By Catalina Briceno
Brooklyn-based artists and Dirtybird’s latest breakout duo, Sam Walker and Gavin Royce credit their dedication to long-standing perseverance for their explosive success and ability to consistently release chart-topping hits and fan favourites.
Their musical inclination started at an early age. According to an article written by Alden Wicker for Under The Sound, Walker, studied music in college, playing the trombone. Royce played piano as a kid, but had a fixation on dance music, referencing Michael Jackson and Prince as artists that sparked his interest.
The two later joined forces in 2011, where they caught the attention of legendary DJ, producer, and founder of the Crosstown Rebels label, Damian Lazarus with their track, “Future Lately”. The track went on to become a staple in his sets and he immediately released an EP on the label.
“We were incredibly lucky since we didn’t know him, it wasn’t given to him; he just found it on Beatport. From there we made a Crosstown Rebels EP and we were somewhat legitimized as artists,” they said in an email interview.
Royce admits, however that although they were elated to be presented with that kind of platform, it was intimidating for them because it meant they would have to frequently and consistently produce the same calibre of material.
“We weren’t really able to do [it] at that point.”
“The biggest obstacle is grit. It takes gobs of time to make good things happen. It can get exhausting and frustrating. You have to not give up and keep going even if things don’t seem to work.”
“If it keeps sucking you have to change things until something great actually surfaces. This process doesn’t seem to ever get easier. We try to never forget why we are where we are and all the hard work that was put in and is still left to be done to continue.”
The two went on to produce techno style tracks, but it wasn’t long before they were itching to explore new grounds.
“The transition was from 2014 to 2015, when we stopped trying to make techno-ish music. After that point it became more and more weird jacking house. We can literally trace it back to when we concluded that the difference between house and techno was a difference of eighth notes vs sixteenth notes. It was right around the release of ‘Sister’ on Moda Black.”
Switching up their sound proved to be right decision for the duo. In the summer of 2016, Walker & Royce became one of the industry’s most prized and sought after acts.
That year the two released the Boy EP, which was so well received it got scooped up by head honcho of Dirtybird Records, Barclay Crenshaw (Claude VonStroke), a label that was recently dubbed label of the decade by Mixmag.
Royce attributes Justin Martin for bringing their name to the forefront.
“Claude VonStroke, heard Justin Martin play a remix we did, ‘Bright Lights’ by 12 Stories and Digitaria, and he wanted it, then he started reaching out and we started sending him music.”
The track, “I.T.B,” “In the Butt” blended well with the labels edgy and off-kilter style. It became such a sensation Crenshaw featured it in his History of Dirtybird set during the Dirtybird BBQ in Detroit, just two months after the track’s initial release.
“I.T.B” was followed by their next hit, “Peep this Cat”, which was released on Relief Records, a label owned by and tech house legend, Green Velvet.
Soon after, they were in the studio with fellow Dirtybird mainstay and co-founder of the label, This Ain’t Bristol, the collaboration resulted in the forward-thinking production, “The Lonely Robot”.
Adding to that impressive roster, is their career-defying debut LP, Self Help, set for release October 20 on Dirtybird Records.
“Self Help can be interpreted a number of ways; for us it’s that we had to do a lot of work to get to this point, figure things out the hard way, and keep believing that things would work out. On a personal level we’re always trying to write the records that we aren’t finding by crate digging; instead of trying to look for other peoples’ music, we have to make it ourselves.”
“Everyone was actually really great. Green Velvet’s was like, instant track, haha. It was more a question of making the most of what he laid down. Dances [With White Girls], he sent us eight ideas and we used at least three of them for the album. Really, everyone made the process really easy and we were able to make what we think are some great tracks with what we did together.”
Earlier this summer Walker and Royce had fans wrapped up in anticipation, awaiting the release of their first single off the album, “Take Me to Your Leader.” The track became a trending subject among fans, with many taking to Twitter to plead for its release.
“Take Me To Your leader” is more than an infectious song. The track is uniquely constructed and is contrasted sharply with organ chords, intergalactic synths, playful percussion, and disorienting, party-like vocals.
The duo are currently on tour for their album, Self-Help and are continuing the festival circuit with Dirtybird Campout and Holy Ship.
Walker and Royce perform at the HiFi Club on October 19.