Q&A: Talking Hoop Dreams to Playing Main Stages with Hotel Garuda at CRSSD’s Fall Festival

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Photos: Steven Truong 

We recently had the chance to catch a number of prolific and up and coming acts in the electronic scene at CRSSD’s 2017 Fall Festival. The festival has quickly made a name for themselves in the few years since its inception as a festival showcasing some of the best talent internationally, but if there was one act that undeniably blew us away it was the rapidly rising duo behind Hotel Garuda. Hotel Garuda may be fresh out of college, but the two aspiring producers and DJs are no strangers to the electronic music scene. Comprised of Manila Killa and Candleweather, the duo quickly made a name for themselves overnight with a series of remixes and edits that were clearly impossible to ignore. Their music quickly circulated amongst Soundcloud’s elite and beyond, racking up over 25-million streams on Soundcloud alone and consecutively topping the Hype Machine charts. 

The Hotel Garuda craze seemed universal as the duo began booking sold out shows and festivals across the country before the two of them were even officially finished college. Now with no textbooks holding them down and a rabid fanbase eagerly watching their every move, Hotel Garuda seems poised to takeover the electronic music scene. So, with no end in sight for the duo, we caught up with Aseem and Chris from Hotel Garuda at CRSSD’s Fall Festival to get the inside scoop on what exactly makes Hotel Garuda, Hotel Garuda.  

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OTW: I’m here with Aseem & Chris from Hotel Garuda at CRSSD right now.

Aseem & Chris: What’s up!

OTW: So, let’s get started with the origin story. You’re both DJs and producers in your own right, Candleweather and Manila Killa, so how did you two first meet and when did the two of you decide to join forces as Hotel Garuda?

A: We met in middle school because we both went to the same school in Indonesia when our families lived there, but we didn’t really connect on music then. We played on the same community basketball team. Fun fact: We lost every game. But then we both were in University in the U.S., so we just started talking again after I noticed his Facebook page for his Manilla Killa mashups. Throwback.

C: Wow that was a while ago.

A: Yeah that was a long time ago. So, we started talking I guess our sophomore, junior year in college, and just decided to collaborate really randomly because we both sort of had similar tastes. We were like fuck it why don’t we just do something together.

C: Yeah, so initially it was going to be a collaboration between Manilla Killa and whatever name he came up with. But then half way through the collab, I was like why don’t we make just an entirely new project, so we came up with a name–Hotel Garuda–and Brett our manager now…

A: Who formerly was both of ours’ employer.

C: Yeah, like earlier we had worked for a blog together and we both worked for Brett, but as things moved forward, I was like yo Brett we have this new project that we want you to push. And that happened, we put out our first song and here we are now in San Diego.

A: Here we are!

OTW: When it comes to being a duo how does that dynamic play out during your DJ sets?

A: Oh we just play one song each.

C: Also, we understand each other’s taste.

A: We taste each other, yeah.

A & C: (laughter)

C: Yeah, we taste each other. We like to make sure that our sets are very cohesive, but it’s pretty natural though. Ever since the beginning of Hotel Garuda, we did a pretty good job of going back to back.

A: After a while of meeting each other for our shows, cause we still weren’t living in the same place when we started working on our shows.

C: Still aren’t.

A: Yeah, still aren’t, but after a few times of playing together, we just kind of found a rhythm for both of us that we fit into.

OTW: What’s one thing the world doesn’t know about the other?

C: Whaaaaat. That’s way too hard. I’ve never thought about it that way.

A: I know some things people don’t know about you.

C: I’m annoying as fuck man.

A: (laughter) Chris is one of the most annoying people I know in my life, but it’s okay. I love him.

C: Honestly, I don’t have an answer for that. You’d have to give me like thirty minutes. Because, Aseem pretty much puts himself out in the world, so whatever I know, everyone else does.

A: Yeah, I feel like I’m pretty much an open book. And both of us are such lowkey dudes in general that it’s not super common for us to be out except for around our close friends.

C: Yeah, whatever the world knows, that’s kind of it. I don’t hide myself from people, but I don’t expose myself either. Honestly, I can’t even answer that.

A: That’s a long answer for a short question (laughter).

OTW: So you two are pretty recent college graduates?

A: I graduated 2015.

C: I graduated December 2016. It’s been pretty tough the past few years, cause he graduated in 2015, so it was smooth coasting for him, but at the time I was still working on getting my degree. It was really tough for us to play, because we’re a duo so everyone expects us to play together, but, for the past year and a half, I was still finishing school. It was kind of a promise to my parents and myself–no shows until I finish school, but now we’re good.

A: Now you finished school and you’re a real boy!

OTW: Wait so what’d you two study then, if not music?

A: Economics and math.

C: Business management.

A & C: Then became DJs!

OTW: And what inspired that major switch?

