PillowTalk Took Their Live Show to Indonesia's Best Kept Secret Beach Club


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PillowTalk Took Their Live Show to Indonesia's Best Kept Secret Beach Club

Potato Head Beach Club in Bali is not so secret anymore.
September 10, 2015, 9:07pm

Tucked away as just one of Indonesia's thousand islands sits Bali. To some, it's the Island of the Gods, but many would just call it paradise. The surf-by-day and party-by-night culture of the island has become infectious to Western travelers in search of an endless summer. While it is certainly a well-traveled destination, what most people don't know is the degree to which Bali's dance music scene is heating up.


Right in the middle of that burgeoning scene is Potato Head Beach Club, an elliptically-designed oasis nestled in the heart of Seminyak. Potato Head offers the best kind of sensory overload: beautiful people, the hot Southeast Asian sun, a budding food menu, and, of course, house music—all day, every day. Whether you've swam up to the bar or sprawled out on the grass, you're in the middle of a "well-oiled machine," as Flic Russel, one of the pivotal figures behind the growth of the club, describes it. Russell is the events manager, music aficionado, and resident DJ at Potato Head. She has been an instrumental figure in building the brand from a local dancefloor to an international powerhouse.

Explaining the whole Potato Head culture, she says, "from the way that guests are treated, to the music policy, to the design, decor, and even how we present ourselves to the world" is based on the vision of the club's founder—Ronald Akili. Russell has a great relationship with the Potato Head team, and their trust in her manifests in a fantastic array of bookings, especially on the more underground side of the spectrum. To sweeten the deal, she's a top-notch DJ herself. Before we spoke, she pumped out a great opening set for Jonny Cruz and the headlining act, the hard-to-pin-down, California golden boys—PillowTalk.

In a scene where DJ set after DJ set can become the best kind of redundant, PillowTalk's live show is a breath of fresh air. It's organic, in every sense of the word. We love insidious warehouse techno, but it's hard to beat a good old-fashioned show. The group can go many different ways, from romantic love ballads to sunny belters, or from hard-hitting club beats to poolside daytime numbers. It's a talent for variety that adds to the authenticity and freshness of their music.


Mikey Tello, the band's producer, says that "mood-wise, it's very much about setting."

"If we're in Portland, it's raining and somebody just got broken up with, we're going to set a more emo vibe. If it's summertime, the time of our lives, then it's going to go that way," he explains. Many producers and bands might claim to do the same. The difference is that most simply aren't as good at capturing those feelings as the boys from San Francisco. "That's the beauty of our music and that's why it has so much colour," Tello continues, "because we write on the road from different places. Sometimes we're in a studio, sometimes we're in a hotel room, but we're always making music."

As much as the group does love to make music, it's a well-known fact that producers are just as excited when they can get their hands on a remix opportunity. Due to the effortless nature of their music, PillowTalk is an open plate to remixers. They are, arguably, the most remixable act in dance music. "That's a very flattering statement," Mikey replies. "We take elements of an indie rock track, with a disco baseline, and a funk lead. If you're a producer, you can really go any direction with that combination."

"And we reverse engineer that concept also — we'll take the long route around and do something totally different," says Sammy D, the group's larger-than-life vocalist. "We sit there and ask ourselves what this track would never be. We'll even go four genres in one remix and switch gears right in the middle of the song."


Accolades aside, the success they've found with PillowTalk was by no means an overnight occurrence. This isn't their first foray into music. While the mobile studio provides the band with the framework to produce, there is still a learning curve to master when it comes to live performance. "Sammy and I have been DJing for 20 years now, while Ryan has been playing guitar for a long time. That's all great, but for us to play live together takes a lot of communication and syncing. Its very organic, but being in sync is something that we got to progressively," say Mikey.

The conversation eventually steered towards the elephant that is always in the room when talking to an electronic band: the paradoxical nature of being a live act in a nightclub scene.

"It's cool that we were able to open the door for a lot of people," says Sammy. PillowTalk was instrumental in opening up the minds of listeners for a more original, old-school of dance music in modern club life. "We helped to open the door for guys like Nick Monoco, for Navid Izadi, those sounds. And then we all worked together to push the envelope."

And now, more DJs are taking their talents to live aspects of their shows. Alongside stalwarts like Nico Jaar, Caribou, and Moderat it's fair to say that PillowTalk played a helping hand in opening the minds of dance music fans to a more "live" element of the music. "Mainly the cool the thing about our live act is that you're going to hear flaws in it. We might miss a cue, or mess up a word. A lot of the times the crowd won't notice it, but we will," Mikey admits. "At the end of the day, it's back to that concept of organic. It's not perfect like a DJ set—it's just raw."

It's a lesson to be learned. The aforementioned dance music paradox could only be shattered because PillowTalk didn't actively try to do so. Instead they grew into their own, step by step, and saw a more natural version of success than the manufactured kinds seen all too often in this scene.

As dusk stole the daylight behind a trademark Sammy D dance move, one thing became strikingly clear: anyone would be hard-pressed to find a more perfect fit than a PillowTalk live set and a Balinese sunset.

PillowTalk is on Facebook // Twitter // SoundCloud Potato Head Beach Club is on Facebook // Twitter Lady Flic is on Facebook