Few artists have come up faster or stronger than Golf Clap in 2014. From their nonstop releases on Soundcloud, to their ridiculously funny social media presence, to their phenomenal live performances, Golf Clap essentially knocked this year right out of the park. I recently got to sit down with them on one of their many stops in Chicago this year to pick their minds and get some insight into one of the hottest DJ groups to emerge in 2014.
You guys came out of nowhere this year, released a lot of music, and had a lot of success. When did Golf Clap officially start? And what were you guys doing before you came together as Golf Clap?
Bryan: January 16th, 2013 is the day the Soundcloud page was made. We put a DJ mix up and said, “We are now Golf Clap.” Then March of 2013 was when the first actual record came out. So it’s been less than two years.
Hugh: The main reason why was… I was running a different label, Bryan had been doing his label, which was more of that Chicago jackin’ type sound. We were making a shift music-wise, and a lot of time what ends up happening is your name gets associated with a certain style of music and if it starts popping up in other categories, people have a tendency to skip over it because they assume it was a mislabeled thing. And we really wanted to have a fresh start and a fresh image for a different style of music. So that was the whole point of scrapping everything we were doing and changing our name.
We’ve seen a lot of fads and waves in electronic music with moombahton then dubstep and then trap, now this year it’s deep house. I’m a big fan of the current trend, and you guys kinda came up right as this deep house wave was landing. Have you guys always been into deep house? Or is it something you got into more recently?
Hugh: The deep house fad thing that you’re referring to is more people trying to associate with the phrase because its popular. But we’ve both been into, not just the jackin’ Chicago stuff, but the super deep house, and the chill soulful lounge house for a long time. We’ve been playing respectively fifteen-plus years, all music like that, and I don’t think it’s a fad, personally, I just think it’s really popular right now. And it’s convenient that it’s the popular thing, you know. We’ve both been used to being involved in this same kind of music for our whole lives and having it not be the big thing. Especially myself, coming from Detroit, it’s techno city, so house DJs and house music have always been on the backburner. We identified this as the time to really push hard because it’s getting a big audience.
Bryan: I think a lot of the reason deep house is big now is because they get Gorgon City on a Huxley remix with these big bands and shit like that. They’re probably just like, “Ok, if we got a Steve Aoki remix…” That’s intolerable for most people to listen to but, with Gorgon City or something, they can still do the radio songs, especially in Europe and stuff, Pete Tong could play it or something, you know? It’s got the crossover appeal right now.
Hugh: I think deep house, by nature, is a destination thing. Where I feel like no matter what you grew up listening to, a lot of people end up at deep house. And certain parts of it, especially the more chill stuff, is just a lot more potable. One of the things about our mixes is that they’re really deep, and you talk about a DJ ‘playing the room,’ right? Play the right music for the room… Well, when you’re listening to a DJ mix, 99% of the time, that room is chillin with your friends, or sitting in your car, and listening to crazy loud and wild music isn’t really appropriate in that room. I feel like we make music that’s for the other 90% of your life that you’re not in a nightclub. So that’s why the things that you covet are the things you end up having a true appreciation for, so we make music that people can listen to during their normal, daily lives.
It’s funny that you say that because I’ve expanded and changed my listening over the years and I feel like I kinda settled into deep house too, it’s just that groove that I love. Are you finding it difficult to make a name for yourself, or to separate yourself from the pack with deep house becoming so popular this year?
Bryan: No. Absolutely the opposite. I feel like we’re in a unique position because we… do a bunch of weird shit. We have this funny name, and we dress up like golfers, and we put all these silly things on our social media — we’re a lot more active on it than other people. We play way more shows locally than anybody I know in their local city. We throw shows, we have a record label… there’s just so much about it. And also we always take the time to talk to people at the shows. Just in general we’ll both go out and talk to anybody that want’s to talk to us while we’re at the show. We like to give people personal attention, that stuff matters a lot and it’s what makes people want to keep coming to your shows.
