Seven Lions captivates the imagination at Give Back festival, offers commentary on set
Jeff Montalvo, or Seven Lions as his stage name goes, has proved to be one of OWSLA’s most promising new talents. The Santa Barbara DJ/producer took over Sacramento last week with the help of Tritonal and Topher Jones for Midnite Events’ annual Give Back show, throwing down a 75 minute set of riveting dubstep, house and trance offerings. Dancing Astronaut had the chance to catch up with Montalvo for an interview after his performance, providing us insight into his set and production. Click past the break for a full set review with commentary from Seven Lions.
Tucked away in Rancho Cordova, Midnite Event’s recent Give Back show filled the Sunrise Event Center to near-capacity with fans eager to catch Seven Lions and Tritonal. With fifteen minutes till set time, Seven Lions could be found standing cooly off to the side of the stage dressed in a black trench coat with black boots, casually drinking his IPA. His countenance was professional, but specks of wonder and humility blanketed his face as he later reflected on his rise to dance music prominence:
“It’s almost surreal. It’s over my head at some points. It’s hard to really think about it… I never thought it would happen.”
As Topher Jones wrapped up his set with some heart-warming progressive house, Seven Lions climbed the stage for what would be the heaviest set of the night. Comprised of nearly forty different tracks, Seven Lions’ set spanned everything from titanic dubstep to shimmering trance to minimal house. As the tendrils of Seven Lions’ “Tyven” emanated from the tower of speakers, an eerily cosmic atmosphere was established. Awe soon turned to adrenaline as the racketing drop consumed the crowd, alternating between pulsating four-on-the-floor electro house and broken beat dubstep breaks.
Seven Lions – Tyven
A few songs passed, although it wasn’t long before the melodic beat of “The Truth” was introduced, as Seven Lions effortlessly transitioned into the lush second build up of his glorious Days to Come EP house production. The chiming melody and profound bass of “The Truth” led swiftly into the hammering beat of “Fractals,” a roaring trance-dubstep fusion off Days to Come. While the first drop’s ferocious trance ignited the crowed, a breakdown of 32 bars of delicate silence paved the way to the track’s pulsating dubstep second drop.
In regards to his multi-genre productions such as “Tyven” and “Fractals,” Jeff relayed his thought process in the studio:
“Usually I start with the melody and figure it out from there. The thing is, for all the tracks that I make, I’ll make the song and think ‘this sounds cool as electro house, I’ll add a little dubstep beat here and see how it sounds,’ and then it suddenly becomes this ADD fusion of electro, trance, and dubstep.”
The trance-dubstep bridge of “Fractals” initiated a slew of dubstep songs to follow. As an 8-bit melody burst through the speakers, I soon recognized Xilent’s latest videogame-inspired original, “Boss Wave.” Capitalizing on the energy of the hefty “Boss Wave,” Seven Lions increased the tempo for a brief stint of drumstep before slowing things down once again with the track that started everything for Montalvo, his endearing remix of Above & Beyond’s “You Got To Go.” Like many of the older Polarized EP selections in his set, Montalvo noted a special observation when dropping his remix of “You Got To Go:”
“I can tell the people who’ve been listening for at least a year, because they’re the ones going crazy.”
Above & Beyond – You Got to Go (Seven Lions Remix)
Nero’s “Won’t You Be There” inspired its usual apocalyptic savagery, while Kill The Noise’s remix of Tiesto and Steve Aoki’s “Tornado” bolstered the sense of havoc. Florence Welch’s sweet vocals wrapped in a celestial resonance led the way to a blissful dubstep drop as Seven Lions’ remix of “Cosmic Love” inspired instant infatuation. At this point, we were only 30 minutes in and Seven Lions had already blown my mind twice over.
Florence & the Machine – Cosmic Love (Seven Lions Remix)
Montalvo truly dabbled in numerous genres as he cleanly mixed down to Dillon Francis’s “IDGAFOS” for a single moombahton drop, before picking the tempo right back up W&W’s “Lift Off.” The barking drop of “Lift Off” transitioned seamlessly into Seven Lions’ potentially biggest single, “Days to Come.” The vocal seduction continued with Seven Lions’ transcendent remix of Tritonal’s “Still With Me” before the brooding ambience of Nero’s cosmically cinematic “Etude” pervaded the venue.
Following “Etude,” Montalvo surprised everyone by dropping a minimal techno track. When asked about his inspirations as an artist, Jeff related how his favorite DJ is none other than Claude VonStroke — the techno offering undoubtedly an ode to the Dirtybird luminary. Switching tracks and genres with a breakneck pace, I couldn’t resist asking Jeff to explain his quick mixing methodology.
“It’s a necessity. Crowds have short attention spans. It makes me more creative. I like that. It pushes you harder as a DJ. To make a cohesive set with a great load of music, that’s a challenge: to make it flow together and have people dance to it while mixing a bunch of different genres together in a short amount of time.”
Seven Lions wrapped up his set with some colossal tracks. I had the pleasure of headbanging on stage with Jeff to Noisia’s heavy remix of the Prodigy’s “Smack My Bitch Up,” while RL Grime’s remix of “Satisfaction” brought the roof down. Montalvo showcased some more love for Xilent, dropping the older but glistening “Choose Me,” and relating afterwards his respect for Xilent’s productions. Montalvo finished with “Below Us” off of Polarized EP as well as his remix of Paul van Dyk’s “I Don’t Deserve You,” a fitting end to the set with its incorporation of both trance and dubstep.
Paul van Dyk – I Don’t Deserve You (Seven Lions Remix)
Throughout the 75-minute sequence of gyrating, imaginative bass music, it was evident that there was something more to Seven Lions’ set: a methodical approach catering to both a collective and an individual experience. When I asked about his philosophy as a DJ, Montalvo had no shortage of words:
“When I used to go to parties, it wasn’t really about the DJ. It was more about the music and getting into it, in your own head space. When I think about parties that I really like, I don’t care about the DJ, I want to be in my own little world jamming. Nowadays the parties you go to, it’s all the DJ, it’s all about the drop. It’s not so much internal as watching a show. I try to balance that line a bit. I’ll play songs I know that are like ‘hey, make it drop,’ then I’ll play songs from times back in the day that people haven’t heard before that are more heady, trying to get people into their own jam. I want people to get into their own world.”
You’d be hard pressed to find someone at the show whose imagination was not enthralled by Seven Lions. Montalvo’s set was a portal to a space both enchanting and invigorating. Soft vocals backed by ethereal synths enraptured the audience before Seven Lions’ monstrous drops awoke the crowd from its stupor in a fit of rabid excitement. It was truly an engaging experience.
Don’t skip out on a chance to catch a set from Seven Lions, and be on the lookout for some new originals and collaborations from Montalvo debuting in Miami next week.
Photo Credit: Mishka Film