The dynamic of working together is all too often a complicated and complex balancing act. The ability to find a partner who meets and fits the needs of your own, and in return allows you to do the same for them, is something that is a rare occurrence. However, when that perfect combination is found and that balance is met, that is truly when magic beings to happen. This is the case for Michael David and Tyler Blake, two Los Angeles natives who were able to take their long standing childhood friendship and love of music and turn it into the famed disco funk duo Classixx.
The duo first came onto our radars back in 2009 when their summer anthem and first single, “I’ll Get You” was released on Parisian label Kitsune. Since then, Classixx’s signature blend of house, funk, and indie dance has become a staple on dance floors around the world. With countless remixes for artists such as Phoenix, Holy Ghost!, and YACHT under their belts, 2013 brought about a new direction for the producers. Choosing to focus their talents on a full length album, the two were able to release the critically loved Hanging Gardens, and in turn celebrated its release with a bevy of live performances, including opening for Grammy winner Zedd.
Coming fresh off the announcement of their upcoming live tour, we sat down with Classixx to not only talk about their past, but their bright future.
The Dankles: Hey guys, thanks for sitting down with us here at The Dankles! You guys have been working together for awhile now, and you guys have known each other for even longer. You were childhood friends growing up, how do you think that relationship impacts how you guys work together?
Michael David: I would say that from my experience, I personally have a lot of trouble just working with random other people. Tyler and I have a very comfortable working relationship, so I think it’s based almost entirely on the fact that we’ve known each other for that long.
Tyler Blake: Yeah there’s back and forth stuff that you don’t really have to say. There are a lot of looks that we can just kind of give each other, a whole explanation can be said in a look.
M: There’s a mutual respect that’s been built over so many years, and there’s a sense of fearlessness that’s important when we’re trying to create something.
T: We can tell each other when something is no good or we can end up getting each other excited about something. We know what the other likes.
TD: Throughout the years that you guys have worked together, you have done countless remixes for a variety of different artists, are there any that kind of stick out in your mind as a favorite or one of importance?
T: It’s not necessarily a favorite, but one of the first things we always say would be the Phoenix remix we did for their single, “Lizstomania”. You know, it was kind of their big break out and we had been fans of Phoenix since we were in high school, since like forever and we were super excited to do it. We were really passionate about it and kind of just did whatever we wanted with it. At the time, a lot of the dance music we were going to clubs and seeing was really kind of abrasive and heavy – you know, like Justice and MSTRKRFT – so when we did it we were kind of like, “shit, is anybody going to like this? ‘Cause this doesn’t sound anything like that.” We just did it anyways because we liked it, and it seemed like having that approach instead of being worried about what was going on everywhere else and just doing the best that we could do was the best way for us, and people liked it.
M: It’s been the most well received thing we’ve done. It was an affirmation that we don’t have to try to ape whatever is happening at the time.
TD: In the same vein as the last question, do you guys have a process when you’re creating something? Is there a particular thing that kind of stands out when you’re finding a track to remix?
T: I think when we’re doing remixes Mike usually starts it by coming up with some chords or stuff like that. Once there’s a little bit of a skeleton to it, then we can take it where it needs to go.
M: I think usually there’s something like a vocal element that we both can sort of agree on.
T: Yeah, we’ll find parts that we really like and can bring those elements out.
M: Now though remixes tend to kind of feel like a chore, we only really do them for our friends now.
T: Even when we’re doing them for our friends, there’s even more pressure.
M: We’ll still probably do remixes forever, but if you’re going to put in all of that toil and spend all that time on a remix, at a certain point it becomes better to just work on your own original stuff. That’s kind of how we feel at this point.
TD: You guys produced a track for Mayer Hawthorne, how did that process differ from working on an original track as Classixx?
M: It’s not unlike making an original track. There was a bed of music, Mayer did a vocal, sent it back, then it was realized and became a finished thing. It was sort of how we approach a remix except with a remix we have sort of a criteria. You have a key and a sort of tone you have to work to. That’s really the only difference. This was a little more open ended.
T: When that happened it was pretty much the same way we approached working on our record. It got to a certain point where both of us were like, “this should just be a Mayer Hawthorne song”.
TD: Would you say that you enjoyed the process of producing for someone else? Is that something you’d like to do again in the future?
M: It was cool because its like, Mayer is a pro and he knows what he’s doing, he lets us do our thing so its a collaborative effort. The thing that gets awkward is when you’re in a room with an artist and there’s a blank slate and you’re unfamiliar with each other and you’re just sort of riffing. It almost sort of feels like slam poetry.
