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Thomas Wesley Pentz, better known as Diplo, is one of the most dynamic forces in music today. The Grammy-winning artist is as much an international brand as he is a musician/DJ/producer. Year after year, he’s proven himself to be a ubiquitous cultural figure, consistently bridging high and low, mainstream and underground, with remarkable tact and reverence.
A decade since its inception, Diplo’s original group Major Lazer continues to influence the sound of modern music. Most recently, Diplo’s Major Lazer unveiled “Que Calor,” featuring J Balvin and Dominican dembow pioneer El Alfa, alongside a brand new video to critical acclaim. The new track follows summer release “Make It Hot,” which features Brazilian superstar Anitta from Major Lazer’s forthcoming and highly-anticipated fourth album. This summer Major Lazer was also featured on Beyonce’s The Lion King: The Gift soundtrack alongside Shatta Wale on “ALREADY”. This all comes off the heels of history making singles “Lean On” and “Cold Water,” which have both surpassed one billion streams on Spotify. Their fourth album is forthcoming.
Earlier this year Diplo unveiled a new country project, Thomas Wesley, and released its first track, “So Long,” featuring Nashville superstar Cam, which Rolling Stone praised as “an impressively graceful dip into country.” The release was followed by a performance at Stagecoach Festival where at the first ever Stagecoach Late Night, he welcomed Lil Nas X and Billy Ray Cyrus for the live debut of “Old Town Road,” and promptly shared his remix of the viral hit. Wesley then unveiled a second track called, “Heartless” which was accompanied by a music video featuring Platinum artist, songwriter Morgan Wallen. This was the second of several forthcoming collaborations due to appear on Diplo’s country EP coming later this year.
Simultaneously, Diplo returned to his electronic roots with the deep house-inspired Higher Ground EP, debuted a brand new show at his Coachella headline set, and released the Europa EP for which he hand selected a cast of rising European artists. On his own, the producer continues to discover and collaborate with the most exciting new voices in music including Trippie Redd, Poppy, Bad Bunny and Octavian. As one of pop’s most in-demand producers, Diplo has worked with artists such as Beyoncé -- producing two songs on the Grammy-nominated Lemonade, Justin Bieber, Madonna, Lil Wayne, Bruno Mars, Britney Spears, Wale, Ariana Grande, 2 Chainz, Quavo, Travis Scott, Travis Porter, Usher, Snoop Dogg, Azealia Banks, Die Antwoord, Camila Cabello, Sean Paul, Robyn, AlunaGeorge and many more.
Diplo consistently exercises his collaborative spirit and singular talent for transcending genre and cultural boundaries. With the formation of two new groups, Diplo continues his streak as a global hitmaker -- LSD a psychedelic supergroup with Sia and Labrinth that was streamed nearly one billion times and Silk City, the disco-influenced venture with Mark Ronson. Since the debut of Silk City, the duo has collaborated with Dua Lipa for the Grammy winning house hit “Electricity,” as well as releases with GoldLink, Desiignerand Mapei.
Diplo’s rise to fame began in 2004 with his critically- acclaimed debut album Florida which caught the attention of then-breaking M.I.A., who partnered with Pentz to release the mixtape Piracy Funds Terrorism Vol. 1. and eventually the Grammy-nominated track “Paper Planes” in 2007, which hit #4 on the U.S. Billboard Hot 100 Chart and has sold more than three million copies.
In 2005, Diplo founded label/culture lab Mad Decent to lend his globally-recognized voice to the sounds he encounters traveling the world. Mad Decent has gone on to release music from a dynamic range of artists that include Santigold, Omar Souleyman, Gucci Mane, Dillon Francis, Baauer and more. Diplo founded his global dancehall group Major Lazer in 2008 to great critical acclaim. Their 2015 smash hit, “Lean On” with DJ Snake and MØ, became the most streamed song on Spotify of all time and hit more than 1 billion views on YouTube, making it one of the Top 10 most watched music videos ever. The double platinum single “Where Are Ü Now” featuring Justin Bieber from his Jack Ü collaboration with Skrillex has enjoyed similar success and won the group numerous awards including an MTV European Music Awards as well as an American Music Award for Collaboration of the year. Both of Diplo’s 2015 releases-Major Lazer’s Peace Is The Mission and Skrillex and Diplo Present: Jack Ü- topped the Billboard charts for #1 Dance/Electronic Album. As one of pop’s most in-demand producers, Diplo has worked with artists such as Beyoncé -- producing two songs on the Grammy nominated Lemonade, Justin Bieber, Madonna, Lil Wayne, Bruno Mars, Britney Spears, Wale, Chris Brown, Ariana Grande, 2 Chainz, Quavo, Travis Scott, Travis Porter, Usher, Snoop Dogg, Azealia Banks, Die Antwoord, Camila Cabello, Sean Paul, Robyn, AlunaGeorge and many more.
