Q&A: Meet Moving Castle, The Collective Internet-Born That Is Making Waves IRL

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The internet is a place teeming with possibility. Whether it be a constantly evolving meme culture, hours upon hours wasted on social media, or Youtube tutorials on anything imaginable, the internet is truly what one makes of it. And for a group of young adults originally spread out on on the east coast, the internet served as the birthplace and testing grounds for Moving Castle. The collective of like-minded Soundcloud artists create luscious, digitally-infused music that is never strictly limited to one genre. Under normal circumstances, the group of artists who constitute Moving Castle likely never would have come together nor continued to make music together four years after the collective’s original inception, but such is the transformative power of these newfound digital collectives. 

Traditional barriers such as location, time zones, or a label head fretting over a sense of cohesion and what is believed to sell are seemingly a thing of the past for the artists belonging to Moving Castle. Instead, Moving Castle is filled with a unique brand of creative energy that permeates throughout every one of its members and releases. For instance, take the newest single from Moving Castle founding member AObeats, “The Wave.” Featuring fellow collective members, SATICA and SAKIMA, “The Wave” is a lush and tantalizing gem of a track that blends together everything from impeccable electronic production to R&B and pop-style vocals.

The collective’s history and talent for churning out such gems have resulted in them racking up over millions of plays on Soundcloud alone, with releases that span across a range of genres from jersey house, future bass, pop, to R&B. Thus, Moving Castle is hardly a well-kept secret anymore amongst electronic music’s biggest tastemakers and Soundcloud aficionados. Bridging the gap between digital collective and real-world influencers, Moving Castle has recently seen their online popularity manifest real, tangible results. With the collective readying themselves to launch their inaugural music festival January 27 at The Fonda in Los Angeles and sightings of Skrillex repping the collective’s branded long-sleeves, Moving Castle has evolved from mere online buzz to leaving what is sure to be a lasting and noticeable indentation on the electronic music landscape. So, we sat down with two of the founding members of Moving Castle, Robokid and AObeats, to talk about everything from the earliest days of the collective to internet time vampires. 

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OTW: When and how did Moving Castle first come together?

AObeats: Robo and I went to the same College but didn’t actually meet there. We went to UMass Amherst. I first met Chris, Manila Killa, through a mutual friend who I did an internship with in New York.

Robokid: We were actually reading the messages from four years ago, and it was pretty funny and cringey. So, AObeats hit me up Soundcloud and we started talking about each other’s music and eventually met up. It was a year after till we started talking about making some sort of collective, which was us, Manilla Killa, and Hunt For The Breeze in the beginning.

AO: I think I have somewhere these cringey texts of me one night after a show saying, “You, me, and Manila should start something,” and then Chris met Hunt For The Breeze through BLAISE who had these studio sessions in the DC area. The original crew was a bunch of people who we kind of knew online like Dirty Chocolate, Vices, Jailo, and Kappa Kavi.

Robo: Yeah, just a bunch of random kids online who we liked, were friends with, and started doing compilations with.

OTW: So were you two studying music at Amherst?

Robo: I wasn’t. I was studying psychology and didn’t end up finishing.

AO: I was studying media and film. I more so just liked making music for fun.

OTW: When did each of you first become involved with music then and what eventually led you down the path of electronic music?

Robo: I started making electronic music in high school, so it was like 2009 when I first really started making music. I had a band with my friends and we figured out how to use Fruity Loops. We were terrible. In college, I got really into EDM and going to festivals and shows. So, I started making more EDM type stuff then.

AO: For me, I started making hip-hop beats in high school, freshman or sophomore year. I just made rap beats for a while and didn’t know anything about electronic music. And then in college, when EDM was first blowing up in America with Skrillex and Ed Banger, that got me more into doing electronic music. I tried to make dubstep for six months and it just wasn’t for me, and eventually, I found stuff that I liked.

OTW: What drew all of you to an artists’ collective as opposed to traditional label route?

Robo: The main concept was just because we were all seeing a lot of other people doing it like Team Supreme and M|O|D. We were inspired by these kinds of collectives to make our own that was just our sound, because we knew our sound was different than what other people were doing.

AO: I think at the time the whole SoundCloud world hadn’t yet become what it is like now. It was a lot smaller. I felt like we didn’t really know how anything worked really, so we saw it as a way to help and support each other. We all kind of had these little followings, but if we all did stuff together, it would help foister that up.

