When Classixx released debut album Hanging Gardens in 2013, the duo struck gold when single “All You’re Waiting For” became a nu-disco anthem.
In 2014, Classixx (Michael David and Tyler Blake) co-headlined the Tachevah Block Party in Palm Springs with Fitz and the Tantrums. In 2016, the duo released sophomore album Faraway Reach, and this year, they made their second appearance at Coachella. This weekend, Classixx will be returning to the Coachella Valley and performing at Splash House’s after-party, After Hours at the Museum.
The DJs are inspired by genres from disco to R&B, making them something of an oddity in the world of dance music. During a recent phone interview with Tyler Blake, he said that at times, he and David feel like they stick out like a sore thumb.
“I think since we’ve been playing live a lot over the past couple of years, that we feel like we’re in between a band and DJs, and sometimes for people who aren’t super-familiar with electronic music, it can feel confusing,” Blake said. “But at the end of the day, we just put on as good of a show as we can, whether we’re DJing or playing live. I think that the quality is really what we’re concerned with. Hopefully, if we’re doing things right, people walk away from the show having had a good time, and that’s all that really matters.”
Considering that David and Blake do a lot of what’s called nu-disco, I asked Blake if he felt that disco music ever really died.
“I think that (disco) was dormant for a while,” he replied. “I think in the ’70s and early ’80s, everybody was playing disco, and it was very well-loved. Every rock band even had a disco song, and even KISS had a disco song. It was really loved, and then this ‘disco sucks’ movement happened. People burned disco records, and after that, it had a bad taste in people’s mouths. When people thought of disco, they thought of bar mitzvah music like KC and the Sunshine Band. They didn’t realize that disco came from a really cool underground structure, and also kind of a gay subculture. In a lot of ways, it was really punk. A lot of things wouldn’t have had happened if there was no disco. There would be no house music. It’s really what started modern dance music.”
The differences between nu-disco and the disco of old really come down to technology, Blake said.
“To make a really proper-sounding disco record in the late ’70s or early ’80s, you had to have a really state-of-the-art studio,” he said. “One of the things about those records is that the playing on them is fantastic—people like Bernard Edwards and Nile Rodgers of Chic and other world-class musicians playing at the highest level. Mike and I appreciate that. We can play, but there’s a lot more technology now to make things sound more unique and modern. I think we try to incorporate modern sounds into what we do.”
Classixx’s second album, Faraway Reach, was another critical success. Blake explained the difference between the two albums.
“I think our approach was very similar. Our approach is always to make music that we want to hear,” he said. “… If we hear something that influences us, and we want to incorporate it, that’s what we do. The difference between the first record and the second record is the first record was the first Classixx album of our lives. It was really trying to put something together to represent us and introduce us to the world. The second time around, we were a little less concerned about establishing a sound. We felt a lot more free to do what we wanted to do. We wanted to make something that sounded a lot more modern instead of retro this time. I think at the end of the day, that’s the impression I get from it.”
Blake said he and David are currently working on new music.
“Our touring has slowed down,” he said. “We did a lot of touring in the second half in 2016 supporting Faraway Reach. Now we’re home, and we’re trying to make a lot more music. We’re putting less pressure on ourselves to make an entire new album. … Our idea is vague as to how we’re going to release it—whether we’re going to put out singles or make an EP, or who knows, maybe enough material that is cohesive enough to put out another album. Right now, we’re just focusing on making music without any sort of plan.”
After playing Tachevah and twice at Coachella, Classixx is a good fit for the Coachella Valley, Blake said.
“It’s a beautiful place,” he said. “This show that we’re playing will be at night, and we’re playing outside at the Palm Springs Air Museum. We love playing outside in Palm Springs; it’s really beautiful, especially for our music. People tend to think of our music as something you play in the summer or at a pool party. It’s not really a conscious decision for us to make music for that environment, but it seems like it lends itself well to it.”
Splash House’s June edition takes place Friday, June 9, through Sunday, June 11. General admission passes start at $135; after-hours-only passes start at $40. For more information, visit www.splashhouse.com.