His last EP, California, served as Diplo’s first body of work as a solo artist in more than five years, and the latest entry into a catalog that continues to defy genre and convention. Diplo continues to tour the world over, playing 300 shows a year with Major Lazer and under his own moniker, including headlining Mad Decent Block Parties worldwide and a legendary Vegas residency. Recent stops include Pakistan, Brazil, Nepal, Bangladesh, Kenya, Nigeria, Uganda, Croatia, China, Mexico, Italy, Korea, Spain, Sweden, Denmark, Switzerland, Austria, Germany, Hungary and beyond.
Jimmy Eat World
Jimmy Eat World
Jimmy Eat World recorded the 10-track set mostly in their home studio, working again with co-producer Justin Meldal-Johnsen, their partner on 2016's INTEGRITY BLUES.
The result is punchy, dynamically explosive & hearkens back to the heavy yet crafted melodic edge that woke the world up to Jimmy Eat World a quarter century ago.
There's plenty of guitar rock on SURVIVING, from the blast off of the title track through the ferocity of "Criminal Energy," "All the Way (Stay)" and "Love Never" and the gritty, propulsive grind of "Diamond." Vibey tracks such as "Delivery," "Recommit" and the lushly majestic "555" expand the album's sonic scope, meanwhile, "One Mil" alternates between pretty acoustic verses and anthemic, stadium-caliber choruses. The set-closing "Congratulations" simmers with an edgy sense of purpose as the group declares "You're on your own."
Noting that "I was a passenger in my own body for 36 years and never realized it," Adkins fills SURIVING's songs with lessons of clarity and insights into the soul and psyche. These are the songs of someone who's had an awakening; accepting the person he was and finding both solace and joy in the continuing process of who he's becoming.
"I think we're at the stage in what I would call a career, and it's important that you have a grasp of why you're doing it. With this being our 10th album, there better be a reason you're continuing -- so what is that?"
Much of what Adkins is trying to convey on SURVIVING is a taking of control after becoming sober. No longer is he the prisoner of what he calls "the default operating system" he employed over the years -- "I'm just not faithful, that's who I am" or "I'm just awkward in relationships" or "I just drink like that. I guess that's me."
"Criminal Energy," for instance, comes from an expression for moral sickness that Adkins heard in Germany. "Delivery" and "555" are about becoming self-aware.
"Love Never" celebrates a realization that "love isn't an abstract dream that one day falls out of the sky, fully formed. It’s a choice. It's a verb."
Porter Robinson had to overcome creative drought, depression and family illness to bring Nurture, his first album in seven years to life. While the path to this new album was nothing short of tumultuous, the end result is “soft, gentle, sweet” and perhaps most importantly “painfully honest,” according to Billboard. Nurture is made up of songs he found on the other side: adventurous, uplifting diaries of his own path back to happiness, each one imploring listeners suffering their own periods of hardship to hold on. “Nurture explores the difficulty of finding fulfillment and plumbs the joyful realization that the world he wanted to create was always right in front of him,” Pitchfork remarks.
Everything’s changed since Robinson’s 2010 arrival, from sonic landscapes to literal surroundings. Porter notes the immense effect of the exit from his childhood home on this new album, where 2014’s genre-defining Worlds signaled an expansion for the universe of electronic music. His arrival into the collective consciousness via co-signs from dance music’s greats now feels like merely a footnote in the time spent since, with 2016 granting the union of Robinson and longtime friend Madeon to conceive the gold-certified single “Shelter.” Just a year later he’d introduce alter ego Virtual Self, a reinvention that landed him a Grammy nod and left incalculable influence in its wake.
