INTERVIEW | option4
Known to the house community as option4, Brennen’s reputation as one of the sweetest, humblest, most brutally honest, and forward thinking individuals in underground house music has made him one of the scene’s heaviest hitters and most respectable producers. He is one of the kingpins of Colorado’s rapidly evolving dance music community, running the gamut as a party promoter and industry go-to, while pushing amazing releases of his own through labels like Sweat It Out, Nervous, and Night Supply. One of his many ventures, The Hundred Presents, has created an inclusive culture in Denver showcasing a broad range of top tier talent in various electronic sub-genres – culminating for the past three years with his baby, Cloak & Dagger Music Festival.
Despite everything he does in the dance music community, Brennen makes it clear that he’s really just a total nerd who got lucky. A guy who, like me and you, just likes to eat pizza and muse about classic video games and wax poetic about the memes which show up on his Facebook page.
With his first date at U Street Music Hall in close to three years coming up in February, I figured it would be an awesome opportunity to catch up with my good friend – and self-proclaimed hot boi – option4.
Thanks, Brennen, for taking a moment to do this interview with me.
No problem, man. Always a pleasure. What was your first question?
Now that it’s ending, how do you feel about your year in 2016?
Aw, man. 2016 was really, really interesting. I don’t really have anything bad to say about it. I know it was a crap year for a lot of people. I know there was a lot of bad things that happened in the world in 2016, but I think that’s going to be every year from here on out? For me, personally, I feel like it was a fun year. A positive year. I had a lot of highs and lows, but for me, I feel like I found myself artistically and that was a really cool moment for me.
I remember we talked, maybe, around this time last year about where you wanted to take yourself as an artist and you said you wanted to make it more personal, more individual, because you felt like you were losing some of that trying to play “the game.” Do you feel you’ve achieved that in 2016?
Yeah. I mean, either to my demise or detriment, absolutely. I didn’t tour as much in 2016 at all, but that’s also a testament to doing everything on my terms. The way I wanted to do it. And that was actually really lovely. I’m no longer making any type of music just trying to pop off or any weird reason. I’m making stuff that’s true, artistic experiments and that’s the whole point of being an artist really.
Awesome! So tell me, then, what you’d like to do in the next year – 2017 – now that it’s getting ready to start up.
Well, I’m gonna push forward into some different spaces and that’s gonna be challenging, I think, but necessary to make things more unique. I wanna make things more unique next year. That’s my main focus. More personal. More interesting. More unique. More real. More, I don’t know, expressive. That’s the territory I want to get into. I want to make sure that the records I put out are going to be very thoughtful and independent and whatever.
I’m still sitting here thinking, in the back of my mind, whether it’s time for me to start my own label and go that route. At the moment, I’m still enjoying the creative process of writing music again. That’s been really exciting for me.
“I’m making stuff that’s true.”
Do you think that’s also partly because you’re doing things like having a graphic novel released at the same time you’re releasing new tracks? And that you’re making tracks that are coming out as left-field concepts?
Yeah. I think that’s the whole point for what I wanna do. I think I see myself next year getting into different artistic mediums. Music’s always going to be huge, and it’s going to be at the forefront: DJ’ing; playing shows; throwing shows. It’s going to be a priority, but I see myself expanding as an artist and as a writer in general. It’s the craziest thing in the world but, low-key, I’m writing a book. [Laughs] That’s been really fun for me. It’s something that artistically challenges my brain. That’s awesome. So, I’m doing that next year. I’m really just going out of my way to not play the game anymore. I’m not trying to sit here and say, “Hey – this marketing company is handling my social media and here’s my need to feel like I have to post every day to engage with fans with a photo of some still, modeling pic.” I’m really just enjoying my space and trying to enjoy the space and creativity I have trying to make art in any way, shape, or form that I can.
You’re based in Denver which, having just visited you in Denver recently for Cloak & Dagger, seems to be a very inclusive scene. How do you think Denver has shaped the way you pursue your art?
