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Posted on November 20 2015 by Zach
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I am standing backstage patiently waiting to interview DJ/production duo GTA before they hit the decks at Echostage during their current “Goons Take America” tour. One of the openers is playing an array of heavy-hitting, high BPM future house slammers to a crowd of excitable young 20-somethings; some are wearing clothes, others are wearing their personality, all of them are losing their minds as each track finds a new way to tell ravers to put their fucking hands up. At about 11:30, I get a text from their tour manager. One of the DJs is currently taking a shower and they should be ready in a few minutes. A few more people walk around backstage: roadies, friends, D.C.’s Sweater Beats, and the next act – a hip-hop group whose sound I’d later describe to a colleague as Future meets Rick Ross meets a trill goblin who lives under a bridge which ravers must cross in order to reach their Molly-fueled desires. Oddly fitting as I would discover their name was inspired by ketamine.

At about 11:40, I’m invited up to the green room to meet with Matthew Von Toth and Julio Mejia: the two minds behind GTA. The TV is showing one of the ‘Sherlock Holmes’ movies, there’s a bucket filled with DC Brau, an assortment of Kind granola bars, and enough Monster energy drinks to bring someone back from the dead. Their green room practically looks like a pre-game in someone’s dorm which, to be fair, isn’t far from the vibe the couple promotes at their shows; they’re known for throwing raucous parties. And this is just the start of their evening.

“At least you know I’m clean,” Matt jokes as he puts himself together. The young DJ decides to sport a crewneck sweatshirt, jeans, and a pair of boots which complements Julio’s varsity style hoodie, baseball cap, and sneakers. Style is clearly part of their image – their outfits designed to reflect the house party nature of their sets complete with gold chains and tight No Shave November beards. Later on in the evening, Matt would disappear right as they’re supposed to take the stage. “Where’d Matt go?”

He had to grab his oversized fedora.

After some idle chit-chat, the time was 11:45. They have a meet and greet in roughly half an hour. It was time to get the ball rolling.

zacheser: GTA – who are you?

Julio Mejia: I’m Julio from Miami. 24 years old.

Matthew Von Toth: I’m Matt. 25 years old. I own a car. I live in Los Angeles. And I have two bank accounts.

JM: Checking and savings account.

z: If you had to choose an emoji to describe yourselves, it would be –.

JM: The brown emoji.

MVT: I’m gonna go with the two hands up.

z: That’s a good one. Here’s a basic game: marry, fuck, and kill. Your choices are deep house, techno, and disco.

JM: Damn. That’s a good one. Definitely fuck disco. I mean literally fuck disco.

MVT: Like in a bad way?

JM: I wanna take disco to dinner. Get her drunk. And show her a good time. I wanna boogie all night if you catch my drift. I’d marry deep house. And I’d kill techno.

MVT: You heard it first. Julio killed techno.

z: How about you?

MVT: I’d probably do the same thing, but I’d marry disco, I’d fuck deep house, and probably kill techno.

z: Alright. So, anyone who’s read interviews with you guys before or knows you pretty well knows you met and started collaborating together via social media. Do you think we’re getting too digital in music?

JM: As far as getting too digital, I think it’s just expanding everyone’s reach. Years ago you couldn’t reach thousands of people with SoundCloud or anything like that and we’re fortunate that we live in a time where we can do that. Otherwise, a lot of these artists wouldn’t exist. I think it helps the scene a lot being able to showcase your music that easily with so many people. And you’ve seen it – anybody can go on SoundCloud whenever they want and post and no one’s really telling anyone what to do and there’s no guidelines really.

MVT: You can make an impact just from posting on one place. You can get a lot of feedback. I think it’s really cool. I’m sure it was super, super difficult before then. We don’t even know what it was like before then because we grew up in it. So I can only imagine what it was like, but it’s so much more more accessible. I think it’s great.

z: You used to work for Ultra. How did being on the other side of the curtain informed your guys’ choices as musicians?

MVT: I never worked for Ultra. I went to Ultra. But Julio worked as a hospitality agent.

JM: At that time, I didn’t really know about electronic music at all. All I really gained from working there was a new perspective on electronic music. I saw Diplo and Crookers and a bunch of guys at that time who were poppin’ in 2010 and were killing it. And it opened my eyes to a whole different side of music. I was fortunate enough to just keep in touch with all of those people and get my foot in the door a little bit. Most of all, I gained inspiration more than anything.

z: In 2013, you did an interview with Noisey and you said, “We try to make the kind of stuff we’d imagine would go off in a club.” It’s been a couple of years since then. Music has evolved crazily especially with how most people have received house music and how commercial its gotten. Do you think your mentality has changed at all  considering how approachable and commercial electronic music has gotten?

MVT: It’s opened things up a bit. It used to be a bit narrower and you’d have to figure out different stuff that would have to work. But now since it’s gotten so popular, you can try different stuff and mash different stuff together and it can work pretty well on the dancefloor. I do think that in general more artists and more people should experiment more and be more open to different sounds, different tempos, different everything.

z: So you think, as far as electronic music goes, more people should do what Skrillex and Diplo did with Jack Ü concerning coming together and doing what each person does the best, but finding new ways to approach what they do?

