Last week I caught up with Different Sleep, a Chicago-based producer who first came on my radar with his very like-able, sun-rays-on-my-bed type track “Get Ahead” which obviously stole my heart with the Drake sample. In a happy not-so-coincidence, Different Sleep signed his latest release over to LA-based Friends of Friends, who aside from being teamed by a few particularly awesome people are just generally releasing cool, interesting, and unique material.
The Conflict EP is a definite shift for Different Sleep, and heads in a more moody direction than his previous works – aided by the first time with his own vocals. There’s a predominant sense of heartbreak, but as many of the world’s favorite films have managed to do time and time again, the EP lends itself to a beautiful and dreamlike state. The opening track manages to take a shuffled drum pattern to an effortless, transient place, where Different Sleep’s own vocals appear for the first time. “Slow Things Down” strips the drums away for an achingly wonderful piano-driven piece. Vocals from Dirty Gold on “Cold” put everything into slow motion, and the closer track “Damage” picks up where “Conflict” left off, bringing back the shuffled drums and truncated synths that weave through each ear with a graceful and slight sense of urgency. The EP is as if you were to fall through the various stages of heartbreak with an airy and enlightened sense of being… it rises above anger and aggression to a tender and yet still aching bubble.
You can read my chat with Different Sleep after the jump, where we discuss everything from Justin Bieber to the importance of understanding the music business and why everything from Toronto is better. You can check him out tonight at The Echo with Jerome LOL (who’s premiering his new live setup) and tomorrow when Friends of Friends does their takeover of Low End Theory.
GDD: Hey man. Really good to talk to you. Happy to hear you’re on Friends of Friends, I rep everything [they] do. Your track “Get Ahead” is a fucking jam, so I was stoked when I first heard you signed a record with them.
DS: Hey, thanks. Glad you like it!
So how old were you when you first started making music?
I started making tunes when I was 12 or 13… playing guitar. I started recording it later using GarageBand and stuff, then finally recording full songs. Then I ended up composing everything on software like Ableton.
Do you still have the first songs on Ableton?
Oh yeah. I still have the veeery first demos I made on even GarageBand from way back in the day. They’re just basic guitar loops with shitty midi-drums.
YES. Amazing. What do you use to produce now?
I still use Ableton. I use some VST synths, as well as my little micro Korg. Most of it is all on my computer, software-based. Vocal and drum samples. Lately I’ve been trying to incorporate more original instrumentation, anything from me singing to me playing guitar and piano and stuff.
Oh yeah, your new Conflict record, that’s the first time you’re on your track singing, well at least officially.
Definitely. First time I’m releasing something with me singing on it. I mean, there might be some background stuff that’s my voice in other records, like as a tool. But now I’m starting to really make it more prominent.
And you said you eventually want to do a live show… you think you’re going to sing there too?
Maybe! I mean I have this drum pad with me that a lot of people use when they play live, like Disclosure and Flume. So I’ve been working with that – I used it once in a performance. But I think once I have an album out, just a bigger batch of material, I’ll definitely want to start really doing the live performance stuff.
So wait, you just did your release party for this new EP, am I right?
Yeah, we did one here with Sweater Beats, Soleman, and GTW, who’s a really awesome R&B/Pop artist based here in Chicago. It was a lot of fun, great turnout, we’ll do more. I’m coming to LA to play Friends of Friends’ takeover of Low End Theory.
Yesss, that’s going to be awesome. Tangent, but I didn’t know you made beats and stuff for people like EMP DASME?!
Haha, yeah he’s actually a good friend of mine. We go to school together, my roommate manages him.
No way! So you’re in school for music business right?
That’s probably the smartest thing you could ever do. It will set you apart (as in, a higher income bracket) than everyone else who is just making music.
It’s so easy to be really passive about the business end of music as a musician because you’re surrounded by people who will say they’ll do it for you. But for me it’s good to know how to handle yourself and know what people are talking about. This publishing class I’m taking right now I’m learning so much.
Yeah, it’s your manager that will take care of the grut of things, but most managers haven’t even taken these courses, they can read the contract, they have whatever experience, but to have the foundation down it’s definitely going to do you a lot of favors.
It also helps convince my parents to okay me going to art school. Haha.
Are you working on new music now that Conflict is out?
Yeah, I have a few songs with rappers in the works. I just finished this remix for this new kid Lido. He’s blowing up. He hit me in January for a remix on his upcoming EP. It took me a long time because of school, but the rough draft is finished. So yeah, remixes, beats for rappers, and some album material. The album is a long ways out, but I’m keeping busy. Now that I’m almost finished with school I’ll have way more time for music.
Yeah unless you’re out here in LA where nobody makes music all summer because it’s so nice out all the time.
That’s the beauty of Chicago. In the winter, you do not go out. You stay inside and make music.
Do you want to kind of juggle between producing for artists and working on your own stuff? Or is there a direction you want to go in?
