As you might recall from your EDM worshipping college days (an unfortunate but valid throwback), Ibiza is the dance music capital of the world. A place that proudly bears a title like that makes it easy to assume that it’s an island full of neon-wearing, Tiësto-loving douchebags dancing to music 24 hours a day. But you’d be wrong; there’s way more to love there. Yes, Ibiza is known for its wild party scene and high social status which, of course, comes with an expensive price tag. It’s a Balearic Island off of Spain’s mainland, so it’s a hassle to get to and plane tickets don’t come cheap, especially since most places don’t offer direct flights there. Lodging is also astronomically costly and a bottle of water at some of Ibiza’s most elite day and night clubs costs $20 (no exaggeration and they’re small-ass bottles, FML). While the raging party scene might be the first thing that comes to mind from what you see on the ‘gram, the island’s real beauty lies in its sights and beaches.
First of all, Spain in and of itself is a place you need to visit in your lifetime. The food is unreal, the people are a vibe, and there are a crazy amount of cities to explore. Ibiza might seem like a skippable stop, but I highly recommend making it part of your trip, especially while you’re young (YOLO). The island truly is one-of-a-kind, and the vibes here are really unlike anywhere else. As much as I had planned for this stop on my trip to be just a place to let loose and enjoy the “scene”, I was surprised to learn how much musical history exists here, dating back to the mid 20th century. I also had no idea how family-friendly (granted, bougie AF families) the island was. It’s unfortunately a pricey travel destination no matter how you slice it, but IMO it’s well worth the splurge. It is super over-the-top, but it’s totally on-brand and everything you’d expect from “the mecca of dance music.”
So, all things considered, is the Ibiza hype real? Does the gorgeous scenery find some weird harmony with the raging parties and dance music scene? The answer is…
Yes. If You’re A Partier, Ibiza Is DEF Worth Visiting.
I might be past my prime party girl years, but TBH, I still enjoy a night out dancing to hype music from time to time. Even if that weren’t the case, the music in Ibiza is really f*cking incredible. Whether you’re eating at a chill spot on the water, or it’s 4am in a bass-blaring nightclub, the music you hear in Ibiza is next level. There’s a reason Ibiza is known as the capital of this genre, and why almost every top DJ currently has or once had a lengthy summer residency there. You can arrive absolutely hating it, but after hearing the wide variety of electronic music Ibiza offers, you’ll leave this Spanish island a (low-key) EDM fan.
Music is only half of it, though. The places you go to dance to these beats are truly where the party lies. There is nothing like an Ibiza party. I repeat: NOTHING like it. It’s often imitated but never duplicated. Below you’ll find a selection of the craziest day club options, and later on, I’ll list some chiller ones, if you’re trying to spend your days resting up pre- or post- a wild night out. Making reservations for daybeds at these spots is always a fun (and expensive) option, but not necessary by any means.
Day Clubs (For Raging)
Ushuaïa: A newer hotel that quickly became an Ibiza staple. Catch their signature ANTS party here every Saturday for a poolside day party that continues on well into the night.
Ibiza Rocks Pool Party: Known as the “home of the pool party” in Ibiza, this newly rebranded day club is always a wild time. Get a VIP table if you really want to party like a
O Beach: Dance away in their pool as acrobats dance above you. It’s extra, but pretty much everything about Ibiza is extra, so why not.
In all honesty, if you’re coming to Ibiza to party, it’s very likely that you won’t even make it to any of those dayclubs…. because you’ll be sleeping until 3pm. Don’t worry though, you’ll find much of this island will be on the same time as you. The real parties at the nightclubs don’t start up until 1 or 2am here (for real), so your sleep schedule will be totally out of whack. I def recommend making #TeamNoSleep moves and going to at least one day party while you’re there, though. As far as nightclubs go, there are a few that are classic Ibiza staples and others that are ritzy and new. Blending a nice mix of the two will give you the most authentic sense of the new and old club culture here (which is a huge element of the island, as ridiculous as it sounds).
Pro tip: take a look at the DJ schedules online to see if anyone you’re remotely into is playing. Getting tickets in advance is also def the move (and will motivate you not to bail when you get too tired to do your makeup after you shower).
DC10: This place is pretty no-frills by Ibiza standards, but it’s an OG Ibiza classic. If you’re trying to go here, def catch one of their signature CircoLoco parties.
Hï Ibiza: Hï is by far the most extra nightclub in Ibiza, and because of that, it is the most expensive one as well. But, I assure you, it is a must-visit. This superclub is designed with totally over-the-top decor, like an outdoor playground slide and a huge neon crystal draped tree. Oh, and the bathroom has its own DJ… and party. It’s the craziest f*cking bathroom you’ll ever pee in.
