In March, ELEVATD, comprised of Dennis Castelan & Chris Clingingsmith out of Chicago, came down to Atlanta to headline a show thrown by Tukai Entertainment. We caught up with Dennis and Chris before their show along with their manager, Thomas Bridges, and their videographer, Berny Cheverria. Continue reading below to learn more about breaking out of the local scene and setting yourself up for success in this highly variable industry.
You've been DJing for quite a few years now. How has the way you've prepared for your live sets changed over the years? How did you prepare for your Atlanta set?
Dennis: We found some rap songs that obviously are popular in Atlanta. So we had to bring some of that in. We're going to play a bunch of new stuff we have that we've been sitting on. Also reading the room is a very big part of it.
Chris: Every set we play really, we've created so much music since the last set that we have at least 5 or 6 new songs we've created that we're eager to play. So it's not hard to put the set together at all. Tons of unreleased stuff tonight, probably at least 10 or 11 unreleased songs. Basically a whole EP from us. Also, we've always kinda tried to cater our sets to what the particular show we're playing is. I think every Halloween we've made a set that was only played for that specific show. If we have the time we'll do something special for each individual crowd.
In a past interview, you said that your "unique liveset" differentiates you both from the sea of other bass DJs. What is it about your performances and music that you are most proud of?
Dennis: We like to make a lot of edits so it really makes our sets individual. All the original edits you see online is just us fucking around making stuff that we like with songs that you'll never hear anywhere except online or at our show. Our originals really are what give us a different set from what you'll see with other people.
Looking over your discography, which of your songs and remixes stand out to you both? Which have been the most important in advancing your career or have the most sentimental value for you?
Chris: As far as originals go, the last one we put out with Micah Martin called "Save Us" was one that resonates with me, probably the most. I slaved away on it, sent it off, he sent vocals back within a day and they were perfect from the start. He sent us a video of his project file, not even a SoundCloud link, and we were like, let's do it.
Dennis: It gave me goosebumps when I first heard it and it still gives me that feeling every time we play it live.
Chris: Micah is insane. I love that man. He's crazy. You've gotta listen to his band, The Zealots. He's super talented; his whole band's talented. They're just hilarious dudes to be around. We've been to a couple shows with them. He's brought them to a few shows we've played. And you never know what's going to happen with those guys. It throws a serious monkey wrench in the night, that's for sure.
Dennis: He just walks in a room and you can tell he's a rockstar. Shout out Micah - we love you dude!
Chris: But as far as a remix goes our favorite is a Louis the Child remix on SoundCloud that is one of those we set out to get a little more support on releasing, but it never came through from a label. So it's all organic numbers. It's around 50k now and the comments are not just half-assed comments. It means something to people. So that one holds a special place in my heart. And they're the hometown boys and they're crushing it. Hopefully we can do an official remix one day.
You talked about getting goosebumps working with Micah Martin, but how does that fit in with your creative process in order to convey that sort of visceral response from the listener?
Dennis: One of the biggest things we love after we play shows is that we get this high from it, so the next day we'll get into the studio ready to go. That's when we have the most inspiration because we're like, "Hell yeah! That was amazing." We're inspired by the energy of the crowd.
Chris: Any slump I've ever been in I can trace back to a lack of good gigs or not being about to play out our music. It's just like being a painter and not being able to show off your paintings to know if they're good or not. I need to acknowledge that the crowd is enjoying it so I can adjust or continue.
What's your favorite place to play outside of Chicago?
Chris: Probably one of my favorite shows to play was in Minneapolis at The Loft. That was with the ATLiens actually. They just go crazy. Start to finish it was packed and people were going crazy. Chicago, sometimes people don't show up to the clubs until like 11:30 because that's just how Chicago works. The thing goes until 4 or 5 AM. But over there you've got from 9 until 1 AM to go crazy. So Minnesota. Kansas City was another one.
Aside from the music, what do you like to do for fun?
Dennis: We play video games. We've always been PUBG [PlayerUnknown's Battlegrounds] Mobile boys.
