A stateside Siam: On Govenor’s Island for Full Moon Festival

Sandra Song

All photos by Dana Pacifico

Modeled after the infamous drugged-up ex-pat dance parties in Thailand, Matte Projects‘s Full Moon Festival on Governor’s Island brought a little piece of Siam right to the shores of New York City. And with two tented stages, shaded VIP areas and gourmet food vendors, the festival also featured a roster of dance music heavyweights spanning everything from the rock-rooted riffs of Delorean to the post-Internet influenced beats of Wave Racer.

Known for being a breeding ground for some of the city’s most fashionable, the IMPOSE crew felt a tad underdressed (one of us sporting a black eye), but nevertheless checked out the pinkys-up, haute-couture beach party to chat with a few of the artists about the unglamorous life of castaways, how up-to-par their survival skills are and potentially swimming in Central Park Lake.

The Knocks

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Ben Ruttner and James Patterson are known to most of the world as NYC-based super-producers The Knocks. Lending beats for everyone from Top 40 royalty to those buzz-about indie acts, we caught up with the duo to talk desert living and, of course, Drake.

You’re stranded on a desert island and can bring one thing.

James Patterson: A huge tub of water.

Ben Ruttner: That’s so realistic…We’re on an island, that’s why you’re asking. I’d bring a friend.

Everyone knows the story of your guys’ moniker, how it came to be, but I want to know how you guys met and started making music.

BR: I was going to the New School at the time. There’s a studio there and we have a mutual friend who basically brought [Patterson] through, he didn’t go there. He kind of ended up hanging out and we were both making hip-hop beats at the time, and we started trading shit back and forth through the Internet, hanging out via our friend. And I wanted to move out of my dorm and he wanted to move out of…

JP: I was moving into the city, like planning on probably leaving school at the time.

BR: So yeah, we both planned on getting a terrible apartment on Avenue C and 5th Street. That’s how it all started. And we’d both just be making our own shit and would help each other and with kind of just went from there.

What song of the summer would you like to remix most?

BR: Oh, I don’t even know. What are the songs of the summer now…like Ariana Grande?

JP: I like Drake.

BR: I like Drake too. I really like that song [MAGIC!’s] “Rude”. I don’t think I’d remix it but it’s like such a guilty pleasure. And once you see the video and see that it’s not like authentic Jamaican music, it’s just like a Jewish white dude, it’s ridiculous.

You guys are known for making beats for a lot of really high-profile people. Who’s next? What’s next?

BR: Lately we’ve just been focusing on our own shit. We’ve been so busy that we haven’t really been in the studio with other people, but I think we’re planning on Alex Winston, who’s a singer who we kind of developed here back in the day. We’re kind of just basically just getting back on the horse [in regards to recording] with other people. We just finished our album right now…it’s coming out in the fall, it’s called Endisco.

How’s your imprint Heavy Rocs doing?

BR: It’s great. Lately it’s been on hiatus because we’ve just been so busy with touring and finishing our record, but there are a couple of artists we’re going to be putting out soon. And we just built a new studio, like new headquarters in Chinatown, where it all started, staying to the roots, but it’s a better spot, a little more official, it’s good stuff. But running a label is hard work. We consider it more as a collective than a record label.

Panama Wedding

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The mastermind behind the incredibly addictive “All The People”, Peter Kirk has had one hell of summer. Fresh off of the release of his debut EP Parallel Play, he’s been busy promoting the project, but Kirk still had a few seconds to talk about the recording process and the not-so-conscious aesthetic choices that go into his music.

Bring one item on a desert item.

Peter Kirk: That’s a tough one. I want to say my laptop, but that sounds horrible.

Oh, but then there has to be wi-fi.

Oh yeah. I’d just bring my bike just to get around. Although you can’t really ride bikes on the beach…But beach cruiser. There we go.

Would you rather be castaway on Governor’s Island or marooned in the middle of Central Park Lake?

Governor’s Island. With my beach cruiser.

How’d you come up with your distinctly tropical moniker?

