I recently had the pleasure of interviewing California-based electro/dance group AndDrop!, which consists of Joe Wiseman, Harris Kauffman and Sylvain Kauffman. Here’s what Harris and Joe had to say:
How did you guys get started working together?
Joe: I came out here [California], started liking hip-hop, started rapping and was sort of making hip hop beats; Harris was here making beats as well – more on an amateur kind of level, so we were just kind of joking around. I was doing shows, rapping and stuff like that, but then I got into DJing about three years ago, my freshman year, and we both got really into the electronic music scene around senior year of high school; so around 2008 or 2009 I think. About a year and a half ago, May of 2010, was when we decided that we should combine forces. I would be the performance side and Harris would kind of be the production side of the crew. And then a few months after that, we noticed that his brother was like this really talented musician, classically trained pianist and he understood music theory really well, so we added him as the third part of the team. And that’s kind of how it began. Harris and I were always in the scene together; I was just DJing and he would come to my shows, until we finally collaborated like a year and a half ago, I’d say.
So where did you get the idea for the name “AndDrop!”?
Joe: Harris’s girlfriend came up with the name actually. When we first started DJing we were listening to really housey stuff like Jack Beats, or early on freshman year Deadmau5 and at that time I was DJing using my own name doing college level stuff, which is when we kind of started getting more edgy with our sound, around 2009, with some dubstep, electro. Then it kind of evolved from there to be electro/house or sort of hard-electro, drum & bass, and moombatone. The name basically comes from the foundation for a lot of our original production and a lot of my sets that I work on. What I really try to focus on is this aspect of tension and release, which is in all music. It’s basically what creates this anticipation feeling in the music, which comes through the bridges and the builds in electronic songs. Harris can probably answer that better from the musical side, but from the DJ side you’re creating this tension and all this anticipation for when the beat kicks back in. So it’s about the build up and then the drop – when the beat kicks back in. So that’s where the AndDrop! comes in. It’s kind of silly, a lot of electronic bands take their names from the music itself like Bassjackers or someone like that; sort of taking some characteristic of the music and putting that towards the band name. We were going for that feel; the most important part of any song is the drop.
Yeah I think that really does help to the type of energy you guys are trying to bring through your music.
Joe: Yeah exactly, and if you read our description, the drop is the moment in the dance music song where the tension is released and the beat comes in. It’s a simple answer but I build my sets around it; having really long, intense build-ups and having really hard drops to get people really into dancing. You really want to create that tension even though it may get annoying sometimes; you want to create that anticipation. There are sets where everything sort of stays on the same level the whole time, but I’m more into having my sets going as waves; I’ll bring it down to this sort of long bridge and then when the beat comes in the energy is at a whole different level.
How would you best describe the genre that your productions fall under?
Harris: We try and draw from everything, you know, so every style or genre. One of the great things about house music it’s just kind of this stall tone where you can just insert what you dig in a track. So for example, dubstep has sort of a reggae or dub vibe to it, to more heavy metal stuff as it has come along. We try and draw from everything, whatever is sparking our interest at the time. We started off doing a lot of electro stuff, quick moving, 128 BPM stuff, we tried dubstep, and most recently my brother has been really into moombhaton, because he’s been really into the slow-it-down BPM. There are certain advantages there for different percussion work and that kind of thing. So I’d say we draw from a pretty wide range of styles.
Joe: I would add that the last group of songs that are out right now are sort of on that electro or electro-step kind of vibe, but I feel like the songs we’re about to come out with in the next few months are more heavy, hard-hitting, banger electro vibe.
Harris: That’s kind of what we’re going for, we’ve got my brother helping out with midi patterns and stuff, so we’re at least trying to utilize melodic bridges and that kind of thing. Basically it starts at a piano for us. When we first started it was my brother laying down midi note patterns, and he would give me stems for a bass pattern, a chord progression and then some more intricate solo patterns and stuff like that and I would go in and I would do all the synthesis. You’ve got the Internet so we’re constantly sending our stuff back and forth and giving each other comments on it.
