Bixel Boys on #FREELIFE & Underground Tunes
While vibing out over similar tastes in music, Ian MacPherson and Rob May teamed up as the Bixel Boys after their first song, “Love Like This” turned out to be a huge success. Basketball fans as well as music lovers, the Bixel Boys bring a mix of pool party vibes and underground grooves to their shows.
Their #FREELIFE campaign focuses on much more than music though; they live the concept of being free, of living the way that you want, not the way others think you should be. For their recent #FREELIFE draft, they chose 10 fans who shared their story about how they #LIVEFREE. We were able to sit down with Ian and Rob before their show at Q Nightclub in Seattle and got to know them a little better and learned more about what really living the #FREELIFE is about.
OTB: I love how you bring the freedom of expression to your music!
Rob: We’re like an open book when it comes to music. I think we play what’s right for the room and I think that’s what DJing is. It should never be limited to a certain style of music. A DJ’s job is to make people dance.
Ian: It’s the same with production too. Whatever the situation calls for, we try to do what’s right. You can’t look at any one situation in a bubble. For instance, how can I make this song a big room house song, or a trap song, etc. I don’t want to ever feel constrained to any one genre.
OTB: Your mantra is “Underground tunes for big rooms.” How do you find these underground tunes and new music?
Rob: SoundCloud is a good way, you can just keep clicking till you find something cool. It’s definitely the easiest way to go if you really want to find eclectic tracks.
Ian: Beatport is hard to find exactly what you want. It tags you as a genre. They tell you you’re Tech House or Dubstep or Electro, etc. Personal networking is probably the best way to go. One person that I am really stoked for this year is Drezo out of LA. I just met him for the first time the other night and I think he understands the “underground tunes for big rooms” mantra. But really, just being out in the scene and seeing the vibe is the best way to find new things. Personal networking, knowing people and being out.
Rob: People post cool stuff on Facebook too and I’m always blown away. We get random people who send us stuff and it’s always very forward thinking and creative; combinations I would never in my wildest dreams think to put together.
OTB: You spend a lot of time traveling together. What are the biggest quirks you notice about each other?
Ian: The biggest quirk about Rob is that he has perfect hair. It’s impossible to compete with. I had a moment in which I tried to compete: I buzzed the sides and blow dried the top and got my hair all slicked back. It didn’t work out. You know what, it’s probably best I just wear a hat.
Rob: Ian’s biggest quirk is being the most on point but lackadaisical person ever. You would look at him and think he has no idea what’s going on but he knows everything. He could be asleep for hours and then wake up and know everything: where we are, where we need to be. You can never get him lost.
OTB: Have you ever tried kidnapping Ian?
Rob: I should but he would probably be savvy enough and ready for it.
OTB: You’re both big basketball fans. Since we’re in Seattle, how do you feel about what’s happened to our Sonics team?
Rob: I had a moment when I imagined myself without the Pistons, my hometown team, and the Pistons being taken away from me. A huge lump grew in my throat and I got really choked up. I don’t know what I would do without my hometown team. As bad as they are right now, I love ’em. For that to be taken away from me would be horrible. I really feel with the people of Seattle. I know Seattle is a city where the fans are so passionate. Although, I do feel optimistic that Seattle will eventually get a team back.
Ian: I’m a 49ers fan but I have to be honest: I went on a run today from my hotel down to Centurylink Field and I’ve never seen so many Seahawks jerseys and paraphernalia in a city. There were a million people in the pro store. It hit me: this town is so about their teams and it’s such a disrespectful thing that they don’t have an NBA team, especially with the history behind the legendary Seattle Super Sonics. The only teams that could shut down Jordan came from Seattle. It’s crazy Seattle doesn’t have a team. But I have to say, being from San Francisco who are rival fans, Seattle has the greatest fan base I have ever seen. We travel all the time, from Toronto to Vancouver, Chicago, New York, etc. and I could not believe the casual support for one team I saw while just on a jog through the city. That was dope. You have an amazing fan base.
