Sunnery James & Ryan Marciano (Part 2)

Deemed the Dutch version of Swedish House Mafia by Axwell is DJ/producer duo Sunnery James and Ryan Marciano. Since their start in Holland about eight years ago, the guys have dominated dance floors and festivals worldwide. After interviewing them for a second time as a follow-up to the first one at Bijou Boston, we learned they think US crowds are open-minded and critical, which direction they’re taking with vocal tracks, and the difference between Ultra Miami/Buenos Aires.


Describe your sound with three words.
Sunnery: Sexy by nature.

In our last interview, you explained how you produce tracks to fit your sets rather than making music just to make music for people. Was that also the intention with your new track, “One Life?”
Sunnery: That track took a long time to finish; we had the template for almost a year. We played it and weren’t really happy with the sounds, then we met Miri Ben-Ari in New York, who added some violins, and that’s how the track came alive. We like progressive sounds and [“One Life”] is exactly what we like. A simple, continuous melody.

What makes you decide whether or not to add vocals to a track?
Sunnery: We actually don’t make a lot of vocal tracks, just one I think, “Firefaces.”
►Ryan: We did it with Jaz Von D, a good friend from Holland.
►Sunnery: It just happened. We didn’t want any vocals on the track then we met the guy in New York who suggested maybe doing vocals, so we did it. If we do vocals, it has to be a real song. What we do now is more club things, but we’re starting to do more songs, maybe for radio. I don’t want to say commercial stuff, but maybe a little bit. We’re working with a lot of songwriters and the vocal tracks are coming.

We love the jungle/tribal sound you have going on. Do you think that sound will go mainstream soon?
Sunnery: I think the whole scene is going mainstream. I see a lot of kids getting into the deeper things. At the end of the day, dance music is getting mainstream. I think if we combine our sound with vocals, it will hit the radio.
►Ryan: I don’t hope the drums get mainstream.
►Sunnery: Then everybody’s gonna play the drums. The drums are ours!

Ryan, you had also told us you think the US crowd is very open-minded. Do you still have the same impression?
Ryan: Yeah, they’re getting more open-minded. I say that because we can play really deep stuff. As you can see, Disclosure is getting so big in the US right now, and if you put them here two years ago, people would wonder what they were doing.
►Sunnery: I like how the Americans are getting more critical. Two or three years ago, they would take whatever they could get because they didn’t know any better. We come from Amsterdam, and the funny thing about Amsterdam is a few years ago, the crowd was really mellow and didn’t react as much. The Americans learn how to party; they go nuts and it’s crazy to see. The whole scene is blowing up again.
►Ryan: We’ve been doing this for years in Holland, and now they’re copying Americans.
►Sunnery: There’s a whole new energy in the crowd as the kids are starting to enjoy new dance music.

You’ve played Ultra in both Miami and Buenos Aires. It there any differentiation – in the crowd or atmosphere – you’ve noticed between the two festival locations?
Sunnery: To be honest, I think they’re quite similar. People go nuts in Miami and they go nuts in Argentina.


How do you feel about festivals versus club shows?
Sunnery: It’s funny to say, but I think the energy you get from both crowds is the same. We’re DJs, and if we get a crowd going – whether 200 people or 50,000 people – it’s the same feeling. Of course the atmosphere of 50,000 people is more intense than that of 200 people, but the feeling you get as a DJ getting people going is the same for us.
►Ryan: Although it’s more intimate in a smaller club. You can almost smell the people.

Can you be a bit more subtle with trying new things during a club set?
Sunnery: You have more time to experiment with different sounds, where at a festival, you only have an hour to rock it.

Which festival – one you haven’t played yet – are you dying to play?
Sunnery: Coachella.
►Ryan: Yes.
►Sunnery: We know what we want; we’re on the same level.

What was your first festival (to play)?
Ryan: I think Latin Village in Holland. We played on the Bacardi stage. The booth was so tiny; it was built in the back of a car.
►Sunnery: My back still hurts from that.