Amnesia: Another “classic” nightclub that’s been open since the 70s. Before there was a law that mandated all clubs close at 3am in this part of the island, you’d be able to catch the sunrise through the greenhouse-style ceiling as you dance away. RIP! Now you can just dance until 3am and go to sleep “early” like a normal human being.
Pacha: A landmark of sorts for clubbing culture in Ibiza. It’s a bit dated, yet still classic. Pacha’s double cherry logo has become an island-wide symbol for nightlife.
As I said earlier, the people are super nice everywhere (oddly enough, especially the club staff and bouncers). But you should still use your street smarts and know your crowd since pickpocketing is very common in most of Spain. The parties are some of the best you’ll ever go to, but, like anywhere else, you should know to be careful of sketchy people and never leave your belongings unattended.
Like everything else on the scene in Ibiza, even the restaurants know how to turn up. The restaurants listed below serve bomb Spanish food and party vibes galore. Since Ibiza’s prime season (and the only season I recommend visiting in) is the summer, the island gets hella crowded. It’s always a “fun crowded”, but it definitely affects a hot spot’s availability. Point being: you NEED to make reservations at these places. If you’re not a planner and miss out on these spots, don’t say I didn’t warn you.
Cafe Mambo: This is my favorite restaurant on the planet. It’s located right on the beach and a big name DJ spins live music in a small booth near the dinner tables. The sunsets on this part of the island are so legendary that it’s a tradition for everyone to chant and clap once the sun finally goes down. I deadass got a tear in my eye as I experienced it because it was THAT beautiful and truly a magical moment. Ugh. K moving on… you will 100% need a res here, especially if you want a good table.
Destino: It’s hard for me to talk up these other two options after I just told you I cried watching the sunset at Mambo, but Destino is also an awesome time. It’s a huge venue you can’t miss that offers seven different menus to choose from for their lit dinner parties.
HEART: Dinner parties here have Cirque du Soleil-like performances and innovative eats. It’s also located in the marina, which is a cool area to go check out (aka stare in awe at million-dollar yachts while simultaneously fantasizing about winning the lottery.)
If You’re Over The Party Scene, Ibiza Is Still Absolutely Worth Visiting.
There’s a ton of culture, history, and scenic beauty that make Ibiza extremely vacation-worthy, even if you’re not a huge partier. You def won’t be forced to party your ass off if that’s not your thing, because there is plenty else to enjoy here. And let’s be real, with beaches this gorgeous, how can you be opposed?
Day Trip to Formentera
Formentera is a famous island off the coast of Ibiza. It’s about a 30-minute ferry ride away (they run pretty much every half hour, but keep your eye on the schedule for your return trip.) Spend your day hanging on the beach or riding scooters to explore the island’s distant bars and beaches. A lot of restaurants are located right on the beach and serve amazing authentic Spanish food. Throughout my entire two-week trip to Spain visiting four different cities, the best paella I had was at a restaurant called Beso Beach in Formentera. Def go there, but like everything else during a busy Ibiza summer, you’ll need to make a reservation in advance.
Explore Old Ibiza Town
A friend had told me I’d absolutely love the area of the island called “Old Ibiza Town”, so we decided to get our AirBnB there. While it was no shock that I wound up loving it, it did surprise me to learn how much music history it had. Throughout the 70s and 80s, big-time musicians like George Harrison vacationed here to visit Ibiza’s discothèque scene and celebrate music. You’ll notice the hippie history of the island is celebrated in a lot of places you’ll visit, but especially so in Old Town. The shopping here is absolutely incredible, with everything from chic boutiques to streetside booths. It’s a very family-friendly area of the island that also has a lot of small bars and local restaurants.
The Castle of Ibiza is located right in the heart of Old Town and is a solid hike, if that’s your thing. And while you’re up there, stroll the 2,000-year-old streets of Dalt Villa. And again, the sunsets are famous here for a reason (just make sure you’re on the right side of the island for it or else you’ll miss it)! San Antonio Bay is my personal favorite spot to catch a sunset. Make sure you also hit up the Marina Botafoch in Ibiza Town for a cocktail on the water.
Day Clubs (For Chillin’)
Nassau Beach Club: A clean, inviting beachside dayclub. Multitask sleeping off your hangover and getting a tan underneath the Spanish sun. Reservations recommended.
Blue Marlin: Blue Marlin has amazing food and drinks and daybeds that overlook the beach. The vibe goes from chill to lit around 5pm, so stay late if all that relaxing in the sun gets your energy in the mood to party.
