Catching up with Tritonal before their Boston debut at Prime, we chatted about approaches to producing tracks, radio broadcasts vs. live performances and the growth of electronic music in the U.S. Read the full interview for that, plus how they got their name, upcoming producers they’re watching and goals for the year.
Describe your sound using three words.
►Dave: Sexy, edgy, melodic.
What is trance to you? Why did you start with it?
►Dave: Emotional. For us, it’s all about melody. The whole reason we like a piece of music is because of melody. There is rhythm and melody combined, of course, but if you put a good melody in it, I’m sold. Trance is full of and based off of it.
►Dave: When we both started, there was a bit of a scene there but it has always been an infinite flux. It has had up days and down days. There was a big rave scene down there until they had the Crack House Law, which slowed things down. But now there are big artists playing.
How do you think the electronic music scene, in general, has grown in the U.S. since you started?
►Dave: It’s huge now, it’s blown up over here. The funny thing is, when Chad and I started producing, we looked to Europe and all the amazing festivals going on there. We wanted to get over there and make huge tracks so we could do that. At the point in time when we hit a good peak to start playing out more, we got to experience Europe and play Australia and the UK. As the craze happened in the U.S., everybody was just eating it up. R&B was crossing with electronic at the time and now it’s all fused together. You have dubstep and all this crazy stuff and all the kids are into it here. Ever since that happened, it’s exploded here. I have to say, all the Europeans are probably looking at the U.S. for good taste in music, and the UK. It’s going back and forth and the scene happened there a long time ago. Now it’s re-starting here in a whole different way. It’s amazing to see and we feel blessed to be in this country, especially that we’re from here, producing here and playing shows here in the comforts of our own shoes.
In September 2008, you had the Lights Over Austin/Northern Aura EP. How would you say your sound has both changed and stayed the same in the five years since then?
►Dave: More has changed than stayed the same. What has stayed the same is our knack of melody, groove and being unique. When Chad and I are working together in the studio, we’re always trying to make sure we’re being unique and different because we don’t want to sound like everybody else. Of course we have influences, we’re influenced by a lot of other people. What has changed is our BPM and more energy is put into our songs now. “Lights Over Austin” was very laid back and more of a chill track. That style of music was very experimental for us and our style has definitely changed because we’re not doing that anymore.
►Chad: I don’t think “Lights Over Austin” defines our style. We’re more main stage. The [“Lights Over Austin”] style of music is amazing to listen to but it is a lot more set back; it’s like warm-up music compared to what we produce and play now.
Is there a cool story to how you got your name?
►Chad: I guess, other than going through a whole bunch of awful names.
►Dave: We started with Tone-something. For some reason we felt like it hooked on to something.
►Chad: When got Tritonal, we looked it up and found out it was an explosive so that was cool. A tritone is a chord. Musical and explosively is an interesting combination.
Is there a skill – aside from DJ and production – you think an artist needs in order to “make it?”
►Dave: I think social media is important now because there are so many producers and DJs out there. You have to find a way to step above them, but at the end of the day, the music says it all.
►Chad: Having a brand that is identifiable. There are producers who make great music but they aren’t branded right, and for that reason, they’re not where they could be both financially and when slots are given to artists who have bigger brands.
Do you remember the point in time you realized this would be your career?
►Chad: That was more of an illusive thing for me. I knew I wanted to be in the music business, but as far as touring and being a DJ, I didn’t know if it was viable. I was totally committed to the Tritonal project when we decided to do it. We were going to give it a year to see if we could get it off the ground and make money. We were able to do that but it wasn’t until later I started to see it take shape. I’m not saying I would not have continued to do it as a hobby or a passion, I always would because I love making beats and tooling around with new software. But when Dave and I first started getting consistent tour dates, it started making sense we could build this into something big. For me there wasn’t a day where I said, “I’m going to be a DJ,” there was an evolution of hoping this dream would become a reality and over the last few years, it has.
►Dave: The funny thing is, I never thought DJ’ing was a necessity to anything. I used to think it was just all writing music. As much as I wish that was true, you still have to go out and present your product.
Do you take a different approach to writing a track with vocals versus a track without vocals?
►Dave: Yes. We’re actually in the middle of that right now; we have a track we’re working on and debating whether or not to use the vocal. If we decide to take the vocal out, it’s going to be all about a melody and having a big drop and making the track more interesting. With the vocal, the vocal would carry the track.
►Chad: We used to write a track with the intention of. Now, we never really know.
