If you listen close enough to the ground, what you hear charging back into the core of surging to the top of mainstream music's EDM revolution is a familiar four-on-the-floor beat that hearkens back four decades in history. For those unaware, disco feels like an antiquated thing, a style out of favor with half-time bass drops, car alarms, and sirens. However, with just one listen to Buffalo, NY tandem Solidisco, their ability to modernize dance's most timeless of notions beckons new ears to appreciate disco's classic style. Today finds the duo releasing their latest original track, "Top of the World" (featuring '80s soul/funkateers Skyy), and continuing to excel at blending old and new into a wildly addictive sound. I had the opportunity to interview Solidisco, and in discussing everything from successfully remixing Kanye West's "Bound 2," as well as playing HARDFest, and getting the opportunity to dig into the legendary Salsoul catalog for some new school remixes, hopefully in reading you get a flavor of what makes Solidisco unique and worthy of both listening and appreciation.
What do you feel has allowed disco to remain vital to the growth and development of dance music for over four decades? Is it the level of production in those classic tracks STILL providing a blueprint, is it the vibe that the sound always creates, or is the answer somewhere between those two ideas?
It's definitely a mixture of those two ideas. The disco vibe is huge to us. Our goal is 100% about capturing that feel-good uplifting vibe when we're making a track. Some of our songs might stray away from being actually "disco" and could be considered more '80s pop or freestyle-influenced, but as long as we feel it's sticking to that "disco feeling" we're ok with it.
The production on disco tracks is almost equally as important though. We really didn't fully appreciate what went into disco production until Ultra came to us to do an EP last year. They gave us the original studio stems to several classic disco songs, and the amount of instruments they used on one song was pretty shocking. A lot of those songs really are timeless and still popular after over 30 years now because there's so much musicianship and different elements going on and playing off of each other that you could be listening to a track for the 50th time and still notice something new that you've never heard before.
How did both of you come to discover your interest in disco? Was it part of your youth, immersion in club culture, or from somewhere else?
Disco has always been present in some way throughout our evolving music tastes. We heard it for real when it was popular when we were young listening to Michael Jackson. Then we were both really into hip-hop which heavenly sampled soul and disco music at the time. Then when we finally started getting into dance music, Armand Van Helden, Dimitri From Paris, and Cassius was really the first stuff we got into which obviously all are very disco-sample heavy artists.
Insofar as discovering and finding your unique path within disco as a production unit, I feel as though that has been where Solidisco has grown the most as of late. What were the moments that allowed for that development to occur, and how comfortable do you feel now in exploring the space that you've created for yourselves as producers?
Yeah our sound has definitely changed a lot lately. We were 100% sample-based when we started out, but we knew clearing samples was going to be an issue so our goal always has been to reach a point where we can recreate that disco sound totally on our own without sampling. A huge step towards that was as we said earlier, getting access to those classic session stems from Ultra. We really spent a lot of time studying those sessions trying to figure out what elements gave these songs the feel that we're looking for. The other huge step was finding the right production tools to help us achieve that sound. We wish we had the money to have Nile Rodgers play guitar and hire the New York Philharmonic to record strings and brass for us on every track but that's just unrealistic for us right now. So we spent a lot of time recently finding ways to recreate those orchestra sounds ourselves, which are a huge part of what makes disco music what it is, and the results we've been getting have us pretty excited.
The inclusion of disco as a festival sound is intriguing in the sense that there's something about the sound traditionally being long and wide versus big and tall that makes it feel out of place in a larger realm. What do you specifically do with your sounds in order to help make the genre translate into a space where it would seem as though it would be an odd fit?
Our songs are able to work in a festival setting because although we capture a very classic sound, we are still using modern production techniques to make everything sound fatter and bigger. We also draw out our builds a lot more than the vast majority of other artists in this genre, which real helps reach that festival energy level.
I was actually a huge fan of the First Choice remix you put out with Ultra on the Salsoul/West End compilation ("Doctor Love" and "Armed and Extremely Dangerous" are two favorites of mine). Obviously, working with a major like Ultra affords you the opportunity to do official remixes of that material. So, I wanted to ask how did the relationship with Ultra develop, and insofar as the latest release (""Top of the World" feat Skyy), how did that come together from a production standpoint?
When we saw last year that Ultra had acquired the rights to the entire Salsoul Records catalog (which like you said features everyone from First Choice to Loleatta Holloway), so we hit them up and said you HAVE to let us do something with these. So they gave us the go ahead to do a three-track EP. "Top of the World" was huge for us because that one is the only one of the three that is considered an "original mix." And Skyy's camp was into the song and gave us their approval to release it. Having a feature from such a huge '70s/'80s group like Skyy on one of our tracks is a huge honor.
Where do you feel disco fits in the awkward, yet growing in comfort relationship between Americans and EDM? It's certainly at the core of dance, but is it at the core of "EDM?" Your thoughts.
We're definitely in our own niche which is kind of a blessing and a curse. It's tough because the majority of the EDM scene in America is really into a very specific sound right now, so if you're making something totally different like we are, it's hard to get exposure. However, like every cycle of music genres throughout history, people will get tired of the same sound eventually and look for different outlets of "EDM" to listen to and I think that's where we are looking to fit in.
Where do you see the sound of Solidisco headed? I feel as though there's a great deal of space now available for where you can take your productions, as between the Gap Band and Kanye remixes to working on originals that have a significant pull in the big room house atmosphere, there's a lot of unique space to explore. Your thoughts?
Yeah it seems like every track we make now seems to be a totally different sound for us. We never want to be predictable or lazy by just rehashing a formula we already used in another song just because it did well. There's always that moment when we are making a song that we look at each other and are like "this isn't too leftfield for us is it?," but we quickly move past that feeling. It doesn't matter to us if a track starts leaning more towards an '80s sound or freestyle vibe, or indie/nu disco as long as it has that feel-good uplifting Solidisco vibe we always try to achieve.