No one can deny the rise in popularity that electronic music has seen over the years. Emerging from its underground roots to quickly becoming a forefront in countless festivals, audiences all over the world have had an insatiable need for electronic music of all genres. One man helping to satisfy those needs is Denver’s Brennen Bryarly aka Option4. This producer has been insanely busy over the past year, producing original tracks as well as numerous remixes for artists such as Two Door Cinema Club, Galactik Knights and Kendrick Lamar. If that weren’t enough, he is also the founder of the promotion company TheHundred, that have brought acts to Colorado such as Destructo, Brenmar, Alan Braxe, Juan Maclean and many more.
This past week Option4 released his latest single, “Street Love“, a house track that is insanely catchy and lives up to its name with its mixture of playful and hip hop-infused tones. While its bouncy bass lines and deep house sound will surely make you dance, it is the clever use of the R&B sample from the track “Get It Shawty” by Lloyd that makes it a standout. This is the most recent release on Option4’s newly co-founded label Night Supply, and its an amazing sign of things to come.
We were able to catch up with Brennen, where we talked to him about his production techniques, Myspace, and what it was like to have once worked one of the world’s most dangerous careers.
The Dankles: Hey Brennen, thanks for taking some time to talk to us at The Dankles! Let’s start out with some basic introductions, how would you describe the sound of Option4?
Option4: That’s tough. I’ve actually thought about this a lot, and right now I’m at the point in my career where I literally just play music that I like. It can be cross-genre, it can be whatever, as long as I think its a good song and I think its something the crowd will respond to then I’ll play it. That’s all that I’m thinking about and it’s all that I’m playing right now – it’s all about the crowd at the moment. I’ll play 20 year old songs, I’ll play songs that aren’t out yet, I just play whatever I think is appropriate so there’s no real “sound” that I have per se. If I had to classify it into a genre, it would probably be house – definitely on the deeper side and more soulful side of things. If it’s got soul, I’m down for it.
TD: When you are producing tracks, is it the same sort of process for you? Is there a certain sound you typically like to lean towards, or are you more inspired by what’s now and what’s current?
O4: Production wise, it just depends on the song. Like a remix for example, it’s gotta be something that I like. I turn down a lot of stuff; when I hear it if I don’t think I can vibe with it, then I pass on it. It’s just too much work to try and figure out if I can do something cool with it if I can’t connect with it right away. As far as original stuff, I write a lot of songs that will just never come out because I’m into them that day and then I come back to it the next day and all of a sudden it’s terrible. So when an original track comes out, then it’s something that stands the tests of time for me and I actually like it enough to put it out and let people hear it.
[Laughs] I am probably the worst producer there is in the entire world because I just never stop fidgeting with a track and I never think it’s good enough. And you know, a lot of people I’ve talked to that I think are genius producers kind of feel the same way; they understand that at a certain point sometimes you just sit down and say, “okay yeah, it’s good enough”, and they put it out. When you’re in the creative process, there’s a ridiculous amount of things that you do to a song. And it’s just sometimes you can produce a song, and all of a sudden you’ve overproduced it and now you’ve got something that doesn’t sound the way you want it. There’s a fine balance, I can be working on a track for awhile and the second I feel like it’s not appropriate for something I would ever play out, then I’m out of it.
TD: How old were you when you started producing and when was your first DJ set?
O4: My first EP I wrote when I was sixteen on a Roland XP 80 and I recorded it on a mini disc and I wish I could find that mini disc because it was like a five track EP and it was probably the most obnoxiously bad thing anybody in the whole world has ever heard. My friends and I used to play it on a mini disc player with a tape adapter into a cassette player, it was horrible. God awful. But it really taught me a lot of things and I didn’t really get serious about producing until about two years ago, and that was when I started really getting into production quality. Even now, I still don’t think I’m quite there yet; I still think there’s a lot of stuff that I put out and I might love it at the time, but then I’ll hear it later and I won’t neccessarily think it’s where it needs to be at. So I would say officially started at sixteen, but I took a long hiatus. My first set I ever DJed at, I was twenty five and it was an hour and a half set of all original music. It was all of my own music, and I burned all of it onto a CD and I sold the CD that night at the show.
