Wes James, better known as Le Youth, sits down with BMI to discuss details about how he’s handling quarantine and crafting his new sound. Le Youth mentions dropping new music, his label and event brand, PRGRSSN Records, and what he’s looking forward to next. BMI is excited to have him as this edition’s Spotlight Interview. Read on for more.
Thanks for taking the time to chat with us! We’ve been in quarantine for quite some time now, how have you been handling it? Any new hobbies you’ve taken up?
I think as far as writing and artistic pursuits, I’m handling quarantine really well. Being locked in the studio has its benefits. Emotionally, the quarantine has been more difficult. It’s beginning to take its toll on my mental health, I’m afraid. I’m ready to return to my previous life.
As far as new hobbies, I’ve really taken to film photography.
I think we’re all ready to get back to “normal,” whatever that means. You’ve been really busy crafting a new sound that gets away from your previous work, which was heavily influenced by 90’s R&B. What made you want to take your music in a new direction? Was it a conscious decision, or a product of experimentation?
It was both a conscious decision and a product of experimentation. I think it was one of the best decisions I’ve ever made.
I did this live Q&A recently where a fan asked “Why did you stop making the 90’s R&B stuff? That was my favorite.” I’m embarrassed to say, but I was sort of offended. My response was something like “are you still doing what you were doing six years ago? Probably not.” What I meant by that was, they’ve probably graduated, changed professions, moved across the country, started a family, etc. Over the last six years they’ve probably changed so much. Why am I expected to be doing the same thing? That’s not art.
On that same note, we imagine it can be a little nerve-racking as an established artist to release music that deviates from the sound you are known for. Any advice to other artists who may be sitting on some great music, but are hesitant to release it?
I wouldn’t say it was nerve-racking. It was actually an amazing feeling. I think the current music industry allows for people to be way more experimental than previously. Fifteen years ago, if you put out a record that deviated from the sound you were known for, people might get really turned off. Now, with the streaming and subscription model like Apple Music or Spotify, if a fan doesn’t like something I put out, they can just skip it. People are way more forgiving in that way.
If you’re scared or hesitant to release your music because of the way people will respond, I would suggest a different life path.
One of your first releases during the pandemic was a two track EP, “Gemini” and “Arizona.” We heard you’ve also been working on a new album. Can you give us a hint of when that’ll be dropping? Anything else you can share about it?
Right when the pandemic hit, I got super focused on making music. I figured it would only last for a few months and this was a great opportunity to get a lot of writing done because I obviously wasn’t going to be traveling. “Gemini” and “Arizona” were made in that first week of lockdown.
In the last six months I’ve written a lot of music. Probably 45 finished songs. I’ll never get them all out if I don’t do an album. It’s still in development, so I can’t talk about much more than that right now, but I think early 2021 it will come out.
We see you’ve also recently founded a new label, PRGRSSN Records! Congrats! Tell us what inspired you to start a label and put together the current roster?
Thanks. I started PRGRSSN as a way to get more of my music out. Simple as that. As far as signing other artists to PRGRSSN, it occurred to me that labels weren’t signing artists, they were signing audiences. If you didn’t have a fan base already, you probably were not going to get signed by a decent record label. With PRGRSSN, I’m trying to change that. I want to release music that moves me, regardless of followers or plays.
We are definitely excited for everything you have going on! Obviously, this year we’ve had a lot of shows and festivals canceled or postponed. There have been a lot of live streams and virtual concerts popping up since quarantine started and we see you’ve been participating in a few of these virtual events. What is your experience having a couple of those under your belt? Are you planning on participating in any more in the coming months?
As far as the cancelled shows and festivals, it’s been a major disappointment. It’s no secret that shows are a large part of how I make an income from my music. So, losing that has been tough. But the bigger upset is not getting to interact with the fans. I didn’t realize how important those moments were until I lost them.
I miss real clubs. I miss connecting with people. That’s why I do this. Not for some virtual festival with webcams and algorithms. There’s no feeling in that.
We can’t wait for 2020 to be over and done with. Once things return to some semblance of normalcy and as soon as we’re able to, where is the first place you’ll want to visit and the first festival you’d want to play?
As soon as I can, I‘ll go to Ohio to visit my family. I have a nephew who I’m missing. I want to spend more time with my parents too.
I sort of want to play the Anjunabeats Elevation festival, but any festival will do!