Robo: Also, I think we weren’t really looking to start a label nor were we really looking for a label the time. I don’t think any of us were ready for that. We were all just experimenting on SoundCloud with production, and it just snowballed pretty quickly when we started working together.

OTW: How did the name Moving Castle come about?

AO: Me, Chris, and a few friends were working on this song that was later on MOVING CASTLE VOL. 002, called “Food Diaries,” and we were talking about what to call it. I had watched some movie recently and we started talking about Miyazaki. It’s funny actually, the guy who came up with the name hadn’t seen any of the Miyazaki movies and at the time didn’t know anything about Howl’s Moving Castle. He just googled all of the Miyazaki movies and picked the name he liked the most. We just liked the way it sounded and just went from there.

OTW: Is Moving Castle not your guys’ favorite Ghibli film then?

AO: It’s not mine. Mine is Princess Mononoke.

Robo: It’s not my favorite either. Mine’s Princess Mononoke or My Neighbor Totoro. I think that’s something that’s a misconception because of the name, and even in the beginning, I knew it would get associated with it, but I didn’t know Moving Castle would keep growing to be what it is now.

AO: Yeah, I don’t think we were putting too much thought into it, and things organically just kind of grew.

Robo: But I do remember being like, “Oh shit is this legal?”

OTW: A large part of your aesthetic draws from Japanese culture, from your name to your logo, how did that aspect come to be symbolic alongside the Moving Castle brand?

AO: That was actually because we thought of the logo first. My dad actually checked to make sure it was accurate, and there was a typo on the sleeves of our first shirts.

Robo: I think for everyone it’s kind of different too. For AO, he has family in Japan and has grown up visiting Japan. And even for me growing up in America, there’s so much Japanese culture on TV, movies, and even stuff I didn’t even know growing up was from Japan like Power Rangers. musically, I used to listen to J-pop, so I think that’s part of where it comes from.

AO: I think it’s the same for me too, even with hip-hop and fashion. I feel like there’s a cycle where a lot of times something will become popular in hip-hop and then it’ll become popular in Japan, then they take it and put their own twists on it, and then it comes back to American rappers. For instance, I feel like early on Pharrell was a big influence on all that stuff with Teriyaki Boyz and all the early BAPE, and that era influenced a lot of my production and what I liked style-wise.

Robo: Yeah, I used to think it was so cool and different from what else was going on. I didn’t ever see the distinction until later.

AO: I don’t think any of us ever consciously thought we were a Japanese-influenced collective. The name came and we just ran with it.

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OTW: Being an artist collective with so many varying unique sounds, is a sense of cohesion ever a concern?

Robo: For me, it’s like genres as a whole have kind of been breaking down. I think growing up in the 2000s and now music is so blended. I like cohesion, but I’m pretty much down with everything. I’d be down to put out a country song if it was the right one.

AO: I think in the beginning, just because of what our tastes were, we had a similar feel but even then Vices had this heavier jersey-club sound and I had the more bluesy, hip-hop and funk sound. All of our sounds too have evolved and changed over time, because all of us have started listening to different things and begun trying to carve out our own ways as artists. At the same time, it’s cool that we’ve been able to remain friends and work on music together. It created this friend group of people that are all still working together even though we all separately make pretty different music.

OTW: So, if Moving Castle doesn’t worry all too much about a rigid sense of cohesion, what about a track or artist makes you think that you want it to be a Moving Castle release or member?

Robo: I think in the beginning we more so just want to click with the person, be friends, and make sure they had no bad intentions. So, we were just kind of looking at artists whose music we liked.

AO: At this point, there isn’t really a specific set of guidelines or criteria. I think it’s more so if we just like the music, think it can go somewhere, and we believe in it. I don’t think there’s a specific style or checklist. As long as it’s cool, fresh, new, and we like it, that’s it.

OTW: Do you recall there being a particular track where you first started seeing everything taking off, where you had the thought that you could possibly just make music from here on out?

Robo: Honestly, I don’t know if I’ve even had that feeling yet. For me, it’s always a constant battle. I think when things really started to take off was around the time of “Helix 2.0.” We were gaining a lot of comments and traction on Soundcloud, agents were hitting us up, and we ended up touring. I think that was maybe a feeling of okay this could be something worthwhile.

AO: It’s hard to pinpoint a specific song or moment.  I remember we did one of our very first shows in LA, and it was crazy for me to see a lot of people come out to a show that I didn’t have mutual friends with. On the internet, it’s really easy to see numbers go up, and everyone does something now that could be viral, but I think for me it was when we first started seeing people wearing the shirts and coming to shows that were just random people who liked the music. There are even a few people who have tattoos. I think all of that just felt so much more real.

