Adam Schwarz spent the better part of a decade establishing himself as one of the best contortionists of East coast club music. Living in Baltimore, making tracks indebted to the bounce of local dance music, as well as vogue, rap, and other forms of pedal-to-the-medal music, he built up a collection of scuzzy, high energy tracks that put him in demand as both a producer and a DJ. He made tracks with both local stalwarts (TT the Artist) and internetty superstars (Lil B), bringing his left-of-center approach to familiar forms no matter what sort of track he was involved with.
Back then, he was just working under his last name, but over the last couple of years his life’s had some big changes. He decamped from Baltimore and settled in Los Angeles, started making more pop focused music—even singing on his own tracks—and adopted a new moniker, So Drove. It’s a big shift stylistically, but one that pushes him more into his own lane as an artist. Today, that work has culminated in his first full-length statement, Solano Canyon OST, a careening, off-kilter soundtrack to the time he’s spent in the LA neighborhood that gives the record its title. It’s pretty varied stuff, bouncing from clubbier fare to new agey grunge ballads (“Water”), a bubbly pop song featuring Memphis legend La Chat, and something Schwarz himself calls “808 mall punk,” which is as gleaming and emotive as the name suggests. It’s essential listening for those who believe in blurring the border between established genres.
To further illustrate the ranginess of the new project, Schwarz put together a mix for Noisey that’s just as diverse. It opens with an interview clip of Avril Lavigne ruminating on the meaning of punk, before darting through dizzying footwork classics, Lil Peep ballads, and a host of rap hits, and some Sleigh Bells throwbacks. It goes some places, which is good. Listen below alongside an interview about the roots of this new project.
NOISEY: How are we meant to enjoy the mix? What's the perfect setting?
So Drove: I think this mix is good for driving around, getting ready to go out to the club, chilling with friends.
Is synesthesia a real thing and if so, what color is this mix?
I definitely believe in synesthesia. I asked my friend Oscar who has synesthesia and they say the mix is mostly aubergine.
Was there any specific concept to the mix?
Mostly just fun bops, maybe playing on the similarities in some seemingly disparate songs.
Do you have a favorite moment on this mix?
I live for the Avril interview that opens the mix.
You operated for a long time under your last name, but now you’re working as So Drove. Tell me about the genesis of this project. Should people read anything into the decision to distance yourself from your given name?
I felt like I grew so much as a songwriter and a producer around the time I changed my name. Having the new name feels like I have more freedom creatively. I also like that it’s an entity besides just my actual self.
The mixtape you have coming out today is billed as an OST. What’s it a soundtrack to? Is there a plot to the film you’re imagining?
Solano Canyon is a neighborhood in LA that I lived in for over a year. This mixtape documents some of my ups and downs during that time. Also the vibe of the neighborhood informed my aesthetic a lot. A lot of green and trees and nature but also trash and barbed wire and weird abandoned concrete structures.
I think people are most familiar with the work you’ve done in club contexts—what does So Drove allow you to access, either emotionally or thematically, that you couldn’t before. Why branch out basically?
The name change freed me up so much to feel like I could do anything I want instead of what people would like me to do or expect me to do. I’ve always loved pop music so much but was unable to make it at the level I wanted to. Now that I’m learning how to make pop music I can filter all the club impulses and things I learned from DJing and remixing into the pop structure I’m working in.
The press materials you wrote reference the idea of “808 mall punk,” which I feel like is an increasingly resonant idea. Are you interested in the ways in which forms like that can blend together? It’s easy enough to remember times when stuff like Lil Peep was like, aesthetically controversial.
I’ve always been interested in blending things from different musical histories. That’s where most “cool” and “new” things happen from. It’s just as simple as combining certain things people don’t expect, it’s very natural to me because I’ve existed in so many different music cultures. It only feels right.
1. *Avril Lavigne Interview*
2. Amps For Christ - Esaus Blessing
3. Chief Kee f- Belieber
4. RP Boo - Earth’s Battle Dance
5. Asian Doll - First Off
6. Cuban Dol l- Blue Cheese
7. The Carters - Apeshit
8. Lil Peep - Don’t Cry
9. So Drove - 160 Drums
10. DJ Toya x Pat Man - Remii Wop
11. DJ Flawless - Ruff Rider
12. Lil Uzi Vert - 444 + 222 (So Drove Remix)
13. Avril Lavigne - Girlfriend feat. Lil Mama
14. Sleigh Bells - Just us
15. City Morgue - Ken Park feat. Sickboyrari
16. Britney Spears - Rock Me In
17. Sleigh Bells - Comeback Kid
18. So Drove - Say U Luv Me feat. Nezzy