Family and loved ones are so important, we have to keep them close especially in these times. Before we part ways, are there any other artists have you been into lately?
Love Is A Drag, Grace Joyner, Salvador Sobral, and Frances Quinlan.
Detroit native Marc Kinchen, better known as MK, has had a lengthy career that stretches back to the late 80s, but don’t let that fool you. From b2b sets with DJs like DIPLO and Sonny Fodera to festivals like Tomorrowland and Creamfields with his own Area10-curated stages, he’s a house producer that continues to innovate and stay relevant, no matter the decade. In his most recent single, “Underwater,” MK has teamed up with Anabel Englund whose 2018 track, “So Hot,” peaked at No. 2 on Billboard’s Dance/ Mix Show chart, and spent eight consecutive weeks at no. 1 on U.S. Dance Radio. With Anabel’s sultry vocals and MK’s signature sound, this track makes us miss the dancefloor and staying out until 2AM.
After becoming a bit of an internet legend through a string of DIY Singles and official remixes over the years, Aseem Mangaokar — otherwise known as Hotel Garuda — has finally released this amazing debut EP for Mom + Pop Records, and it does not disappoint. Seamlessly blending indie pop, synth-pop, and electronic styles, Hotel Garuda’s music can be hard to classify. The lead single, “Rush,” is a perfect example of this versatility. Rife with aspects of electro-pop and acid house, the track fuses a pumping bass-line and syncopated electronic drum fills with an old-school 70s-inspired interlude replete with funky guitars and vocoder vocals, culminating with a blazing solo at the song’s crescendo. Aseem once again manages to mix all these disparate musical elements together into a cohesive and undeniably unique listening experience.
“Unattached” is Le Youth’s most recent release from his own label, PRGRSSN Records. Wes James — better known as Le Youth — has made the move to more deep, melodic, and progressive house music over the past year, which is evident on this track. Analog synths mixed with energized beats are what we love about it. Le Youth’s previous track “Gemini” was one of his first originals on Above & Beyond’s, Anjunabeats. 2020 has been an interesting year for Wes and BMI is excited to have him as this edition’s Spotlight Interview.
Since 2015, Nick Winholt and Austin Woo have collaborated under the name Win and Woo to release awe-inspiring cuts and remixes that have gone on to become club classics. Rising to prominence in the Chicago dance scene with the likes of Louis The Child, Win and Woo forged a lane of their own in the last five years, amassing a dedicated fanbase around the world. After listening to their mesmerizing new single “Feel Em All,” out via Armada Music, it’s no mystery as to why they’ve earned such a following. Blending underground EDM production with intricate melodies and catchy pop hooks, “Feel Em All” is the perfect addition to your quarantine dance party playlist.
Las Vegas DJ/producer 3LAU (pronounced “blau”) is all about giving back. Since his rise in the DJ world, he has helped raise money to build schools in Guatemala through Pencils of Promise, donated money to Cancer research, and has launched the world's first not-for-profit dance label, Blume. That alone should be enough to earn respect and admiration, but he also happens to make mind-blowingly great music. His latest single "Tokyo (feat. XIRA)" combines a catchy vocal from Sydney-based indie pop songwriter XIRA with 3LAU’s signature sprawling production, guaranteed to instantly inspire spontaneous dance moves.
Adam Dyment — better known as UK-based DJ/producer Duke Dumont -- has been on the scene since 2006. Somewhere between receiving a GRAMMY nomination, having a worldwide smash hit single with Katy Perry and becoming an internationally revered figure in clubs and festivals across the world; Adam has cemented himself among the top echelon of House Music producers on the planet. His new single "Therapy", via Virgin EMI, continues to impress with a mesmerizing vocal and high-energy production. True to its title, the track is a therapeutic experience on the dance floor.
Given his reluctance to adhere to any single genre, electronic musician Rome In Sliver (Vincenzo Pisciotta, to his mother) frequently leaves listeners not know what to expect beyond the knowledge it will be amazing and unique. The Orange County-based DJ/producer’s latest single, “Yoko” — released by San Holo’s able imprint, bitbird — furthers the intrigue, mixing robotic rhythms with dreamy pads to set your mind reeling until the bass synths drops in and brings you back to reality.
