Pizzaslime: The comedy meme empire goes musical
Members Nick Santiago and Matt Hwang discuss the viral success of their brand, Pizzaslime. And, following the launch of Pizzaslime Records in collaboration with Diplo, they share a playlist to get your weekend going
By Corinna Burford Fri, 31 Jul, 2020
Using a combination of branded merchandise, memes and pop-culture references as a starting point, Pizzaslime has been responsible for some of the biggest (and funniest) viral trends in recent years. These include the endlessly Instagrammed ‘Drake Tears’ mug, the celebrity favourite Erewhon sweatsuit, and the aptly named new pants collection called ‘Stop Looking At My DickⓇ’.
Now, with the launch of Pizzaslime Records, Santiago and Hwang are taking the multi-hyphenate brand into yet another realm. Launched in collaboration with Diplo – a connection from their time working in music management – Pizzaslime Records signed its first artist, Lonely God, earlier this year and has plenty more in the pipeline.
Here, Santiago and Hwang (known to most as Stoveman and Hobin), tell us about what’s next for Pizzaslime and share a playlist of songs that inspire them.
How did you initially come up with the idea for Pizzaslime?
Hwang: ‘Pizzaslime was originally a music blog that Stove [Santiago] had started. The two of us first met in college, and when he was doing the music blog, he had a lot of awesome ideas that I always felt were never getting off the ground. So, one day I was like, “Yo, I’m going to help you with this”, and we ended up working together from then on.
‘After college, we both worked in music management for about six or seven years, then ended up at the same company called TMWRK that manages DJs like Diplo, Major Lazer, and a lot of other big electronic artists. We were working on all the creative and marketing for those artists – helping them figure out ways to release their music, tours and merchandise, as well as the design and strategy behind that.
‘Eventually, we decided to leave the company to work on Pizzaslime full time, which at that point was a forward-facing clothing brand. But it also functions as a boutique marketing agency for other companies, record labels and film studios. Now, we’re also working on Pizzaslime Records, our joint venture record label with Diplo. And we’re developing some projects in the TV and film space – including a show with the animation studio Titmouse, who did Big Mouth.’
Part of what makes Pizzaslime work is how you’re so tapped in to the internet, pop culture and celebrity culture. How do you stay on top of it all?
Santiago: ‘It comes pretty naturally. These are the things we really enjoy and love. Pop culture is just something that I’m obsessed with and inspired by. Art, film, TV, and conversations – all that stuff inspires me. Really, all we’re doing is seeing pop culture through our eyes and putting it out with our perspective. It comes naturally from conversations between the two of us.’
Hwang: ‘I would agree with that. We’re not watching what’s happening on the internet or in pop culture like a stock ticker. It’s just coming in front of us, whether that’s through us browsing the web that day or speaking to friends and peers. Things will stand out to us as something that’s making noise, or that’s going to make noise, and we figure out how to get inspiration from it.’
From your background, Pizzaslime Records seems like a natural transition. When and why did you decide to move in that direction?
Hwang: ‘It was probably last year, or maybe even further back that we started thinking about it. It came from natural conversations with Diplo, because even after we left TMWRK, we were still working with him on projects and having a daily chat with him. He trusted us with being able to identify things that are “next” and things that are cool. He was always looking for ways to continue to build what he’s done with his label, Mad Decent. It felt like the partnership made sense for what both he and Pizzaslime were doing individually. We were constantly being asked to work on music projects for other major record labels, so we just thought, “Why not do it for ourselves?” And so, when Diplo approached us about working together on this record label, it kind of clicked.’
How did you find Lonely God, your first artist, and what made you sign him?
Santiago: ‘We found him primarily through being fans of TikTok. He had a track that was starting to pick up on there, called “Marlboro Nights”. It’s actually the first song we signed to our label, and it’s just about to pass 50 million streams on Spotify. We identified early on that this song was becoming somewhat of a trend, and so we reached out and realised, “Oh, this guy is not just a one-song guy. This guy is super talented.” He’s also an awesome person and has a real vision for where he wants to go in his career. Since “Marlboro Nights”, he’s released two other tracks that have done really well – one called “Sunday” and another called “Time”. The second one is the latest song and we’re so excited to be putting it out, as we’re working on his EP.’
What direction do you see Pizzaslime Records going in over the next few years?
Hwang: ‘Everything that we do with Pizzaslime, and everything that we have done over the years, is really just us having fun. I think Pizzaslime Records is going to be a reflection of our actual taste, in addition to tapping into things that are viral, things that are on the internet. We want to sign a wide range of music. Obviously, finding people who naturally gain virality through their content is awesome, especially if they’re tied to good music. But we can come from another angle as well, where there might be somebody who is really, really viral, but whose music isn’t “great” in the traditional sense. We can figure out other ways to make it great. I think the playlist that we put together actually gives you a good idea of where we are headed creatively.’
Santiago: ‘Then, in terms of evolution, Matt mentioned earlier that we’re getting into TV and film. A dream would be something like making a show with a Soundcloud rapper character, and then we can make it into a real person who we sign on our record label. Or, we could create a song about a product that we’re dropping through our brand – that’s more on the forward-facing side of things. So, with a product like the “Stop Looking At My Dick” sweatpants, it’d be great to make a song around that line that people can use on TikTok. We want to tie the label into everything else that we’re doing, so all these different verticals are using it as a tool. And at the same time, we’re also feeding the record label with unique projects and things that we’re already working on.’
What inspired you to create the playlist you’ve curated?
Santiago: ‘It’s a combination of new and old stuff, and a whole mix of genres. There’s music from some of our friends, and then also tracks that we’re fans of, like the new James Blake song, “Are You Even Real?”. It’s so good. There’s also a Korean artist who’s super cool. And then, obviously, we’ve included the stuff that we’re working on, like “Time” by Lonely God. It’s really just an extension of us. It’s fun and all over the place.’
Listen to Pizzaslime’s playlist here.