Nikki Beach: You can never go wrong at the world famous Nikki Beach. I mean, who could hate a day club with a pool on a beach?
Sa Capella: It’s a former church, so eating within Sa Capella’s dining room’s stone walls will have you feeling fancy af. I guarantee you’ll love pretty much everything they’re serving too (if only the holy vibes could make the calories you consume not count).
Calma Bistró: A scenic restaurant serving some of Spain’s favorites right on the marina.
Fish Shack: Ok, so this is not glamorous in any way because it is quite literally a waterfront shack… that only serves fish. But it is the absolute best fish you’ll EVER have. Everything served that day is freshly caught in the morning and written on a plain chalkboard menu. Not only is the food to die for, but DJs frequent this place like crazy, so expect to catch some star power here.
All in all, Ibiza is a gorgeous island with a party scene pulse that can’t be topped. Whether you decide to keep your itinerary chill or lit, the people of Ibiza will always make a vacation here special. There are welcoming, interesting people everywhere you go, so let loose with the people around you and celebrate the good life together (or act like you got it like that.) The Ibiza hype is real indeed, and as you can def tell by now, I’m a big fan of it. Sure, your bank account (and your dignity) might be hurting after you get home, but do like the Spanish do. YOLO.
- Shop and stroll through the shops in Ibiza town if you want a more chill day, or get the party started early at Ushuaïa
- Dinner at Fish Shack (it’s cash only!)
- Walk off dinner with a 15 minute stroll along the bay to catch the sunset at Nobu Hotel
- Head out for the night and into the early hours of the morning at DC10
- Ferry to Formentera for the day—the ferry is 30 mins & runs pretty much every half hour
- Hang on the beach all day, or rent scooters at some point to explore the island’s beaches
- Enjoy a late lunch at Beso Beach (be sure to make a reservation here)
- Catch the sunset at Playa de Ses Illetes (the world’s best beach—30 min walk from Beso)
- Take ferry back to Ibiza (keep your eye on the ferry schedule times!) and get ready to go out at HI
- Try out a beach club during the day at Experimental Beach or have lunch in Old Ibiza Town, followed by hiking Castle de Ibiza
- Head to Cafe Mambo for music and dinner (reservations are a must to score a table)
- Go out at Amnesia
- Lunch and day drink the day away at Blue Marlin (reservations highly recommended) or if you want a break from partying, have a scenic lunch on the water at Calma Bistró and explore the rest of Puerto de Ibiza
- Nap on the beach and get your tan on
- One last night out at Ushuaïa
Images: Pawel Kazmierczak/Shutterstock
You know that friend you have? The one who has super interesting style you could never pull off, great energy, and is super cool? Yeah, so that’s basically TOKiMONSTA, née Jennifer Lee, except in addition to being known for her fashion sense, she’s also a DJ. And not just like, a hot girl who takes a few Instagrams behind a booth and presses play on a playlist every so often kind of DJ, either (if that were the case, I would not be here writing this right now). She’s worked with the likes of Anderson.Paak, ZHU, and was nominated for a 2018 Grammy. She’s played all types of venues, from Coachella stages to intimate rooftops in Brooklyn, always bringing the same enthusiastic energy, and her sets are always upbeat and fun—there’s never a slow moment and the time flies.
But that’s not to say she hasn’t endured her fair share of obstacles. As a woman in music, it’s never easy. She does say she doesn’t think she’s encountered “extreme difficulty” but offers that could be due to her resilient nature. And boy, speak of resilient. In 2015, she was diagnosed with Moyamoya, a rare brain disease that left her temporarily unable to speak or produce music. After undergoing brain surgery, TOKi went on to release Lune Rouge in 2017, which earned her a Grammy nomination for best dance/electronic album. The nomination makes her the first Asian-American producer and the first woman to earn a nomination in that category, plus it was named one of Billboard’s Top 40 Greatest Dance Albums of the Decade. Talk about a comeback.
Some people might feel the pressure to follow up an album of such acclaim, and Lee does admit, “I’m terrified and excited,” to release her third album, Oasis Nocturno, out March 20. Despite any trepidation, Lee says she didn’t go into the album with the express purpose of topping the last. When asked what her goals were when creating Oasis Nocturno, TOKiMONSTA said, “I didn’t really have any goals. I try to create based on how I feel.”