The day after Nurture’s release, Porter brought back his livestream festival Secret Sky following an incredibly successful inaugural event in 2020, which took place in a state of the art digital auditorium that he helped design. Soon after, he announced the return of his own music festival Second Sky to California’s Bay Area in September 2021 where he will perform a brand new live show of Nurture material for the first time. With the release of his long-awaited album, the return of both festivals and a steady reemergence from a global pandemic, Porter’s Nurture era is brimming with the promise of rebirth and renewal. “I feel like the world is beautiful and filled with possibility, and that I want to cherish every second that I have to be alive. That description doesn’t quite capture it, but it’s as close as I can get.”
Los Angeles' Grouplove blend a quirky, '90s-style indie rock sensibility with a spirited, arena-ready roar. It's a sound they debuted on 2011's Never Trust a Happy Song, which spawned the number one Billboard Alternative Songs Chart hit "Tongue Tied." They have continued to straddle mainstream and indie success, playing festivals around the globe and remaining Top 20 Billboard Alternative chart regulars with albums like 2013's Spreading Rumours and 2020's Healer. In March 2021, Grouplove returned with their surprise fifth album, This Is This.
Grouplove first came together in the late 2000s around the talents of Hannah Hooper, Christian Zucconi, Sean Gadd, Ryan Rabin (son of Yes guitarist Trevor Rabin), and Andrew Wessen. New Yorkers Hooper and Zucconi, through sheer kismet, forged a friendship with the latter three members while attending an art residency in Greece on the island of Crete. Before returning to their myriad homelands, the future quintet members began hashing out plans to meet up again and put some of the music they had been working on to tape, resulting in whirlwind trips to Rabin's Los Angeles studio, where the five friends decided to make their relationship official. Grouplove's eponymous debut EP was released by Canvasback in 2010.
While touring alongside Florence + the Machine early the following year, Grouplove managed to finalize plans for their debut full-length album, Never Trust a Happy Song, which appeared later that fall. The album peaked at number 75 on the Billboard 200 and featured four singles, including "Colours," "Lovely Cup," "Itchin' on a Photograph," and "Tongue Tied," the latter of which proved a breakthrough success, landing at number one on the Billboard Alternative Songs chart.
Paper Towns [Music from the Motion Picture]
They returned with their second full-length album, Spreading Rumours, in 2013. Buoyed by the single "I'm with You," the album hit number 21 on the Billboard 200 and number seven on the Top Rock Albums chart. The following year, Gadd left the band and was replaced by bassist Dan Gleason. Grouplove's song "No Drama Queen" was included on the soundtrack to the 2015 film Paper Towns.
In 2016, they released their third studio album, Big Mess, which included the single "Welcome to Your Life." Produced by Phil Ek, the album found the band further embracing a more sophisticated sound and writing about their lives after the birth of Zucconi and Hooper's first child. Following their own world tour, Grouplove hit the road in support of Imagine Dragons in early 2017, releasing an EP, Little Mess, in May of that year. The group's fourth album, Healer, arrived in 2020 and was heralded by the single "Deleter." The album featured production by both TV on the Radio's Dave Sitek and Malay. Released exactly one year later, Grouplove's fifth album, This Is This, explored themes of angst and anxiety.
In a way, the enormous success of Duke Dumont has somewhat slipped under the radar. So unassuming is Adam George Dyment, that it’s easy to forget he played one of the most pivotal roles in making UK deep house the thundering global juggernaut it is today. When his single ‘Need U 100%’ soared straight to number 1 in March 2013, it became the first UK house track to do so in over a decade, reaching Gold certification, and opening up a gap in the British music consciousness for deep house to really prosper on a massive scale. It’s fair to say that the success of “Need U 100%” blew open a void for other deep house acts like Route 94 and Gorgon City to fill, transcending so many from club favourites to serious chart contenders.
