GTA prime ‘Death to Genres’ album, talk balancing arena gigs and musical diversification
Death to Genres. It beckons images of angry tastemakers, basement bloggers and sadly, the general mood for diversification currently facing electronic dances music. In turn, for Miami breakouts GTA to adopt such a bureaucratic stance has been a brave move from day one. Of all the North American breakouts that could have, however, they may just have a leg to stand on.
From their back-and-forth of signature chimes and heavyset big room tendencies to the wrath of multiple Fly Eye triumphs, Matt Toth and Julio Mejia cannot be accused of taking any easy options. It’s a highly tuned but immediately accessible sound, one that has transferred seamlessly from the Miami club circuit to arenas across Europe. Whilst the industry continues to cautiously call-out signs of tedious trends, there own movements have proven poles apart, making supporting Rhianna and dominating the Beatport charts one of those bragging assets that shouldn’t in theory be attributable to just one artistic outfit, but consistently are.
Highly evolved and heavily balanced towards mutual market domination, plans for a ‘Death To Genres’ album now set the stakes to an all-time-high in 2014. Dancing Astronaut hopped on the line with GTA to scope their manifesto for musical delinquency and just what it takes to hold dance music’s corner on the arena circuit.
What has been the general mood between you both at the outset of 2014.
Matt Toth: It’s just been non-stop work. The plan was to work on a bunch of new material for this year. That process started three months ago and it’s just been non-stop in the studio so far.
2013 saw you both inaugurated into the world of arena tourage courtesy of support duties for Rhianna across Europe. What was the general afterthought of this huge career first and did you find that the market was generally receptive to what you guys were putting on the table?
Julio Mejia: The afterthought was just “wow.” Felt unbelievably lucky to be able to take all these opportunities, especially with our career being so relatively short. Things just exploded in 2013. Even though all this is going on you have to stay grounded. You can’t just stop working when the good things start happening. It’s been a lesson in pushing forward through both good and bad times whilst keeping a general direction. That tour was really about working out how we got there, the best way to push things forward and how we could do so without compromising the core of what we stand for.
MT: We are always trying to fit our sound into different markets and its been getting a lot of good feedback from the arena crowds, so to that extent the tour was a weird but wonderful dream. We really just tried to experiment with the clubby stuff and for Rhianna’s crowds it really seemed to work to our favor. It felt like the bigger crowds were ready to give this world a try finally. We’ve had our fair share of testing the waters on a larger platform; this was all about finding a balance worth maintaining.
Experimentation has been a huge part of your development. Do you think that the general landscape for live dance music is looking a little too comfortable right now?
MT: I guess it depends where in the market you are looking. For the likes of Diplo or Major Lazer they’re really doing this all-over-the-place thing that people have really admired, but at the same time there have been a lot of guys that are playing safe.
JM: There are definitely some artists actually taking risks right now though. We try to every time, but in a smart way. Things are changing to the point where you can attend a DJ set and hear all the hits you expect to hear. At the same time, it is really cool to see people trying to make their sets a little more interesting; I think people have realized that a certain formula was just getting a little too boring for the growing crowds. It can throw people off and some people are bound to not like that, but that’s the way we think music should be. People seem to be realizing that the kind of tone that we’ve taken from day one can actually work with a little thought behind it.
Do you think the same can be said of the digital market right now?
MT: I kind of agree, because from what we’ve seen you don’t want to get too weird and exclude yourself from the everyday dance music listener. It’s just a case of trying to find a happy medium. Something different mixed with something that works. We can get weird on a vocal track and still bring it around to be coherent to any given crowd and that is pretty liberating. If anything, artists have more freedom now than ever before, it is just a little too easy to get sidetracked and hit a comfortable medium I guess.
As WMC approaches you boys will be making something of a homecoming to your native Miami. Aside from being the hub of industry activity in late March annualy, what did you guys take from cutting your teeth amid its cultural melting pot?
JM: Miami’s been essential to GTA in the sense that this is the city that held so many of our influences from day one. Like you say, it’s just one big melting pot for music and you really see that in the variety of local DJs the city still has. There’s that Latin feel of course, which has been a huge part of what we have done to date, so it’s been a really big help to us. It has its fair share of themed nights but there are also a good handful of people thinking outside the box. We still have promoters genuinely trying to help the next wave of talent. The bigger clubs don’t do their bit for newer talents. When we first tried our hand at it the bigger clubs were less than receptive, so that was tough. We just ended up saying ‘Fuck It’ and let the music be the key to our bookings.
There were a lot of assorted landmarks to your names throughout 2013. Where do the priorities sit for 2014 and are rumors of a potential album from you guys to be believed?
MT: We are trying to work on this idea of a Death to Genres album where the mix becomes an album in it sown way. Right now the “Death To Genres” mixes preview a lot of our new material. We’re trying to still stick with the hype we aim for with our sets, but at the same time try something a little different with it. We would love to have something to show for WMC.
The year ahead looks to be replacing the arenas with a lot of high profile festival stints. Talk us through what the road to summer is looking like at Camp GTA.
JM: We already started with Holy Ship, which was unbelievable. On the horizon the likes of Ultra, Coachella and Suburbia are looking incredible. The main thing we are shooting for this year is to be a festival act and accordingly there will be a lot more announcements to come.
Given the diverse spread of clubs and festivals, is there a method to how each market is approached or is it as all-inclusive as the ‘Death To Genres’ mantra has proven?
MT: It’s exciting because the ‘festival GTA’ brings out kind of a whole different side to us, but we bring the clubbier GTA into our festival presence. The club shows can get a little weirder, but for us a festival is about playing to the crowd we are given. I wouldn’t call it compromise, but more appealing to that wider picture in what a modern DJ/producer is there to do. The crowds get bigger and so naturally so does the scope, but it goes back to that whole not wanting to alienate anyone. There is definitely a ‘festival mode’ though and we plan to hammer it home for 2014.
You’ve shoved a lot of success into a short space of time, but have any particular professional hurdles stood out to you both?
JM: The biggest challenge was getting used to touring. Getting production done and finding the time to work on the road was a hassle, not to mention jetlag. We both enjoy the comforts of a good studio but have also learned to work and start or finish ideas on the road. We’re still learning that balance but I’m glad to say we haven’t become one of those unproductive party duos on the road.