►Dave: You really just need to put [the vocal] on there to see.
►Chad: Sometimes you need to decide if the melody can be big on its own or if it even works with a vocal. There’s always a different approach, but those approaches aren’t always the same.
►Dave: Keep hitting your head against the wall. But that’s okay. When you’re working on music, being frustrated is nothing but passion and wanting to get it right. Step away and take a moment to breathe, relax and listen to some other tunes and then come back to it so you have a different ear on your own track.
►Chad: We still get frustrated; it’s just a part of it. I’d say to stay hungry on the learning aspect. There are so many resources online. Take the tracks you feel are doing it for you; try and find out sonically what those things are doing and figure out how the song sounds so big. What are they doing mix-wise, compression-wise, EQ-wise to make those elements stick out?
What’s something you get working as a duo that won wouldn’t get working alone?
►Dave: There is always a good balance going on, especially when you’re listening to a song and you’re listening to it all day. There’s always someone who will give it more critique first and there will be someone who will add an idea and then your day isn’t over yet. It’s a good feeling to have; it’s almost like protection to know the track is still moving forward, things are still going in a good direction and ideas are still being thrown at the wall. That’s one of the huge advantages of being in a duo.
For us, working as a duo is great because we each bring different strengths to the table. If it is the same way for you, what is/are each of your strong points?
►Chad: I’m the more type A personality that has brought Dave out of his shell stage-wise and maybe even in life.
►Dave: Yeah, I was sheltered, I grew up in a sheltered life.
►Chad: Like in interviews, he’s really come on his own. Although he can write really good melodies, Dave has way more knack and the ability to sit in front of a piano and rip them out on a keyboard. I can come out with melodies but it takes me longer. Production-wise, I think we’re both the same in terms of sonically getting something to sound big.
►Dave: We had different angles. I was all about 138 BPM trance and melody, I didn’t care how the bass groove was as long as it coincided with the melody. Chad was all like, bass grooves need to be huge, cool squeaky things and stuff. That was cool and different. We did bring cool things to the table to make what the Tritonal sound is.
What’s your favorite part about performing?
►Chad: For me, the satisfaction of playing your own track when it finally “does it.” When you feel like you nailed one out of the park, that’s just satisfying, especially if it’s at a festival and you feel like the crowd sort of gets it before they even know the song. And, if you’ve had a big track and everybody knows the words, that’s very satisfying too. Our passion is writing music and we want our tracks to be the biggest records of the night. When you’re playing other records and you see other tracks get a better response than your own tracks, that’s frustrating. It drives me in the studio to want to achieve that.
What do you do to pass time while traveling?
►Chad: Watch Breaking Bad…
►Dave: … and comedies.
►Chad: Chillout music, working on a beat, re-organizing our sample base, nerding out. We do write on the road, but it’s usually not taken too seriously until we’re back in the studio.
If you could have a week-long vacation to go wherever and do whatever…
►Chad: Tahiti sounds pretty good.
Do you have your eye on any upcoming producers?
►Chad: Audien is really smashing it. Estiva and Jaco have our eye. They’re from Enhanced.
Are there any genres you haven’t experimented with yet that you want to?
►Chad: I don’t know. Not to put out under the Tritonal name, but I enjoy listening to weird “how did they do that?” sounds.
►Dave: Like chillout, which has so much room to do crazy things. It’s fun. Pretty Lights is doing amazing things with it, he twisted chillout.
You have a good amount of experience with radio broadcasts. What’s something you can get away with on the airwaves that you can’t during a live performance?
►Chad: The talking. You can scream at [a live crowd] to get their hands up, but you can’t talk about what you’re playing. Also, the track selection. We’ve played stuff on the radio that we’ve never played in a live set. A radio set has like a filtration system: you start with the promo pool that’s a million miles wide, then the cool music, then two or there tracks that are kickass. It allows us to go more uplifting or soft.
Do you have anything coming up you can talk about?
►Chad: Our new EP, Metamorphic 1, just released. We have two collaborations with BT. One is called “Calling Your Name” and it’s a rework of the 1998 Anomaly track, an epic, epic trance track. We reworked it with him. Then we have another one with Christian Burns, a track called “Paralyzed.” We’ll have two more EPs this year and a lot of remixes, so a lot of studio work to do.
What other goals do you have?
►Chad: Main stage at Coachella and Ultra at some point. I’d like to do an Essential Mix, too. We’ll get there if the music gets there. That’s not stuff you can PR your way into.