Dumont followed that success 9 months later with his next single, ‘I Got U’, a Whitney Houston inspired Waikiki Beach of a dance track, that, again, topped the UK singles chart. An achievement put into stark context when you think of the acts - Pharrell Williams and John Legend - that it was keeping from top spot. And when his third big single ‘Won’t Look Back’ rose to number 2 on the UK chart, whilst topping the Billboard Hot Dance Club Songs chart, Dumont’s name as a top ten producer was cemented.
Away from the charts though, he continued the underground explorations that first made his name, through the For Club Play Only EP series on Turbo Recordings. So while ‘Won’t Look Back’ was snaking into Radio 1’s A-list, the more radical and rigid percussive banger ‘Drumapella’ from his other project was simultaneously permeating the underground club scene. It’s this multifaceted success, a fingers on all turntables approach, that unleashed such a relentless touring schedule for Dumont, taking him worldwide - and all the while he would be snatching at moments of downtime to work on the material that would comprise his first full length record.
At Coachella this year, Dumont put this prospective album material to the test - performing a 60 minute live set of all original work to a crowd that swelled from 3,000 to 25,000 during his show. “I was between 2 EDM acts, so I was a little scared,” he admits. “When you are performing music at a live level, things can get very competitive. Is the act before you going to be more aggressive, louder, are their lights going to be bigger and better? The thing a lot of people lose in that respect is that music should have a lot of emotion to it. It should be heartfelt. It should trigger something. I put most of the songs from the album into that set, so it all hinged on my stuff. This was no DJ set. And I felt proud when it really captured the crowd’s attention.”
So much tireless work has gone into making his live show what it is, taking cues from acts like Chemical Brothers and Daft Punk, in an effort to create a performance that truly reflects the artistic craft of electronic music rather than pandering to the cultural clichés of hedonistic immediacy. His performances are pulsating, emotional journeys. But, at the end of the day, the show would be nothing if the source material wasn’t strong enough, and that’s where Dumont excels.
Blasé Boys Club immediately strikes you as an entirely more musical record than expected from an artist often reductively dubbed as just a deep house producer. ‘Higher’ for instance, is a spiritual soundscape that builds seemingly into euphoric eternity, subtly reminiscent of the deeply textured electronic pop one would expect from someone like Gold Panda. That aural elevation is intensified by the candlelight vocals of James Vincent McMorrow, until eventually, in the final third, a gratifying beat pierces the atmosphere and brings with it a climactic groove. It’s a song that yearns played at 4am; a religious club experience. “I wanted to create a song that was basically just the finger snap and a repetitive vocal,” explains Dumont. “It’s almost like a gospel record, just repeating and repeating. And it’s a brave song, in a sense that it doesn’t adhere to a normal pop structure. It has the most emotion on the album compared to anything else.”
The album has also given him a chance to breath some new life into existing material. ‘The Giver’ first dropped in 2012 on Turbo, and quickly turned a deep house staple, it’s use becoming almost ritualistic in the way so DJs would consistently deploy it as their peak time banger. And soon, it developed an organic life of its own online. “When I wrote it, I don’t even think deep house was invented in its current form,” says Dumont. “I’ve always wanted to play it to as wide an audience as possible. It did really well by itself, but that was without any promo or marketing. Now, with the re-polish I’ve done on it, I want it to have the best possible chance to do well on radio.”
Away from Dumont’s clear affinity for deep house, prominent vocals and textured electronic pop, there’s also one other key influence that bleeds through his work. “I came through as a DJ with a lot of the French wave guys like Justice, Sebastian, Mr Oizo,” he explains. “And Daft Punk’s Discovery: that just has the perfect balance of incredible music alongside massive dance tracks.” Somewhere in his subconscious, this powerful French influence is etched and it comes across most prominently on standout track ‘Ocean Avenue’ - a hard and slinky pop jam that conjures nocturnal visions of a lost scene from Nicolas Winding Refn’s 2011 film Drive.
The record has also given Dumont a chance to widen his scope of collaboration. His fine ear for vocals has already seen him team up with MNEK and AME, and the record boasts further features from Vincent McMorrow, and the legendary 80s house vocalist Robert Owens. The grooving 8 minute disco track that features the latter is like Dumont’s very own homage to Daft Punk’s epic ‘Giorgio’.