Hugh: A lot of people are in too big of a hurry to get famous and popular and they forget that this is a people business. It’s about being a human being and making those relationships. We had a buddy, one of the Sin Label guys, come with us up to Milwaukee last night and the main thing, he was like “You guys really go out and hang out with people and don’t hide out in the green room. You go out to the after-party and show face.” I think we have a different perspective because we throw so many shows in Detroit bringing in people where people come in not just because of their music, we bring em in to and they wanna go out and have dinner, hang out, hit the after-parties with us. Not this whole, “Drop me off at the hotel, I’ll take a cab to the venue, I’ll get there at 11:59 and I’ll book back to the hotel…” That’s just not what it’s about. I don’t know how people end up at that point, but it’s like, why did you get into this business then? Just to recluse yourself out and not show love to the people that got you where you are.
Bryan: And there’s people like Huxley, who we’ve played with three times, we ask him what he wants to do and he says, “I’m going with you guys.” I don’t even need to go back to the hotel ’til the morning, let’s go to your house… What do you guys wanna do?”
Hugh: He came over and I cooked dinner and shit. He didn’t even wanna go to the hotel, he just wanted to hang. And when we book Christian Martin, he doesn’t book his flight until like 8pm the next night because he expects to go out and party with us.
Things are picking up quickly for Country Club Disco and I’m wondering what your aim for the label is… Are you going to add a bunch of people and diversify? Are you trying to keep it all in the deep house realm?
Bryan: It’s more than a label, first of all.
Hugh: It’s a lifestyle brand.
Bryan: It’s the whole branding of everything that we have anything to do with, basically. It’s gonna be music, all the shows that we’re throwing, apparel… Right now, we’re not by any means a management company, but we have young artists that we’re helping out, sort of pseudo-managing them, which could potentially build into something like that if we got more staff. A lot of things could come out of it, it’s just supposed to be whatever the lesser word for ‘empire’ would be, but not that big of a word (laughs).
Hugh: You look at some of the big brands like Dirtybird…
Bryan: That’s the number one thing in the States that we’re going for, in terms of branding, is like what Dirtybird has done. Not the music but the branding. You know how many times I’ve talked to some random 20-something girl that goes out to shows sometimes, I ask her what kind of music she listens to, and she says, “You know, Claude [Von Stroke], most of the stuff on Dirtybird.” And that’s their answer… (laughs) And it’s not because Dirtybird — I like those guys — but it’s not because they’re so much better than everybody else. It’s because that’s what’s been shoved down everybody’s throat. Same reason why everybody knows who Drake is, or whoever the fuck else they play on the radio.
Hugh: It’s what we would consider a ‘full service label.’ A lot of labels just put out music, a real proper label should put out music, and throw events, and have apparel, and do all of those things that help an artist. You can look at Soul Clap records as a good example, with them, Wolf + Lamb, Nick Monaco, and Tanner Ross and those guys, they just pack together and throw the parties and show each other love, they hook each other up with remixes and stuff like that. That’s what we’re trying to model ourselves after.
Bryan: I feel like it keeps you on your game too. If you just associate with like-minded people who you really believe in, who are really talented… There are a lot of things that come into who we actually want to work with. Like MRJ, this guy from Poland that we’re doing a lot of stuff with. He’s 20 years old…so he’s really young, he’s really good, he works really fast, he does everything we ask him to, he makes the right kind of music, he’s a nice guy… he has all these things going for him, so that’s a really specific example of the kind of people we’re trying to push more.
Are you planning to release all of Golf Clap’s music through Country Club Disco?
Hugh: Right now, kind of the rough structure we have is that the vinyl is going to be primarily Golf Clap singles with remixes that Bryan is doing the A&R on. And the digital only stuff is where MRJ and some of these other people that we’re bringing up are going to be featured.
Bryan: A lot of it depends on the future of the vinyl business too….
Seems pretty strong right now?
Hugh: Yeah but it’s a different market. We wanna do vinyl and digital because any other label out: it doesn’t matter, you have to be available on all formats. But it’s definitely an interesting and different market to crack because the vinyl DJs in general play a different style of music. So we’re trying to build our growth and awareness within that community because vinyl guys will tend to play, especially in Detroit, it’s Omar-S and Moodyman, Kyle Hall, Theo Parrish… that stuff sells like hot cakes. Andres too, which is why we went after him for a remix. That’s not necessarily our scene our or sound, but we’re just trying to put it out there, make it available, and build awareness.
So what’s up with this new Simma Black LP then? How did that come about?
