When the weather lingers and you’re able to sit outdoors the last week of September, you often think back on the summer moments. One of this year’s summer moments was Electric Island and it’s 2 day closing party at Ontario Place. For those of us that remember the Island’s roots some 6 years ago will marvel at how this DJ series has grown and spread throughout Toronto. Mind you the flooding on the Island wasn’t planned but I for one wouldn’t mind seeing EI continue to move beyond the Island in 2020. Two Island events, two Woodbine Part events and another closing party at Ontario Place that echoes through the streets.
Highlights of the concert series is its nod to strong home grown talent and allowing concert goers to discover artists like Arman & Beynon who debut at the Electric Island season finale.
What was your favourite part of performing at this infamous underground festival in Toronto?
We have both been going to Electric Island consistently since inception, and have watched our friends like Nature of Music, Night Vision, Simon Jain, Borzoo, and Alberto Jossue play great sets and grow their careers along with Electric Island’s growth. Quite honestly, our favourite part was playing for the guests who come early, and of course the energy and buzz we felt leading up to the day of our set. With the season finale, playing on the main stage, and the incredible new venue of Ontario Place, we had never been so excited to play a gig in the weeks leading up to it. Thanks again to Electric Island for putting their trust in our music, and to everyone whose blood, sweat and tears goes into the planning, setup, and tear down of such a massive event.
You’ve both DJ’d for a while before you came together as a duo… where did you two meet and what prompted you to join forces?
AB: Dave (Beynon) wasn’t DJing at the time, but had done so for several years in the past. Both of us were into similar music at the time that we met. Varj (Arman) was out running some errands with a mutual friend, who suggested they drop in on Dave at his condo since they were nearby. It was 2 or 3 pm on a Saturday afternoon in the summer, with the music cranked and everyone taking turns throwing on their latest favourite track. Varj thought: “I’m gonna get along just fine with this guy”.
Soon after that, Dave introduced Varj to Footwork, Electric Island and The Guvernment. Varj was producing music at the time, but was frustrated with the results, so decided to try DJing as a change of pace. After a couple years of DJ’ing solo and a residency at Comfort Zone, Varj suggested that a duo act could work well given our similar tastes in music. We played our first set together at Parlour. It went pretty well, so we just kept going.
What do you find most challenging about working as a duo? How do you overcome these challenges?
DJing together is an interesting dynamic because it is definitely like a friendship and a business partnership at the same time. Our biggest challenge has probably been coming to the realization, and accepting, that we don’t do everything in the same way. This extends across the business side of DJing, in terms of meeting people and trying to book gigs, and even to the technical methods by which we mix our tracks on the turntables. We both have different styles and techniques, and it can be easy to view those differences negatively, or at least, to question why the other partner isn’t going about things the same way as you. This can cause tension in the partnership. Sometimes you just have to let some of the little things go, as they really don’t matter in the end.
Eventually, we noticed that things were starting to go well. We were getting better and more frequent bookings, and the feedback on our sets was quite positive. If other people like our sets, then we don’t need to be overly critical of the minutia behind the scenes. So this type of thinking assisted us to take that leap of faith with one other and say: “Ok, things are going well, so I don’t need to over-analyze or micromanage the other guy or question why he mixes differently from me.” So to sum up, we got over this hurdle by realizing that we are delivering something positive that people like, and accordingly we were able to have confidence in one another that each of us will do our job well.
What advice would you give to any artists looking to begin their journey in the Toronto Electronic Music scene?
Try to develop and refine your sound before reaching out to clubs and promoters to book live gigs. It takes time, experience, and practice to have a unified sound that listeners know you for. There are lots of talented DJs in Toronto, so when promoters know your sound, and they know what type of set you will deliver, it helps them to curate their DJ line up. At the same time, the real challenge is that you have remain versatile, and be able to adapt to the vibe of the party. Striking the right balance between a unified sound and being versatile can be a fine line to walk.
You have opened up for talent like Mark Oliver, Kenny Glasgow, Victor Calderone, Steve Lawler & More! What other artists do you hope to open for in the near future?
It has been a real honour to open for some of these acts. We feel that the opening set sometimes get overlooked, but its importance in setting the tone for the night cannot be overstated. There are a few DJs who are so dedicated to their craft, to only playing truly soulful music, and who deliver such high quality performances consistently, that they have reached something of a “legend” status in our minds. For us, these would be DJs like Sasha, John Digweed, Tale of US, or DJ Tennis to name few. It would be a real thrill to warm up a room for one of them.
Catch up with Arman & Beynon on their FB Page: https://www.facebook.com/ArmanBeynonMusic/
Electric Island: Finale Weekend Photo Credit: @kurthoop