A: I honestly was not very confident in that path for myself. I knew I would end up doing it if I continued down that path, and I knew I would end up being fine. But I knew also that I hated it, and I would perish if I were to sit at a desk all the time. It’s just not how my brain works.

C: True. I knew that I was going to make a good amount of money if I had gone with my original job. I had an offer and everything for an auditing firm in New York, but said no to that.

A: Trying to make these remixes!

C: Trying to play festivals man! I mean my parents were like what are you doing, but at the same time it was like no, let me show you what I’m doing and that’s how it happened.

A: I feel like for both of our parents came around to it after we brought them to our shows.

C: They had to see it to understand it.

A: It’s not enough for us to just tell them. Clearly people don’t understand Asian parents that well if they think it’s that easy.

OTW: Not so easy to tell your mom and dad everything will be fine and you’ll just DJ around the world?

C: My mom’s like are you kidding me!? That’s so not where they wanted me to be, (laughter) but here we are.

OTW: What’s been the most surreal aspect of your career so far?

C: Honestly, I would say bringing my mom to my show for the very first time was surreal, because the music thing I never told her about this. She had no idea any of this was going on. This was originally just a hobby for me, but when it came to the realization that I really wanted to do this, I brought her to her first show. I called her out on the mic like, “Yo my mom’s here right now!” After, people came up to her and told her about what I was doing and stuff, and she didn’t tell me straight up that she understood but she hinted at it. I think that was the craziest thing about this entirety journey–my parents finally understanding what I do.

A: Similar sort of stuff. Everyone from my family comes from a professional world.

C: His brother is studying to be a lawyer.

A: Yeah, my brother just graduated from law school in England and he’s about to be a lawyer, so I’m the one person out of my entire extended family who doesn’t do anything relating to the professional fields, like law, engineering, or finance. So, even initially it was weird but they’ve always been kind of cool with it and they became fully cool with it after they saw us first play. They came to our show at the Bowery Ballroom in New York and it was great. They could not stop talking about it with their friends. I remember I used to think, damn how do my parents feel having to bring this up with their friends at parties? How do they talk about it?

C: Right!? But honestly they’re proud.

A: They’re so stoked!

C: My parents are stoked too. I thought you guys hated this, but then all of a sudden they’re literally telling everyone that they know that we’re doing this, and it’s incredible.

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OTW: Is this your first time at CRSSD? How’s the experience been thus far?

A & C: Yes, first time and it’s amazing!

A: We’ve only been here for two hours, but it’s been great.

C: I was telling my friends and my girlfriend earlier that I’ve always wanted to go to CRSSD, and I’ve always wanted to experience it, because it looks amazing. The aesthetic of it is incredible. But now here we are playing it, so I’m super stoked.

OTW: You have some killer remixes out there. I’ve personally had the Kaskade & Felix Cartal one on repeat since it came out. How do you go about deciding what you want to remix and tackling said remix?

A & C: Thank you!

C: So, there’s two spectrums on whether or not we want to remix something. Either we really love it or there’s something about it we think we can bring to the next level, like we can make this our own brainchild.

A: Yeah, if we hear something in a song that we think would work with our style or workflow. Sometimes when we get asked to do remixes of songs, I’m like this vocal is really tight, but I want to produce something entirely else underneath it.

OTW: If you could get one artist to feature on one of your tracks in the future, who would it be?

A: Holy shit. Bon Iver.

C: My first choice was Porter Robinson.

A: Really!? I could not have guessed (laughter).

C: Second choice is Bon Iver.

A: Okay cool.

C: I think we could make a dope house track with him.

A & C: Justin Vernon!

C: Yeah, that’d be amazing.

OTW: You’re about to kick off your fall tour with an incredibly stacked lineup. What part of your tour are you most excited for?

C: LA.

A: LA, New York, San Francisco. The LA show is on my birthday so that’ll be cool.

C: Then New York. New York has always been amazing to us. San Francisco is going to be crazy too. The Observatory in Santa Ana is going to be awesome. New Orleans!

A: Yes!

C: I heard New Orleans is awesome. I’ve never played there.

A: I played a show for Hotel Gaurda there, and I had a blast in that city. People are lovely and always a blast to be around.

OTW: A large part of the electronic music scene has seen the rise of these collectives, such as Moving Castle and Brownies & Lemonade. How has your involvement with these collectives affected your career and time in the music scene?

C: Couldn’t have done it without any of those guys. Especially Brownies, man. Brownies put us on super early.

A: Super, super early.

C: They’ve known about us before anyone else, and they’re amazing.

A: And it’s made me really thankful for the sense of community that LA has. I don’t know if it’s true or false that other places don’t have it, but I don’t know if any other place has it exactly like LA.

C: But honestly I feel like with that kind of scene, the excitement translates to other cities. For example, Brownies just did an after party in Chicago. Their reach is getting elsewhere, so we’re super thankful for them. If they’re winning, we’re winning.

