Article By: Nicholas Callaio ; Photos By: Margaux Champ Galligan
The Untz contributor Nicholas Callaio got an opportunity to sit down with Ben Silver, and Bethany and Spencer Lokken of the Chicago-based DJ trio Orchard Lounge. For more than a decade, the collective has been spinning the best in downtempo, minimal, tech house, and every late-night, groove-oriented genre in between for what can only be categorized as “space disco.” Callaio spoke with the Lokkens and Silver after OL’s performance at Cervantes in Denver, CO on Sept. 22.
Nicholas Callaio: Do Colorado shows have special significance for Orchard Lounge? Is there a different approach to your performance?
Spencer Lokken: Absolutely, we always know we’ll have a great response here when we come, whether it's Fort Collins, Boulder, or Denver. There are obviously a large number of people that enjoy and are very open-minded to new music and people that are doing new and exciting things. And we know house music isn't very prevalent here in this market, as it is from we are from, Chicago. It’s always fun to play and hear all the records that you would hear around Chicago. We always loved Colorado from day one before we even started playing music just because of the great skiing conditions.
NC: I know you guys did a lot of festivals this summer and are always on the road for tour. But Camp Bisco, always seems to be such a great event for Orchard Lounge—to always open the festival. What keeps you going back every year?
SL: We hold Camp Bisco very special to us; we played there seven years in a row and we are very solid with a lot of people in the Biscuits community. We love that they will always give us the opportunity to play in front of different people, their fan base and their extended fan base. As far as playing those late night sets, we are a trio of DJ's for those who do not know, and our forte is playing these long extended DJ sets. Unlike people like Bluetech, who play their own material, we explore other people's art and put it together in a unique way. So at camp where we get an hour in the dance tent at four o’clock on a Thursday, you can only do so much between three people to really rock the crowd and do what it is that we want to do. We have an opportunity to play a late night set at a campsite at three in the morning with an intimate atmosphere—that’s where we thrive. We can play records there that we can never play on stage for thousands of people but more so for 100 people.
NC: I know The Disco Biscuits are gracing Chicago with a two day New Years Eve run, are you guys going to be right along side of them ringing in 2012?
SL: I do not have any insight on that yet, but they are playing two blocks from my house. You know we played with those guys many times before, so that might be one good opportunity but there are many other that we can explore. Personally, I have been DJ’ing for the last nine years on New Years, so I am actually thinking about taking year ten off. I am trying to age gracefully and I think I might go out, host a small dinner party, or go to a show I will enjoy like The Disco Biscuits. Basically, do something other than worrying about how we are going to rock the crowd. Let’s be honest: it’s New Year’s Eve—most of the time it's amateur hour. Its people coming out to get blacked out by ten o'clock, and that’s what we do not want to see when we look off the stage. Like I said I have no insight on what is going to happen but for right now, tBD.(great pun)
NC: I saw that you guys are playing some dates with Pretty Lights in the near future, are you excited about that?
Bethany Lokken: Yes, absolutely we are excited to be playing with him again. The funny part about this is that the first time we ever played with him he opened for us, can you believe that? Since he already has opened up for us we always liked him and I still have the flyer for it. Now it’s like, hey what's up baller. He is just changing the game, but in a great way. If you are going to go big there is a couple ways to do it, you can either be an asshole and sell it or keep it here (points to heart) and decide you are going fucking big.
NC: I can tell what path you guys took because you are just keeping it coming all the time, there is no one out there doing what Orchard Lounge does; how do you guys do it?
BL: When people give you all this love you just have to return it and not let people down, you know what I mean? It’s the best feeling ever when people say they like what you love to do—well, thanks! (laughs)
NC: I see that you are always on the road, what's it like with you and Spencer always going from city to city and show to show?
BL: Don't get it wrong; we drive each other crazy all the time. We don't do this much anymore but we use to have to go on 14 day runs, so I had to bring a girl with me for one week, then another for the other week. I just couldn't be around two dudes all the time because face it: it's two dudes and one girl so we would just fight. So when I had my girl with me we would just go shopping and say “see you two bitches later.” (laughs) Just doing something girly would keep myself level headed. Got to do whatever it takes to survive tour.
NC: Do you like this venue you played tonight, Cervantes?
BL: Yeah, the first time we played here it was with The Egg and we LOVE The Egg. We kind of feel like we contributed a lot towards their popularity over the years—at least we like to think so. We begged for them to be at Camp so we handed out a bunch of their CD's and once they realized they had all these fans over here, they got invited to Camp! They really blew everyone away so they decided to go on tour and it led us here. People told us that there was this huge disco ball so when I first came here that was the first thing I looked up at and said “what god damn big disco ball?” (laughs)
NC: You guys are always giving all the love back to the fans, but I thought you could give some to your fellow artists, especially those coming out of this fertile scene. Any in particular that you like based here in Colorado?
BL: I love Paper Diamond's work. When you stand behind someone while they are playing you can tell if they really love what they do and if it is a lot of work, easy, creative, or just shit. I like the guy for sure. You know he might be shy sometimes but deep down inside I know he is doing a spectacular job in keeping in real.
NC: Who is your favorite DJ doing it out there today?
