New York producer and songwriter Matty Fasano started a party called House of Feelings to help his friends get out of a rut, after noticing that they—like so many bogged down by life in the big city—were keeping their heads down at day jobs with little outlet for some of their other talents.
"In New York, everyone's friends are so talented," Fasano says, sitting in a coffee shop in Brooklyn. "More often than not someone's a writer, but they're also an insane DJ. With the first [party] I was like, 'Make a stupid DJ name and come play this thing!'"
The very first House of Feelings event took place in April of 2014 in the kitchen of an apartment space in Bushwick and Fasano says he mostly remembers it being cramped and sweaty. He played a live set accompanied by three saxophones ("It was so stupid," he recalls with a laugh), and a number of his friends hopped behind a laptop to DJ for a crowd that turned out to be too big for the kitchen. Midway through the show, they even had to move to the nearby main room at Silent Barn because of space constraints.
Fasano's friends are involved in every step of the party, helping create fliers, design art installations, and of course, provide the bubbly sound that give the party the uplifting feeling that its name hints at. He and his high school friend Joe Fassler lead a house band, also called House of Feelings, that often opens the parties otherwise records more dizzy disco for them to drop in their DJ sets. Over the years, they've also started enlisting some bigger guests around the scene, including the likes of of FaltyDL, Olga Bell, and Mr. Twin Sister, among others. Fasano also started hosting a show on Newtown Radio last year with guests that have DJed the party.
On August 11, House of Feelings (the band) will release their debut EP, Last Chance. Continuing the party's collaborative spirit, Fasano, Fassler and producer Dale Eisinger work with a vast cast of old pals to create eight tracks of blistered disco-punk, blunt house tracks, and squirrely techno. Listening to the record captures that unquantifiable feeling of just watching friends blowing off steam in a studio.
One of the record's standouts is "Falling," a collaboration with singer-songwriter Shamir, who sings a disco duet about forging into the future, which Fasano says mirrors both Shamir's move in his own work away from dancier realms and House of Feeling's formal arrival. Catch that below, along with a condensed conversation with Fasano about the roots of the party, and its place in the oft-crowded New York nightlife scene.
THUMP: What's your personal relationship to dance music?
Matty Fasano: I've been a musician my whole life. I studied funk and soul growing up—one of my first instruments was saxophone. It totally changed into an obsession with dance music when I sang with LCD Soundsystem at their "last" tour, for all the Terminal 5 and Madison Square Garden shows. I was in their backing choir.
How did that happen?
I had been singing in a choir with some friends, and one of the guys happened to be friends with James Murphy. His name was Nick Sylvester and James told him he needed a male backing choir. Nick was like "I'm in one." [After being in that band], I went for it [with electronic music]. I started simply with beats and stuff and then got really into it. I was also on a dance label at the time called Godmode.
What was the impetus for the very first party?
I didn't think there were enough awesome dance parties around, unless you went to Bossa Nova or something. Also, in New York, everyone's friends are so talented...
...And they're just ignoring that part of themselves.
Or they're nervous. Or there's no forum. With the first one I was like, "I have so many friends who are not doing stuff. Come DJ this thing!" That was it. I expected it to just be my buddies but it spread.
Did it crystallize right away musically?
I wanted it to be more of a disco vibe. When I go dancing, I mostly hear about techno or deep house or raves. There's so much posturing. Not to throw shade, but it's really intense. I really rejected that because it's so not fun. I wanted something more open, and more open in the type of music you can play. The vibe is kind of disco but there's elements of techno house and punk. There aren't rules. You don't have to play this BPM or this type of music.
It seems united in a spirit of fun.
Uplift. Fun. Openness. Community. There's not a lot of pressure. Some of the parties are really big but some aren't. It's just about letting my friends do what they're awesome at doing.
Is there anything you do specifically with your party to create that alternative?
One of the main things is that it's a dance party but it's also an art installation. I feel like that gives it a sense of coming in and it's a whole experience. It's not like, "You must dance." For the last one at Silent Barn, Kris [Petersen] created these magical lights out of nothing that were all around the room. That allows people to relax a little more and see it as a more holistic experience. Also, quick successions between sets. The live sets are really short so nothing gets too involved. It's less "come watch me play" than being a part of the broader thing.
Has it been a struggle to maintain that as House of Feelings becomes more prominent and you have access to bigger guests?
The "bigger guests" started with just my friends. I've been playing music in New York for like 10 years, so there's just a lot of people that I knew. Slowly but surely I started going out on a limb and asking someone, "Hey, would you come DJ this party?" Then it's like, "Hey do you want to come on the radio show?" We're friends now.
The collabs on the EP for example are very in the family. Shamir was on Godmode, we've been friends for like four years now. GABI who sings on it is my girlfriend, so that helped. Meredith Graves is on it. She is really good friends with our producer Dale [Eisinger]. She just walked in and we were hanging out and asked her "Do you want to try singing this thing?" And she just crushes it. Even with bigger guests I want it to be very natural and organic.
How did the EP come together?
My best friend from high school Joe and I are kind of the musical center. We got really inspired by the idea of dropping a House of Feelings song in the middle of a House of Feelings set. Then, it was that friend process. We got one of my best friends, Dale, and asked him if he wanted to produce. He doesn't usually do that but he was like "Uh, okay." We just started meeting at his house, which became like a clubhouse.
There's never too much pressure. If we were an indie rock band making an EP it'd be a calling card. What's fun about this is, it's out there, but we're just going to keep on throwing parties.
You don't have a responsibility to go on tour and sell it. You're not forced to do so many of the debasing things you have to do as a "band."
We'll just sell it at our parties, which we throw anyway! Stuff like that. Having been in so many bands...being in a band is one of the worst things in the world. Or it can be. This band also rotates a lot. My friend Tim Angiolillo plays guitar and sax. Hunter [Giles] who runs [Infinite Best, which is putting out the record] also plays alternate percussion. My friends Jared Olmsted and Monica Salazar from the band Courtship Ritual. GABI sings in it. Then it's kinda just whoever's around. If someone plays tuba, it's like great, come play.
Every single one of your friends is probably very deep. It's also a way of accessing those secret talents. It keeps em busy. It's always a question with my friends, why doesn't someone have a regular gig somewhere? They're so talented. It's impossible to make money in music nowadays, but why is that. Let's fuckin throw a party where they're the main DJ.
It's so easy to get sucked into a routine and let the creative stuff fall to the side.
It is. And it's so easy to get sucked into the rules of consumption of what music is supposed to be—who's supposed to be famous and who's not. We're getting to a point where that's all BS and more and more people realize it's nonsense. Most people you know have a pretty awesome and deep taste in music. It's almost like a mental thing. Anyone can do this.