OTW: What would each of you say has been the craziest moment for each of you as a part of Moving Castle so far?

Robo: Just when we had the first show in LA and sold out all our shirts immediately and Skrillex wore our shirt. I just thought it was so cool. I feel like it’s just the newness of it all.

AO: I never would have dreamed that we’d be doing this Moving Castle World event at The Fonda. If you asked me four years ago, are you going to be doing a festival? I would have never in a million years thought we’d be doing that. We’re both from Massachusetts. I don’t think either of us thought four years ago when we started this that we would be living in Los Angeles doing music. At the end of the day, as long as I can make a living doing this, that in itself is crazy to me.

OTW: Speaking of your first ever festival, Moving Castle World, taking place at The Fonda in Los Angeles on January 27. What can people expect from it?

Robo: A lot of new acts that people haven’t seen play like Rulers and exes. They’re getting a lot of attention, but I feel like the Moving Castle fans are still new to them.

AO: We’re working on some stage design stuff to make it all look dope too. And just a good a time. We missed throwing events that we used to do, because it was just a lot of fun for us too, and I feel like anytime we have these things it feels like a little family reunion. A lot of us live in different places or are on tour a lot, so we don’t get to see everyone as much as we did in the very beginning. It’s going to be a really fun night with a lot of new music.

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OTW: Robokid, you’ve been transitioning from primarily making instrumental tracks to singing on your own tracks, as seen on your forthcoming debut EP Apart, dropping January 19. What was it like making that transition?

Robo: It’s been really fun but hard at the same time. When I first started making music, it was with my best friend and we wanted a singer, but I was like I suck, you have to be the singer. As I got more into EDM, I lost my way with that side of music. It’s cool going back to that and having the confidence to now sing myself. It’s what I’ve always wanted to do, and I’ve been able to use all my experience from production. It just gets me excited about the future of my project and other projects I may work on. It’s a starting point, this EP.

OTW: AObeats, any hints as to the friends you’ll be bringing with you?

AO: I don’t want to say any names, but people I’ve worked with recently, people who I’m still working with, and people I’ve worked with in the past. Quite literally a bunch of my close friends. It’s going to be dope.

OTW: As a collective born on the Internet, what do think has been the biggest time vampire, internet-wise, for the two of you?

Robo: Facebook. It’s so embarrassing and the worst answer. Social media in general, it’s bad. I wish I didn’t.

AO: Similar. I think that’s probably what anyone our age would say.

Robo: It’s definitely a waste of time.

AO: On one hand, I would say dumb YouTube videos, but also I feel like I learned a lot from YouTube.

Robo: Yeah, also the other thing I could say is social media, but that‘s where I met 90% of my friends.

AO: WIthout Facebook, Moving Castle wouldn’t exist. We did all our business over Facebook group chat, which we later realized was probably not the most efficient way to get things done. It’s very easy to get sidetracked.

OTW: You both collaborate with one another on a number of tracks. What’s the process like working together; is most of it done online or in person?

Robo: At first it was all online, pretty much. Now, it’s pretty much all in person. I’d rather just go hang out and work on shit then try and send stuff back and forth. It’s easier to come to an agreement on something when you’re in the same room.

AO: There’s been certain songs we’ve gone back and forth over email and couldn’t figure out a certain thing, or people would have different opinions on certain parts of the song. It would take forever. Then we get in the room in person, and in less than an hour, we figure out all of that. It’s so much easier to communicate certain things and get the point across. Definitely, in the beginning, it was all over the internet, but now we’re lucky enough to have a lot of us live within close proximity. So, we just happen to make music while hanging out. It’s great.

OTW: Were there any songs that struck a particular chord with you growing up?

AO: “In Da Club” by 50 Cent and “Get Busy” by Sean Paul.

Robo: That’s a really hard question for me, but lately I’ve been relistening to old music that I really liked, like Incubus and Circa Survive. I really liked stuff that was indie and electronic too like Postal Service. There’s just too many.

OTW: Who are your Ones To Watch?

AO: Sakima, Satica, exes. Those are my first off the top of my head. BLAISE.

Robo: Definitely Mark Johns, because I know she has a million songs that are amazing. She’s going to go far. I want to not say only our friends too, but it’s hard not to be excited for them because we know what they have coming. They’re going to be dropping some crazy stuff.

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