BL: Maya Jane Coles, she is a Japanese-English girl, so he is half Japanese and half British and she produces the most amazing music. Her music to me sounds like what an iPad would sound like if you could listen to it. To sum it up, it is just pretty perfect music.
NC: What do you guys talk about when you switch out during your sets?
BL: I can't tell you that (laughs), but this one time we were playing at the Metronome in Burlington, it was a packed house and everyone was just dancing their asses off. So this guy calls me over to him, and this is why I don't even look down at the crowd anymore, and pulls me close to ask, “Got any psytrance?” That night we were just playing straight techno, so someone else heard it and got a picture of this guy whispering in my ear. They ended up posting the picture on Myspace of him whispering in my ear and “Got any psytrance” under it. So I said “sure sweetie, I can put that right on for you.” (laughs)
NC: You know there are a lot of DJ's fading in and out of the music scene because everything is changing and the fans are demanding so much more from artists nowadays so it makes it even harder for DJs to make a name for themselves. You have been going strong for a while now, what did you guys do so differently?
Ben Silver: You know we have been going for about ten years now and we are all really passionate about what we do; we all love the music, which has ultimately brought us together. One of the most important things that we did was to never lose the vision of what kind of sound we set out to find, because there are a lot of trends in music, but we like to stick to what we’ve got. We always liked to reach out to different people, so back in the day, I used to post our mixes to the Phish page or The Disco Biscuits, which I was very into when I was in college, and eventually led to playing with a wide variety of different acts. Playing festivals like Camp Bisco gave us he opportunity to play for a number of different audiences, this keeps things very healthy in the terms of what you’re asking. You can't forget about playing the Smartbar because it is always voted the best club in America, so people that usually go there and people that have never been to a club before will listen to our music. This pays off for us to the amount of different people that will listen to our music.
NC: Its a little dated back now but the six hour set you played on Friday the 13th, and more importantly the seven hour set in all vinyl that you guys played most recently, what is the deal with that? Where do you guys find the endurance? Do people start dropping off the dance floor or do they just rage for seven hours straight?
BS: Yeah that night was pretty crazy because typically people do not even go out on a club night until about 10 o'clock, or maybe even later. For that night, people were there pretty early, and there were the stragglers, but most people were there until the lights turned on at five A.M. I don't know for a fact, but someone told me the Fatboy Slim was there for four hours, which was kind of really cool. As far as playing that night, we all used to spin vinyl, and then we switched to Serato because it is just about the same as using vinyl, but easier to use for touring and traveling purposes. I remember playing shows like this one in New York I can recall, with three huge bins of all vinyl, and they just weight a ton. So that night we were playing records that we bought five to ten years ago and there was a ton of inside jokes because how much we loved the records and how we have not played them in almost seven or eight years. I don't think I played a record that came out after 2006 and it was fun invading our personal record shelves and pulling out the ones that may have faded over the time. You know, they were all old records, but they were still the same sound that we always were looking for. That was definitely a great night with more to come.
NC: What was your favorite festival that you guys played this summer?
BS: That's a tough call man but I have been going since the first one and I just always have the best time at Camp Bisco. There are so many friends there and we just feel really accepted there. We always love playing for a big crowd and everyone just goes absolutely nuts there, plus the lineup with just fantastic.
NC: How was Shpongle live?
BS: I actually did not catch all of it because it was the same time as The Magician in the dance tent, but what I heard sounded really good.
NC: Are you looking forward to playing with The Magician in November?
BS: Absolutely I am, and you can't forget about Benoit and Sergio coming up in December. Those two nights are going to be a big highlight of this tour.
NC: Anything else you will be looking forward to on this tour?
BS: You know everywhere we go and every night we play it is always just an awesome time for us. I could not imagine having anymore fun doing something else. From going to these different cities over and over we met some great people so it is really great to see all these friends wherever we go. I always look forward to every night because each day brings something new.
NC: Does Colorado hold something special to you?
BS: Oh yeah, dating back to when I didn't play music, I saw shows there I will never forget over the years as well as playing music there. I always have a soft spot for CO and everyone gives us great vibes when we do get play shows there.
NC: Bands like The Disco Biscuits and The String Cheese Incident are showing signs of slowing down when it comes to playing shows. Do you plan on scaling back your tours in the future?
BS: I definitely do not want to slow down, if anything I want to kick it up 100 notches. Also, it is very different because we are collective DJs and we have played many shows with bands like that, but we are now focusing mainly on production; I play guitar and Spencer is trained in classical violin, but we are going to put something out just as “Orchard Lounge” early next year. So I am excited to play many more shows and there is no way I am slowing down now.
NC: Ever since I first heard of Orchard Lounge, it feels like it’s something you can hold in your hand—what is the Orchard Lounge to you?
BS: (laughs) I told the story too many times that we all had a place on Orchard St. in Chicago but we love our little motto: “From the Dance Floor, to your Couch.” It basically means we are trying to find the right sounds for the environment or vibe you’re feeling that is in the room at any moment. We just went to Virginia, Denver, and Chicago back-to-back-to-back nights and we played different music for the different moods. What we played in Chicago had lower BPM's and mellower then any other night out of those three because we simply just wanted to change it up. The biggest thing we focus on is matching the mood in any place, if that makes any sense to you. (laughs)
Camp Bisco 5 - Set 2
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