Four Fists is a collaboration between two of the Twin Cities’ most beloved rappers–Astronautalis (a.k.a. Andy Bothwell) and Doomtree’s P.O.S. (a.k.a. Stef Alexander)–who are both known for their dense and witty lyrical styles and energetic live performances. Their long-awaited full-length album 6666 comes out on October 12, and this summer they have released three singles from the album, most recently the dynamic and hilarious “Dork Court.”
As feelings of anxiety, chaos, and tension have found an increasingly public forum in American society, it is natural to turn to music as a kind of therapy–a way to process difficult feelings and come closer to healing. Effective therapy requires moments of intense focus on the issues at hand as well as times of rest and self-care, and 6666 provides both elements. Astronautalis and P.O.S. call out societal toxicities loud and clear (“I’ll keep the sanity provided to me skipping prison”) but provide a heavy dose of humor as well (“Only on the Facebook to let you know when shows is, so you can let Russia tap all my phones, bitch!”), and it’s hard to feel anything but joy when you hear how much fun they are having as they deliver the verses of “Dork Court” over its huge vacillating beat. Four Fists name the issues aloud but then show rather than tell the solution. The healthy male friendship visible in the music video for “G.D.F.R.,” and audible on “Dork Court” and throughout 6666, is the kind where the motivation to be like each other improves both people. Collaborative music makes Stef and Andy’s lives better, and, by sharing it with us, they are inviting us to make the world better as well.
Following the release of “Dork Court,” and in anticipation of their full-length record, Four Fists gave us more background on the album’s creation and also shared their thoughts on the importance of collaboration.
The name Four Fists comes from an F. Scott Fitzgerald short story. Other than the fact that Fitzgerald is from Minnesota, what inspired you to use that name?
Astronautalis (Andy): We’ve all been punched by life, and hopefully learned a thing or two from those hits. Everyone should read that short story. A lot of those themes keep coming up in our work together.
While we’re at it, what’s the story behind the title of the album, 6666?
P.O.S. (Stef): Last time we made music together, we asked our good friend and art collaborator Eric Carlson to help us come up with some visuals. He was playing with a lot of emoji and text combos to make weird drawings and icons on Twitter. Mostly messing around. One of the first things he showed me was the four sixes, using the 6 as an icon for a fist. 6666=Four Fists. That, plus the vague evil. Sorta glued it.
You’ve both been part of the Minneapolis rap scene for many years. When did you meet? When did you realize you wanted to make music together?
Andy: We met in 2004 on the Warped Tour. Stef was out to work merch for Atmosphere and steal some stage time when it opened up. I was out getting paid nothing to play 30 minutes every day on a tiny little rap stage called “Code of The Cutz.” I knew I wanted to make music with him the moment I saw him play live. After the show, he gave me a Doomtree sampler CD, and I listened to it in the car that night and thought, “Fuck, I gotta get to Minnesota!”
Do you believe that Minnesota hip-hop has a characteristic sound? If so, how would you describe it?
Stef: I think it does. I think the best music from here doesn’t sound like anything else. I don’t know how to answer this with any certainty, but I’ve always thought it was about not being close to any major labels. Borrowing from the coasts but mostly focusing on impressing your music friends who impress you. I don’t know. Lots of collaboration in this city across genre. Feels like it’s always been that way.
What makes the Twin Cities rap scene a special community to be a part of?
Andy: I think it is more about what makes the Twin Cities music scene, in general, a special community. There are more independent radio stations here than in most cities, more independent clubs, more support for live music and local music. And, as someone who has lived all over America and ultimately settled in Minneapolis, there is a culture of support and passion and collaboration that exists here that is unique. People go to shows, artists go to each other’s shows, people support music at every level and from every angle. In my opinion it is the best place to be a musician in America.
You have both released solo albums since you last released music together as Four Fists in 2013. Have you been working on songs together the whole time, or has there been another surge of collaborative songwriting in the last year?
Stef: My high school had 25¢ Surge for like 6 months, then they jacked it up to a buck after we were all hooked.
Some tracks on the album, like “Dork Court,” feel like freestyles, while other verses, like those in “G.D.F.R.,” feel more methodically crafted. Can you speak to the roles of spontaneity vs. rumination in your creative process?
Andy: Nothing on this album is freestyled. In fact, I think “Dork Court” is probably the most meticulously technical verse I wrote in the record. I heard Stef’s verse, which is so dope, and knew I had to come with something to match it, so I wrote my ass off to keep up! Which is how the album went for us. This album was very much about us feeding off of each other. When one of us was out of inspiration, the other came in with a new idea and melody, or a full chorus, or a verse that would fuel the fire again. That created an environment where writing these songs went pretty fast. We wrote in three-day chunks, just throwing ideas down on tracks and moving on to the next idea, and we would come back to refine that idea later… though, often, we kept the original idea intact.
Stef: He said it. We both wrote hard. We naturally work well together. It’s just easy to write with each other. We know each other and each other’s style well. But that just pulled us both into new places. It was a fun album to make.
This album is not shy about calling out the toxicities in American society. What role have these songs played in your emotional life over the last few years? Has it felt therapeutic to put this album together?
Stef: It’s always therapeutic. Making things is therapeutic. The rest of life is always ups and downs. Both ups and downs are well represented in the both the music and the time spent making the music.
What were your favorite moments while you were writing and recording the album? What was most challenging?
Andy: The best part of this process was being in the woods with nothing to do but work on music with my friend. That is the best stuff. The most challenging stuff was finding the time to get out to the woods.
We like to end interviews with some shout-outs. Who are a few other Minnesota artists whose music really speaks to you right now?
Stef: Yeah! Everything you can find at doomtree.net. And tons of other stuff. Andrew Broder lives here.
Four Fists’ 6666 will be released in its entirety on October 12, at which point they will embark on an American tour. If you are in NYC, be sure to catch them at Rough Trade on November 9. You can also follow them on social media at:
Four Fists: @fourfists6666