Well actually Panama Wedding is the name of a song I wrote a few years ago and the song is basically about someone living in NYC who wanted to go back home to Panama and find a husband. And I think at the time my roommate and I were excited about the idea of going to a wedding in Panama, so I was writing a bunch of songs and I guess the lightbulb went off and then “Panama Wedding”. And when it came time to start putting out a new project, I wanted to name it something that kind of evoked the type of music I was making and Panama Wedding was just sort of a natural fit.

So that’s just the kind of feel you want to communicate through your music? Tropical vibes?

Yeah, I mean I think weddings are usually, hopefully, beautiful, and they conjure up a lot of good memories for people. Like getting out of the city, traveling, good times. I don’t know if I necessarily wanted a tropical vibe but definitely there’s something about weddings that I think resonate with people. When they see the name.

You have this really interesting off-kilter vocal phrasing. How’d you develop that?

I think at first I was just a songwriter and I never really quite new how to sing…I feel like the way I sing is the only way I can sing, if that makes sense. But, you know I’m certainly drawn to voices like Peter Gabriel, but I don’t know if it’s really an intellectual, sort of conscious thing.

You just released your debut EP, what was recording it like?

It was really hard. I think we released “All The People”, and that did so well…I know that the songs I had to put out next were good, but we just wanted to make sure that the aesthetics of all those songs matched “All The People” in some way, but also sound fresh and not just like a Xerox copy. So it was sort of a period of a lot of experimentation and trying a lot of different sounds and arrangements, but I think we finally cracked it. Now making a full-length, it’s a lot easier, because we have a little bit of a template to go off of.

Le Youth

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During our brief interview, LA-based Le Youth, aka Wes James, literally made three people do double-takes. The dashing, smooth grooves-loving DJ sat sweltering in flannel and an unseasonable sock hat, but somehow still looked quite cozy on a plastic beach chair during our chat.

Bring one item to a desert island.

Wes James: A picture of my mom.

What’s your go-to smooth jam of the summer?

The original Ginuwine “Pony” track.

You have such summery beach vibes that it’s hard to believe you’re from Ohio. How’d you spend your summers as a youth?

I usually don’t talk about Ohio that much. I don’t know how it got out that I’m from Ohio.

Ha, hate it that much?

Sort of do. But summers in Toledo are cool. The longer I’ve been away from Ohio, the more I realize that it is farmland sort of type stuff, like I don’t know, quite boring. When I was a kid, I’d just do the normal shit everyone does. I grew up skateboarding, so summers were times to skateboard for me, and a lot of drinking and driving out in the country and stuff.

Bad joke, but what’s the “Cool”-est thing about Full Moon?

I’m excited to hear The Knocks play.

What’s up next for you?

Some new music. Have a new track coming out on Spinnin’ Records in September and then I have a track called “Feel Your Love”, which is coming out in August. Then more music, more shows. Touring Europe in August.

JDH & Dave P

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Literal fixtures on the NYC party scene, Josh Houtkin and Dave Pianka have been spinning together forever. Bringing their eclectic mix of influences to the dance floor, expect everything from experimental to Eurodisco at their legendary gatherings.

Bring one item to a desert island.

Josh Houtkin: That’s intense. I would something music-related.

Dave Pianka: Yeah, I’d want something music related too. I’d want to bring…is there electricity on the island? If there was, I’d want to bring an iPod with some speakers. I’d just need something to be entertained.

JH: Otherwise I’d just bring a boat.

DP: Smart.

Castaway on Governor’s Island or marooned in Central Park Lake?

JH: Marooned because then you could just swim back.

All your answers are so logical.

JH: Ha, yeah I’m not as much of a dreamer, I guess. I’m just about getting off. Get home, be safe.

Talk to me about your Fixed parties. What’s your ethos? How’d it get started?

JH: It just got started because we were already doing parties and we made it official by just calling it Fixed.