As a young bedroom producer hailing from the small Pennsylvania town of Hollidaysburg, it's seemingly a mystery how pluko (aka Sam Martinsen) rose to prominence so quickly until you listen to his music. With undeniable mastery of electronic production, pluko continues to surprise his fans with amazing sounds and catchy melodies he constructs out of thin air. His latest single, "the lovely one." is no different with its mesmerizing rhythms and explosive synth arpeggios.
After first meeting in a Philadelphia bowling alley, Troy Hinson and Jared Piccone formed a partnership to create amazing music under the moniker Black Caviar. Their latest track, “Kubrick Faked The Moon Landing,” fuses punchy drums with futuristic effects and mysterious melodies into an instant house classic.
As a bit of a departure from his typical sound, Prismo’s new remix of Haywyre’s “With You” is particularly magical. While the original track invoked a retro-80’s dynamic with vocoder vocals and sequenced synthesizers, Prismo adds some distinctive, heavily distorted synth drops, and it all meshes together perfectly. “With You” is one of those tracks you’ll want to put on repeat for the coming months.
Los Angeles-based AOBeats has been the golden child of electronic label Moving Castle for some time now. His newly released (and highly anticipated) sophomore album, I Have Trouble Sleeping, comes packed with featured cameos from such names as Mark Johns, LIZ, EXES, SAKIMA, Ravenna Golden, Luka Kloser and more. The album’s title track, meanwhile, is a solid, one-man show that showcases AOBeats’ truly unique production style.
New Jersey’s 4B is at it again with another hard-hitting party anthem, released via Ultra records. With a skillful blend of trap and hardstyle production, 4B continues to push sonic boundaries and defy expectations on dancefloors around the world. The fire extinguisher on the cover says it all, this track is combustible.
GRAMMY-nominated producer, Andrew Bayer, has released his ode to trance music. Influenced by some of the classic Euro-trance anthems of his childhood, Bayer continues to experiment with his sound. Infused with classic trance references, catchy synth lines, and impressively complex production, “Bottle Top Trance” is simultaneously modern and nostalgic.
Fresh of signing with management company, The Shalizi Group (who also handle Marshmello, Jauz, Slushii, etc), Alesso has unleashed his newest single “In The Middle” with the mysterious newcomer, SUMR CAMP. With an incredibly catchy hook, this deep house cut is sure to become a classic on dancefloors and car stereos alike.
Rippling with a mesmerizing, melodic intro, a huge future-bass crescendo and their signature distorted synth sound, Toronto’s Zeds Dead are back with “Stars Tonight,” a monster collab with Dutch production duo DROELOE. This lush track’s slow-building majesty is the perfect marriage of grit and grandeur.
Having established herself with four memorable sets at this year’s EDC, house music maven VNSSA (a.k.a. Vanessa Barns) is continuing to make serious waves with her latest single. Co-written with longtime collaborator Eric Mark and released on Australian label Box of Cats, “This and That” pairs a distorted vocal sample from the 90’s with seriously gritty drums for an energetic romp to be enjoyed on dancefloors around the world.
House-music legend and Dirty Bird founder Claude Vonstroke joins forces with Barcelona-based Eddy M to forge this spicy banger for the summer. Rife with piercing hi-hats, a pumping bassline and some suitably scalding synths, “Getting Hot” is ideal for turning up the sizzle at your next weekend barbeque.
Fresh off an amazing couple of set at EDC in Las Vegas, Insomniac-affiliated producer/DJ/songwriter Chris Lake continues to impress with this stunning new single, released through his own label imprint, Black Book. Brimming with Lake’s signature tech house style, infectious synths and massive vocals courtesy of Lake’s own spouse, Gita Lake, “Stay With Me” is perfect for the main stage.
Time and again, Los Angeles-based DJ/producer/songwriter Slushii demonstrates that he can tackle any style he sets his mind to. On this latest release on Big Beat Records, Slushii goes fully tropical in collaboration with Latin GRAMMY-nominated singer/songwriter Sofia Reyes for a sun-kissed slice of steel-drum-buffered dance-pop that’s as sweet as a frozen cocktail on a sultry summer night.
Pair the soulful swoon of Alec Chambers with the sparkling, propulsive production of Stavros, and you’re bound to get something truly special. Sure enough, their latest collaboration, “Starting Fires” has been making consistent waves since its February release as a seamless fusion of romantic, melodic pop with an undeniable EDM pulse.