Bryan: That’s Low Steppa’s label and he’s been a huge supporter of us and we’ve been a huge supported of him and he’s somebody that if either of us makes a song and wants mix-down advice, we’ll send it to each other for an opinion. It’s just somebody we’ve worked with a lot and a lot of those songs are from when we first started Golf Clap, the first six months-ish, when we only had like 1,500 or 2,000 fans on Soundcloud, and a couple of these were free downloads for a few weeks that would peak out at 2,000 plays and a couple hundred downloads, because we didn’t have that many fans yet and we just pulled it down. Not enough people had heard them and we felt like we could pull them down, remaster them, work on them a bit, and re-release them later. Which is what we did.
Hugh: Low Steppa is kind of doing the same thing that we’ve been doing. He made a huge career for himself as Will Bailey, doing this kind of electro fidget-house thing that was going on. He scrapped all of that, started over as Low Steppa, and it’s just skyrocketed for him. He showed us a lot of early support, and that’s why we work together a lot and remix stuff for each other a lot. It’s a really cool UK label to be on right now, so we did it.
This year you guys have released a mind-boggling number of live sets and mixes… Do you guys plan to keep this pace up? You guys are doing a lot more than a lot of other people…
Bryan: Yes, because we have to. A lot of it is just for us. Hugh has the 24-hour mix in his car and he just told me he’s so fucking sick of the entire 24-hour mix. I didn’t even think that was possible but he knows every song in order, he’s listened to it like 50 times through.
Hugh: I drive a lot.
Bryan: And that’s a 24-hour mix… So your typical mix is 80 minutes. It takes one to three weeks to really cultivate songs for a mix, and that’s when we’re busting ass looking for music constantly and playing three to five shows a week — that’s how long it takes to not just have 15-20 good songs, you have to have 60-70 good songs, and then bring that down to 50… instead of playing three of one guy’s songs you cut it to two, ten of the songs don’t quite sound right… things like that help cut down a big list into something more focused for a mix.
Hugh: It looks like it’s all this extra side work, but the reality is, and I feel like a lot of DJs lack in this, or they’re lazy, or they just aren’t doing what I really think the essence of being a DJ is… we’re playing 175 shows a year, a lot of those in the same cities, which means you have to really change your music up. So we’re always running through new material, usually like two to three week average where we start over with all new material, we’re DJing this weekend in Chicago with the next batch of new stuff. When you come to a city, I mean, I don’t know what other people think, but I don’t wanna have people think they heard us play the same set before. Some people don’t notice, but the heads do, and it makes a difference to us.
Bryan: I specifically always try to remember if we play something like Pete Heller “Big Love,” or like an old Daft Punk track, a random classic, then we don’t ever wanna play it again because then it’s becomes one of those things that seems random at first, but people quickly realize you’re just still playing that track in your set every time.
Hugh: And it’s different now because back in the vinyl days, when it was just vinyl only, you’d pay someone three to four thousand dollars just to hear what they had in that crate. Things were very limited, you had to really dig to find records, and trade to get records, and those records were who you were. But now everything is what’s hot for the moment, and with the digital era that’s all the reason why we’re doing so many mixes and tracks because it’s hard to get noticed unless you’re giving people constant pressure and constant music. You might have a song get on the charts, but a month or two later it’s not there anymore. So you may or may not exist in a few months. A lot of these tracks we find, if I don’t have 20 tracks from you, I don’t even know who you are. I won’t remember the name of the producer. So to be noticeable you have to be putting out tons and tons of stuff.
That’s awesome to hear because I saw Chromeo last night and they played exactly the same set that they played the last time I saw them. Same thing with Disclosure — I saw them three times in the last year and all of their sets were incredibly similar. So it’s awesome to hear you guys say that the heads know what’s up and you want to avoid repeats.
Bryan: Well, you just named two live acts, so it’s different…
Not really though, it’s the mentality as a performer to not give the same crowd the same show repeatedly. To make a conscious effort to provide a fresh show every time out. To feel like you can’t get CAUGHT playing the same thing twice because people will notice that shit…
Hugh: Sometimes we play two or three shows in the same night. I know one time this year we flew in from New York and we played five shows that night. All of our fans came to three to five of those shows and we gotta give em a different show, what are we gonna do? Play the same set? (laughs) I just think a lot of touring guys get caught up in thinking that being in a different city means people haven’t heard the same stuff. Yeah, that’s cool, maybe some of them haven’t, but if you can do better, you should do better.
