Up-and-coming kings of the underground Bixel Boys make their Dim Mak Records debut with an innovative rework of Botnek and 3LAU’s collaboration “Vikings.” The Los Angeles-bred duo has been making major waves on their ascension to the top, touting their flavorful style of classical 90’s elements-meets-deep house vibes across the country with appearances at Electric Daisy Carnival, Splash House, SnowGlobe and HARD Summer. We caught up with Ian and Rob ahead of their Dim Mak release to chat about their history, productions and big plans for the future.
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Tell me about how you two met and began collaborating as Bixel Boys.
Ian) We met through a mutual friend and with our powers combined we became CAPTAIN PLAN — I mean Bixel Boys.
You guys are a product of the Los Angeles scene and continue to act as influential tastemakers throughout the city. How has Los Angeles influenced and inspired your music?
Ian) It’s an awesome collection of creatives all congregated in one place, it’s a great incubator for all of us and we love all the support that we get from those around us pursuing similar endeavors
Your musical styles range greatly from deep house and ghetto-tech to hip-hop and underground. How would you categorize your sound?
Rob) I don’t think that there’s just one way to pin-point our sound. It’s a bit of a musical exploration. We made it clear early on that we weren’t necessarily going to decide on a genre before starting any song. I think this keeps our minds fresh and makes producing a little more fun.
After less than two years producing and DJing as the Bixel Boys, you’ve grown from spinning at house parties to performing at festivals like HARD and EDC. What do you make of your meteoric rise to fame?
Ian) “Meteoric rise to fame ” is a WEEEEEEE bit of an overstatement haha we’re not popping bottles with Diddy, eating caviar on yachts in San Tropez or anything. Whatever small steps towards personal success we have made have come from hard work, everything from prepping different sets to every show, late nights in the studio, and hours of designing all play a part to what we do.
Rob) We also have a great team around us which can equate to some of that overnight success, but we still have a long way to go to achieve what we’re actually trying to do.
How do your sets differ when performing at smaller intimate venues versus on festival stages?
Ian) Festivals we like to make as much of a ‘ performance ‘ as we can and really take people on a musical journey, example this year at EDC we played everything from show tunes, disney theme songs, ACDC and tons of other surprises. I think more intimate settings allow us to read the crowd more and play more moody stuff to get people dancing instead of raving
You’ve been commissioned for official remixes of artists such as The Crystal Method, Architecture In Helsinki, Eliza Doolittle, Thomas Newson, Kayper and Kiesza. How do these remixes come together? What do you aim to bring to the table when reworking such well-known talent?
Ian) Sometimes we like a song, sometimes they approach us, its always different. We just want to be able to take the core of those songs and re-vision them thru our creative lens.
Rob) It’s about making sure that the essence of the original work is still apparent while putting the song in a different world. Sometimes it’s easier said than done. We go through a lot of different versions of things we remix before deciding on a direction.
Just this month you remixed Golden Features’ Tell Me featuring Nicole Miller and now you’ve put your spin on Botnek and 3LAU’s “Vikings.” Do you go into the studio with an idea of where you want to take the original tune, or do you let the ideas flow organically?
Ian) For remixes we tend to let the original dictate the direction we’re going to go.
Rob) For sure organically. We are blank slate producers i.e. no previous project copy/pasting. We tend to just start listening to the parts over and over again and solo’ing sections over random loops and samples until something jumps out at us.
Not only are you music makers, but you’ve also entered the world of fashion with your FREELIFE brand. Tell me about how this idea came together and how the unmistakable black jerseys caught fire so quickly.
Ian) We had a concept about viewing our peers and fans and ourselves as a team, and we wanted to create something that you couldn’t just purchase but you had to earn, so we designed the jersey ourselves and began to give it to people we respected, people really liked the design, the message, the fit and it took on a life of it’s own from there.
I’ve heard you’re launching a charitable arm of the FREELIFE brand soon, can you tell us a bit about that?
Ian) All of the pieces are still coming together but we can confirm that we’ll be linking up the Freelife brand with a charity very soon to start to give back, which is something thats always been very important to us.
What’s next for Bixel Boys?
Ian) more original tunes, gear, and ideas for everybody.
We could not be more excited to welcome Shaun Frank to the Dim Mak team! The Toronto-based producer first caught our ears with his fine-tuned vocals on tracks like “We Are”, then later captured our hearts with his studio skills and solid mixing chops. Having already remixed and covered a bevy of artists including Coldplay, Avicii, Lorde, John Newman and The Neighbourhood, Shaun’s plunging into the world of original productions and we’re stoked to have one of his first with “Vagabond.”
Shaun Frank’s collaboration with Vanrip “Vagabond” will be out on Dim Mak Records on August 5.
[highlight style=”default”][highlighttext title=”To learn more about Shaun Frank, see our exclusive interview!” titlesize=”h6″ subtitle=””][/highlighttext][/highlight]
1. WELCOME TO DIM MAK, SHAUN! WE’VE BEEN FOLLOWING YOUR RELEASES FOR THE PAST FEW YEARS AND ARE THRILLED TO HAVE YOU. WHAT PART OF JOINING THE DIM MAK TEAM ARE YOU MOST EXCITED ABOUT?
Thanks for having me! Dim Mak has such a great roster of artists, including a lot of great Canadian artists like Felix Cartal, Botnek, Autoerotique and Keys N Krates. This label has broken so many new artists, and I’m really looking forward to working with the team on my upcoming singles to really get my music heard on the world stage. We have some really exciting and creative ideas, and so far the label has really been on the same page as me with everything I want to do musically. I can’t see a better fitting label to be working with for where I’m currently at in my career.