TD: I heard a pretty interesting story about you recently, that one of your previous jobs was working on cell-phone towers. What was that like, and what drew you away from that to focus on DJing and producing?
O4: I guess technically I am the classic story of a mid-life crisis. My family got hard up on money and I worked for years supporting my family and taking care of my siblings. I bought a house, every dollar went to my family for years, and that job was the only thing I could think of that made a lot of money so I did that for about eight years. During that time, I had a portable studio where I was producing and making music so I would write and record songs while I was in my hotel room when I was in different cities. [Laughs] I even rapped on a lot of those songs, which nobody knows. Nobody can know that.
I wrote a lot of tracks, like one of my most circulated tracks which most people don’t know about because it’s not credited to me was used in a Girl Talk mix maybe back in 2007. This was back in the Myspace days, back when Myspace actually meant something. I wrote this deep house track and I had my baby sister singing the vocals. It was a remake of “Zombie” by The Cranberrys and Girl Talk messaged me on Myspace and was like, “yo man I love that song. Can I put it in a mixtape?” and I was like, “I don’t know who you are, but sure, I’ll email it to you.” and then like, three months later Diplo did the same thing. So that was my first taste at getting exposure for something that I had made. But I was literally living out of suitcases and travelling across the country trying to support my family, so I didn’t get to quit that job until I was about 27 or 28.
TD: You live in Denver, where you throw and promote parties as TheHundred. What made you decide to start that and how has the reception to it been so far?
O4: I moved to Denver specifically because I got this residency out of nowhere, and it was this awesome residency at Lipgloss. It was for an amazing indie dance party that’s gone on for years, it’s celebrating its 12 year anniversary and it was a really, really solid residency and a great opportunity. But when I moved to Denver, I realized that there weren’t any proper house nights at all, nothing regular at clubs at least – not to take away from any house parties or anything like that that was going on. There was nobody doing it regularly that I knew of, so I developed a system called TheHundred to throw proper house parties and proper underground shows and it just took off. I’m super happy with what we’ve been able to do, we’ve been buying about five or six national shows a month out of just my checking account and I live off of the ticket sales, so if the show flops, then I’m eating ramen. If the show does well, then I save it and put it towards the next show.
We’ve got an amazing community that is very supportive and of top of that electronic music is getting more popular which has been helping us. Right now I’m at the point where I’m trying not to promote as much because I don’t want the wrong people to come through and ruin the vibe. If they don’t know who the headliner is, I don’t want them at the door. It’s as simple as that. I love people who are educated and who support the scene for the right reasons because it’s so important.
TD: So far in your career, have there been any moments that you consider to be a milestone?
O4: Honestly yes, when I quit my day job. My goal was to support myself strictly on music, and I’ve been able to do that now for over a year. All of the parties, all the memories have been great, and the touring has been awesome. Putting out records on major labels has been amazing, like one of my favorite labels is Nurvous and I’ve got my big single coming out on Nurvous, which is crazy. I don’t know if he’ll see this, but when Andrew from Nurvous told me he was signing my single, I was ecstatic. I wanted to throw a party and then I realized, “I can’t just throw a party because I throw parties for a living! It won’t mean anything!”. So me and a couple homies went out and we celebrated.
I’ve had every awesome act play that I’ve ever wanted right now. I’m literally at the point in my life where I’m just booking acts that I love and just promoting the hell out of it. Whether it makes money or it loses money, I get my dream lineup every week. I just bring whatever act I think is relevant or people who haven’t played here that I think should be here and I try and sell as many tickets as I can. So for me, the biggest milestone was being able to look at my life and say, “man I was in a very corporate lifestyle and now I can support myself just by music”. That’s really it. The touring and the records are amazing, but I think just honestly being able to say and feel that I contribute something positive in my local scene is it for me.