André! How are you, and what have you been up to recently?
Hi! I’ve been great and in a super productive phase of my year right now. I just got back from a mini tour in Europe where I attended Dekmantel in Amsterdam, and then spent some time in Berlin, Amsterdam, and London (with gigs in the latter two cities). I start graduate school at NYU this week so gearing up for that and the inevitable loss of free time for production, so trying to squeeze as much as possible in before that happens!
Earlier this year in March, you released your ‘Push The Body EP.
It’s on repeat in the office at the minute! Could you tell us a bit about the creative process behind this EP? What were the influences behind it?
Ah thanks, that's great to hear. JP (Verraco) from TraTraTrax hit me up for a remix for Nick Leon last summer, and we started conceptualizing a solo EP shortly after that came out. I sent him a pretty big playlist of tracks and he immediately locked down the title track Push The Body, which I thought was kind of odd actually as it was in a pretty early state and purely a dubstep track at that point and didn't really sound like the label's other releases. The main vocal is a morphed version of a baile funk acapella so I think that for the label, it fits with the whole Latin-inspired club music vibe even if the influence isn't immediately apparent.
I finished up that tune and added a beat switch halfway through that goes into double time / 4x4, which felt kind of risky but it ended up working out nicely as I think it allows more DJs with differing styles of play the tune, like a choose-your-own-adventure if you will. To round out the EP, he chose two others from that playlist: "Rolla Dex" which is a samba-percussion influenced 130 bit, and "Reso Danz" a 90bpm dembow big room cut. Overall, I wanted to inject a bit of my Brazilian background, especially with the percussion/rhythms. Got three remixes from my pals Aquarian, Hodge, and Sam Binga as well and each of them brought their own twist to the tracks and I was really pleased with the package overall.
Do you test your WIP’s out when you DJ, to see if they get a reaction / sound good?
Definitely, it's a super important part of my process. I have a record coming out in November on Nerve Collect and have been playing the tracks out at every gig since April or so, always listening for adjustments that can be made in the mixdown since tunes sound very different in my home studio compared to on a big sound system. Of course, I'm looking out for a crowd reaction too but that's a bit secondary - at the end of the day, I make music because I like it. Like, if it's not a huge Banger™ that everyone universally goes crazy for, that's alright because maybe a handful of people in the crowd will really really love it, and that's more rewarding for me than a lot of people thinking "Yeah this is pretty decent but unmemorable."
It's definitely a humbling experience when I export something the day of the show and the mixdown REALLY doesn't translate live, but at the same time, it's a blessing because it's a quick way of ascertaining what elements need to be louder or quieter in the mix. I used to never play my own tunes live out of fear that people were going to hear the stark difference in production quality between my WIPs and fully fleshed-out mastered tracks, but over time I just got confident enough with the mixes that it felt like regular people generally wouldn't notice too much.
Do you find that DJing influences your writing process? Do you think about the dancefloor/crowd reactions when writing?
100%. There was a time early on when I didn't pay attention to what is now a crucial part of my songwriting process: structuring. I like to make tracks that people will play with ease and the more I DJ, the more I realize that things like sparser intros and not overcrowding the mix with too many elements are really important to that. Like many artists, I do consider what the audience's reaction is going to be when I'm making a track, but the audience I'm really concerned about is myself. I feel like so many artists always say "Oh I hate this track I made" which is odd to me because why would you make music you personally dislike? Now, I'm not immune to this at all, there are definitely a handful of tunes in my discography that I don't really enjoy anymore, however that's because at the time I was making them, I was doing it specifically for a crowd reaction and explicitly attempting to make a Huge Banger™ even if it wasn't something I was personally into. If I can make a track and listen to it over and over without getting tired of it and it makes my body move, it's likely that other people will vibe to it too.
Can you tell us a bit about your Brazilian heritage and cultural background? How has it influenced your life and artistic journey?
My parents came here from a city called Recife in the 80's to get their PhD's in California. They moved to New Jersey for work and I was born there, but raised feeling culturally very Brazilian for the first few years of my life. I was taught Portuguese first and only learned English when I was forced to as an incoming Kindergarten student there. I'd go back to Brazil to stay with grandparents and aunts/uncles for the entire summer between school semesters, so effectively I spent 25-30% of my childhood there. Nowadays, my family goes every year for Christmas/New Year's and it's really nice to do that - Christmas in the summer is an interesting change from the classic winter wonderland experience we usually have! This year I'm hoping to go for a bit longer and spend more time there, I always come back so inspired after my trips.
