For a moment or two, it seems impossible to get a straight answer out of Ryan Wells, a producer and DJ from the west coast. This is partially because he's new to having press releases and partially because he's so stoked that he just got his first international work visa — playing the Dirtybird Campout in October.
"I haven't done a lot of this sort of thing," he says, shyly. But, despite a dearth of press exposure, Wells has been quietly building a following with a stream of releases, most of them independent, and several live performances at major Canadian festivals like Shambhala and Bass Coast.
Hailing from Nelson, British Columbia, Shambhala's home and a "mecca for hippies and alternative lifestyles," as he puts it, the producer is on a distinctly different wavelength.
"I would say I'm a little bit less chill than a lot of the people I've grown up with. I'm a little bit more high energy," he says. Musically, he's also paving his own lane in a region predominantly known for its larger-than-life bass music. His home may be one of the west coast's musical capitals, but he has his sights set on the east.
Although he admits to playing "a bit more bassy house," a nod to Nelson's roots, he has more of a taste for the styles coming out of Montreal, Toronto, New York, and Detroit.
But, that doesn't mean he isn't grateful to the vibrant musical landscape that BC has provided. Like many who've grown up in Nelson for the past fifteen years or so, Wells' interest in music and his development as an artist are intertwined with the powerful presence of the town's massive annual music festival.
"My entryway into the music community has been really natural, just through Shambhala. It's been like where I first went to an outdoor party and heard electronic music and saw its ability to make people feel happy and connected."
Having such a strong music scene in his own backyard also pushed his appreciation for local talent, citing Calgary's Smalltown DJs and Vancouver-based Neighbour as some of his earliest inspirations. Wells even spent a three day bootcamp in the studio with Neighbour, learning as much as he could about music production back in 2007, an experience he describes as "the biggest kick in my ass."
He's picked up a few tips and tricks along the way as well, sharing studio space with numerous artists from Canada's premier, sugar-addled electro label, Monstercat Records. While Wells' music may be the polar opposite to the label's fine-tuned bangers, he appreciates the craft they put into the music and has been able to learn from it:
"They have such a very precise of EDM," he says, "the mixing is very clean and it's been cool to hear what they say about my more house and techno, which is a little looser."
His latest track, a remix of Vancouver electronic act LADYFRND's "Geist," out on Canadian label Hybridity, shows off not only his particular style of house music, but the attention to detail he has picked up along the way.
Whereas the original is a meandering, ethereal tune that tugs at the listener with its haunting vocals, Wells' version has a rhythmic backbone built on a tight drum kit and well-balanced pads.
The vocals, insouciant but beckoning, like some will-o'-the-wisp, remain as the most important element. Wells credits this emotional, human aspect as a major part of the musical process: "It makes writing music a lot easier for me," he says, "most of the music that I do, how I do it, is very electronic, so to have that human track, it just works so well for me."
Prior to its premiere today, the track made it into live sets for thousands of people by performers at Squamish Valley Music Festival and Shambhala.
"You could tell instantly that it was connecting with people in a cool way," says Wells.
With the "Geist" remix, possibly his most captivating tune to date, out now, media attention, and an upcoming tour, he's still content to take things at a relaxed pace.
"It's been a long process, but I've been letting it happen as slowly and naturally as it can."
He continues, "I like to let things happen a bit more naturally. When the timing is right I know it will all open up and be really fun and awesome," proving that despite being "less chill" than a typical guy from Nelson, he may just have a little west coast in him after all.
Ryan Wells will be performing at the Dirtybird Campout, October 2-4, followed by a Canadian mini-tour with stops in British Columbia and Alberta.