More than anything, I think it’s just like the true Wild West out here. We created it, pretty much. It [the scene] was pretty big back, like, 20 or 30 years ago and it went away when the music became less popular. We started doing stuff at a good time when it started becoming popular and we kind of revamped things to make it more youthful and educated.
I feel like it’s super inspiring because we feel like we are what we wanna be. The “we shape our own identity” kind of thing. It’s ringing true 100% in my music because I’m not sitting there and going like, “What big labels am I trying to release on? I’m gonna make songs that sound like those!” That’s happening so much, even with good friends of mine. They’re like, “The only way I’ll make money or tour is if I make songs that fit in this camp. I’m gonna start talking like these people and posting like these people.”
I’m very happy with the fact we have a very unique scene here in Denver and I’m happy with the fact it helps me write unique music and it makes me go out of my way to express that. I think it goes hand in hand.
So, The Hundred is turning five years old?
Yeah – November was five years. It’s crazy.
Having spent five years of you life doing something like The Hundred, crafting your own scene, what can you say to younger people trying to do the same thing? Whether it’s D.C. or Denver or New York or L.A…
Advice wise, just figure out what you really love and put everything you got into it. I know it sounds very cliché, but if you do things for the right reasons, everything will really shine forth. We never tried to really make money off of stuff or tried to be like typical promoters who tried to expand or be mobile or arthouse or anything like that. We just wanted to throw parties with our friends and include everyone so everybody felt comfortable. We just wanted to make sure: A) everyone felt safe at the parties; B) there was music we felt was up and coming or music we wanted to invest in because we felt it was the future or next-gen; and C) that we were going out of our way to see people understood we are all part of a bigger picture. We’re all part of one big community.
That type of vibe or mentality can be hard to start at first, especially if you’re in a small town or the city you’re in doesn’t have the kind of music you like to listen to, but I think organizing a group of likeminded individuals with the purpose to better the culture in the city can happen anywhere. On any scale. You don’t have to be in L.A. to be able to appreciate good music. You don’t have to be in New York to know what underground stuff is.
Everyone has the internet nowadays. Digging for new music, discovering artists, and so on and so forth. You could be in Boise and throw the dopest underground party in the world, possibly. We don’t know, because I don’t know if it already is happening, but it might as well be. It can’t happen, though, unless somebody just starts it.
So, the advice I have is just stick to those three points. That’s how The Hundred started out and now it’s five years later.
“Figure out what you love and put everything you got into it.”
So, for the people on the internet who believe you get all of your power from the various gold chains you wear everyday: is there any truth to that? Are you harnessing all of your power like a horcrux?
It doesn’t actually come from the chains, you know. It comes from the potbelly I’ve been growing for the past year and a half. That’s where I get all of my strength from. You have to drink 40s – A LOT. But after enough perseverance, you’ll find the inner strength you’re looking for.
There’s no doubt you have quite the potbelly. Eating like a champion. Hitting up taco trucks at 11 PM. Rolling into the club with a burrito.
Eating more pizza than should ever be consumed at any given time.
That’s how we live life. Without those two pillars –.
I don’t think I could eat.
Tell me, really quick, because I’m bringing up our nerdy, stupid shit, tell me about your NBA Jam game. I’m sure there are some who are curious about your hustle.
Oh, man. That’s the real – that’s a very serious thing in these parts. It’s very serious in Denver. Guys attract women based on how good they are at NBA Jam. A lot of people practice. A lot of people work hard. Tireless hours trying to increase their skills. But, I’m actually the best in Colorado. Nay – the best in the world. There’s no one who can beat me.
But [DJ/Producer] MANIK is pretty good at NBA Jam, too, right?
No. He’s hot garbage. At almost everything [Laughs].
Well, you’re doing your side project, 909 Til Infinity, together. That was one of my favorite things in 2016. How’d that happen?
