Electronic Duo Classixx Proves That You Can Get By With A Little Help From Your Friends

    Get to know them in our annual Music Issue

    by · June 02, 2016

    From left: Michael David and Tyler Blake. Photographed by Emily Berl.

    The following feature appears in the June/July 2016 issue of NYLON.

    There is a tidy cottage in a residential neighborhood of Venice, California, just a block away from one of its busiest and trendiest thoroughfares. Here, in this highly covetable location, surrounded by a corrugated and spike-tipped iron fence, is the hideout of Michael David and Tyler Blake. The former is a floppy-haired brunet with bright eyes and a big smile; the latter, a slender blond with a more serious demeanor. Together, they make up the indie-dance production duo Classixx.

    David’s and Blake’s roles in the group were defined back in middle school, when they first started making music together. At the time, like any teenage garage band, the two covered simple songs while trying to master their instruments—guitar and keyboard, respectively. They eventually progressed to experimenting with synthesizers and drum machines to hone a defining sound. Now, David and Blake are the most agreeable of electronic production duos, replete with the comfortable air of two guys who have been best friends for over half their lives.

    Their personalities have much to do with their division of duties: Blake is more studio-savvy and outgoing, and the one who elaborates on ideas. “Tyler’s late every time to everything,” David says affectionately of his counterpart. “But he is really good-spirited and has no ill will toward anybody. I’m pretty cynical and I can be grumpy, and I’m just a little bit cagey. He’s all optimism and benevolence.”

    David, on the other hand, is the perfectionist of the two, as well as the starter and selector. “We just understand each other,” says Blake. “We know one another so well, we have a lot of unspoken communication. We don’t have half the struggle because of that. Michael’s really controlling and opinionated, but that turns into a good thing when making music. I’m the guy who goes with the flow, so we balance each other out in a lot of ways.”

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    From left: Michael David and Tyler Blake. Photographed by Emily Berl.

    Finding that balance undoubtedly contributed to the pair’s impact as, essentially, Los Angeles’s answer to New York’s avant-garde indie dance sound—whereas New York has the likes of LCD Soundsystem and Penguin Prison, who ride a dark and gritty balance between electronic and indie rock, Los Angeles offers its warm and sunny version with groups such as Poolside, Cosmic Kids, and Classixx. This originated at the now-defunct Dim Mak Tuesdays at Cinespace—the club where Blake says “people were playing music that wasn’t Top 40 club music”—frequented often by Classixx from 2007 to 2009. “You’d hear The Rapture being played into Joy Division, into an old disco song,” continues Blake. “That was a turning point, and we were there for it.” David adds: “We were also trying to figure out what we were doing, attempting to find our sound in the landscape of modern electronic music.”

    Considering that their 2013 debut, Hanging Gardens, won over dance and indie-music fans alike, it’s safe to say they achieved that goal. On Gardens, David and Blake drew inspiration from New York disco, Chicago house, and Detroit techno as much as they did from new-wave bands like Depeche Mode, New Order, and Talking Heads. But after touring extensively for the record, their songwriting muscles needed flexing. So when the time came to kick-start their sophomore album, Faraway Reach, it was David’s idea for them to independently write five demos each in order to get the wheels turning. “We didn’t have enough songs for Hanging Gardens,” says Blake. “Making the music for Faraway Reach came a lot easier. We had a surplus of ideas that could turn into songs. That gave us more time and ability to get other musicians involved.”

    Faraway Reach maintains Classixx’s mash-up of indie and dance influences, with the bubbling rhythms of “Pure Distraction” rubbing shoulders with the future-house slap of “Ndivile” and the shuffling beats of the irresistible title track. The album ups its game with bright and pop-oriented contributions from Nonku, T-Pain, Passion Pit, Holy Ghost!, How to Dress Well, Panama, and more.

    “When artists make records with such big-name collaborators that the album becomes too big to fail, it becomes this mess that feels nebulous and weird,” says David. “We tried to bring in musicians we’re fans of to see if we could create continuity and a cohesive record with disparate singers. We like the idea of music with mass appeal, of us stepping into these other worlds and connecting with passive music fans, but still maintaining a certain level of identity.”

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    Last updated: 2016-06-02T16:25:45-04:00
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