Bryan: It’s more just mediocrity in general. Alright, think about the last 20 times you went to a nightclub to see a DJ… how many times were you impressed to the point where you wanted to see them again right away? Not very often. When you go out to a nightclub, more often than not you’re drinking and hearing music and you’re with your friends and it’s cool. But it’s very rare that anybody does anything extra. They always just go up there and it seems like, “I have a whole bunch of songs I just downloaded from Beatport, I haven’t even listened to them all the way through one time. I got this promo from my friend who runs this label and I play everything from his label. I’m just gonna play it, and if it sounds good tonight, I’ll keep playing it. If it doesn’t I’ll stop playing it.” You shouldn’t be testing shit. Or the only way you do is if you’re goddamn sure that it’s fine. Same as how you shouldn’t be doing live PAs if you’re not even at the level where you feel comfortable releasing a single or something yet.
From the production side of things, is it a challenge right now to create fresh sounding stuff with the market being so flooded with deep house?
Bryan: No. For me personally I’ve always had a problem sounding too different, I think. I always have to try to conform a little bit more. A good example is how Todd Edwards sounds. His records are amazing, but they don’t fit in anybody in the entire world’s regular DJ set because it’s so unique that when you’re that unique, you either get super famous and everybody tries to copy you, or everybody thinks it’s too weird to get used to so nothing ever happens.
Hugh: It’s a weird ideal because if you want your stuff to get played by headliners then you have to sound like music headliners would want to play, that’s gonna go with their stuff. So you do wanna take risks and make cool stuff, but it’s like what he’s saying — you can’t be so unique that you’re alienating yourself from the masses. It’s a really fine line sometimes. There are always trends that music goes through — for a while we were blowing out tracks with the M1 keys and we had to stop doing that. But then it comes back… and right now it’s this thing with the square basslines that’s become popular, and the garage-y stuff too. There’s always gonna be people who say that certain stuff is played out, that the pitched-down vocals thing is played out, but somebody could always make a really big jam and suddenly it’ll be back in style again. It’s a weird thing.
That’s the thing about electronic music, as soon as you’re catching onto one thing, it’s already moving onto the next thing. It all happens so quickly…
Bryan: It’s one of those things that I wish I could have told myself ten years ago… I remember saying to myself, “I don’t really need to practice DJing, I know how to fuckin DJ, I know how to pick good music and I just show up to the club and play it.” I remember the first few times reading something like a floor in DJ Mag, when I was about 18 years old, and I just remember thinking it was such a crock of shit. I thought they tried to make everything seem like such a bigger deal than it was. I felt like they were trying to amp it up and make it seem like DJing was some big art that you had to do all this stuff to accomplish, when it really wasn’t that way. The first few times you go out and play you’re just trying not to trainwreck and play horrible music and not embarrass yourself. Then after three or four times you realize you’re not going to embarrass yourself, so you need to start playing better music. Then you go and play and one or two of your songs kill it, but the other ones don’t, then the next progression is finding more of those songs. It just keeps going up and up and when you play so many shows… you get very perfectionist about it. We will walk in and Hugh will say the lights are too bright or ask questions why they have the sound setup certain ways. We get very nit picky about this stuff and it’s not being an asshole it’s just that we throw more shows than most people we play for.
Hugh: It’s about the overall experience. The reason why I do stuff like that is because we aren’t at the point yet where we have a road/touring manager to handle it. But most of all, it’s because we’re the ones standing up on stage, everything reflects on us. If the speakers sound like shit and it’s really treble-heavy or something like that, or if the lighting is bad, it affects the overall mood, which reflects on us, and maybe on the promoter too, but mostly on us.
I think most of what people from Chicago know about Detroit is Movement Festival and a whole bunch of sports teams that they hate. There seems to be a lot of conceptions about Detroit… What would you want outsiders, especially people from Chicago, to know about your city?