MVT: That’s a huge thing with electronic music. Collaborating with other people. It makes you expand everything. Your sound. Your ideas in general.

JM: Expanding your fan base, too, I think really helps. For example, we did a track with Martin Solveig [“Intoxicated“] which made most of our fans go, “What?” At the time, everybody was listening to our trap songs, but “Intoxicated” was a completely different vibe compared to anything we’d done previously. It’s kind of what we wanna do. It doesn’t really matter what kind of music people know you for; we like to make everything. People from all demographics can appreciate music for what is and not care about who’s making it.

z: You guys released an EP titled Death to Genres and your sound has been linked to everything from moombahton to Melbourne bounce to future house. Would it be naïve to suggest that you deny categorization as DJs and producers?

MVT: Yeah. The only categorization we’d go for is just high energy. Especially when you’re going out to have a good time. Depending on what we want for the night, we like to have a lot of high energy and music can have that no matter what tempo you’re playing which is what we try to make our fans and the world understand. There’s so many sounds in the world. Why not be open to them? Other than that, when we make songs, categorization is still important because whether you’re looking for music or you need to play a certain track, you need to know what it’s called.

z: So which one is more important: the act of creating or the creation itself?

JM: The act of creating.  I feel like that’s how the actual intention is expressed. A lot of people derive different things off the final product, but if I were to sit here and be like, “This is what I was thinking when I made ‘Intoxicated,’” it could change everyone’s view on how to view the track. If we were to tell you that it came along from a punk rock song or something like that, which we were listening to and inspired by, people would be like, “What kind of element did you take from that?” And they would take more appreciation to that aspect of the song. If I were inspired by this punk rock melody to write this song, they’d be like, “Wow. That’s dope. I get that.” Because you hear the catchiness, you hear the cadence relates to that specific kind of music. I feel like that’s what people think is cool or at least I do. I feel it adds a personal touch to your music; it differentiates people from each other.

MVT: I’d agree.

z: The way that house music is viewed now, especially with music coming from the UK, it seems people have adapted their taste a little more. You said in an interview with Virgin that Miami had a “very pop culture based sound” which I would agree is really true. But has the sound shifted due to the flood of music coming in from Europe?

JM: I would say so. The thing is, we don’t really spend that much time there anymore to know. But I think, for sure, they’re playing Disclosure all the time on the radio. It’s more of a national thing, too. I feel like everyone in the U.S. has adapted to the deep house and UK garage sound. That’s just the state of music in America, I feel.

MVT: Yeah. But I still think it’s mostly because dance music in general has become the pop mainstream.

JM: That’s kind of the most accessible thing. I think Disclosure, for example, is the perfect blend of R&B and dance which is great because I feel like people get attracted to that idea and I feel like that’s what U.S. radio is. It’s a blend of those things and more.

z: So five years ago, did you think house music would get as big as it is now? 

JM: Yeah.

MVT: I thought so just because of the fact that it was such a new sound that hadn’t reached that level yet. I knew some form of it would get popular. If you think about it, what is dance music now compared to what it was five years ago? There really isn’t anything now where people are going, “This is the next big thing.” Five years ago, it was at that level where it was about to explode.

JM: I think for me, my biggest realization it was starting to become part of pop culture was the Crookers remix of Kid Cudi. The “Day ‘N Nite” remix. I remember because I listen to Kid Cudi, I listened to the original, and the remix was the one that was getting played all the time on the radio. Then I was like, “Okay. Now things are changing.”

z: For you guys personally, when was the game changing moment?

MVT: We were doing one gig a month and then suddenly out of nowhere, we were told we were going on tour for three months with Rihanna. Around the world. We were like, “Holy shit. 60 shows. This is crazy right now.” That was around the time we felt things were getting crazy. They’ve gotten crazier and crazier.

z: On the road ahead, are there any dream collaborations you’re thinking about?

JM: Us and Pharrell. Us and Daft Punk. Us and Swizz Beats.

MVT: I’d like to do something with Ludacris.

JM: Us and Chief Keef.

MVT: A lot of people. I like Sam Smith’s voice a lot. He’s really cool. Julio likes Lana Del Rey.

JM. Yeah. Lana Del Rey.

z: Or as some people call her, ‘Lana Del Bae.’

JM: Yeah. Super fine.

MVT: There’s a bunch of people. Really, anybody who’s open to making something cool.

z: A full-length studio album at some point?

MVT: We’ve been working on one for a while now. Still in the process. We haven’t quite thought of a date to come out. We want to make sure we’re comfortable with everything. We want to get it right and take our time. We’re still going to be putting out EPs between now and then, so there’s still music coming out right now, but the full-length we want to get right.

z: Last question. Life or death situation. French fries or tater tots?

JM: Tater tots.

MVT: What?

JM: Tater tots all day for me. I love tater tots.

MVT: French fries. There’s more times I’ve had better french fries than really good tater tots.

