting brian lamb was more fun than hitting up the lettuce. he’s a new hero of mine.
schmoyoho (official Gregory Brothers account)
MG: He totally got it—mutual love and understanding.
SG: Maybe it didn’t come across on the screen, but Brian Lamb was totally into all the humor and was probably the greatest straight man I’ve ever had the privilege to see live.
EG: One of many things that makes Brian Lamb a hall-of-fame interviewer is that he is willing to let answers stand on their own. He presents you with a question, then if you want to answer with a joke or be tongue-in-cheek, rather than press you, saying, “No really! C’mon, guys, really,” he lets it stand. He presents you with an opportunity to say what you want, then he moves the interview to some other place. I think he’s a swell cat.
AVC: From the same interview—
i would actually watch the news if they Auto-Tuned it
Is it really bad that the only reason I recognized Gaddafi on sight was because he was always getting picked on by the Gregory Brothers? lol
EG: I think if we are making people more conscious about current events with these videos, then… they probably had a low level of consciousness to begin with. The main reason we make the videos is because we want to make catchy songs, and we want to make jokes. But a corollary to that is—and this may be a surprise to people reading a comedy newspaper—but comedy can often have elements of truth in it. So the jokes that we make might strike a chord of vérité. I made that word up.
Love the story of the grandfathers gorilla suit
EG: The gorilla suit belonged to our grandfather since the ’70s. He would break it out for family pranks, like dressing up in it and bursting into the room at Christmas time; that happened throughout our childhood. Eventually, he got too aged to properly wield it, so eight or nine years ago, he brought out the box with the gorilla suit in it, put it on one last time with help from our grandmom, and went out to check the mail as a sort of final hurrah. Then he came back inside, doffed the suit, and bequeathed it to me. Since then, it’s been used on and off for various pranks on I-95, or during the New York blackout of 2003—
AG: Evan’s wedding rehearsal dinner.
EG: It now enjoys its twilight years in Auto-Tune The News before it goes to its final resting place.
I think he went on like that as more of a joke though guys, just to see if they’d choose a “nerdy” looking guy who sang a song like that, and they didn’t
MG: I guess one can never really know why it was done, or what really happened. But it was a circus. It was really incredible to be there. We tried out in a stadium, and you could see peoples’ dreams being crushed by the hundreds as they all left, so just to be a part of that was pretty wondrous, in a way. Full of vérité. [Laughs.] I was glad my dreams were able to come true, and I was able to sing. I can’t remember if I was singing a piece by Schubert or Akon, I always get them mixed up. But it was one of those two.
This was beautiful. Actually made me cry, and that’s extremely hard to do.
Really? You were almost moved to tears by this trash? And I may be wrong but I’m willing to bet that Auto-Tune wasn’t a thing that people were using to in the late 60’s...Let alone using it to make light of a very serious event in time. I suppose one might not consider the use of Auto-Tune insulting but its popularity has also made it a joke as it is abused by several major musical talents now. I wasn’t offended by the video, but I don’t think Martin Luther King Jr. is a joking matter.
SG: Neither do we.
AG: I thought that was a great way to make a gateway drug to maybe actually watching Martin Luther King’s speech. In the same way that Auto-Tune The News is maybe a gateway drug for a few people to actually find out about current events or read a newspaper.
the bed intruder guy is my hero
i went to a new chic-fil-a [sic] in my area yesterday with a few friends i dont know that well and when bed intruder came up in our convo we all started singing the autotune and it broke the ice between all of us. It also gave me a common point of reference with a girl im very attracted to and trying to date.
thank you bed intruder
SG: Way to go, dude!
MG: I just hope they name their child after Antoine, or after one of us. They can have a whole family together. If you help facilitate the creation of a family like that, if that’s all you do with all these YouTube videos—then it’s worth it. If you make two people fall in love.
SG: At a Chick-Fil-A.