[INTERVIEW] Um.. – The Most Talked About Artist on the Planet

Producer duo Ben and Dylan are not your typical artists. They have set out on a mission to make the dopest and most unusual tracks on the internet. The pair are alumni of ICON Collective in Los Angeles and recently dropped a fire collaborative EP titled A Dogs Tale with friends Great Dane, Sumthin Sumthin, Yheti and YunisFor the 20th anniversary of Shambhala, they held one of the prime time slots at 10:00 pm for Thursday’s opening festivities. Due to a broken down RV, I was unable to arrive in time for their set (and very bummed out), but I managed to catch up with them the next afternoon.

What was it like performing at Shambhala?

Dylan: It was probably the coolest moment of my life, the coolest hour and a half. Just looking out and seeing so many people. People are like screaming. There was a um.. chant. Like thats sick. It’s crazy that this is happening right now. Unreal.

Do you guys get a chance to look up and observe the crowd?

Ben: It’s cool cause we trade 3 songs at a time, and we help each other a little bit with transitions but for the most part were hanging back drinking and dancing and stuff, so we get a chance to observe everything.

Dylan: Usually I’m not looking at the crowd cause I’m all anxious, in my head. But last night I noticed I was looking out a lot. I was like in shock, looking at things like wow. Pretty cool

Do you think you might have had the same crowd if the rest of the stages were open?

Dylan: I don’t know, I mean I’d have to think not.

Ben: I’m so thankful for getting that spot. They really hooked it up.

Dylan: We had no idea cause we had never been to Shambhala, then our friend was like, dude that’s like the craziest time slot. We were like what do you mean, I thought it started on Friday.

Ben: Yheti was messaging me on Facebook cause he was right after us. Like OMG dude we are playing the best times of the festival. I asked them about why they slotted us there and they were like you guys are just super tight.

Dylan: He was like, your good. We just really like you guys and you deserve it, which was really awesome.

Ben: We’re from LA where everyone is kinda like self-centered and people don’t really do nice things. People don’t really do nice things and not expect things in return. It’s nice to be in this environment where everyone is just trying to be friends.

Dylan: Not to mention, usually the bigger artists get the best time slots. Not even a question. When I heard that we got Thursday I thought that was bad. Like that makes sense were not really the biggest artist here.

Ben: We definitely wouldn’t have pulled the same. I think we have some buzz and people know who we are but we’re not like a big artist so if there was a big artist, then they would have pulled the crowd.

You guys came up with the first mix to the Shambhala Mix Series. Do you guys use that um.. intro for every set?

Dylan: Oh we use that every time.

Ben: Last night we did a song from star wars. Pretty epic.

Dylan: Like really cinematic. duh, duh duh duh. It was pretty cool cause the stage looked like a spaceship. We didn’t even know that. They were doing projection mapping and were like “We’re gonna make you look like your floating”. We had the lights turned off and turned on the Star Wars song. We wanted to do that for a long time. Since our first show, I was like I wanna open with this. This was the perfect opportunity to do it.

Did you have a rough idea of what you would play after that?

Ben: We knew the first couple tracks we were gonna play after that, and after we knew generally the tempos we were gonna go, but beyond that, we were just freestyling.

Do you like to stay within a strict range or do you fly between tempos?

Dylan: We’re cool with jumping. We have some songs that help out with that.

Ben: We have a couple things we do to jump tempos. When were done here, were gonna go down there. Other than that it’s really just sequential. Grow and shrink.

Dylan: You kinda have to think ahead. Were gonna go up first, then were gonna go down. We’ll go to 160 then go to 140 and we have to talk it out during the set. Like I’m gonna play this now so be ready to go from there.

Ben: If we didn’t talk I could be going up and he could go back down and then were like stuck.

Dylan: Then you missed the song that was the bridge.

It’s almost like a B2B the way you perform.

Ben: It definitely is very B2B. Its just semantics

Dylan: We both play shows on our own too, its way different.

Do you have any festivals that you want to get to?

Ben: It was Shambhala.

Dylan: This was like our end goal.

Ben: I woke up this morning and I was actually sad. Our career is starting but this was supposed to feel like the break of our career. So it was really bittersweet. Now I’m just enjoying the festival.

Dylan: We have a lot of friends playing. Its gonna be cool to see home play on such a cool stage. Hang out with them. Super rare experience. We haven’t been to many camping festivals. This is one that people like to stay at. Really cool place. Were playing at 515 Alive next weekend. That will be fun. We obviously want to play like EDC and stuff. As far as attending I’ve been to EDC a bunch, its never really been my thing. Shambhala, I could attend this and be like this is tight. I wanna play EDC and Insomniac events just cause they have great shows. The production is probably unrivaled to anyone.

Do you have any visual designers that you work with or a theme you try to portray?

Ben: We just commissioned someone to draw a dog for us. On our EP.

Did you make pins for that?

Dylan: Yeah we did, hopefully, they didn’t sell out. You can get them at merch at the Amp booth. They said they were selling a lot. Hopefully, they didn’t sell out, but it would be cool if they did. Then we have a videographer dude that we work with. He makes really cool stuff. He works with like Mr. Carmack. He has hooked it up making a documentary for us for the collaboration EP. We got us and like everyone from the EP besides Yheti was able to come together in the studio one day and film, answer questions. That was pretty cool. Yunis is from Germany. It just happened to be that everyone could just meet in LA.