JM: I feel like every time I’ve had tater tots, it’s always been way better than french fries.

z: Those are strong words.

MVT: Those are strong words. Fighting words.

You can currently catch GTA on their “Goons Take America” tour, which ends at the Hollywood Palladium on November 28, and you can download their most recent EP, Death to Genres, on iTunes.

Melanie Martinez, “Soap (Solstis Remix)”

Posted on November 12 2015 by Zach
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Looking to go the more complicated route than following the handbook for basic pop idols, Melanie Martinez has shown a level of self-awareness displayed by artists like Lady Gaga and Madonna in their prime. And even though the original holds up as ecstatic pop goodness, the Solstis remix of her single “Soap” from Cry Baby, may very well win her some new fans.

Solstis, the Chicago based winners of this year’s Electric Forest Discovery Project, have flipped “Soap” into a future bass-y, chilled out series of waves that sooth and caress feels as they bump and groove with each percussive kick. Atmospheric, melodic, and enchanting, the duo’s focus on ambience is the prime factor which makes the overall piece work as well as it does. The remix is inviting, it moves, but above all else it asks us as the listener to mentally drift off somewhere nice and warm.

The Solstis remix of “Soap” is now available as a free download.

French Horn Rebellion, “Foolin’ Around”

Posted on November 11 2015 by Zach
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French Horn Rebellion, Brookyln-based purveyors of ‘Next Jack Swing,’ has been making the rounds supporting their first EP of original material since 2010, Foolin’ Around. The EP, an eclectic array of 80′s and modern funk inspired trips through indie pop, showcases influences that range from Genesis and David Bowie to Daft Punk without skipping a single funkadelic beat.

The title track off the EP, “Foolin’ Around,” sees the duo at their most outlandish extreme blending bright flashes of cheery guitar with heavy synth bass and rich horn sections. It’s a track that yearns for big hair and even bigger padding in the shoulders of your favorite sportcoat. In many ways, French Horn Rebellion does a great job of condensing the cityscape of New York into an auditory medium; “Foolin’ Around” sounds like the type of subconscious soundtrack playing in the background every time you visit the big city with wide-eyed wonder. It’s like Peter Gabriel by way of Prince or Huey Lewis having a jam session with Chic: a discotheque aesthetic chopped up with big, 80′s pop-rock. That said, their latest EP will bring comparisons to similar artists on DFA and Stones Throw, particularly Mayer Hawthorne’s side project Tuxedo, but tracks like “Foolin’ Around” show a dynamic balance between personal voice and the inspiration behind it which will give French Horn Rebellion longevity in the road ahead.

Justin Timberlake, “My Love (Cerulean City)”

Posted on October 29 2015 by Zach
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Bisbeaux and Wave Age, who together form the DJ duo known as Cerulean City, had a massive debut earlier this year after releasing their remixes of Passion Pit’s “Sleepyhead” and Snoop Dogg’s “Sensual Seduction.” Following the tried and true model of flipping Top 40 darlings into dance-heavy bangers, Cerulean City’s most recent edit, an indie dance/nudisco treatment of Justin Timberlake’s “My Love,” shows that not only do these boys have a soft spot for straightforward pop, but also a penchant for remodeling it.

With a heavy kick, interstellar synths, and a hidden arpeggio that drives deeper than a drill looking for oil, Cerulean City’s take on Timberlake’s classic reaches for the stars with moments of inspired indie dance lunacy and respectful treatment of the sentiment attached to such a recognizable track.  It’s as if Wave Age and Bisbeaux not only understand that people will have an attachment to the original, but they took it into consideration as they crafted each bar of their remix; the soundscape is a pillow that comforts and adds warmth to Timberlake’s vocals providing an updated feel which doesn’t feel out of touch.

Check out Cerulean City’s remix below and be sure to see them when they make their live debut on Saturday night at The Black Cat as part of Blisspop’s SLICE event alongside other local talents like Nick Garcia, Julius Jetson, and Yomimbi.

The Jane Doze, “Mean World”

Posted on October 27 2015 by Zach
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They’ve been crushing the game for so long that sometimes people forget that The Jane Doze started getting notoriety with their unstoppably catchy series of mash-ups and bootlegs. It’s a formula that never gets old with them because of their signature style of switching and flipping the game to make something fresh sound like it’s from the future.

“Mean World,” a mash-up of Wave Racer and Lido’s recent collaboration “World Record” with Justin Bieber’s current hit “What Do You Mean,” is the kind of genre splitting, fire-starting play that bends and breaks expectations with each subsequent drop. Chopping and pitching up Bieber’s vocals to the point where they sound like a series of synth stabs, the duo presents a colorful canvas painted with trill percussion and a future bass bounce as the Biebs’ punctuates each drop. It’s a novel edit that makes good use of the original components while keeping The Jane Doze’s self-referential attitude intact: it’s a banger. It knows it’s a banger. And if a banger knows it’s a banger, who are we to deny it of its title? Better just to shut up and dance.

Listen to “Mean World” below.