Growing up, my parents pretty much exclusively listened to the same 15-20 most famous Bossa Nova songs, so I feel like a lot of those melodies are burned into my brain forever. But it was more the percussion of a lot of Brazilian tracks that spoke to me and directly influenced my music - the call and response style and rhythmic simplicity from many elements working together in Samba / Carnival music (as shown here) is something I like doing quite a bit in my music.
A couple of years ago I realized that it's a big gift to come from two different cultures and I wanted to make it a point to incorporate the Brazilian influence wherever I can. A lot of music that's coming out soon has this and I'm really excited to share with the world.
What are your favourite plugins/ what do they do?
To be honest I use very few external plugins other than the Ableton stock ones. The big one for me that's been super present in almost all of my tracks is Massive. I find it super easy to use and am really drawn to this one specific resonant bass sound that you can find in a lot of my tunes (Pitch Black, Vortex, Control, Clarity, and many others). I guess you could make the same one in Operator or Serum or whatever, but Massive is just something I got into pretty early on in my music production journey and I stuck with it.
Generally speaking, I like to use fewer tools and master them rather than being lightly familiar with a lot of different things. I've been able to accomplish everything I've wanted to do sonically with the plugins I'm already familiar with so I don't want to waste creative time learning new synths that I may never use (which is a bit silly because it goes against my philosophy of being sort of adept at making a bunch of different styles of music, haha).
In terms of Ableton plugins though, I really love the Spectral Resonator and Vocoder. In my tune Snake Eyes, I used the vocoder to "mechanize" the sound of the baile funk beatbox pattern so that it sounds a bit more like a robot talking than a beatboxer. The Spectral Resonator does a similar effect without the need for an external sound source, and I do love how you can tune it to a specific key to keep it in line with the rest of the elements within a track.
"Learning that sometimes less is more was a big one for me"
What advice would you give to a young electronic music producer?
1) In general - Experiment a lot and don't be worried if the first few things you make are not well received. If you are passionate about your songs and can listen to them over and over without getting sick of them, chances are someone else out there in the world will think the same.
2) If you're aiming to have your music played in DJ sets - learn some conventions about structuring your tracks (don't go off making 7 bar intros before it dives immediately into a super complex drop). Learning that sometimes less is more is a big one too, and get into the habit of putting an EQ on the master channel and occasionally checking to see what the track sounds like if you took out the entire low EQ as if you were doing so on a DJ mixer. Export your files and play them next to other tunes and see how they blend, you might find that some elements aren't totally necessary and just clog up the mix and make any blend too chaotic. Then again, that could be a thing you lean into in your own DJ style, so take this with a grain of salt as it's just my personal preference!
3) Wait until you feel pretty confident with your tunes before sending them out to DJs, a good first impression means a lot. Personally, I'd avoid sending out tunes too frequently, and sending a nice personalized message to a few DJs you think would play the tunes goes a long way. Make sure you're making it as easy as possible for DJs to download your music: this means using private SoundCloud streaming links in conjunction with Dropbox links for downloads (don't use WeTransfer or any services that have an expiration date to the downloads, lots of DJs only check their promos once every few weeks). Lastly, and this is a big one, *put your artist name in the filename if sending a WAV!!* - I can't tell how many times people forget to do this and then I'm stuck with something like "Untitled v4 mix7.wav" with no way of knowing who made the tune haha.
Do you use sample packs in your own music? What role do they play if so?
I use sample packs extensively, yes. For me, getting ideas down as quickly as humanly possible is crucial for my workflow because I have ADHD and if I don't finish the bulk of a track in a single sitting, I will never come back and finish it. So a lot of times when starting a tune I'll go through a pack and look for an interesting synth or percussion loop and start manipulating it in some way until an idea that's more "my own" comes about through experimentation. Pretty much all my drums are from sample packs but I like mixing and matching these so they're not too homogenous. For example, in a recent tune, I had 5 or 6 different layers of kick drums all hitting at different parts of the bar to create a broken beat / polyrhythmic groove, and each of the layers was a kick sample from a different sample pack created by producers I like - Randomer, Clouds, J: Kenzo, Om Unit, Special Request, etc. All the kicks had some processing of course and so by the end, it felt more distinctly "mine" than if I had just pulled out a loop from any one of the packs.
I think sample packs can be an extremely good jumping-off tool, but I caution against using too many of these just straight out the gate with no editing or chopping, otherwise, you run the risk of having tunes that sound identical to others that are out there. It's definitely been a little embarrassing when I've used a loop from a pack and not really edited it and then heard the same one in another tune I like...oops!
Is there anything else you would like to tell us about?
I have a few gigs coming up in North America throughout Sept/Oct/Nov and a record on Nerve Collect coming very soon - for any updates, you can keep in touch via my Instagram.