It was totally random. I was in L.A. and I think I was meeting with a new agent or something and he saw me on Twitter saying I was here and was like, “Yo, man. I’m at the studio. You wanna come over?” And I had the day off, so I was like, “Yeah. I’ll come holler.” He told me to bring some whiskey. I went over and he was working on his album at the time and we were just listening and stuff and talking and he said, “You want to just make some stuff?” And we wound up making that record, “Get Up,” in like three and a half hours. And we went, “Holy crap. This is actually really good. It’s gonna bang. What are we gonna do with it?” So, we got real nervous and excited because we knew the record was gonna be big. It could get played all over, you know? It had the nostalgic hook on it and the sample we had to figure out and all that jazz, but that was the first track we wrote. It became such a fun tune.
I think I had played it at Snowglobe last year and it just destroyed the whole tent. I went, “Aw, man. We should maybe make a project out of this.” So, then I played a show in L.A. and stayed for a few days afterwards and we sat in the studio for two days. Shiba San and a couple other people came through and kicked it with us while we working on the records and that’s how the project came about. So, it was kind of random, but it was one of those things.
Chris [MANIK] is just great. He’s super talented. He’s got a new album coming out in a few months. It’s just awesome. He’s just good dude. We connected as friends before we connected as a music thing and, after working on music, all I can say is its been a lot of fun. I don’t know how many records [as 909 Til Infinity] we have done. Right now, at the moment, we’re trying to sort our next big banger. So, we’ll see how that evolves in 2017, but he’s just one of those people I’m always gonna make music with. I always enjoy being in a studio with him. It’s good to be around him.
“Guys attract women based on how good they are at NBA Jam.”
Since you two have that chemistry, and I know you said you want to focus more on individual projects in the new year, is there a possibility of you and Chris doing some shows together in the U.S. as 909 Til Infinity in 2017?
It’s so hard. I feel like people know the MANIK name and I think certain cities know option4, but I don’t know if people have attached to the 909 Til Infinity name. It’s kind of tough to see if that will translate especially since, and I think it’s been tough in 2016 for every musician who is smaller or not affiliated with some monster label, the SoundCloud fallout has hurt a lot of independent musicians. Manik and I are people who have been using that platform to get music out to people. So now that SoundCloud has fell, it’s all about Spotify, Apple Music, whatever. Without having the main platform to get underground music out there, to get music to fans and other people, it can be really difficult to get a smaller project off the ground. There’s very few people who can make a project tomorrow and be able to tour this year, I think, unless they make some monster hit on some monster label.
It’s really difficult to just make and get that out to people without the tools we used to have in 2014 and 2015.
Bae – we’re gonna get a 909 Til Infinity show off the ground even if that means I have to fucking do it myself. It’s gonna happen. This brings me to the fact you’re finally visiting D.C. again for the first time in, like, two or three years. How stoked are you to be visiting us? I know you have had a rich history with Will [Eastman] and U Street Music Hall and the culture in D.C., so I’m just curious how much you’re looking forward to February.
Aw, man. One million percent. I love D.C. so much. I had my most magical night ever in D.C. It was my first tour, I didn’t have an agent, it was a hustle from agents and their friends who were like, “Yeah – book this guy.” I played 15 cities on my first stretch of a 2 month tour and just went at it. It was in D.C. where I had a super magical moment and realized I think I had something.
I was on a bill where I think I was first of three with me, Bondax, and Lee Foss. It was kind of random and that was before Bondax was getting big. It was like when they just got 10,000 fans on Facebook or something. They had had like that one hit, you know? Really good kids. But Lee Foss had dropped off the bill the day before, so they made the party free and then Bondax wound up showing up late because their flight was delayed, so I got to play. I thought I was gonna play the 9 o’ clock slot or whatever and wound up playing from 10 to 1 or something. And Bondax was only playing for 60 minutes, so I got back on at 2 to close out. It was one of those moments where, as a beginning artist, you don’t get to have that very often in a different city let alone your own town. It was just a magical night and I met a lot of people that evening. And every time I’ve been back to D.C., it’s gotten better and better and it’s been an awesome time.
I just got nothing but love and respect for that venue and the people who run it and everything. It’s awesome.