Hugh: It’s the biggest small town right now, for the city and the population compared to New York, LA, and Chicago. We travel all over the place and I don’t really go to many cities where there’s as much diversity and as many things going on on a nightly basis. We’ve been really spoiled, and a lot of that has been the advent of the big Live Nation/AEG/React companies coming in and bringing these huge acts in, but it’s also a scene that is unique compared to almost every other city I’ve been to — and it hasn’t always been this way but at least the last 5-8 years, where the promoters are in communication with each other, there’s a little bit more harmony there than anywhere else I go, we all talk and we don’t step on each others toes and there’s enough clubs for everybody where for the most part there’s some cohesiveness with the scene. That’s something that’s really special. I’m surprised that with a city like Chicago, there are so many legends that live out here, and for example, we brought out for Troy’s birthday we brought out Funk, Dion and Sluggo, because he loves ghetto-house night, and we’re in the car and I said something to them about how great it was to have all of them play together, and they told me that they’ve never done that before. Those guys have been in the game for 30 years and they’ve never all played together in Chicago… That blows my mind. It just doesn’t seem like people work together out here, at least right now.
Yeah… there’s some big nightclubs here and a lot of competition, so I can see what you’re saying. It’s great to hear that it’s not like that in Detroit though. So what clubs do you play in Detroit? Where’s the good shit at?
Bryan: We do our parties at Grasshopper, that’s the majority of the stuff that we do. But we pretty much play everywhere, every once in a while. We rotate at The Works, TV Bar, Electricity and like three other places, one to five times per year, depending on who decides to throw parties and calls us
Hugh: And I guess kind of a newer thing in the past few years, I guess because of the EDM boom thing, is that the college cities are really building their own little scenes, so we take residencies in Ann Arbor and Lansing and Kalamazoo and Grand Rapids and make our way across the state playing in college cities and stuff. That’s really been one of the biggest sources for new fans and friends. And these younger cats and much more active on the social media and seem to be pretty loyal fans who want to build the scene. One of the nights we do in Ann Arbor is on a Thursday night, and by 11:00 the place is at capacity and a 100-person line out the door. It’s awesome to see the kids come out and dance. That’s also a main thing for us, people will play safe sets and it’s more of a social gathering to come and hang out and talk to your friends. Not that we push this on anybody, but we prefer crowds that don’t talk to each because they’re too busy dancing.
It’s interesting that you mentioned that people play all the different venues in Detroit, because in Chicago, certain people tend to play at certain clubs every time, there isn’t a whole lot of cross-pollination here…
Bryan: Well, not everyone in Detroit does that. And to be fair we cross-pollinate a lot more than anyone else we know. We play so much that we’re bound to play every venue in Detroit at one point or another in the year. One of our friends is going to book us every where in town. Even if the venue owner thinks we’re pieces of shit and hate our music, they’re gonna rent it out to some promoter and that promoter is gonna book us anyhow.
One of my favorite things you guys released this year on Soundcloud this year was your set from Movement. What does that festival mean to you guys and to the city of Detroit?
Hugh: I mean, I’ve been a part of it and going since the very, very beginning. I think I’ve only missed one or two years since the start of DEMF. And since Paxahau has taken over, they’ve grown the festival and brought a lot more attention to it. For us to actually get to play it, it’s obviously a huge honor, but nationally, for every DJ that we’ve brought in, they always talk about wanting to play Movement becuase it’s such a tastemaker festival and they don’t really book any fluff. Deadmau5 played like 6 or 7 years ago, but that was before he was as huge as he is now.
Bryan: There might be like five out of 120 that are ‘fluff’ or mainstream stuff now. It’s all good shit. For me, I’ve only lived in Detroit for two years now, but I’ve gone at least five times when I lived four hours away, and six or seven times total. It’s not even for Paxahau or for the people playing the shops, its for the entire city to step up and show the world they can handle the spotlight for a weekend. If you wanna throw some crazy party, there’s going to be people from all over the world who weren’t even there, who will look at the Facebook page and get all butthurt about missing it. But among the people who do attend, especially repeat attendees, they always say that it’s their favorite weekend of the year. Even among the older people who don’t go out as much anymore — they go really hard for Movement. So if you can get in the head of those people, and make a really good impression on them during they’re favorite weekend — like Electric Forest too — it goes a long way towards making new fans.
See Golf Clap TOMORROW night at Mercer113 in Chicago! Tickets: http://www.eventbrite.com/o/back-to-basics-at-mercer-113-7653106349