I think I’m going to just make music. End goal would be to be producing bigger artists, but I’ll always want to have my own identity as a solo artist. What I want Different Sleep to be is a producer in both senses. I want to make remixes, make original songs, make beats for people. I like trying new things. I’m really open.
I mean, that’s what Shlohmo is doing and it’s working really well for him. He’s able to brand himself as a producer for people like Jerimih and Banks but also put out branded remixes and original work under the same identity. But I know there’s plenty of people that either want to brand things differently or just like putting out their own material or working for vocal artists. It’s always interesting to see where people want to balance themselves, how people evolve. You always start just making music, but then you learn where you want to go with experience.
I think that’s where electronic music is going, really. Cashmere Cat, Shlohmo, Arca, they’re all just weirdos making almost pop music. I like that direction, I want to be a part of that movement for sure. I want to work with a few people here in Chicago – like Tink. I love her stuff. Lots of R&B singers. I want to work with more rappers too. I’m trying to make some crossover stuff with rappers, I’d love to do something with Young Thug or this rapper from Atlanta Kap G. He’s like the Mexican future. He can do any type of style. He’s done stuff with Pharrell and Wiz Khalifa. My spectrum is pretty broad, just because I like so much different stuff.
What’s nice about being able to do so many different types of things is that the lines are so blurred now that there’s no real shit that you can get for making whatever it is you make. You haven’t really lost any integrity per say like you might have before, people definitely give less of a shit now.
I think that’s the beauty of it, people aren’t having to compensate their sound, everyone is aware that the market for our scene is getting pretty powerful. We’re getting to the point where you don’t have to say “make it good for radio” or be formulaic as much. It’s cool to sound weird and different. Kanye worked with a bunch of underground producers. A lot of the biggest stars in music are wanting to work with those kinds of people now.
Which is awesome, because all of these young super-talented producers are getting a really unique opportunity to shine. Look at what happened to Cashmere Cat, Baauer, people like that.
It’s crazy to think that they in a year came from places like Pelican Fly and Astronautico to working with Miguel. It’s awesome that those two worlds are coming together. Some people still don’t like it, some people still say it’s selling out or whatever. To me there’s no such thing. If pop artists are recognizing your music and want to hire you, that’s not selling out.
People misunderstand what selling out is. Selling out is creating something you vocally or at least memorably objected to, for a profit. If you’re making money doing what you always wanted to do, be it through mediums that from the start would have recognized you or not, that’s not selling out. That’s being successful. There’s a few sell-outs. But for the most part, these big guys in electronic music haven’t sold out.
Yeah. People will always knock you for making a lot of money for being cool.
So what else are you doing out here in LA other than the Friends of Friends takeover?
I’m doing a show with Jerome LOL and ONEMAN at The Echo for their tour. Hoping to get some studio time while I’m there for the week, then headed back to San Diego, where my parents are.
Nice! Okay let’s move on to silly questions. What’s your favorite pizza topping.
I’m a traditional guy. I like sausage and pepperoni. I just love pizza in general.
Who doesn’t? Drink of choice?
Moscow mules. The ones in the copper mug.
That’s the look. If you could tour the states right now, who would you tour with?
Damn, tough question. I definitely would want to do it with some friends of mine. This guy from LA, Dreams. He’s the shit. He’s been putting out a lot of raw dance music, using 808s and stuff. He puts down really good house sets.
I hate when people say this about me, but he is HILARIOUS on Twitter.
Hmmm.. who else. Oh you know who, Jacques Greene. Or Lone, he’s on R&S.
Yeah, that’d be awesome. Lone’s been getting mad love from James Blake lately.
I mean…. I’d love to tour with Justin Bieber.
People knock him, but his new stuff is pretty decent.
I love him. Ever since his album Believe came out back in the day, I’ve been a fan. His lifestyle is easy to hate on, but musically he’s one of the most talented pop musicians. I don’t know… he gets hate for his personal life but he’s putting out better music than a lot of other pop music. I’m pro-Beiber.
You’re not really wrong about that. Okay, last one. Albums on repeat?
I’ve really been liking Kap G, he has this mixtape called Like A Mexican that’s been on repeat. Justin Bieber’s album, Journals. Journals is hot. Leon Vynehall, he has this album Music for the Uninvited, it’s really good.
Kastle just introduced me to this new R&B kid who is really dark, Sean Leon. His mixtape Narcissus is really good.
Like Toronto dark R&B style?
Yeah, I think he’s from Toronto actually? But if you think someone like The Weeknd is dark, this guy is darker. The Weeknd talks about getting fucked up a lot, this guy is just fucked up.
Haha. That’s the vibe in Toronto. I love all that R&B scene, PARTYNEXTDOOR, Drake obviously. Everyone from Toronto is tight. Canada has a very on-point sense with their music. Jacques Greene, he’s dope too.
His new EP is so good. Okay my man. Good to chat, study hard for finals. I’ll see you in Los Angeles.
Thanks. Yeah see you out there!