After releasing a slew of memorable dance singles since 2011, NYC singer/songwriter Alicia Madison has joined forces with production duo, The Golden Pony. Bolstered by an warm, inviting melody and Madison’s honeyed vocals, the track also boasts a secret weapon in the form of a deeply infectious, whistled hook that will cement itself in your head.
When NYC-based producer/DJ KANDY and Denmark-based production trio, Nonsens, collaborate, good things are bound to happen, and their newest creation “Like This” is a very good thing. Released on the Mad Decent sub-label, Good Enuff, “Like This” is a huge, propulsive track that is bound to see some heavy rotation in clubs and festivals around the world.
Known for his amazing remixes for high-profile artists like Cher, Jason Derülo, John Mayer, and Smallpools, L.A.- based DJ and producer Zookëper has released a succession of impressive singles throughout 2018. His latest release on Spinnin’ Records, “From Me,” is just as impactful, featuring strong vocals and huge synth melodies that are sure to get stuck in your head for the next twenty-four hours.
As the first single from the full album Nova, “Pressure” is an audacious opening shot for Los Angeles-based DJ/producer RL Grime. While the album is filled with a variety of musical styles ranging from Dance to Pop to R&B, featuring the likes of Miguel, Julia Michaels, Ty Dolla $ign, Daya, Jeremih, & Tory Lanez, “Pressure” is a callback to his classic signature brand of distorted synth-based dance music. With the song first appearing in his Halloween mix released last year and later featured in a 2018 Apple iMac Pro ad campaign, it’s release last week has been highly anticipated.
In anticipation of Whethan’s Life of A Wallflower Tour kicking off this fall, the highly-touted producer has released the amazing “Superlove” with the London-based Alt-Pop masterminds Oh Wonder. According to Josephine and Anthony of Oh Wonder, the song was written in just 30 minutes by the three of them while in a Los Angeles Studio session. The fun energy of the production and catchy vocals of Superlove makes it the perfect soundtrack to any sunny afternoon by the pool.
As the fourth single from their much-anticipated third album, See Without Eyes, “Go Light” by The Glitch Mob is almost the perfect distillation of the L.A. trio’s sound, fusing infectious, glitched-out synths, booming chords and anthemic chord progressions. As a final warning shot prior to the high-impact arrival of the full-length album, four years in the making, “Go Light” ushers in a new phase the electro band’s already formidable journey.
Originally hailing from Washington, DC, but now based in Los Angeles, Shallou is an artist and producer specializing in atmospheric electronic music. On this latest single, he’s teamed up with indie-pop vocalist Riah and the effect is mesmerizing. By pairing minimalist synths and pulsing beats with a light, winsome melody, Shallou’s signature happy/sad production aesthetic strikes the perfect balance with Riah’s lilting voice to create a truly unique dance song, ideal for a rainy day. Be sure to keep an eye out for Shallou’s impressive live show, which seamlessly blends dreamy electronics, loops, and live instrumentation.
A lush amalgam of sparkling synths, sweet vocal harmonies, Caribbean flourishes and an irrepressible Latin rhythm, “No Love” by Ultra Music’s Salt Cathedral is a breezy tribute to the power of love and dancing over hate and violence. As a NYC-based duo of native Colombians, Salt Cathedral has been making waves in the dance community with their uniquely distinctive blend of sumptuous, tropical pop.
A seamless mix of crystalline pop and cutting edge production, “I Need You” is the infectious brainchild of super-producers and DJ’s Fernando Garibay and Armin van Buuren. Concentrating on their considerable strengths, while van Buuren’s more renowned for his trance work, Garibay’s midas touch as a versatile producer and songwriter, having worked extensively with everyone from Lady Gaga through U2, shines through on this track. Paring the soulful vocals of Olaf Blackwood with a compelling pulse, haunting chorus and wide-screen sonic expanse, “I Need You” is a genre-straddling confection that transcends the dance floor.
L.A.-based producer, APEK, closes out an eventful year of chart success, streaming achievements, high-profile collabs, and a Tritonal tour with his new song, “Traces.” A richly melodic new track, “Traces” pairs broken-beat innovation with soaring synths and ethereal vocals, courtesy of the incredible Karra. It offers a seamless dance-floor experience that reinforces APEK’s name as one to keep an ear out for.
Buffalo natives and self-proclaimed “taco aficionados,” Solidisco have been lighting up dancefloors and festivals around the globe with an arsenal of originals and remixes out via big player labels, Universal Music & Big Beat/Atlantic, Ultra Records and taste-makers A-Trak’s Fool’s Gold & Laidback Luke’s Mixmash Records. Playing homage to the roots of house music, Solidisco reps the culture, while keeping the dancefloor rocking in the current landscape of dance music.
