Photography: Kohl Murdock
For part three, the final installation of our Lollapalooza portrait series (See part one and part two), we asked the artists to talk about one of the most complicated subjects out there: love. From their first crushes to how they channel love into songwriting, Toro y Moi, SirenXX, Beat Connection and Django Django tell all.
Toro y Moi: Electronic hero, who also performs under the moniker, “Les Sins.”
How do you juggle Toro y Moi and Les Sins, keeping both identities separate and intact?
“I feel like I primarily separate them with Toro being focused on songwriting with more of a pop structure and then Les Sins being more of a production-focused project in general. Les Sins is focused more toward the sonics of things, and how weird I can be with it. It’s more experimental.”
I saw you play a few years back in a tiny venue in St. Louis with Caribou. Since then you’ve achieved so much professional success. Is there one defining moment in your career that comes to mind?
“I think it was the first time we played Lollapalooza two years ago; that was only three years into my career. That was one of our first huge U.S. festivals we played, and it’s always a big deal for American bands to play a U.S. festival. Playing oversees is great, but playing somewhere where your friends and family can see it is always a big deal.”
Do you feel like “chill wave” is still a proper classification of your sound, or have you grown away from the genre?
“For the albums that are mostly associated with that genre, I think it’s still totally appropriate. Whether or not you want to call this new album ‘chill wave,’ is totally up to you. I feel like it’s not exactly in the same world, but there’s definitely some of the same influences. I’m always pulling from different and similar influences, so there’s probably sonic references from the older records in the newer records, too. I’ve been doing a bunch of guitar stuff. If I had to pick I’d say this album is Rock ‘N’ Roll. It’s Rock ‘N’ Roll, but with influences from jazz, R&B, pop [and] Top 40.”
How does the subject of love play into your songwriting process? Is there one person in particular you’re writing about?
“I feel like love is kind of the only subject matter, when you boil it down, for a lot of my songs. The funny thing is, they are mostly about one girl: my wife. She’s someone that I’ve known for the last ten plus years since high school. We started dating our senior year and we dated through college, then we broke up for a couple years. It wasn’t until recently when we got back together and ended up getting married. I feel like that’s how it goes at least when it comes to finding a partner; it takes a lot of acceptance and understanding to really make it work. She’s really the only girl that I’ve ever fell in love with, well besides my mama.”
How did you pop the question?
“We were in Zurich, and we had just got back from a run. I finished early and went back to the apartment and picked up some wildflowers on the way back. I was waiting for her when she got back, and proposed.”
Beat Connection: Rising electro-pop outfit, garnering praise for their sleek sound.
You all initially met in college, what we’re your first impressions of each other?
Jarred Katz: “I met Mark, the bass player when we were doing jazz together and he was the ultimate wildcard dude. You just couldn’t peg him down.”
Reed Juenger: “Yeah, Mark is definitely the wildcard dude who knew where all the parties were at. That’s definitely how we became friends honestly. [Jarred and I] just met each other getting drunk in the dorms, and we had a class together. I met Tom through another friend and he’s definitely the same dude as he is now. None of us have really changed that much.”
Was there a single moment you can remember that brought you all together professionally?
RJ: “It was pretty organic. We were all living together at one point in time and we built a little recording studio in the basement and it all kind of fell into place. But, maybe two years ago we had this crossroads moment where we had to decide if we wanted to pull all of this together and do this or call it a day, and we were all just such close friends that none of us even thought about stopping.”
Talk about the creative process for your song, “Illusion.”
JK: “The funny thing about that song is that it started out while we were working on a remix for another band and the more we worked on it we were like, ‘Oh, this is sick’ and we weren’t using any of the stems. We thought it was coming together really well and that we were missing a track on the record, something really upbeat. We ended up shifting gears and made it a new song, and then made a separate remix for the other group.”
Do you feel that love plays a strong role in your song writing process?
RJ: “I think so; a lot of our songs use a relationship or the way another person makes you feel as a jumping off point for a larger idea. Generally it’s a universal experience that everyone has, so it’s easy to connect with people through that and it’s easy to express yourself through that.”
Do you remember your first love?
RJ: “I had a crush on this girl in first grade. She was all about the Spice Girls, so I saved up all my money to buy a Spice Girls CD and by the time I had saved up enough money to get it, she had moved onto the Backstreet Boys and thought I was way behind.”
JK: “There was this girl I was into really early on in elementary school and she liked N’Sync and my sister liked N’Sync. I thought, ‘I should like N’Sync too,’ so I went to the concert with my whole family to get this girl to like me.”
