For those that haven’t heard of you before could you tell us a bit about yourselves about your story?
Jonny – We have both been involved in the music industry for a long time. I was based in Leeds and Manchester, working mainly as a resident and guest DJ at various dance clubs: Sankeys, Tangled, The Warehouse, NATO, Pleasure Rooms, Back 2 Basics. Later I got into producing and live music, learning to play guitar and piano, and how to sequence with samplers and sequencers. I met Brent at a music networking event after I’d moved to London and we shared a love of bands like Washed Out and Tycho.
Brent – I started my musical journey in the North East as a singer/songwriter and bassist, including a development deal with EMI Records. After that ended I continued via music academia and classical and electronic film score composition to Chillwave and EDM writing and production, and a move to London, which brought me into contact with Jonny.
I read that you started out as a DJ how has that influenced Miami Districts sound?
Jonny – It’s been incredible to see the evolution of electronic music since the early nineties when I started DJing. Dance music was just a club thing originally; you had to go to a club or find a pirate radio station if you wanted to hear what was happening. Back then, it was more about exploring the possibilities of what these new or repurposed music machines (like a Roland 303) could do. So you would get either totally dance-floor focused, usually instrumental tracks (like Strings of Life or Energy Flash), or traditionally written songs that had electronic instrumentation (like songs by Ce Ce Rogers and Joe Smooth). Contemporary electronic music follows much more of ‘pop’ structure and sensibility these days, in that it is made with Spotify playlists and mix compilations in mind. But I think that the original philosophy of making ‘something to dance to’ or ‘something to listen to’ is what has stayed with me into the songwriting and production of Miami Distrikts tracks, and I feel that we try to find a healthy balance between the two.
Which bands influenced you growing up, what was the first album that really resonated with you?
Jonny – I bought a Vangelis album when I was 7 or 8, which weirded my family out because they thought it was classical music. But Vangelis created all these wonderful synthesized soundscapes from classic analogue synths.
Brent – I loved 80’s electro pop like The Human League, Depeche Mode, Soft Cell and Gary Numan, and these influences have definitely come though in the Miami Distrikts songwriting and sound. However, I think Adam and the Ants’ Prince Charming was the first album to really knock me off my feet. I hate the fact that they’re thought of as a novelty band. There’s more original ideas on that album than many bands manage in an entire career.
When creating music is it all live instruments or is it preprogrammed in something like logic or is it a mixture of both?
Jonny – The process is a bit of a hybrid of live jamming with guitar, piano, synths and electric bass, mixed with programmed beats and samples. Ableton is great as a sketchpad for getting a rough idea together.
Brent – Yes, it’s really down to what works for a particular track. Some like Move Down are completely electronic, while Atlantic Storm features live bass and electric guitar.
How easy is it to translate electronic music into a dynamic live performance?
Jonny – It’s probably the easiest it’s ever been in terms of technological sophistication and having the confidence to rely upon computer-based sequencing and audio in a live situation. One laptop can reliably control a whole orchestra of sounds and FX. The issue that we think a lot about is how to make it a performance for the audience, in terms of improvisation and visuals. We want to keep the elements of live instrumentation that make up our sound and show people that we can be a ‘real’ band. I’ve been to many gigs where the artist is heavily reliant on sequenced sound or hunched over a laptop for the whole performance. This is pretty boring for an audience.
Do you have any plans to release and album or EP this year?
Jonny – Absolutely, we have enough material currently for an album, and we are developing a live set for gigging that includes a few surprise covers of our favourite artists.
What is your proudest moment as a musician so far?
Brent – Hard to pin down to a specific moment, but the stuff Jonny and I are doing now makes me immensely proud. We do everything ourselves from the songwriting, through performance, recording, production, artwork and marketing.
Jonny – I was lucky enough to play at Burning Man last year, so hearing our music in this surreal landscape of desert and man-made art was pretty amazing.
At Artistic Echoes we are always on the lookout for new artists, what new artists are you loving right now?
Jonny – Not necessarily a new artist, but Porcelain Raft’s new stuff is awesome. And I’m really looking forward to hearing Kaleida’s debut album, Christina’s voice takes you to another place.
What plans do you have for the rest of the year?
Brent – We’re rehearsing for summer and autumn festivals at the moment and working hard to finish and release the album. We’ve also been asked to remix a couple of tracks for other ReverbNation bands.
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