Ben: I had just texted everyone and we actually pulled it off. I was super surprised.

How did you all meet, not you two, but the rest of the squad?

Ben: We went to ICON collective. Great Dane was a teacher there.

Dylan: We played a show with him. We used to be on the same booking agency.

Ben: Now we’re on the same booking agency as Sumthin Sumthin. We have the same agent. He went to ICON also. So we kinda met him through mutual friends.

Dylan: People had always tried to introduce us to him too. They were like you have to meet this guy Conrad. I was like why. You have to meet him, trust me.

Ben: We have super similar production styles. That’s what I noticed in the collabs was like when we worked with him it was like we were already doing the same things pretty much. Really similar processing and everything.

What was the best part of ICON for you?

Dylan: I guess like I was learning a lot while I was there. I knew nothing about music. Every day I was just learning stuff. I really loved all the people I met. I met some really good friends there. Friends Ill have for life hopefully. The teachers and the staff, really close with all of them. The whole experience was great.

Ben: Art of Flow is like the foundation of the curriculum. It’s about creativity, expressing yourself, going on your own path and stuff. That really inspired me to start um.. and beyond that, we have lifetime access to their graduate studio which is where we get like 95% of our recording done.It’s paid through our tuition. It has been 3 years since we graduated. It’s like a 5 minute dive from my house.

What are the courses like at ICON?

Ben: The we went it was 9 months. Now its 12 and they kinda revamped the curriculum. Essentially, you start with this class of like 40 kids. You all take the same classes and move on together. It becomes this family of people.

Dylan: You all get really close.

Ben: Its really an amazing place. I recommend it to anyone who can afford to do it and is serious about production.

Dylan: When you are a student there you can just be in the studio all day. I lived an hour away. I was able to go in the morning, stay all day and go home at night. You make such good friends with everyone in your class. I had  a place to stay wherever I wanted to. Really cool.

Ben: It’s an unreal thing that’s going on.

Dylan: I feel like it can’t last forever and I think that opportunities like that school has right now are really rare. They know what they’re doing.

Ben: Its becoming more bureaucratic just cause they’re growing so much. They’re hiring more staff and things need to be more regulated which is kinda the downfall of most things in life.

Dylan: Quality control will suffer.

Ben: When we were there it was so close. Everyone was family. It was super chill. Now there’s new people that don’t really know us. There just doing there job, like you can’t do that. I’m like we’ve been doing this for 4 years. But yeah its super awesome. They have free pizza every Friday that we can still go get. I mean I’m vegan now.

Dylan: They’ll never be like, “you graduated 5 years ago what are you doing here?” We used to go like every week. There is always coffee and tea and water.

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Do they have any alumni events?

Ben: They do actually. There is a conference and they organize these lectures. Its amazing.

Dylan: They just like really care about their students. The founder of the school; this is` kind of a sad part. He was our art of flow teacher and he is the one who started the art of flow program. Now thats been passed on to someone else. He isn’t working there as much cause he made it and he doesn’t need to be doing that. He just wants some time for himself.

Ben: I can’t imagine its the same experience not being taught by him cause its his philosophy.

Dylan: His story of how he started ICON is a crazy story. They don’t tell you till the end. Can we say that?

Ben: uhhh, i dunno. Basically they were on the ropes. It was either like we do it now or we go bankrupt and we fail. Then they pulled it off. Now its this multimillion thing.

Dylan: They got a last second investor. Everything just came together. Its super inspiring. Do what you believe in. It’s hard to put it all into words. Yu can apply it to so much in life. You can apply it to this weekend for us. We hadn’t played a show together in like 5 moths, cause we like switched agencies and switched strategies. The last time we played together before this was a long time ago in Atlanta. That was our first show with our new agent.

Ben: It was a sold out show.

Which agency did you switch to?

Dylan: Circle now. Our agent has like Bleep Bloop, us and Sumthin Sumthin. Its cool cause I feel like we all work well together. We play shows together and it all makes sense. I haven’t met Bleep Bloop yet.

Ben: Shoutout Sumthin Sumthin.

Are you used to being up all night?

Dylan: I was kinda worried honestly.

Ben: Yeah I was so scared cause our flight was Wednesday at 6AM and we had to do laundry right before so we didn’t sleep. Couldn’t sleep on the plane. Basically went almost 48 hours without sleeping. Then, I was here and I was super excited so I didn’t think I was gonna sleep. But luckily here has a lot of aids, helpful substances.

Dylan: I meant aids in like a helpful way. I forgot that its a terrible disease.

Ben: But yeah lucky everyone was super helpful and I was able to fall asleep and were rested now and having a good time.

Dylan: I thought I was gonna not be able to sleep and I was gonna train wreck our whole set. Just anxiety building up in me. I was like why can’t I sleep. They were like sound checking the stage so it would be quiet for a bit and then it would be like whooossssshhpppppp. All this sound coming in.

