Music

Here's What We Learned About DJing from 'We Are Your Friends,' Zac Efron's Stupid EDM Movie

Girls are dumb and only want to listen to Beyonce, getting spiked with PCP by old men is fun, and five more important lessons that this seminal movie teaches us.

by DJs Complaining
03 September 2015, 5:00pm

This article originally appeared on VICE UK.

DJs Complaining is a Twitter feed and website that chronicles instances of DJs complaining—about airlines not having the particular brand of orange juice that they like, about hotels not having plugs next to the bed, and generally about spending all their time being flown around the world to make people happy.

We asked the people who run the Twitter account to review the new Zac Efron EDM movie We Are Your Friends for us.

DJing has come a long way over the years. There was a time when to be a DJ meant investing a large chunk of your hard-earned wages in records, spending years accumulating an extensive and valuable collection that you'd occasionally cram into the back of a VW Camper along with a half a ton of audio gear and drive to your local social club where you'd play Motown and Decca 45s for seven hours until someone glassed you or head-butted the amp, all for half a crown and a pint of Mild if you were lucky.

Gone are the days of breaking your bank and your back on vinyl, though; in 2015 you don't need much to be a DJ. As Zac Efron succinctly puts it in new EDM rites-of-passage flick We Are Your Friends, "all you need is a laptop, some talent, and one track." And while we're not quite sure if Zac has completely grasped the concept of DJing there (more on that later), it is hard to argue with him that we've entered a new age. Ever since Skrillex put an LFO on a square wave back in 2010 the EDM scene hasn't looked back, and with its meteoric rise have come meteoric rewards for the scene's stars. While DJing used to be the burden of the socially impeded freak, it is now a role occupied by people who look like models, wear suits for no reason, and hang out with David Blaine. With Hollywood now getting its sweaty lizard claws into the world of dance music and offering up its hottest teen star (27-year-old star, whatever) to play a DJ in the making, there is no doubt that the world of electronic music has finally cemented its place in mainstream US culture.

As Brits, this Spring Break version of dance music is an alien world. Private jets and Vegas residencies are a far cry from Dance Energy, Doncaster Warehouse, and Pat Sharp in a student union. Of course we're well aware that everybody's had a pop at this film, not least the critics. This being VICE and us being DJs Complaining, you're probably expecting us to do the same and make some sarcastic jokes about all the inaccuracies in the stupid, turgid, coming-of-age-by-numbers script. But shut up your sniggering. We've had enough of occupying the moral high ground and living in a hovel that smells of cigarettes and soup. We want some of that Vegas money.

We went looking for tips—and here is what we learned.

Looking and Sounding Like a DJ Is More Important Than Actually DJing

You live this lifestyle 24-7, right? You love "sick" beats, and even when you're not "spinning" "drops" and "crushing it in the club," it's important that everyone knows you're a cool DJ guy. For this reason (and probably also because the company that makes them is sponsoring your stupid film), it's very, very important that you wear inappropriately big, ostentatious headphones everywhere you go. Even if you're not listening to music; even if they're squeezed silently around your neck and it means that you can't look down; even when you're out in the 80-degree midday heat, running off your unspoken dark past and thinking about your estranged parents and dead friend; even if they are so hot that you might as well be jogging in a fucking balaclava, you will wear them, you sweaty little bastard.

Trending on THUMP: "We Are Your Friends" Had One of the Worst Opening Weekends in the History of Movies

djING to a Half-Empty Club On a Thursday Night Will Get You a Million-Dollar House

In our experience, the weeknight slot has never been the most profitable. Seventy-five bucks in cash and four free drinks (as long as they're not spirits) is usually about the best you can hope for. You'd have to play an awful lot of these nights to save enough money to even think about laying down a deposit on a bedsit in Chigwell, but it seems things are different in the States. Enter James Reed, an aging and jaded DJ who, over the course of the film, becomes something of a role model to Efron. Together they turn every Thursday night into a spiritual voyage that involves them DJing to a smattering of disinterested models who just happen to live in luxurious bungalows in the Hollywood Hills, each replete with its own swimming pool, state of the art home studio, minimal furnishings, and beautiful girlfriend.

A Girl Will Always Ask You to Play Beyonce

Ha ha! So true! Women, you see, don't really understand music. They're just there to be blank-eyed underboob machines, soullessly wiggling in front of Zac as he pounds the cue button on his CDJs and, as he puts it, "locks on" to these simple creatures' 120BPM heart rates and "brings them up" to the "ideal" 128BPM.