DP: Josh and I used to DJ this party called Motherfucker, it was a side room of this big party, that’s kind of how we met, and then we started doing parties in the basement of Tribeca Grand. We were doing that and it was more of a one-off thing, and then we decided to make it a regular thing. That’s when we started Fixed.

JH: Proper soundsystem, bringing in people we like.

DP: Yeah, that’s our ethos. Quality production, good sound. We only book DJs that we like, we don’t book because they’re going to do well or make us money, we book things that we care about.

JH: If we don’t play their tracks in our set, then we won’t book them.

DP: Yeah, we book things that you wouldn’t even be able to DJ out in a dance set. We’ll book things that are more ambient…stuff that would even put out on [Dave P’s label] RVNG Intl.

What’s your favorite RVNG release as of late?

DP: I really like the K. Leimer release. It’s really good.

Oh yeah. I’m also a really big fan of the Craig Leon anthology.

DP: Yeah! Both of those are really amazing. I actually listen to one of those records every morning. Perfect ease-you-in-your-days vibes.

Best party that’s not your own that you’ve been to?

JH: For me, I go to Bunker parties a lot. We do stuff with Rinsed. We’re actually doing our first party with Mount Kimbie with the Rinsed guys.

DP: I like going to weird after-hours parties. I don’t even know who’s doing them. I like when I end up at 7:30 in the morning in some basement of some weird warehouse in the middle of nowhere, Brooklyn. Those are my favorite parties. I’m out for a reason and it’s usually a good night…but like we would both agree that our favorite party worldwide would be Optimo in Glasgow.

JH: I always say that’s the first and only time I’ve missed a flight.

Emefe

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We stumbled upon NYC Afro-funk outfit Emefe on our way to the (exceptionally clean) Portapotties, but just had to hold up in order to pose a few questions about upcoming projects, inspirations and, of course, pianos. Too bad Miles Arntzen & Co. kept mentioning water as a main influence.

Bring 1 item to a desert island.

Jake Pinto: A piano.

Miles Arntzen: You can do a lot of things with a piano.

JP: You can make some cool ass music.

MA: Yeah, you can go a little crazy and write some insane…

JP: I’d also need some prepared piano music and something to tune it. Wait, I can’t have that? Okay, well just the piano then.

MA: A grand piano.

Castaway by yourself on Governor’s Island or marooned in Central Park Lake?

MA: Governor’s Island. I’d rather not see the buildings.

JP: There’s also a beach here.

What’s upcoming? What are working on?

MA: We’re about to finish our new album and we are working on a multisensory stage show to go along with it.

Oooh, like smells too?

MA: Everything! Everything we can. But the focus right now is finishing on the album. We’ve been releasing some stuff independently, but this album is going to kind of a be a rebirth for us. A debut, really.

Different sort of direction?

MA: Basically. We’ve been a band for 4 years and we’ve gone through a lot of different phases and now we’ve arrived at a place that’s pretty undeniably unique and just kind of just an amalgamation of everything we’ve been working on. It’s just ready to show the world.

So can I ask you the shitty influencers question?

MA: Yeah! Musically or universally?

Let’s start with the universe.

MA: The inspiration for our music just comes from basically your deepest self, that’s where we’re trying to draw it from, that’s where we’re trying to draw the people that listen to it. We play music to confront things that we as human beings deal with, especially in NYC, and experience them. Go through these emotions together in life, that’s kind of what the goal is the music is. Musically, the music draws from Talking Heads, Prince, Fela Kuti, that’s pretty much the round-up right there.

What drew you guys to Full Moon?

MA: Any festival outside, on a beach-like thing, is a festival we want to play.

Water’s your inspiration?

MA: Ha, yeah put water as the first inspiration. Water has all the music in it, we just need to look at it. Right, guys?

JP: Deep, bro.

Son Lux

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Ryan Lott, the songwriter behind pop-leaning electronic act Son Lux, may be known for collaborating with Kiwi Queen Lorde, but behind those tinted shades also lies a loving husband, Dylan fan and secret social media maven. Easily one of the cutest Q&As of Full Moon.