OTB: Tell me about your #FREELIFE campaign
Ian: The whole campaign came from me and my friends in Venice [beach] when we were all wearing Nike Frees and Flyknits with regular clothes, not workout clothes. Then it turned into “just be yourself, who cares.” Don’t worry about being cool, be comfortable – don’t be “cool.” So we ended up taking that idea and making the shirt like the LA Galaxy shirt sponsored by Herbalife. We did a song that they ended up using as their entrance music and we flipped their jersey. Instead of Herbalife, we replaced it with #FREELIFE and then a bunch of DJs jumped on it and really liked it. TJR, Lil Jon, Protohype and so many artists were all about it. It was crazy how it took off. The spirit behind it is: “Fuck everything else, be comfortable, don’t worry about shit – be free.”
Rob: That message translates into how we approach music from a very free-thinking type of thought. We don’t enclose ourselves in a single genre, we think about things a little differently. Music, in the age of technology, shouldn’t be thought of in terms of genre. Technology has blended the lines of genre and we should be creating things that we feel comfortable with as individuals rather than trying to fit it into a mold. When you try to fit things into a mold, you’re limiting yourself. So the #FREELIFE aspect ended up working into the way that we approach music and hopefully the way other DJs approach music.
It’s cool to see so much DJ support in this campaign. It’s starting to turn into something bigger than just a shirt. It’s turning into a mentality in the music culture: expressing yourself without the need of being bound by genre restrictions or genres that make more money than other genres, but about being true to yourself. You can remix whatever you want to remix in whatever style you want to remix in because the possibilities, now that we’re in this age of technology, are endless.
OTB: Since you can’t buy one, how do you earn a #FREELIFE jersey?
Ian: We could have sold the jerseys — we had a lot of people asking us where we were selling them and how to buy one. But we realized that’s not what’s important to us, the jerseys have more meaning than money. So instead, we created a draft for people who don’t make music but still understand that concept of individuality and life. They can enter in and tell us how they live free and reflect the #FREELIFE. I want participants to earn it, I don’t want people to pay for it. And if you missed this draft, there will be one every season.
Rob: The stories we have been getting in the Free Life Draft are humbling and inspirational for us. We hope that those who entered are also inspired to do something creative and launch a new cycle of music.
“It’s more than the music. The sports theme fits because we’re all on the same team trying to make something of our lives through creative freedom.”
OTB: How do you pick songs to remix?
Rob: I look through stems, the breakdown of songs, for the vocals, bass, guitar, etc. and listen to it all separately. Hearing the individual parts in the studio, a section will grab hold of you emotionally…a bassline for example. You know immediately when you resonate with a song. It’s then about dissecting the song and letting it speak back to you to hear what genre it wants to be spun off into. The song is delivering a message and you decide how to interpret and reinterpret it in a million different ways — that’s how art works. I love remixing, it’s the future of music. Get as many different viewpoints as possible and open up new worlds.
Ian: Through remixing, you can take an idea and make it your own. Technology allows us to break things down better and share them now. When I think of a remix, it’s really how I, as an individual, hear something. I’m not right or wrong or better or worse, I just have a unique perspective. It’s awesome. And sometimes what you remix catches you by surprise. Rob sent me a remix the other day and I couldn’t believe it. You can’t force it, you just don’t know where music is going to take you.
OTB: What’s your favorite remix?
Rob: Flume’s remix of Lorde’s “Tennis Court.” Hands down. He went past the limits infusing a creative and uncontrolled thought process.
Ian: Baauer’s remix of Disclosure’s “You & Me”. I admire it because Baauer took a song that’s not necessarily a banger and ignored genre constraints to make something that lives in its own world. I don’t want to hear the same thing.
Check out the Free Life Draft on Bixel Boys’ Facebook.
Listen to the Bixel Boys’ underground tunes for big rooms on Soundcloud.
Photo credit: Jason Woo
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