Of course, their inferior intellects won't be able to fully grasp the intricacies of this clever piece of manipulation, but that's besides the point; two minutes ago they were requesting "Drunk in Love" and now they find themselves gratuitously winding their bikini-covered rumps in slow motion to a genre of music they can't even name. Bless.

Taking Drugs Is Mostly Fun But Occasionally One of Your Friends Will Die

It's always the funny-looking innocent one who is impossible to dislike who ends up paying the ultimate price for a heavy night out. If you're that guy—especially if your nickname is "Marmot" or "Gopher" or something—do not touch any drugs. One bad pill and BAM! Before you know it your friends are crying in the montage of your arbitrarily Jewish funeral. No, leave all that drug business to your crew of sex-pest mates—the hyperactive one, the Johnny Depp one, and Freddie Prinze Jr. They're made of tougher stuff than you, and are too important to the story development to die.

Getting Spiked, On the Other Hand, Will Lead to a Great Time

By most people's standards getting spiked with PCP by a man you've just met, who is twice your age, and whose limo you have been wooed into with the promise of a "fun party," would be a highly traumatic experience. But not in the Los Angeles of We Are Your Friends! No, rather than spending the rest of the evening locked in the toilet whispering reassuring words to himself in a desperate attempt to reattach his id, Zac finds himself cascading into some kind of euphoric iPod commercial, where neon colors, terrible music, and attractive dancing women merge into one rapturous, carefree, super-fun drugs experience. And the next morning any fears that Zac may have been disturbingly manipulated are put to rest when he wakes up alone and fully clothed in his new friend's beautiful home. Time to start leaving those drinks unattended, people.

Everyone With Creative Drive Has Some Sort of Horrible Trauma in Their Past That They Can't Be Bothered to Explain

If you are a young, aspiring DJ, this will cause you to seek a father figure to replace your mysteriously estranged Papa. Don't worry, the audience are too bored to care what actually happened, so the occasional vague hint followed by a pained look into the middle distance will suffice. Once you find an ersatz dad (usually after he has spiked you with PCP in a limo) it will be rapidly apparent that he has his own demons to wrestle with. These will lead to troubling behavior on his part, such as drinking whisky, eating birthday cake without a plate, and having a little nap during the day. Eventually he will go entirely to seed and have a breakdown. You can tell this has happened because he will have left crumpled clothes all over his furniture. Look out for your surrogate father's mental health by checking his clothing storage arrangements. If you can catch it at the sock stage there is a very good chance of full recovery. Unfortunately the producers of WAYF failed to illustrate the horrible reality of end-stage catastrophic mental breakdown: egg all down his front. If this happens to your mentor, it's probably game over.

All You Need Is OnE tRACK

By definition you need at least two tracks to DJ, and even then it would be a pretty short and disappointing set. It soon becomes apparent that the makers of WAYF are not quite sure what DJing is, and how it differs from actually making music of your own. But they don't care about such trivialities, and nor do the festival-goers, who don't seem to mind at all when Zac decides not to DJ at his big make-or-break gig, instead bravely plumping to perform some kind of bizarre Ross Geller live version of the "one track" that he has spent the last few weeks slaving over. And it turns out the crowd love it. They love the Eurotrance melodies, elaborate multi-sectioned arrangement, and interspersed emotional field recordings from Zac's life that have absolutely no relevance to them whatsoever. They love it so much that they probably won't mind the 53 minutes of silence that will inevitably follow him playing the one and only tune he has ever made. We, however, remained unconvinced. When a film is based around the creation of one piece of music, the aforementioned big finale when you finally get to hear it is


always going to be a let down. Zac's one big tune really takes the biscuit; a pallid pitter patter of beige milk drying overlaid with some helicopter noises. But then what did we expect? We saw Zac in his room earlier, copy-pasting an audio file called "techno" over and over again, before very slowly twisting a knob on his nanokontrol, flicking through some VST presets, and taking off his headphones looking disappointed. We were hardly expecting him to have secretly turned out "Strings of Life."

So, these are the new rules that we intend to live our lives by in order to pursue success. Relentlessly hectoring those more established than ourselves, spending more time posing in big headphones and hoovering up chisel than doing anything productive and marginalizing women into roles of objectified window dressing. That should set us apart from the rest of the UK dance scene.

See you in Vegas, losers.

Follow DJs Complaining on Twitter.