Within dance music, we’ve become accustomed to a certain kind of DJ. We’re all plenty familiar with the 18-year-old who pumps out a hit single, immediately goes out on tour to all the major festivals, and then has every aspect of his or her life documented by every music blog under the sun. This happens so often nowadays, we can overlook the fact that there are up-and-coming artists taking the gradual, albeit less flashy, approach. Enter Two Friends, Matt Harper and Eli Sones: A DJ duo that’s equal parts new to the scene and experienced in it at the same time. It’s a unique dynamic that doesn’t quite have an equivalent in the greater EDM-sphere.
The two started out in the game as producers and sometimes-DJs, putting out remixes and building a fanbase, all while getting their college degrees. For four years of their higher education, they consistently pumped out episodes of their podcast, as well as mashup-laden mixes that quickly garnered tens of thousands of listens on Soundcloud from fans. “College for us was mostly about getting the foundation,” Eli says, pointing out that by the time they had their degrees in hand, they had a team in place ready to help them release new music, put them out on the road to tour, and build their. entire brand from the bottom up. For them, the timing couldn’t have been better.
“I’m really glad we got in when we did. If today, you downloaded a software program and you started from scratch, it’s very hard to distinguish yourself. Even if your music is amazing, there are so many other factors that are going to play a role in your success.” –Eli
Luckily for the Two Friends, they’re not strictly speaking newcomers. Having produced music while slowly gathering fans for years, all that’s really changing now is that they’re finally able to do all of that full-time. It’s an intriguing step away from the decidedly more meteoric, instant success of their contemporaries. More than even that though, it’s the kind of strategy built for long-term success, rather than a flash-in-the-pan.
It’s digging into Eli and Matt’s history together where things get truly interesting. The two met way back in middle school, and have been inseparable ever since. “I see Matt more than I see any person in the world,” admits Eli. It’s a dynamic you don’t often see in dance music, with most duos (or trios) treating their projects primarily as business ventures. And while they still take the craft seriously as artists, there’s a certain refreshing nature found in two dudes who happen to be best friends, making music and touring the world together for the first time.
The Two Friends are arriving onto a scene that’s become almost unrecognizable from the one of just 2-3 years ago. It’s no longer enough to just make music and leave the rest to chance. Admittedly, on some levels, it can seem counter-intuitive to have that be true. But at the same time, Matt and Eli are fully aware of what’s required for success.
“You can’t always focus on music. It has to be the driving force behind your whole vision, but you can’t lock yourself in a studio and ignore everything else.” –Matt
That’s really the crux of what the newest generation of artists need in order to thrive: Balance. Prioritize the music, but make time for all of the other things that define a well-rounded DJ. The fixation on creating a banger and riding that wave until it dies is what cleared the way for a generation of artists who lean on ghost producers. When creating that one hit track is the only thing that matters, it’s easy to lose sight of why you got into this to begin with. For Matt and Eli, balancing their music-making with all the other responsibilities of a successful act is a no-brainer.
Whatever the future holds in store for the talented duo, we’d be surprised if things didn’t take off fast from here. Their set at Foundation Nightclub here in Seattle was as perfect as we could have hoped for (which incidentally, happened after they obliged a flood of requests from fans on Twitter asking them to play there). In an EDM scene poised to evolve in the face of a bursting bubble, we’re going to need more artists like these Two Friends in the brave new world of dance music.