The funny thing about all the success that now surrounds him is that Duke Dumont hasn’t really changed the way he makes music, and the re-release of ‘The Giver’ will pay testament to that. The change has come more in both the UK and American music culture, and the way club music now finds itself positioned so boldly on both sides of the Atlantic. “I remember I went to America in 2008,” he says, “and I played in a nightclub in New York called Studio B. I remember I got heckled by people asking me to play hip-hop. So, when I went back in 2012, I was genuinely petrified, but it ended up being one of the best tours I’ve ever done. The scene just seems to get bigger and bigger.”
With his eyes set on some huge UK shows, and massive forthcoming collaborations, Harrow-born Adam George Dyment looks set to play a huge role in the way UK pop music continues to shift ever further into new realms, just like an early noughties Timbaland did for the US or a recent Pharrell has done for the world. Still, he remains unnervingly grounded: “I don’t necessarily want to be the biggest DJ or biggest act in the world, but I certainly want to be one of the best.”
Earlier this year, we saw the release of SG Lewis’ DEBUT album ‘times’, fuelled by the longstanding love of disco and created with a renewed focus on SG as a performer and artist as well as producer – “I’m as much influenced by the mindset and the euphoria of disco as the actual sound of the music,” he says now. “There’s a magic in the room when you play those records. It’s addictive.”
‘times’ was launched last year when the single ‘Chemicals’ a soaring, funk- driven track entirely performed and sung by SG himself. SG then released his second single from the debut album campaign called ‘Impact’ which features Robyn & Channel Tres. Later followed by Feed The Fire with Lucky Daye and then One More with the legendary Nile Rodgers.
SG has previously collaborated with Col3trane, Raye, Ray BLK, The Neptunes / N.E.R.D’s Chad Hugo, Gerd Janson, Conducta and more as well as producing ‘Hallucinate’ on Dua Lipa’s record-smashing album Future Nostalgia and Dave’s ‘100M’s’ proving his worth as one of the most versatile and prolific musicians from the UK.
Blu DeTiger is a multi-instrumentalist, singer, songwriter, producer, DJ, performer, and bass virtuoso born and raised in New York City. She's been playing the bass guitar since 7 years old. By the age of 17, she was a staple in the NYC club, fashion, and creatives scenes -- DJing sets while still underage, walked in the Kid Super NYFW show, and more. In 2020, she released "Figure It Out" which went viral in 31 countries, charted on AAA radio, and made NPR's top 40 songs of the year list.
Blu continues to soar to new heights with over 1M TikTok followers and popularity amongst fans and critics alike, from Flea, Janet Jackson, Questlove, Timbaland, etc. to Variety, V Mag, Billboard, Forbes, NPR, MTV, Interview, Rolling Stone, and so many more. She's an accomplished session and touring musician who's played with Caroline Polachek, Fletcher, and others. Additionally Blu has been named to Fender's Up Next 2021 Global Artist Series.
Blu's debut EP How Did We Get Here? is out now. Her single "Vintage" received a Beats 1 Zane Lowe premiere and Jack Saunders Radio 1 spins out the gate, covers at Apple Music's Superbloom and New Music Daily playlists, and Spotify Lorem's playlists. Since release the EP has accumulated more than 45M streams online which further shows why she is an emerging force of nature.
Hailing from a city steeped in house culture, Chicago's John Summit has quickly become the hottest name in dance music following the success of 'Deep End' on Defected Records in June 2020 which became the longest-running Beatport #1 of the year and was named Pete Tong's Essential New Tune before landing on Radio 1's main playlist. Since then Summit has gone on to release a series of groundbreaking originals including 'Thin Line' on D4 Dance that's amassed over 8 million total streams, as well as 'Beauty Sleep' on Repopulate Mars and 'Make Me Feel' on Insomniac; both of which sat atop Beatport's overall chart.
Other catalog highlights include noteworthy collaborations with Lee Foss and Nic Fanciulli, in addition to delivering official remixes for Jax Jones and Au/Ra's 'i miss u,' Gorgon City and DRAMA's 'You've Done Enough,' and Sofi Tukker's 'Drinkee' with Vintage Culture. John's prolific output has also resulted in over 3 million monthly Spotify listeners and elevated him to the highest-selling artist across all genres on Beatport over the last 12 months. Having already headlined many of North America's signature dance venues, Summit's set to leave his imprint on many of the most notable clubs and festivals worldwide this year.