A: Everyone’s winning.

C: Yeah, if our family’s winning, we’re winning.

OTW: If you had to describe your sound without using any genre terms, how would you?

A: Fun. Is that too simple?

C: Can we put this question to our guests right here? (directing towards the Hotel Garuda fam in the artist booth) How would you describe our sound in terms of genre and stuff?

Guest #1: Fun, groovy.

Brett: it’s eclectic.

Guest # 2: There’s also a certain sound I associate with Garuda. There’s a certain deeper element. It’s sort of like a bass thing, but it’s not really. There’s fun stuff on top, but there’s this one kind of bassier sound that’s always Garuda that makes it more meaningful. Well, maybe not meaningful, but…

C: No, you’re right. You’re right. So, basically we like the groovy bass house stuff, but we also like the pop fun stuff too. It’s in between the mainstream and the underground.

A: It’s hard for us to describe too.

C: Yeah, we make house music but we also don’t make house music. We make just whatever sounds fun, whatever sounds cool.

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OTW: So you two come from pretty different producing backgrounds, with Manilla Killa having more of a future bass and house sound. How do the two of your merge your varying backgrounds?

A: I didn’t produce beforehand. I had no idea how to make music before this project started, so I started with making house music. Now, it’s kind of like I just do whatever comes out of my head.

C: So, when we first started Hotel Garuda, it was all about house. We both love house music. This is kind of where we got our influences from. That doesn’t necessarily mean that’s all that we know. Both of us have hugely different tastes in music.

A: Honestly, the most fun is finding the middleground, or finding the underground in the weird shit that we do like. Like both of us like weird things but we also like catchy mainstream stuff at the same time.

C: And we’ll bring that into whatever we’re doing.

A: Compare and contrast; write an essay about it.

C: Yeah, we’re kind of doing whatever we want at this point. Our next song coming out is definitely not house.

A: It’s kind of disco.

OTW: SoundCloud has given such a monumental platform to bedroom producers and beyond. What advice do you have for up and coming producers?

A: Don’t worry about stats. Make whatever feels natural, whatever comes out of your head. Because if it comes out of your head subconsciously and it’s not trying to consciously fit some mold, it’s probably what you want to make. You just don’t know it yet.

C: Yeah, bouncing off of Aseem, there are a lot of dope producers out there that are really big and making it, and a lot of producers feel like if they make that sound then they’re going to make it as well. And I think that’s the biggest mistake ever. There’s a reason why for example, Flume is there. The reason why Flume is Flume is because he’s making his own shit. If you’re trying to make shit like Flume, people are going to be like oh this sounds like Flume, and you’re never going to make it out as yourself. So, I think the biggest piece of advice is, likewise, don’t worry about stats. Don’t worry about the sound that you’re making. Make whatever you want. So, this is a saying I heard from Tiga, Tiga once said if you’re dancing to the song that you made in your bedroom, someone else out there is probably going to dance to it too. I think that’s the biggest piece of advice I’ve ever taken away. No matter how weird the song I’m making right now is, if I like it, someone else out there’s probably going to like it. Don’t try and conform.

A: Please yourself before your please anyone else.

C: Yeah, it’s so easy to get into like oh my god I have to make this kind of music to make it, but it’s really not like that. There’s someone else doing it way better than, so go do your own thing.

OTW: Anyone else you’re excited to catch while at CRSSD?

A: Don’t say RÜFÜS, although he’s about to say RÜFÜS.

C: I wasn’t going to say RÜFÜS, but I was going to say I saw SAINT WKND earlier. He’s going to tour with us also. He crushed it. I just saw Bearson as well who was really cool.

A: I want to see Breakbot either live at the fest or at the after party where he’s doing a DJ set. Honestly, the whole festival is pretty fire. The entire lineup is crazy.

C: Lane 8. RÜFÜS. The Malkovich Brothers. That’s going to be a really fun set.

A: Our stage is wild today.

C: Oh Destructo! Gary is like right after us. He’s super dope.

OTW: Who are your Ones to Watch?

C: SAINT WKND, Bearson, Whethan, Louis the Child. Who else?

A: There’s a band called High Water. They’re on Nicolas Jaar’s label called Other People. They make really cool things. I just found out about them two weeks ago and I really like their stuff.

C: Kid Froopy is really dope.

A: Kid Froopy’s awesome!

C: Ásgeir. If you gave me ten minutes, I could give you a list of a hundred people, but off the top of our heads that’s it.

A: Elohim!

C: Yeah, Elohim’s going to play tomorrow!

OTW: Finally, anything else we should be on the lookout for from Hotel Garuda in the future?

C: Come see us on tour this Fall! Also, we have a new single in the works.

A: It’s featuring this awesome band from Norway called Lemaitre.

C: It’s coming out right as we start our tour!

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