I remember the first time we met, you were playing with Will. I think it was a BLISS party. I had just started writing for Blisspop at the time and Will had invited me up to the booth to meet you. And I remember falling in love with you as a friend, and as someone I wanna spend the rest of my life with, when you played “Gorilla” by Kill Frenzy. And it was before it had come out and I went, “Can you tell me who this is?” And you said, “Nah – I can’t. It’s top secret. I can’t do it. I can’t do it. I’m so sorry. I can’t.” And from that moment on, I was like, “I love this man.”
That’s the funniest thing. I actually kind of remember that. See – I got that song from Justin Jay. I was in L.A. working with him or hanging out or something. I got it from him and he was like, “You can’t tell anyone. This is Kill Frenzy. It’s going on his album. Don’t tell anybody. Don’t give it to anybody.” So I didn’t want to betray Justin or Kill Frenzy. I’m not sure if you remember, but there was lots of hype on that album or EP. It was a big record for him. 2015? So it was just one of those things where, you’re telling this story, I didn’t want to be a dick, but I didn’t want to upset anybody [Laughs].
So Justin is to blame. I’m gonna hit up his people. That’s a lie. I’m not going to do that.
Well, since then, we’ve been buddies for a while now. What would you say is the most magical thing you’ve seen in the last few years? The moment that knocked you on your ass.
Career wise? option4 wise? Hmm. That’s tough. Some of the moments that stand out the most would be when I played Snowglobe last year on New Years. That was a pretty special set. A pretty special moment. I also had an awesome moment, an awesome rush, when me and the Golf Clap boys had a show on this boat in Chicago over the summer. We sold that junk out and it was one of those magic moments where there’s a buzz in the air everywhere. Permeated the whole ship. I’d say those two things stood out the most because of those real euphoric kind of vibes.
You also played Red Rocks, right?
Yeah. Did the HARD thing. Love those guys for sure. That was really special. Any time you get to play Red Rocks, or a big show in your hometown, always super tight, right? Like, those are always gonna be up there.
Just cause I’ve never been, how magical of a space is Red Rocks, actually?
I don’t wanna sound biased, but it’s kind of the best venue in the world. I think it doesn’t matter what show you see there, it’s gonna be amazing. There’s nothing like it.
So, because I ask everyone about food, what do you think is the best late night eat you’ve had visiting in another city?
Oooooh. That’s really tough. There was this one time in Detroit where I was completely hammered, but we had these Greek gyro things that saved my life. I know that sounds gross, but at the time it did save my life. It was the best thing I ever put in my mouth [Laughs]. I have to talk to Hugh [from Golf Clap] to figure out what that place was, but it actually. Saved. My. Life. Whatever that was, it was in Greektown, whatever that cafe was by a casino – best thing I’ve had in my life.
Have to remember that.
“Greektown Something Cafe.” It was right by the casino. Ugh. Saved my life. Legitimately. I wouldn’t be here today if it wasn’t for that night.
I don’t trust people who don’t go to Greek restaurants. I had dated a girl who had never gone to a Greek restaurant, so I took her to a proper restaurant. And I was like, “I’m gonna get a gyro. What about you?” And she was like, “I’m getting a salad.” And it was just… you can’t trust people who don’t care about Greek meats. Greek meat sandwiches.
I’m all the way, all day, dawg.
Can’t wait to see you in a couple months. Show is gonna be dope. There might be some secrets about that show. But where can people find you?
Laying low. But I’ll be in the studio. Next three or four months are studio months for me, so I’ll just be cranking. I’m hoping the full, illustrated graphic novel will be coming out in February. Still working on that at the moment, but the last single comes out in January. I’ll be hibernating for the next few months. I actually think my next out of state show will be in D.C. with Worthy. I’ll see if I’ll add a couple more shows to make it a weekender.
That’s tight. Thank you for doing this interview with me, man. As always, it’s a pleasure. Miss you dearly.
You’re the best, Z.
Love ya, dawg.
Love you, too, bro.
Be sure to check out what option4 is up to on Facebook and SoundCloud. And, if you haven’t already, grab your tickets for his next gig at U Street Music Hall as part of Worthy’s One on One tour.