Bring 1 item to a desert island.

Ryan Lott: My wife?

We want an object!

Oh yeah, I don’t know if I’d want her to be stranded too. Inanimate object? I would probably have to say the biggest iPod you could find.

What’s on your desert island playlist?

Just lots of Bob Dylan. That’s where I would start.

So you’ve been touring constantly?

Yeah, we’ve done about 100 shows so far this year all over the world. We’ve basically been going non-stop.

How’s it been going? Exhausting?

No, you know, it’s been amazing. This is my first time touring properly to support a record and it’s the first time I’ve had a band and it’s the first I’ve been able to put together a show that I can continue to hone and develop and adapt for different environments. So that whole process, well, it’s a type of exhausting, but it’s been totally energizing as well. Especially creatively.

So have you also been recording?

Yeah, we’ve been recording on the road. And then we’re also in the gaps between different tour runs, we’ve been in and out of the studio as well.

Are you just borrowing studio space wherever you end up?

I work basically from the back of the tour van and we kind of just share ideas, so I have a really like mobile set-up, where I can continue to work and write. I have a small synth, laptop…just a midi controller. Everything I do is virtual, it’s in a box, but I custom-make my own virtual instruments.

Favorite instrument you’ve made?

One of my favorites that I’ve made that’s more of like a traditional instrument is um…I recorded a glockenspiels with little metal chains that resonates against each time. So each note has the ding of the glockenspiel but then also a little buzz. It’s really nice. Yeah and like slowed down, that shit’s really cool.

Let’s talk about Lorde and “Easy”. What was your first meeting like?

It was at the Roseland show here. She was awesome. She like sent one of her assistants out to hunt for us and she found us when I was with Yoni Wolf from WHY? So basically there was this mob for her, but she came and got us and we got to hang out with her and it was pretty awesome. I think I Instagrammed it!

Delorean

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Adorable Spanish dance-rock headliners Delorean were minus a member (Unai had some unfortunate last-minute visa trouble), but still played an incredible, funk-loving DJ set for the loony, late night crowd. But we did get to speak to the jet-lagged duo of Igor and Ekhi, who made it to Governor’s Island at the very end for an improv’d DJ performance.

Bring 1 item to a desert island.

Igor Escuvero: Like a material thing?

Yeah, material. No wives.

IE: Hm…thinking of something useful, right? Maybe a laptop that’s updated with some programs.

Ekhi Lopetegi: Wait, but there’s no wifi.

IE: But I can work. Programs.

EL: I would bring a knife. I think it’s very useful.

Like a machete type thing?

EL: Medium sized.

Ha, all-purpose knife. Would you rather be castaway here or in the middle of Central Park Lake?

IE: Here is so much nicer. I like both places, so I’m okay with getting stranded in both of them.

I was listening to your Remixes of 2014. What was your favorite remix that you did?

IE: Hm…maybe Shura’s [“Touch”] song. That’s probably our favorite of the year. This girl from the UK. Yeah, she’s getting big there.

How does this compare to the other big music festivals you’ve done this summer?

IE: Well we just arrived 30 minutes ago, but it seems great. I mean the place is pretty amazing. You can see the city, and we’re like from Barcelona, so we’re kind of like tourists a little bit. So it’s great for us to be in such a good spot and I don’t know, it just feels nice. It’s not too hot, the vibe is good.

Tell me a little about the Barcelona club scene.

IE: There are a few classic venues like Apollo and Razzmatazz. Yeah, Razzmatazz is like a super club. It’s like 5 clubs in 1, it has a like 5000 person capacity. It’s like going to a mall.

I know you guys are referred to as both of dance band and a rock band, depending on what publication is talking about you, but which one do you affiliate with more?

IE: We do play our own instruments, but I think our background is mostly dance music and dance is one of our main influences. So yeah, we try to play maybe pop sounds with a strong dance music sequence backing.

What’s in the works for you guys?

IE: Yeah, we want to release a single before the end of the year and then a new album by next summer.

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