Chris: We play games on our phones cause we're always on the road. Keeps us occupied. I'm too addicted to Apex Legends right now. Before I pushed the download button I knew what I was getting myself into. I'd seen the gameplay and I was like, "This is Halo 3 again. I'm going to lose my life over this."
Dennis: We definitely got big into the Fortnite scene. We did a Fortnite remix last year. Then we tried PUBGM. It was just better on mobile. We're big on gaming. What else? We like to smoke weed. Stay Elevatd, ya know?
Dennis: Self-care is very important.
What advice would you give for breaking out of your city or the local scene?
Dennis: One of the biggest things is realizing that the local scene is not the only industry, and those people are not the most important people. It's good to have your city root for you, but that's how you get in this loop of trying to make those people happy. When in reality you're selling them tickets or playing an opening slot to no one.
Chris: And that goes along with - Don't take every show you get. That's a common misconception. You call yourself a DJ, but to really make it you have to also be a producer. That's how you DO make it. Perfect or learn how to produce and really create your sound before you start taking all these bookings where you'll end up paying out of your own pocket or play for nobody. And people will say if you look at it that way, then it's not for the love of the music. But that's not it - your time will come and there are steps to take to make it easier on yourself. It's better to produce first because you have to have something to sell. Best example would be G-Rex and Peekaboo's "Babatunde" or Gladez and Hekler's "404." Songs like that where even the big producers are like, "I need that song." That's the way to do it. It's not gonna happen right way, but it's also going to take a lot longer if you're trying to focus on DJing as well. I would say focus on producing if that's what you want to do.
Dennis: Then the rest will come. Take it one step at a time because it's a lot to handle. Your home city social politics can be a big part of it too. That was a huge thing in the first year or two we started. We didn't play Chicago at all. I was more of a DJ on my own at first, and I wasn't playing anything. I was doing side room gigs at The Mid. It was never anything fun, I was just making some money.
Chris: So yeah, maybe you're not getting booked around town, but that's more reason to put your music onto the internet because then you'll start to develop a demand in other places. If the people back home don't wanna book you now, they will once they see you playing around elsewhere. And they'll pay full price. (Laughs) We have a "You Didn't Respect Us" fee in our contract.
Chris: That's not taking anything away from getting your song on a label, but don't be too torn up if it doesn't get on that label that you want. Because there have been plenty of songs that a label has screwed around with and we just decided to put out. It's slow and steady but the numbers are still there and you can take pride in the fact that it's organic.
Dennis: We just hit two-thousand followers on Spotify. Nick Busch is our other manager and agent in addition to Thomas Bridges. He does an amazing job and helps us a lot with getting us on playlists and all the things you wouldn't know just as a producer. It's true that you need a team to efficiently get everything done. Starting out, you might not be able to pay people to do those jobs which means you have to work extra hard. But now we've got a photographer and two managers to help run the Elevatd project. There's so many things you don't know that you have to take into consideration. Converting art to a business is difficult for an artist. I mean that's the reason they became an artist, cause business wasn't their thing ya know?
What have you been working on lately?
Dennis: We just played Atlanta and had an amazing time. Shout out to Tukai Entertainment for bringing us out! We are playing with What So Not at Site 1A on 04/05 in Milwaukee, Wisconson. Then performing with ATLiens at the Bottom Lounge on 04/06 in Chicago. We also just dropped a song called "Bring It Like" on Spotify, SoundCloud, and iTunes, and we just dida guest mix for Corrupt called Lost in the Sauce.
Chris: Keep an eye out for maybe an EP, maybe not, who knows? We might break it up and go different places, but we have four songs that are solid and we're ready to drop.
Dennis: We got some festival bookings we can't announce yet, and merch is coming very soon!
Both: Last but not least, just remember to Stay ELEVATD.
Thanks so much to ELEVATD for taking the time to answer our questions! Thanks as well to Tukai Entertainment for bringing us out to cover the event. Show recap forthcoming on our partner site, Atlanta EDM.
Be sure to check out Tukai's next show with headliner and past interviewee, Archmage!
The QR Network Atlanta Correspondent.
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