As co-founder of the Soda Island collective, 18-year-old Canadian producer/DJ Ramzoid established himself as a fresh new force in electronic dance music with a distinctive sound that has garnered the support from acts such as Jauz, Jack U, and Baauer. Breaking away from the DJ standard, his live show is augmented with launch pads, midi-controllers, and a drum kit, so make sure to check the dates for his upcoming tour with Jai Wolf. Blazing ahead with an EP of his own, Universe, Ramzoid is continuing to put his own spin on Future bass.
Unlike Pluto is an Atlanta-born/L.A.-based DJ/producer who infuses his obsession with electronic dance music with influences and instrumentation from well beyond the conventional realm of the dancefloor. Rightly celebrated as one of Billboard’s Dance Artists to Watch, this multifaceted music creator has only started to reveal his capabilities. “Show Me Love” arrives with vocalist Michelle Buzz’s silky cooing before the track bursts open with spiraling synths, a soulful chorus and a big, expansive drop.
Initially meeting as students at music school in Minneapolis, Minnesota, Mexico-born artists Americo Garcia and Jorge Medina recognized the potential of their collective chemistry and pooled their musical resources as Boombox Cartel to swiftly drive their informed, innovative sound to the height of the Minneapolis DJ scene. A quick succession of self-releases proved them a force to be reckoned with.
Abandoning chilly Minnesota for the sun and scene of Southern California, the duo has continued to crank out influential singles, catching the ears and accolades of names like Diplo, Skrillex, DJ Snake and Martin Garrix. Their most recent effort, “Supernatural,” finds Boombox Cartel merging with the bass power of QUIX and the sinewy voice of Canadian singer/songwriter Anjulie for a cinematic dancefloor epic.
DJ/producer No Way Back (a.k.a. Anthony Pisano) has earned a reputation for a style that deftly fuses house, hip-hop and soul, as evidenced on his acclaimed debut single “It’s Not Right, But It’s Okay,” which stormed the Top 10 of the UK Music Week Club Chart. This latest track, meanwhile, finds him putting a cutting-edge spin on the sound of the hedonistic 90’s via a collaboration with fellow Los Angeleno DJ/producer Le Youth (a.k.a. Wes James), himself renowned for filling dance floors with a cool blend of house and R&B. Keep your eyes and ears out for more of this blissful brand of dance music from both Now Way Back and Le Youth.
Having already established himself as a globally recognized force on the turntables, L.A.-based producer Jayceeoh has earned the respect from celebrated fellow DJ/producers like A-trak, Bassnectar, Boregore and Flosstradamus, and released original trap and bass-driven remixes on influential labels like Dim Mak, Fool’s Gold, Ultra Records, Buygore and more. His latest track, “Elevate,” is poised to only push him further forward, featuring a head-turning vocal performance by Nevve over Jayceeoh’s lush, synth-laden production and propulsive beats.
Not just an accomplished DJ and producer, Goldroom (a.k.a. Josh Legg) makes sparklingly lush electronic dance music, but the soul of a bona fide songwriter lurks just beneath the beats. Layered under the sweeping synths, soaring vocals and “nostalgic production tones” of his new single “Silhouette,” Goldroom dreamily hearkens to another age. Straying from the DJ norm, Goldroom’s been known to bring his music to festivals around the world with a full live band. Could crossover success be far behind? Stay tuned.
A strong contender for song of the summer, “Wheels in Motion” pairs New York City’s TWRK with Amsterdam’s Lady Bee. Initially an anonymous duo, TWRK were already cranking out dance floor hits for Diplo’s Mad Decent imprint when the influential DJ/producer revealed their true identities on his BBC Radio program as Benzi and Esentrik. “Wheels in Motion” is a haunting, mid-tempo jam that will only further their growing reputation.
This New Jersey-native-turned-LA-transplant may be a new face in the DJ world, but he’s no stranger to the stage. As a former member of pop/rock-gone-EDM trio, Cash Cash, Zookёper spent more time touring the globe before his 21st birthday than some acts do in a lifetime. Released by Hysteria Records, “Gunz” has already received support from some of the top DJs around the world, including Martin Garrix, David Guetta, and Morgan Page.