[Q&A] Meet the artists bringing the house down at Mamby: Walker & Royce
Since 2015, Mamby On The Beach has been allowing Chicago’s festival-goers to relish a diverse roster of acts right from the lakefront, the awe-inspiring Chicago skyline as its backdrop. Perched quite literally atop the sands of Oakwood Beach, Mamby is known for its eclectic lineup, which this year features everything from Chicago rapper, Common, to the indie accents of Cold War Kids, along with ample electronic titans like Gorgon City, Duke Dumont, and Jai Wolf. Dancing Astronaut sought to get a closer look at a few of the festival’s cant-miss house acts before Mamby hits the beach June 23-24.
Sam Walker and Gavin Royce of Walker & Royce know that two house heads are better than one. The pair weaved through several of dance music’s most sought after labels, including Crosstown Rebels and Green Velvet‘s Relief Records, before finding an imprint they felt at-home enough to release Self Help, their first studio album, under: the equally eccentric Dirtybird Records. Even before the album’s release, its zany lead single “Take Me To Your Leader,” featuring Dances With White Girls, swept across festival grounds in 2017 like a quirky, four-on-the-floor Hallelujah chorus.
Walker & Royce put the fun back in dance music, with their animated sampling and groove-heavy club hooks. Though lighthearted, the duo’s music is anything but elementary, propelled by a meticulous, image-oriented sound design. Most recently, the two teamed up with another house habitué and dance music effigy, Chris Lake, for their percolating, two-track EP, Close Your Eyes.
The guys sat down with DA to speak a bit about working with Lake, their group dynamic, and what they’re looking forward to most about Mamby before they hit the Mixmag Tent Sunday, June 24.
Tickets to Mamby On The Beach, as well as the full lineup, can be found here
How are you guys feeling about coming back to Chicago? You guys played at Spybar last year, right?
Sam: Yeah, literally one of the best gigs we ever had.
Gavin: We always love coming to Chicago to begin with. It’s one of my favorite cities in the world. It’s exciting to come back to Chicago in more of a festival setting, and then we still get to come back to Spybar afterwards.
How does working with the Dirtybird team compare to working at the other big dance music hotbeds you’ve worked with in the past?
G: With Dirtybird, and it’s nothing against the other ones, but I feel like we fit in more. It feels more at home for us, and more like a family. I’m sure other people have the same feeling about other labels. But with us it felt like the right place. They made us feel comfortable and not self conscious about what we wanted to do with the music. Even before we started doing the album, we were feeling that way. And then when that came up, we felt like it was really the right home for us to make the album we wanted to make.
You think your music fits in pretty well there?
G: I don’t think that we were typical Dirtybird. It fits in there, but is also kind of pushing the Dirtybird sound forward maybe, too. We kinda have our own unique sound. We don’t take ourselves insanely seriously with our music. We want it to be fun.
S: Sometimes we’ll start thinking about something when we’re writing music. We’ll think of like animated robots, but quirky, crazy, cartoony. And you almost have that sort of mental picture when you’re putting a track together—sonically fitting that image to couple it with.
What release would you guys say you’re most proud of thus far and why?
G: I can’t not say the full album. It was such an endeavor. We had this vision, and there was a time when we didn’t think it was going to come together the way we wanted it to. But it ended up coming together that way. When we’re doing EPs you definitely have a vision of what you want to be presented, but with this we paid so much attention to every aspect of it.
S: One of the cool things that happens with an album is when you’re not trying to write certain tracks, they happen naturally. I feel like some of our best dance music tracks came out of not trying to write them. The album gave us the ability to do that because we weren’t pressured into writing it.
What was it like working with another legend like Chris Lake on your last EP, and what spawned that idea?
G: Chris reached out to us a while ago and told us he had been a fan for a while. We had been familiar with Chris for many years and he recently kind of switched up his sound a little bit. He’s always made incredible music. I felt like our music started to really align together in the last year. So we got in the studio. The EP is better than I even thought it could be.
S: Also we were both working with Dances With White Girls. That was another connection. Chris’s sound started to move in a direction. Our sound started to move in a direction. It just sorta made sense. I’m really happy with what we came up with. And the weird thing about “Dance With Me” is we thought it was cool, but we didn’t think it would be this popular.
G: Both tracks are doing really well. “Drop Top” was kinda done last, and we didn’t think anything of that one either. But now we’re getting a really huge reaction.
How would you describe the dynamic of your musical partnership? Are there different things each of you brings to the table?
S: If we’re working on something, a lot of times, I’m probably overcomplicating it. I might just have some little sketch that I’m not sure about and Gavin will be like ‘Dude, that’s a track right there. We should finish that.’ Three months later, when it’s done, then I can’t believe I was second guessing it. At this point, we can get away with putting out something that’s a bit weird. And if it doesn’t go over, it’s back to the drawing board. We’ll do something else.
G: Our history is very much that Sam was always a producer and I was always a DJ. I started producing because I DJed so much. Sam and I had been friends for years. We started to help each other out on a few tracks. That’s how it kinda fell into place. Even now Sam is more in the studio kind of guy. And I swoop in and I help simplify things or help arrange things. It’s very yin and yang.
Any new music in the pipeline/will we be hearing any of it at Mamby?
G: We have a few unreleased remixes that we’re going to be playing at Mamby. We’ve been working on a few things. Another track with Sophiegrophy is in the works, who was on our album before.
Who are your three must-see acts this year at Mamby?
G: Richie Hawtin, who is an absolute legend.
S: Gorgon City. They’re playing a live set. I would also like to see Common, who is just something totally different from what we do. This is a cool festival for us to do. A lot of other festivals are electronic only. Mamby is a lot more wide open.