SirenXX: Longtime L.A. friends, known for their collab, “Kanye,” with The Chainsmokers
How did you two meet? Tell us about the makings of SirenXX.
Kat Ostenberg: “We’ve known each other and have been friends for about five or six years. We met in L.A., we were both doing solo stuff. We kept in touch over the years and then reconnected and started writing in January of 2014. Then we became a band a couple days later.”
What’s the meaning behind name?
Skyler Stonestreet: “We thought our voices sounded almost like seductive and dreamy, kind of how sirens would lure sailors. A little bit of a greek mythology reference.”
What has been the highlight of your career thus far since first forming SirenXX?
SS: “I would say preforming this year at Lollapalooza. It’s our first festival experience, so we’re really excited. We’re debuting a bunch of new songs, and we’re getting ready for the record release and we’re so excited to be here.”
Your single, “I Think I Like You,” is very much a love song. Is love a dominant influence on your music?
SS: “It influences different songs quite a bit. There are so many different moods of the record, but for some tracks it was an emotional experience writing them. When you’re getting your heart broken, you can write so many songs. It’s so easy to write songs then; it’s creative fuel. When you’re happy, sometimes it’s a little harder.”
KO: “I think we have songs where I was in heartbroken mode for a moment and then Skyler was and the song took over a different meaning. Some songs started out about me and then Skyler’s emotions took over, or vice versa.”
Do you either of you remember your first crush?
KO: “It’s embarrassing; I had a shrine to John Travolta when I was five. I had a whole wall with pictures, I was kind of a stalker. It was weird. But at least my parents let me be me.”
What can we expect from your new album and SirenXX in the future?
SS: “I feel like we are two really strong females and I think the record is a representation of that. It has a lot of different moods and we’re so excited to show people the rest of it beyond our singles. We took a lot of risks on this album. There’s a track on it called, ‘Maniac,’ it fucking crazy. There’s a lot of really, really fun ones that we’re playing at the fest.”
Django Django: Scottish avant-pop band, touring the world for their sophomore LP Born Under Saturn
I heard you had a bunch of Metallica fans camping out at your stage during your show. How was your set?
Vincent Neff: “We had a lot of Metallica fans staring at us with faces of grimace, but we managed during the set to appeal to the Metallica boys just a bit. We’ve got this huge monitor engineer who’s a death metal fan and we were trying to get him out to scream Norwegian death metal.”
Stylistically how is your new album different from your debut album?
David Maclean: “Theres not much of a change. We consider it to be more of a follow-up to the first album or an accompaniment. We wanted to keep the same aesthetic and the same sensibilities of production, and to get some of those songs off our plate that never made the first one. We only had six months to make it as opposed to three years. There were logistical things that kind of dictated and influenced the sound, like just having a full drum kit mic-ed up rather than just one floor tom that we had in our bedroom that we tried to create a full drum kit sound from. This time we had the luxury of setting up the drum kit and record it. It made the recording process that much quicker.”
Is there one track in particular that you most enjoy performing?
DM: “I think ‘WOR,’ the one we play at the end because it’s really kind of ruckus and fun. For me as a drummer, I can really get into it and thrash around a bit.”
Where did the name come from? Do you get confused constantly with the movie Django Unchained?
DM: “I was a big fan of the old Django films, the original ones from the ’60s and ’70s. There were a lot of references in dub and reggae music to those films. There was a period in Jamaica where people were obsessed with spaghetti westerns. So, there were tracks called, ‘Son of Django,’ and Django was the name that was kind of floating around. We were sort of paying homage to them, paying homage to the westerns. But we took that name about four years before Tarantino made it, so we had no idea that was going to happen. The movie came out about the same as the album did and it caused a lot of confusion. People were calling us, ‘Django Unchained’ and calling the movie Django Django.”
Many of your songs are vague and left open to interpretation. Is love a consistent theme in your lyrics?
VN: We do a lot of double meanings. When we wrote ‘WOR,’ it was around the time that Iraq and Afghanistan were going on. We weren’t trying to ram it down everyone’s throat, but it kind of talks about those anxieties that everyone had. It was an anti-war song, but it can be left open to be interpreted as a relationship war if you want to see it that way. It’s kind of difficult to have too much of a person spin on things when there are four people writing. Quite often we’ll transpose that feeling or emotion off onto this external character and we’ll all write about the character’s situation.