While her music is, to use the professional term, f*cking awesome, mixing different genres and subgenres like hip-hop, dubstep, and house, TOKi says the hardest part of making Oasis Nocturno was not anything like finding inspiration, or figuring out how to best blend her different beats, but actually the opposite: “Narrowing down which songs end up on the album (so I don’t go overboard with a 50 song album)” was a top challenge, as was the more technical aspect of mixing it. Although many people in the industry tend to get engineers to mix their tracks, she says, “I like the ownership of knowing I’m doing it myself. I always feel like I’m turning into Russell Crowe in A Beautiful Mind.” The result is a melodic and cohesive project that infuses complex vocals into Lee’s smooth psychedelic production.
Ahead of the album release, on January 14 TOKiMONSTA dropped “Fried For The Night” feat. EARTHGANG, the second single off the new album, which is kind of like the song that describes when you go out on a Friday night after a full work week—or as she puts it, “everyone has a moment where they feel fried and burnt, but what about those moments you feel fried and turnt?” So she linked up with Atlanta-based hip-hop duo EARTHGANG to produce a song that’s “dedicated to those psychedelic moments where our reality opens up a new point of view.” Can’t relate, but I can relate to the trippy house party visuals.
On the heels of Oasis Nocturno come Coachella performances, a set at Holy Ship! Wrecked on January 24 in Punta Cana, and a headlining spring tour with 16 North American stops. Whether it’s playing for huge crowds at festivals or cozier venues, TOKi loves connecting with her fans. “Festivals feel like the entire crowd is one entity and venues feel like you can connect to each person there,” she says, but she loves the energy at both. It may seem like she’s done it all, and she basically has, but one goal she does have is to work with Bjorn and Missy Elliott, who she says would be her dream collab.
Simply put, if you’re not already #woke, TOKiMONSTA is one to watch. It’s been a hell of a ride for her so far, and 2020 is going to be a hell of a year for her.
Images: Bethany Vargas
Planning for festivals is a lot of work, and nobody likes work. Sure, you could read through 16 different Reddit threads to figure out what to wear, how to get there, if it’s worth it to splurge for VIP, and whatever else you need to know, or you could just check out the Betches festival guide.
At this point, I figured I would do something useful with my knowledge of music festivals, so I decided to start a series of guides. You are welcome. I’m starting off our festival guide series with one of my favorite festivals, and one that I go to yearly even though I am, as they say, pushing 30: Electric Zoo, Ezoo for the
lazy initiated. Taking place during Labor Day weekend on Randall’s Island, this electronic festival is a fun send-off to the summer that’s easy to get to and even easier to navigate. *Looks to the camera* *Waves to the viewers* Let’s go.
How To Get There
If you don’t live in New York and haven’t figured out how you’re getting to Ezoo yet, god help you. Assuming you’re not within driving distance, which will take care of things, you’ll want to fly to LaGuardia because
I’m biased it’s probably easier to get to the areas you’ll want to be staying. But if you cop a deal out of JFK or Newark, then do you. As far as actually getting to the festival, you are likely going to be walking there over the RFK bridge. You can also Uber/Lyft to the festival (highly recommend so you can save your engery/feet), but you can’t Uber out. Ubers literally will not pick up from Randall’s Island (or at least, they didn’t last year), so you’re going to be either walking back or taking one of the shuttles Ezoo has. Plan accordingly!
Where To Stay
Ezoo is not a camping festival and does not offer the option, so you’ll need to reserve some sort of accommodations in advance. Remember all your friends in Harlem and/or Queens who you made fun of for being broke? Yep, it will be time to hit those people up for a couch or half their full-size mattress! That’s becaues Ezoo is on Randall’s Island, an Island between Queens, and uptown Manhattan/Harlem that is within walking distance from both those locations. (As long as you are a little loose on your definition of “walking distance.”) If you don’t have friends with a free place to stay, you could try to Airbnb in one of those areas I mentioned, or just stay literally anywhere in any hotel you find. The subway system is extensive and you’ll be able to get uptown from wherever you are, but sticking to the east side will be easier because getting crosstown, especially on weekends, is a huge bitch.
What To Wear
Ezoo is electronic music, which means this is the weekend to bust out your full raver girl attire. The great thing about this is that you can wear literally anything in the world you want and nobody is going to look at you sideways and you won’t feel out of place. You could wear a bra, a thong, and fishnets. You could just wear pasties. It truly does not matter, just bring some glitter and throw on some fun makeup. Unlike other festivals, nobody cares what you’re wearing.
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See? Pretty normal summer attire.