As the late Oscar Wilde once said: “life is too important to be taken seriously”, an ethos that Justin Martin is sticking with despite achieving soaring success over the last six years as a producer and international DJ. Justin initially pricked the ears of the electronic music community in 2003 with his first record ‘The Sad Piano’ on Ben Watt’s Buzzin’ Fly label.
Feeding off the energy of the San Francisco underground, Justin was intrinsically involved with the development of Dirtybird records, appearing on its first four releases. Justin was soon ready to take flight, releasing a string of solo EPs that flaunted a very unique sound and garnered further respect among fellow DJs and heavyweights of the scene.
Music journalists typically describe Justin’s sound as ‘melodic and tough’ with his music encapsulating both melody and emotional depth yet always with enough undeniable ass-shaking properties to translate to the floor.
“I’m always trying to find music for my DJ sets that rattles sound systems, but still has enough melody and interesting texture to expand your mind even if you’re sitting at home on a snowy or rainy day.”
Last year, Justin released his extremely well-received remixes for Rüfüs Du Sol and Ultraísta, as well as a collaborative project with fellow producer Ardalan, which was put out on his brother Christian Martin’s label, Trippy Ass Technologies.
In 2020, Justin launched his new label ‘What To Do…’, kicking things off with his first single ‘Needs’. The label will focus on his distinctive sound and include special collaborative works. With these upcoming releases, there will be no holding back. Justin launched his new project with the intention of diving deeper creatively and pushing the limits of his sound. To everyone who is curious about what’s to come, “expect music with emotional depth combined with raw dancefloor grit.”
Los Angeles-based alternative pop duo Mob Rich have a seemingly aloof and loose sound, which they use to dissect deeper themes and societal woes.
Our First EP
Maxwell Joseph and Connor Pledger hail from Indianapolis and Atlanta, respectively, but they both moved to L.A., independently of each other, in 2015. They were both performing at open mic nights around the city, where they inevitably hit it off. Soon after Mob Rich was formed -- originally calling themselves Moby Rich -- they landed a record deal with Republic Records. Their breakthrough track "Yoko Ono" arrived in 2018, appearing on their debut EP, Our First. The following year saw another EP, Our First Second, as well as an EP of cover songs, titled Songs We Didn't Write, which featured covers of Weezer and Lizzo. A second EP of covers appeared in 2020, titled Songs We Didn't Write, Vol. 2, which featured covers of "The Killing Moon" by Echo & the Bunnymen and "Sweet Disposition" by Temper Trap. Their debut album, Why No Why, landed in 2021.
Pauline has worked on tracks with electronic artists Habstrakt, K?D (unreleased), Taska Black, Vincent, Quiet Bison (unreleased), Moore Kismet, Fytch, WE ARE FURY, Kaivon, Hex Cougar, Slushii (unreleased), INZO, Naderi, Reo Cragun, Heimanu, Twerl, and Juelz, to name a few, and she’s currently featured on tracks on Trap Nation, Monstercat, NCS, NIGHT MODE, and Heaven Sent. Her collaborations over 3 short years have garnered her over 40 million streams across platforms.
Pauline independently released 6 solo-produced tracks in 2019 (landing herself several Spotify editorial playlists: Creamy, Brand New Chill, Sad Beats) and put out her debut EP with Lowly Palace (Trap Nation’s label) in May of 2020. She is the first female artist to release a self-produced EP with the label. Pauline’s ultimate goal is to make genuine music that speaks to your soul and to always be true to herself in music and life. Because of this, she has written, recorded, produced, and mixed every song from her solo project with no outside help.
Being No One, Going Nowhere. The title of STRFKR’s fourth album may seem bleak at first. But hold it in your head a minute, feel its weight, and you may recognize the phrase for what it is: a goal. In the era of the personal brand — amid the FOMO Age — it’s increasingly hard to shed a stifling sense of self, or to just be in the moment that you’re in. Well, consider this an invitation to get blissfully insignificant. That’s what STRFKR founder Joshua Hodges aimed to do when he exiled himself to the desert to create this record, but he returned with his most significant work yet: a set of darkly glistening dance songs rife with sticky beats, earworming hooks, philosophical heft, and bittersweet beauty.