So are you all pretty heavily involved with the production aspect of it?
Harris: Yeah more and more. It started off pretty polarized, with Joe DJing and my brother and me doing the production, but we’ve definitely been crossing over more and more.
Joe: We’ve been using the private function on Soundcloud to show our work to each other. We probably have over a hundred tracks just between the three of us on Soundcloud.
What can you tell me about the new single?
AndDrop! – ‘Dumb (Original Mix)’
Joe: It’s basically what we were just talking about, very melodic bridges transitioning into very heavy, hard-hitting synth/bass kind of Italian-electro.
Harris: The track is called ‘Dumb’ and we sampled lyrics from a Messy Marv song, ‘Get on My Hype’. We took vocals from a hypey track for the bridges and shit to give it a goofy feel but then also including a big-room, club vibe drop.
How has the reception been for the stuff that you’ve put out so far?
Joe: For our production it’s been pretty interesting to see where we’ve been getting our good reception from. We do a lot of our networking on Facebook, so through that we’ve been getting feedback from people from New Zealand, all over the U.S., random high school DJ kids, and a lot from the bay area and from our friends who are DJs out here. There are a lot of DJs here who I collaborate with. Harris and I are both students and we were both abroad last spring, so while we were away we tried to give out our music at the different places we were. Harris was in Leeds in the UK, sort of the hotspot for the dubstep and drum & bass scene, so he was able to get a little hype from some of them. I was in South Africa and was able to play a few big shows to get our name out there. They’ve started playing some of our tracks on the radio, a bunch of blogs and a few big clubs down there so we’ve got a lot of press from both our production and our live shows in South Africa. I guess our fanbase right now is pretty heavily based in California, and I’m from DC so a bunch of DC kids since I’ve done some shows there, and then a little bit on the east coast; not so much in the south so hopefully this can help with that (laughs). In South Africa we’ve actually got a pretty large following; I was able to play probably the biggest club in South Africa a bunch of times and headlined some shows with some pretty well known South African DJs, so I was able to share our music with them and they vibe with it and I think they’ve played it – well I don’t know if they’ve played it, but I played their music they’ve listened to my music. Whenever we get the chance we spread our new songs. We had kind of been holding off on production for a bit just to fine-tune our sound. We released a remix EP over spring, but we haven’t released an original since ‘Don Draper’ and that was about 7 months ago. So we have a bunch in store for the next few months. We have three tracks done right now, we’re just sort of holding off to make them perfect. There are a lot of producers and artists who put a lot of stuff up, but they’re not about making them good; for them it’s more about just putting your name out there. We’re working on putting together some great songs to put out there right now.
Did you guys find it difficult to try and get incorporated in a dance scene that you hadn’t really been involved in previously?
Harris: Well the cool thing about electronic music is that it’s a pretty global thing. I mean Leeds was one of the original locations for dubstep, where it was first being experimented, so for me it was a learning process; getting to know the whole drum & bass culture. I was showing my stuff to a lot of the kids out there who lived in the dorms and they were vibing on it, but they were more about the drum & bass style out there. I was definitely getting an education on the roots and origins of it, since it’s a relatively new thing going on in the US. It’s been going on there since the early 2000s and the late 90s. It’s been way more present and established there at this point.
Joe: It was kind of similar with South Africa too in that they’ve been getting into trance, drum & bass and dubstep for a while now, even before the US, you know like the old school kind of dub stuff, not like dubstep as we call it now. When I was DJing the clubs there, it was definitely moving into more of the American/global electro sound. I’d be playing a set and I would recognize a lot of the songs that were played before me. The only thing I would say was different about the scene down in South Africa is that they’re very into this idea of hard electro. Before I went there Harris and I were playing more electro/house combinations. As I was thrown into the scene a little bit in South Africa, I think our sound got a little bit edgier, a little bit harder I guess is what you can call it in a general sense. Everything at this point is on the Internet and everyone kind of uses the same blogs at this point, so a lot of dance songs are kind of the same. The only thing that I think separates AndDrop!’s sound from other DJs down there is that Harris and I got into some DJs that were big in California and the UK. Artists that get big here will normally head to the UK as they get bigger and vice-versa. Some of the artists I would play in South Africa kind of got bigger there as the scene discovered them more, like Zedd and Calvertron. So it depends on where people were involved in the scene and where people were discovering them. A good example of that is with Zedd. When I first got there no one really was playing Zedd, and for a bunch of the Zedd tracks they were like “What the fuck”. By the end of my time there Zedd kind of gained a lot of popularity. So it depends on who discovers their music on the Internet, who likes it, who doesn’t like it or whatever.
