Last night, We Are Your Friends premiered in New York City, finally giving us the EDM shitshow featuring DJ Zac Efron that no one asked for (yet everyone is secretly dying to see).
If you've seen the trailer, you already know about many of the movie's most face-palm moments—like when Efron goes on a long spiel about how DJ sets are made from "locking in" heart rates to BPMs, and how all you need to be successful is "one laptop, some talent, and one track."
What's funny about We Are Your Friends is how, by earnestly trying to build an emotional drama out of the trials and tribulations of Los Angeles' many different types of DJ douchebags, it ends up as an unintentional pastiche of EDM's most cringe-worthy cliches.
From the opening sequence—where Efron and his pals prowl a college campus asking girls, "What's up? You like electronic music?"—to a scene where macho guys exchange glowering looks over VIP bottles and well-timed trap snares, the whole thing functions as a pretty good summary of the money-grubbing scene's utter vapidity. Think: Spring Breakers, but without a trace of irony.
That doesn't mean the movie isn't sometimes fun! DJs like Alesso and Nicky Romero pop up in unexpected places, an animated drug sequence had my date chortling out loud, and I was booty bumping in my seat when Tchami's remix of AlunaGeorge's "You Know You Like It" came on during a club scene.
After the screening, I got a chance to ask a very tan, buff, and cheerful Zac Efron about his thoughts on EDM. How much did he know about the music before making the film? "I was aware in the mainstream sense of what was popular and accessible. I didn't really delve deep into all the different genres," he said. "I could tell you the difference between dubstep, reggae, and house, but on a basic level, I couldn't name too many DJs."
Efron said he was coached by DJs like Alesso and Them Jeans, well as the actor Wes Bentley, who plays Efron's mentor in the movie (and apparently used to DJ too). "Wes got me into SoundCloud and taught me about so many subgenres. He taught me about minimal house and minimal techno—when we were filming, I was bumping that in my trailer."
Efron on set. Careful with those eyes, you're raising my BPM.
Armed with a few USBs worth of tracks from Them Jeans, Efron said he practiced transitions and effects on his new Pioneer gear at home, "until I would get so lost and tired I would pass out—there's a lot of math going on with matching BPMs!" His speakers faced straight into the house of his neighbor Charlie Day (of It's Always Sunny In Philadelphia fame), who would call Efron saying, "'I have a baby, dude!'" (Celebrity neighbors: they're just like us.)
But forget mixing or beat-matching. Efron said the part that he had the most fun doing was "learning stylistically what these guys do to make [DJing] entertaining."
"Alesso showed me how to really feel the music and get the crowd pumped up," Efron continued. "When he transitions tracks, he jumps up in the air. On the decks it's just a twist [of a knob], but he turns it into an event. You just have fun and do a show. That shows the audience that you're into it." Can you get an Oscar for emotionally-charged fist-pumping?
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