2. YOU’RE MAKING YOUR DIM MAK DEBUT WITH “VAGABOND,” YOUR COLLABORATION WITH VANRIP. TELL ME A LITTLE ABOUT HOW THE TRACK CAME TOGETHER AND WHY YOU CHOSE TO WORK WITH VANRIP ON YOUR FIRST EVER ORIGINAL COLLABORATION.
This track came in as a demo to my manager. The Vanrip guys had a drop written that I really thought would kill on the dance floor, so I took the ideas and worked out the track around that drop. I wanted to get really cinematic with the breakdown, so I did a lot of epic sounding tribal drum stuff and wrote chords that I thought would compliment the track. I’m pretty pumped about this one – I’ve been playing it out live and it’s been crushing. It was really a pleasure to debut this track with Steve Aoki at the Dim Mak Beach Party at WMC this year.
3. YOUR CAREER BEGAN AS A LEAD SINGER OF TORONTO ROCK BAND THE ENVY. HOW HAS THAT EXPERIENCE PLAYED INTO YOUR PERFORMANCE TECHNIQUES WHEN DJING?
I think being the lead singer in a band for so many years and being on stage constantly has just really helped my overall confidence when DJing. I mean, there’s the technical side of the whole thing, but I think the most important thing is giving the crowd a super hyped up and emotional experience. It’s what I always strived to do in my band, and now with DJing it’s even more fun to push the limits.
4. I KNOW YOU BROKE INTO DANCE MUSIC BY PROVIDING VOCALS FOR ELECTRONIC TRACKS LIKE “WE ARE” ON ARMADA MUSIC, BUT AT WHAT MOMENT DID YOU REALIZE YOU WANTED TO TAKE YOUR CAREER IN A MORE PRODUCER/DJ DIRECTION?
The truth is I have always been producing music, and have always spent most of my time in the studio. Before I was even singing on dance tracks, I was doing a lot of writing and producing for other artists. I’ve spent a lot of time in Los Angeles, New York and Nashville just writing songs and building up my catalogue. Armada reached out to me because they heard my work on an Arty demo, and I sang the “We Are” track, which was kind of my entry into doing this thing as my own project. That was a pretty exciting time because the concept of being a solo artist was never really something I had considered, but then I looked at the catalogue of songs I had, and combined with my love for electronic music, I kind of just dove in.
5. AS BOTH A VOCALIST AND PRODUCER, YOU’RE KNOWN FOR SPICING UP YOUR LIVE SETS BY SINGING AND SPINNING SIMULTANEOUSLY. DO YOU HAVE ANY PLANS FOR PROVIDING VOCALS ON YOUR OWN ORIGINAL WORKS, SIMILAR TO CALVIN HARRIS’ RECENT RELEASE “SUMMER?”
Absolutely! There are already some unreleased tracks with my voice on them. I’m also doing a series of club covers where I take a song that you normally wouldn’t hear in the club and redo it with my own vocals. We released the first one for The Neighbourhood called “Sweater Weather” six months ago, and we got a lot of great support from it. The latest was for Coldplay’s “Magic,” and we are working on a new one that’s almost done as we speak. They’re all for free download on my Soundcloud.
6. COMING FROM YOUR LIVE PERFORMANCE BACKGROUND, DO YOU PREFER DJING OVER PRODUCING? OR DO YOU TRY TO FIND A HAPPY MEDIUM BETWEEN BOTH?
I get a little restless if I’m stuck in the studio for too long. My favorite place to be is on stage, it’s truly where I feel at home. Having said that, I think being in the studio is a good way for me to stay grounded, and stay in some kind of a reality. The road is a very surreal place and you lose yourself a bit out there, so sometimes it’s really nice to just get back home and make music again. I kind of feel like the shows are the rewards for all the hard work I put into the studio.
7. YOU’VE ALREADY REMIXED TRACKS FROM VARIOUS INDUSTRY HEAVY-HITTERS INCLUDING AVICII, LORDE AND MARTIN GARRIX. IS THERE ANYONE ON THE DIM MAK TEAM YOU’RE EYEING TO REWORK?
I love the vocals on a lot of the Keys N Krates stuff, I think it would be super fun to mess around with that stuff in my style. I’ve also always been a huge fan of what Botnek does – I think they’ve been one of the most underrated producer teams to date and I’m super happy they’re blowing up right now. I’d love to mess around with their sounds as well.
8. BETWEEN YOUR REMIXES, ORIGINAL WORKS AND VOCALS, YOU’VE DABBLED ACROSS GENRES AND STYLES. DO YOU SEE YOURSELF HEADING IN A MORE SPECIFIC DIRECTION WITH YOUR UPCOMING RELEASES OR CONTINUING TO KEEP YOUR OUTPUTS DIVERSIFIED?
I don’t really think about it too much. I really love so many genres of music, and when I go into the studio or grab my laptop to create something I just go with what comes out. I think I would get really bored if I made too much of the same thing – being free to do whatever I want is what really keeps me inspired. Lately I’ve been writing my tracks on this old broken grand piano I have at my place. I find that if I write the whole song before I even touch the computer, I can really get to the essence of the music without getting bogged down in the technical stuff.
8. WHAT’S NEXT FOR SHAUN FRANK?
Well… “Vagabond” is the beginning of me releasing my own tracks as Shaun Frank, so it’s pretty exciting. I’ve done remixes and club covers so far, but now I finally get to start releasing my own solo work. I’ve got a bunch of tracks that I’m really excited about, and some really great collaborations coming up that I can’t really talk about but they’re going to be really sick. It’s going to be a super fun 2015 – I’ve never felt so on top of my game as I do right now.
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