The album opens on “Tape Machine,” and the difference is readily apparent. On 2013’s Miracle Mile, STRFKR refined a full-band sound, but this doubles down on and completely reimagines the project’s electronic and pop roots. The initial synths could fuel a rave, and the ensuing groove could score a Drive sequel, but the song is richer still, with cosmic effects flying overhead and a psych-folk earthiness below. It isn’t that the band sat this LP out — drummer (etc.) Keil Corcoran penned the thick astral disco of “In the End,” and he and bassist (etc.) Shawn Glassford both pitch in throughout. But Being No One, Going Nowhere was born in Joshua Tree after Hodges packed up his Los Angeles apartment and moved to that tiny Mojave outpost under the great big sky. “It came together for me in the desert,” he says. “Out there, it’s easy to feel small and slow.”
When Hodges started STRFKR in 2007, it was designed to be success-proof. The name was both unfit for radio and a jab at fame-chasers. But the project was also meant to be bright, playful and brimming with energy. He stumbled upon a winning juxtaposition that’s a STRFKR staple to this day: dark (or heavy) lyrics set to happy music. Hodges credits that to Elliott Smith’s influence, although Being No One, Going Nowhere has closer sonic kin in Italo-disco, kosmische musik and Tony Hoffer’s work with Phoenix, Beck and M83. English thinker/writer Alan Watts, a scholar of Eastern philosophy, was another muse for Hodges — his voice appears on nearly every STRFKR release, including this one. That’s him on “interspace,” talking about sloughing off preconceived identity to find one’s place in the universe, which is the story of Hodges’ eventual career: stop trying — no, start not trying — and succeed.
This album’s name actually paraphrases the title of a book by Ayya Khema, a Buddhist nun, but the concept came to Hodges in a less chaste setting. “I had an experience at a BDSM club that was really freeing,” he says. “I realized that the appeal is letting go of your mind and stress. You can be super present with the pain, and then the pain isn’t even pain. It’s a gateway to freedom.” In a way, each song on Being No One, Going Nowhere seeks that end. There’s the reality-refracting fantasy of “Never Ever,” the hard truths about addiction’s ravages on “Tape Machine,” a death-defying coming of age tale on “Open Your Eyes,” and references to Hermann Hesse’s 1919 novel of self-realization, Demian, on “When I’m With You.” If the words don’t set you free, the music — exuberant, enveloping, incredibly catchy — should do so handily.
None of which is to imply that STRFKR is drifting along aimlessly. To the contrary, Hodges crafted this album’s dance bent with the stage in mind. The live setup these days includes a custom-made LED wall and a homemade light show that syncs with the rhythm of the songs (also, the occasional crowd-surfing astronaut and band-in-drag). Plus, he camped out at the house of producer Jeffrey Brodsky (Yacht, RAC) for a week and a half, working all hours to ensure Being No One, Going Nowhere sounds as crisply booming over PAs as it does in headphones. Even if Hodges is too busy pushing the future of indie dance-pop forward to possibly attain his goal of unplugging, his aspiration is everything: “Existing is it. This moment is enough.”
Tank and the Bangas
Tank and the Bangas
Tank and the Bangas are a Grammy-nominated, New Orleans-based R&B band fronted by Tarriona Ball (aka Tank), a singer and poet who can wail like Patti LaBelle, scold like Millie Jackson, and soliloquize like Jill Scott. Established with their highly energized live show and a handful of independent releases beginning with Think Tank (2013), they won NPR's Tiny Desk Contest in 2017, leading to a major-label contract with Verve that has yielded Green Balloon (2019), their second studio album, and Friend Goals (2020), an EP.
Capable of shifting from classic soul and funk to hip-hop, reggae, and rock, the instrumental core of Tank and the Bangas consists of musical director and drummer Joshua Johnson, keyboardist Merell Burkett, keyboardist and bassist Norman Spence, and saxophonist and flutist Albert Allenback. Since taking shape in 2011, the Bangas and Ball have been joined by a cast of supplemental musicians that has included background vocalists Angelika Joseph and Kayla Jasmine. Think Tank, the band's debut studio album, was released independently in 2013. It was followed by live recordings of hometown gigs, including The Big Bang Theory: Live at Gasa Gasa in 2014, and subsequent documentations of their regular performances at the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival.
