Over the past couple of years, the Los Angeles-based producer and songwriter Dylan Brady has established himself as one of pop’s most exciting futurists. Whether working on collaborations with like-minded aesthetes from around the online underground or on his own emotive solo tracks, he writes these strangely beautiful and instantly memorable songs that aren’t really beholden to any genre. He always writes these shimmering, evocative melodies and surrounds them with crystalline sound design, but he thrives when he’s working with jarring juxtapositions. On his new EP Peace & Love he has both a blown-out pop-punk song and a dramatic electronic track that culminates in a lurching beat that’s distinctly indebted to East Coast club tracks. It’s an approach indicative of someone who gets the musical era in which we live, where everything is in reach, and basically anything can be a hit.
“In the past I’d say big choruses [make pop songs],” Brady says over the phone, while pacing down an LA street. “But now it seems like any song can be a pop song, which is crazy and cool to me. The Billboard #1 spot is so diverse now. You can do whatever you want and call it pop. The door is completely open.”
Brady grew up in St. Louis, Missouri, and got into making music seriously after taking a choir class in high school. He wasn’t really tapped into a music scene while he lived there, but while he was in college for audio engineering he started uploading some of his early tracks to SoundCloud. There, he found his people. Brady’s now part of this loosely organized but incredibly prolific network of friends and collaborators who are providing some of the most exciting visions of what pop music can be. He has a duo called 100 Gecs with the Chicago songwriter Laura Les. He’s collaborated often with the genre-blurring Delaware rap-wunderkind Lil West. He teams up often with buds like Aaron Cartier, Night Lovell, Ravenna Golden, and Lewis Grant each of but who also make their own twisted versions of pop music on their own (but often in collaboration with each other). All of them are exciting musicians in their own right, but they really seem to push each other when they’re working together.
Brady put together this week’s Noisey Mix, which demonstrates both sides of his artistic approach: the pop-pushing autodidact and the capable collaborator. Over the course of the 40-minute set, he shares some of the brightest moments from Peace & Love as well as his work with other artists, including tracks he produced for Ravenna and the songwriter Mark Johns. There’s also some wild remixes of big-ass pop hits, like a hardcore flip of Katy Perry’s “California Gurls” which kinda makes this feel like Brady’s alternate version of the radio—where everything feels little weirder and more colorful than it is in reality.
Noisey: How are we meant to enjoy this mix? What’s the perfect setting?
Dylan Brady: I made it on my couch, so I feel like a couch could be good.
Is synesthesia a real thing and if so, what color is this mix?
I believe people who say they have it. I’ve never experienced it but it sounds cool. I’m going to go with rainbow.
Do you have a favorite moment on the mix?
From MTC to Bon Iver, Lucki and the Sublime song. That’s my favorite chunk. I’m doing a bunch of new stuff and trying to fuse those kinds of things together, crazy hyper vocaloid with really organic room recordings like the Bon Iver and the drum feel of the Lucki shit. I don’t really know, but it’s good. That’s what I should do next.
It seems like vocal manipulation is really important to you, both in your own work and the stuff you’ve put on this mix.
Yeah, I love it. Any kind of vocal wackiness, like Bon Iver’s harmonizing or the vocaloid or playing your lyrics into a tube with a talkbox..I was like 8 maybe when I heard Daft Punk and Eiffel 65. I was so into “One More Time” and “I’m Blue” and the really early Auto-Tune songs. And then hearing the Stevie Wonder talkbox stuff also was really crazy. I don’t really know what pulls me to it, but vocals [are] my favorite instrument. It’s cool to be able to do other things that make it still have some sort of lyrical feeling, but it’s completely not sounding like a normal vocal.
Could you tell me a little bit about how you first got into making music?
In middle school I was into Boards of Canada, Radiohead, Kanye, but I first got into [making] music from taking choir in high school. My teacher was very influential, he made music seem possible. I literally knew almost nothing about music. I could play piano and learn songs off of YouTube, but I didn’t understand why stuff worked. He connected a lot of dots. Then I went to college after that for audio engineering. The combo of those two subjects was really helpful for me: knowing how to make notes and to make sounds.
So you have a fairly formal background.
A bit. It wasn’t like I was studying classical composition. College was pretty good until I got kicked out. I was doing a lot of projects outside of school, making music with a bunch of people. I wasn’t super focused on the curriculum, or at least not at the level they wanted me to be. I was there for three years though, so I learned a lot while I was there.
College was the start of working on your own, then?
Yeah that was the Soundcloud start for me. Sophomore year I started dropping shit under my name, kind of in the same vein I’m doing now. [At first], I was producing for friends, and I didn’t really do the solo stuff. I just wanted to produce rap beats and pop beats for people. And then I was doing vocals without thinking much of it, but my friend heard the really early solo stuff and was like “Yo, this is crazy, you should release some of this shit.” There wasn’t a goal. I was just making stuff I liked and putting it up.
When did you realize it was something you could do more seriously?
Moving to LA. Trying to make money off of music was a big thing vs. living in an apartment in St. Louis and not making any money off of music. I’ve said this 100 times, but Lil Aaron let me live on his couch for like six months when I came out here, so that was dope. And then I got a publishing deal after that and then things started to seem more possible cause I could pay rent.
For a lot of people Peace & Love will be the first thing they hear from you, given that it came out on Mad Decent. Did you feel a pressure to represent yourself in any specific way with that in mind?
No, it was just kinda the songs I had ready. I was trying to do a more guitar[-driven], serious thing, but it didn’t happen. All the songs on the EP were made in the process of trying to do that. It was natural and it felt good. I didn’t really think about it being the first thing people would hear. It’s kinda all over the place, which I was nervous about at first. But through conversations with friends, I realized it was fine to have a lot of different sounding stuff. I made it all, so it’s tied together by that.
Is there anything that you feel links all the different sounds you mess around with?
My taste in chords and melodies shines through, I think, even if I try to make it not. Not really sonically—that’s the thing that’s all over the place—but there are melodic themes and choices that are the same in all my stuff even if I try to make it different, whether it’s an acoustic song or an epic, like “7/11 Drone.”
Tell me about Peace & Love as a title. It has a history as a hippie-ish statement, but also the world does feel like it needs love.
I would say it’s not super serious, but I do think love is the most important thing, and I wanted to put that out there in my own way. Love is undervalued. It’s easy to just say “peace and love,” but I want to put that forward every day, in all my decisions. Lead with love.
Dylan Brady - What I Made 4 U [lofi-dub]
Go - Mark Johns (prod Dylan Brady)
Khalid & Martin Garrix - Ocean (Dylan Brady Remix)
King Yosef - Lurch
Taylor Swift - I Knew You Were Trouble (Dylan Brady Remix)
Bryan Haha feat. Ravenna Golden - Eye to Eye
Hit Or Miss, I Guess I NVR Miss huh
Katy Perry - California Girls (Dylan Brady Remix)
Dylan Brady - I’ll Make You Miss Me All The Time
MTC - S3RL
Bon Iver - Michicant
Lucki x 16yrold - @ Night
Sublime - Had a Dat
Keyon Christ - Answers
Dylan Brady - Hit Me
Dylan Brady - Of Course I Still Love You
Lil Soda Boi - Nice Girl (Nightcore)
Ravenna Golden - Pills :-(
BLNTSMK - Fast
Dylan Brady - Nice String Piece_1 ! 2
Dakota White - Up