T: There’s times that it clicks and you’re just like, this is perfect. There’s this girl Sarah [Chernoff], she’s in a really great band called the Superhumanoids, who is on the same record label as us and for some reason, she just came in and we just work really great with her. She’s super comfortable with us, I think she performs well with us.
M: It just really depends.
T: It can happen and when it does happen it feels magical.
TD: This past year you guys recorded an LP, Hanging Gardens, which a lot of electronic artists tend not to do. Often times electronic producers tend to stick with just singles or remix packs, or even an EP. When you guys started working together as Classixx, is that something you guys set out to do? Was it a goal you guys had from the beginning or did it come about further down the road?
M: Yeah we always wanted to do a record.
T: We got into DJing a lot and playing dance music a lot and seeing that not many people were putting out records got us thinking, “oh wait, why? What’s the point?” But then at a certain point we got to where there were certain songs you can’t play in a club on our album, and we write those kinds of songs all the time. We always will. So there’s not really any other format for it.
M: I also feel like if you’re trying to be a musical artist, I think an album is a really important device to present yourself to people and give them a broad scope of what you’re trying to do and what you’re about. That’s difficult to do with a series of singles.
T: This year I’ve read stuff online about full length [albums] coming back. We weren’t really thinking about that at the time, but it seems like people are responding to it, and I know that I do. You get more of a feel for who an artist is on a full length, there’s a bunch of different sides to them as opposed to just one thing.
TD: I’d read in another interview that you guys did a little while ago that sometimes you guys find it difficult to work on the road because you guys don’t really like working off just a laptop. When you’re producing, you like to have instruments and more stimulation that just a computer. You guys did a live show tonight [at the Aragon Ballroom], so obviously you have your gear with you. Has that inspired you more to work while traveling?
T: It should, and also those things that we’ve used playing live, they’re really good tools and when we’ve been in the studio we’ve pulled them out and used them. Being on the road its so hard, besides the fact that you have limited resources.
M: It’s perpetually exhausting.
T: You’re perpetually exhausted. The second you have some free time you just want to sleep.
M: [Laughs] Or take a shower.
T: To start writing a song on the road it’s like, “okay, I gotta go get the van out of valet, I have to go get all of the gear, I have to set up a studio in the hotel room, and that’s how we’re going to make music”.
M: We toured with Toro Y Moi, and Chaz seems to find time to work, he’s just prolific like that. It’s inspiring.
T: While we’re touring though we put ideas on our computer all the time and we bring them back home with us to work on and a lot of what was on the last record happened in that way.
TD: We’ve just started 2014, there’s a brand new year ahead. Thinking back on 2013, were there any goals that you set for yourself at the beginning that you can say you accomplished? Are there any goals you have going forward?
T: One of the main goals was to put together a live show and to perform our songs.
M: A set of solely our own original music, and it’s a daunting task.
T: It’s still a work in progress, you know, but I think that we’ve come to a point where we feel good about it.
M: There have been moments it feels legitimized.
T: On the Toro Y Moi tour, like we got really great response from that from the audiences.
M: We did a tour called Listen Out in Australia and that was really cool, it was for the biggest audiences we’ve done yet and that was all live. Those opportunities probably wouldn’t have presented themselves had we just stuck to DJing. I’m proud that we were able to put this live act together.
T: It was tough because we’re used to just DJing and going out and we’ve gotten popular parties where they book you to DJ and you go out and you know it’s going to be good.
M: With a live show it’s harder to gauge that.
T: To be able to go out and feel like we have fulfilled that goal, it feels pretty good.
Classixx North American Tour Dates
March 6 @ Majestic – Madison, WI
March 7 @ Double Door – Chicago, IL
March 9 @ The Orange Peel – Asheville, NC
March 11 @ Exit / In – Nashville, TN
March 13 @ SXSW – Austin, TX
March 17 @ Bronze Peacock – Houston, TX
March 19 @ The Parish – Austin, TX
March 20 @ Cambridge Room – Dallas, TX
March 21 @ Buku – New Orleans, LA
March 22 @ Terminal West – Atlanta, GA
March 23 @ Music Farm – Charleston, SC
March 24 @ U Street – Washington DC
March 26 @ Music Hall of Williamsburg – Brooklyn, NY
March 27 @ Sinclair – Boston, MA
March 28 @ The Hoxton – Toronto, ON
March 29 @ SAT – Montreal, QC