Ben: Yeah they sound checked a like 3 in the morning.

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Whats your favorite gas station/grocery store food?

Ben: I already got a grocery store food. You should try bagels with jalapeño cream cheese. It changes everything. Bagels are obviously good, then you have jalapeño cream cheese. Its next level.

Dylan: Jalapeño cream cheese is so much better than cream cheese. You can’t go back.

Ben: Do you know what my favorite thing is?

Dylan: You like plain chocolate. No its snickers ice cream. Its so good. Eat that and your like ooohhh. (makes many ooh noises.)

Ben: Maybe gas station wise i’d say cashews maybe. They’re really fattening but they taste great.

Dylan: Tapatio doritos. I love tapatio. I put it on everything and those doritos are really good. I take it everywhere. Take the lid off and just pour it. Its cheap too. It’s like this cannot be good. I think its just sodium and oil mostly.

Ben: Those like 30 cent burritos. You microwave them. They are way better than you expect. They are probably garbage for you but who cares.

Dylan: We were like broke as fuck for a long time and those were like end of the month when credit cards were maxed we were like, we’re getting burritos. Get 10 of them for like 3 dollars.

So is this your full time job now?

Ben: We actually didn’t have real jobs for like 2 or 3 years. We were getting by doing really odd stuff. With the whole switching agents we were really slowing down. So then we got semi real jobs. Then literally day we got like 3 or 4 really good bookings.

Dylan: It was like a fucking sign. Our career has been a lot like that. This guy in NY throws a sick party, I really want to play that. Then the next day this guy had subbed and was like I want you to come out and play this party. I was like, whoah thats the fucking guy. Its happened so much.

Ben: I remember I changed my alarm clock to Po

rter Robinson randomly and the next day he followed us on twitter when we had like 50 followers. I was like WTF.

I think the first time I heard of you guys was through Nest HQ.

Dylan: That did a lot for us. then we got put in Skrillex Selects which was really cool. They put in the mix. We were in Yosemite with like no service. Our manager was freaking out like, you’re in Skrillex selects. I was like does Skrillex know who we are or not?

How do you approach a B2B set?

Dylan: It’s gonna be harder than just us 2 DJing cause we don’t know all their songs. We’re just gonna have fun. We’ve done B2B’s with a lot of people. Like in NY we went with like Subset, X&G, Yookie and Josh Pan all at the same time. It was pretty hectic. It’s really fun, a different experience for sure. We played a show at Slake in NY, this is a different b2b but it was like with Josh Pan and X&G. Josh had a John Mayer song on his flash drive. We were playing like dubstep and trap all night and Josh was like I wanna play this song. I was like do it. Everyone was like what is going on. I will always remember that as a really funny experience. It’s just less serious when it’s a B2B

Bongs, Blunts, Bowls or Papers?

Dylan: Bong. Every day. I have it right next to where I sit every day. I run out of weed and I drive 1 minute and then I’m at the weed store and then I’m back.

Ben: I’m not cool enough to smoke weed.

Does that ever cause a rift?

Dylan: When I moved in, I was a stoner for so long, then going to ICON I stopped smoking as much. Then I moved in and I wasn’t smoking and he didn’t smoke, but he was like lets smoke. Ever since then i’ve been like full stoner. He stopped pretty shortly after that.

Ben: Usually it just gives me anxiety. I do enjoy working on music when i’m high. I do like vapes, maybe thats my answer.

Dylan: It’s never really caused a rift.

Ben: Honestly I don’t even notice. I never think about the fact that he is really high.

Dylan: I can like smoke right in front of him. He’ll ask me a question and i’m like I’m too high. He’s like your high? I just took a rip right in front of you. Bongs for sure. I’ve got my royalty. Its been with me for years. I love it.

Has it ever chipped or anything?

Dylan: It broke. Someone broke it and they fixed it. It was my old roommate and I woke up one morning to glass shattering and then “oh fuck”. I ran out and my roommate broke it, but then he fixed it. Made it even better honestly.

How do you enjoy being vegan?

Ben: I love it. I also recommend it, but i don’t like to push it on people. Its not like a moral thing for me, its just I want to be a bit healthier. It make me feel good. Its really easy to poop. For real its noticeable better. I have more energy I feel like. I can eat more and not get fat.

I just like meat too much to do it. If they could just simulate meat better.

Dylan: Its happening, but its actually less environmentally friendly than real meat. Veganism, a lot if it is for environmental reasons, and then now they’re making it taste like meat and its vegan but its not good for the environment.

Ben: Soy protein is pretty good.

Dylan: He makes a lot of vegan stuff that I eat, it’s always good.

Do you both cook?

Dylan: He’s more of a cook.

Ben: I used to cook most of our meals, then I became vegan and then we split it up.

Dylan: He cooks more different things. I have my things that I enjoy. I make the same thing for breakfast. I have my breakfast burrito specialty.

Anything else you’d like to say?

Ben: Listen to how many times we say um. We’re the most talked about artist in the world actually.

Dylan: Every time someone says um we get .02 cents.

Ben: I think 95% of people here said our name today.

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Written & interviewed by Hunter Saillen

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