In 2017, the band reached a new audience when they prevailed over 6,000 fellow aspiring acts to win NPR's third Tiny Desk Contest. The vote, conducted by a panel of musicians and experts, was unanimous. Tank and the Bangas signed with Verve and made their major-label debut with Live Vibes in 2018. Live Vibes 2 followed in 2019, as did the new studio LP Green Balloon, the latter of which helped to earn the group a Best New Artist nomination at the 2020 Grammy Awards. After a series of intermediary singles started with an update of Burt Bacharach and Hal David's "What the World Needs Now Is Love" (with fellow New Orleans native PJ Morton among the nine featured artists), Tank and the Bangas released the Friend Goals EP in November 2020.
VNSSA has always had a passion for music, even as a child. The Newport Beach native now calls Los Angeles home, and has immersed herself into the local electronic scene. Although Santa never gave her the turntables she wanted at a young age, she soon found herself drumming in local rock and indie rock bands. From there she learned to DJ, and started performing at local clubs and house parties.
After DJing for 5 years and producing for 2, her debut single was released in early 2018 on House of Hustle Records and since, she has released multiple EP’s and singles on labels such as Dirtybird, Dim Man, Sweat It Out, Psycho Disco, Box of Cats, Tons & Tons, Strangelove Recordings, and many more, including a Beatport #1 single “Word”, with Walker & Royce, on Black Book Records/ HotBoi.
Her live sets cover all genres of house and techno, although don’t be surprised to hear some classic disco as well. VNSSA performs regularly at well-known venues all over the country. In addition to playing her own shows, she has performed with numerous acts such as Chris Lake, Claptone, Destructo, Claude VonStroke, Justin Martin, Nora En Pure, Ciszak, Worthy, Walker & Royce, Cassian, Steve Darko, Ardalan, Fisher, AC Slater, Kyle Watson, Wongo, Bot, and many more.
VNSSA does not exist in the world of music because it is her choice, she exists in it because it is her calling.
Yolanda Be Cool
Yolanda Be Cool
Let's not beat around the bush here, Yolanda Be Cool is a household name. You may not know what they look like (hot dudes alert) , and you may not even know their names (Andy and Matt) but you will most certainly know their music. In fact, probably your grandma and nephew do too.
They didn't mean to write a worldwide number one/iconic anthem way back in 2010 when they produced "We No Speak Americano" with their brother DCUP… they just wanted to make a fun party track that their DJ peers would play. But the song ultimately fast tracked a road to the top for Yolanda Be Cool, a road the pair was uncomfortable with at times (after all, they are house music DJs and producers who love DC10 more than any "bottle" club, a Villalobos way more than a commercial superstar). But here they are, now veterans of the game but also endlessly improving their game, which their more recent release schedule would lay testimony to - with a roll call of the world's hottest labels like Solardo's Sola, Lee Foss' Repopulate Mars, Mele's Club Bad, and their very own Club Sweat, all the while maintaining their knack for making "accidental" hits for their more mainstream label Sweat It Out. Not to mention their curatorial hand in signing artists to their label, such as Purple Disco Machine, RÜFÜS DÜ SOL, Dom Dolla, and Torren Foot.
They are as proud of their platinum records and ARIA awards as they are of their beatport number ones. They work their asses off in the studio, but perhaps their greater skills lie behind the decks from where they have been lucky enough to see the world many times. Be it a party in Morocco put on by the king for 90,000 of his subjects, or an underground afters club in Amsterdam, the guys feel equally at home on the main stage at festivals as they do in the small sweaty basements of clubs. They pride themselves on their ability to walk the line between cool and crossover, underground and overground, not too serious but never silly. Fun with thought is how they like to think of their sound, leaning on their vast sample knowledge and knack for twisting the unusual out of the unexpected into something that makes sense as much for the heads as the masses.
And the coolest thing about them…. they still f**king love it. As their boy Diddy once said, 'can't stop, won't stop.