Can you tell me about some of the crazier shows you’ve put on?
Harris: Well we’ve played stripper parties and some funny shit around Berkley. I think the funniest story that I would have is when we used to live at the co-ops, and they would throw some pretty wild parties that we got the opportunity to spin at.
Joe: These are like 500-800 person parties so they were pretty huge and they did the whole light set up and everything. They’re pretty serious about it. It’s just been kind of hard for us to get our big stages together, because I’m from the east coast and he’s from the west coast and we haven’t really pushed for it too hard yet out here, although we do have a few lined up in the next few months. Just based on geographic barriers we haven’t been able to be on a huge stage together. We’ve played some pretty fun underground parties in Berkley. We did this thing for like this ski club kind of event, which was this underground ravey kind of thing in a parking lot and there was probably like 1,000 people there.
Harris: And we did the stripper party.
How’d you land that?
Joe: Basically all these houses out here are pretty big, with like 150 people living there.
Harris: They’re co-operatives and their biggest party of the year is their annual stripper party so they hired strippers. It’s like a DJ party and the strippers kind of do their thing. We got to spin at that.
Joe: You’re spinning for your set and you turn around and there are fucking naked strippers dancing on top of the table, so that was kind of an interesting party. Down in South Africa the club gigs are pretty fucking crazy with the whole stage set up and everything. There were just some crazy vibes to that; those parties were at clubs that were pretty well established. Most of my shows down there were at a sister club of Fabric in the UK, which is one of the top ten clubs in the world. They kind of based their whole set up and their marketing on what Fabric had done. They were a pretty established club; when huge DJs who would go on a world tour, if they stopped in South Africa, they would play at this place. It’s funny though, because we’ve done everything, you know, stripper co-op parties, which were totally loose and hippy, and then there are these club gigs, which have like a VIP room and a guy on the stage with a thing in his ear, very serious, with a light show and huge screens behind us projecting our logo. So we’ve covered the whole spectrum of it. I’ve played parties even in the last year just for friends in their apartments for like 60 or 70 people in a little room playing like a grimey-dubstep set or something like that. We try to reach out to all different kind of party vibes. We’re trying to go for more of the clubs right now. I’d probably call us the police’s most hated group in Berkley at this point; I’ve been stopped by police probably over 20 times now just in Berkley. So I’m familiar with the Berkley police at this point.
I heard that you had incorporated champagne at some of your shows before.
Joe: Well I used some for my 21st birthday while I was in South Africa, but the other time I was DJing a show with Das Kapital, who is a rising DJ based out of Cape Town. He had a Bon Iver dubstep remix that was probably the most well know dubstep remix for Bon Iver I think.
Bon Iver – ‘Skinny Love (Das Kapital Rerub)’
Joe: He’s pretty well know, he’s got like 100,000 view on that song, very talented producer. But I played a few shows and I got to be really friendly with him. We’re about the same age and are into the same kind of music, so we played a few shows together. For my last show in Cape Town, which was kind of a farwell, we bought a bunch of champagne and poured it in people’s faces and into the crowd; just having a good time. I played a set and he came out at the end and played some Moombhaton because we were both some of the only DJs down there who really knew about it. We were just kind of having fun with it since it was my last set in South Africa.
And of course that’s where I received a phone call from someone and my phone stopped recording the interview without my knowledge. Droid does fuck up. Head to AndDrop’s Soundcloud, Facebook, Twitter or Website if you want to know more about the group.