The Awkward Hit-Makers 

Berkeley's the Cataracs have built their career by smartly writing dumb music.

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Singer-Vine agrees: "A lot of people in the Bay are stuck trying to put the Bay on the map. But people should be focused on making great records, and through that, inadvertently putting the Bay Area on the map. Because nobody cares about the Bay Area in the major labels. Repping your hometown doesn't matter anymore. People just want to hear great records."

It's a surprisingly canny statement, especially coming from someone who's known for lyrics like Enough with the blah blah/you know I really/wanna see your na nas/girl get silly/So I told her bend over/I'ma do the Facebook and poke ya. But these guys are nothing if not surprisingly insightful about what people want to hear. And now that hyphy's been proclaimed dead by everyone from critics to fans to artists themselves, it's looking like the Cataracs were substantially ahead of the curve.

"Niles and David and I knew for awhile there was a real market for this kind of music," Willis said. "These kids aren't stupid — they're super-smart. And now everyone's trying to catch up."

The Cataracs embrace an unabashedly poppy sound on their most recent album, Songs We Sung in Showers: all slick, synthetic, AutoTuned effervescence, the kind of undeniably catchy, radio-ready stuff that'll linger in your ears for days. It's a formula that's been proven to work, and Top 40 is what the Cataracs seem to be banking on. Whether it'll work is anyone's gamble, but right now they're making a solid living and have plans to tour California and then the country, after which they'll head to Europe. Their label is aggressively pushing "Club Love," they say. "We're probably being given the biggest opportunity a group from Berkeley has gotten in a long time," Hollowell-Dhar said, eyes widening behind his aviators.

And despite any knocks they might get for following the formula, Singer-Vine insists that he and Hollowell-Dhar are "at peace with who we are and what we're doing. There's a satisfaction that we get from making a song that sounds good to us."

"I have a lot of fun making dumb music," Hollowell-Dhar added.

Moreover, he argues, there's nothing wrong with giving people what they want.

"The word 'pop' is so pejorative," Hollowell-Dhar added. "But I kind of appreciate the simplicity of it. Yeah, it's dumbed down, like 'she loves you, yeah, yeah, yeah,' but it's beautiful. If you take it for what it is, it's simple, but it was really effective."


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