“We like to take our time”: Why musclecars won’t get caught up in the dance music rat race

today10/06/2024 1

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So tell me a bit about musclecars, who are you, how did you meet?

Brandon: We’re a production and DJ duo based out of Brooklyn, New York. We both met back in 2009 at a music festival — we met [first] on the internet, actually. At the time, I feel like dance music wasn’t as big as it is now in the States. We were in high school, we didn’t have a lot of friends that were into the same kind of music as us, and we were both sneaker heads. We were on this sneaker forum where you would go to buy, sell and trade sneakers. There was a sub-topic for this music festival in New York, and we both reached out to each other because we were both in the same situation where we didn’t have someone to go to the festival with. Since that day we would go to shows together, go see some of our favourite DJs together, and that’s how our friendship started. Then, honestly, maybe four years after that is when musclecars was formed.

Wholesome! Where did the name come from?

Brandon: I wish I had an interesting story about it. I think we were 17 years old and it just kind of stuck. It was like an inside joke from some music video that just kept coming up with some friends of ours at the time. I remember we got a few gigs just as Brandon and Craig before that, then we just kind of went with musclecars – I think we just thought it was a bit silly and a bit humorous. And, you know, it maybe doesn’t give away like the kind of music we play just by looking at our name on a flyer.

Craig: I think it’s funny, because I feel like if you heard the album, and then somebody lifted a blindfold and you saw the name, it maybe wouldn’t make sense.

Brandon: After a while people kind of forget about the name as much because they start focusing on the music – maybe at first it matters a lot. But look at like Red Hot Chilli Peppers or Black Coffee, I don’t think anyone really thinks about the name as much.

Haha true, I’ve never actually thought about coffee when I hear that name …

Brandon: It’s just a cup of coffee! Like, if I would have thought about The Beatles without the context, it sounds like this grungy, death metal band or something. But yeah, I feel like if you get to a certain point, the music will kind of recontextualize what that name means.

So true. So Coloring Lessons was your first party, and it’s a radio show and a label as well right? Can you tell me a bit about that?

Craig: It’s essentially just a bunch of friends and people who are in the scene coming together and listening to music, but without this kind of nightlife element to it you know? I feel especially in New York, in our generation there’s sometimes a pretentious air, this bottle service element, all these things that kind of get wrapped up in nightlife that don’t really have anything to do with the music. I feel like it was a really good change of pace to just have it be focused and centred around the music. When we first got started, there were just a handful of DJs our age playing house music in New York, which is funny to hear, because it’s such a rich city – getting back to those roots is something that we have been privileged with doing for our generation.

Read this next: How to have the perfect 24 hours in New York City

So I’ve seen you guys talk about this “golden era” of NYC nightlife – what was it, and where did things go wrong?

Brandon: I would say it’s before our time, before we were even old enough to start going out. Maybe early ’80s I would say to early 2000s. We had parties like Body & Soul, which was a Sunday party that would happen at this club called Vinyl. It would be François K, Joe Clausell and Danny Krivit playing the entire party. And it was a Sunday party, so it was a daytime party and it was just purely about the music and about dancing. And, yeah, where did it go wrong? I think there’s a few things, and I think one of them was the crackdown on nightlife with the Cabaret Law — you needed a licence for people to dance in your space.

Craig: I think when we speak to our peers, we hear about 9/11 too being something that really changed the course of nightlife. I think those two things combined kind of set us back, and put a wrench in the community element that we had.

Talking of community, everyone I speak to from places in Brooklyn, like Bed-Stuy, talks to me about the gentrification going on there and how much things were changing. I wanted to ask you guys, how do you think gentrification is affecting the music scene out there?

Craig: Gentrification is a big symptom of capitalism and it’s not only happening in Bed-Stuy, it’s happening anywhere you go; when we were in London I’ve heard it’s been a big thing there. But, yes, as somebody who’s from there, I’ve seen it change and seen what resources we didn’t have access to, and what infrastructure we didn’t have that’s now pouring in just because the faces look different. It is definitely something that’s hard to wrestle with, I guess. There’s a disconnect within the community, because you have all these new people who are coming in – and the people who come in just don’t always have a sense of mindfulness of the community or how to interact with them. You’ll find a lot more instances of people maybe not knowing how to react to something and calling the police or, you know, making situations far more dangerous for people who look like us.

On that, do you have any favourite Brooklyn spots which are still authentic, where you guys can go and check out some real music and community?

Brandon: Nowadays is still one of my favourites. It’s on the border of Brooklyn and Queens, in Ridgewood. Location wise, it’s a bit of a trek to get to, so I think because of that, it’s inconvenient for people who don’t really want to be there to go out there.

Written by: Tim Hopkins

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