Above all, though, wear something COMFORTABLE. You’re likely going to be walking 20-30 minutes across a bridge to get to the festival, so this is not the time to wear your giant platform boots with the heel (not like any festival would be the time for that, but this one especially). Also, New York weather circa Labor Day is a fickle bitch, so plan appropriately. It could be 90 degrees and sunny af. It could pour on you. Both things happened to me last year alone. Whatever your outfit is, make sure it incorporates good walking shoes, and bring a poncho just in case.
What Ticket To Buy
At this point, a 3-day GA ticket costs $300, and a VIP ticket costs literally double that. According to the website, VIP gets you admission (duh), plus a faster-moving VIP line at check-in. You’ll also get “Premium views, private VIP flush toilets, shaded chill out area with seating, full VIP cash liquor bars, complimentary cell phone recharge stations, and complimentary passed hors d’oeuvres.” Now, is it worth it? Maybe. I’ve personally never had a huge issue with the non-VIP port-a-potties, however, seating is a real issue. There’s basically one small hill where you can park your butt without getting stepped on, and that’s it. There are other areas where you can charge your phone for free, like the T-mobile activation. Also, it’s 2019, buy a mobile charger.
There’s also a “Platinum VIP” option, which gets you more of the same, plus “Exclusive Platinum Only Premium views,” whatever that means. That option costs $949, and there’s no mention of any cash bar. If I’m dropping close to a grand on a festival, you better give me as much free Casamigos as I can legally drink, and you better make that known in advance.
Personally? Unless you are very picky regarding crowds and bathrooms, I would just rock with GA. You’re literally spending double the price for basically some passed hors d’oeuvres that they are probably going to run out of in the first hour after the festival doors open.
“Ew, Ezoo? Isn’t that for 16-year-olds?” everyone says to me when I tell them I’m going there. I’ve been 3 times so far, and frankly, no. The crowd is actually older than you’d expect. I have never once looked around at my fellow festivalgoers and said, either aloud or to myself, “Ugh. The children.” You know where I have said that? Gov Ball, Coachella, The Meadows (RIP). Also? The vibe is way more chill than that of other festivals. Think less pushing and overall dickishness. People tend to respect other people and their space. Sure, if you’re trying to get to the front at Bassnectar 10 minutes after he already started, you are going to get some pushback. But as far as festivals go, the people here are generally pretty nice and chill.
Regarding the crowds… yeah. Friday is typically a dream and you can walk around freely. Saturday, you’ll see a noticeable increase in festivalgoers. By Sunday, it will be nearly impossible to move from stage to stage. Enjoy Friday as much as you can, and be sure to budget enough time in between sets to navigate through the crowds. And get there early because there WILL be a line to get in.
It honestly varies from year to year. The year the theme of the festival was The 6th Boro, everything was animal themed (why? don’t ask…) and the main stage was a giant elephant. That was really f*cking cool. The year before that, it was a cobra. Last year, for the 10th anniversary, it was just… a big sound wave, sort of. That was a bit of a letdown tbh. Truthfully, the theme of Ezoo every year should be animals, and I’m hoping they bring back the animal stages. Last year, Sunday School Grove also sponsored a jungle themed stage, which I never made it to but it looked awesome.
Okay, literally as I was writing this, Ezoo released a photo of this year’s main stage, which looks sick.
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Sneak peek for next week ? This is our tallest & widest mainstage ever — an evolved, futuristic, 3-D, fire-shooting New York City skyline stage set to tower over Randall’s Island ? If you still weren’t sure about coming next weekend, checkmate. ? → electriczoo.com/tickets
Who To See
The 2019 lineup boasts big names like Eric Prydz, Diplo, Kaskade, Above & Beyond, Zedd, Armin Van Buuren, Alison Wonderland, Skrillex & Boys Noize, and a f*ckton more. Here are a few of my other personal recommendations:
Excision: If you’re into some harder sh*t with more music/noises than words
NGHTMRE B2B Slander; 4B; Getter: If you want to hear your favorite music on the radio right now, but like, trappy.
Boogie T b2b Squnto: If you want some fun groovy music that will make you want to dance
Flux Pavilion: If you want dubstep
Seven Lions: If you want trance/melodic dubstep/if you don’t know what that means, it’s a little more chill than most of the other stuff I’ve listed above.
GTA: If you want house/trap/hip-hop
Don’t want to listen to me? That’s fine, Ezoo made a Spotify playlist with songs from the 2019 artists.
Other Things To Do
While there are a few art installations and activations, there’s not a whole lot to do other than see acts. Space on Randall’s Island is kind of limited, so there’s room for the stages and tents, plus food and drinks, and a few pieces of art. Last year they had a fun makeup/glitter station, and apparently giant Jenga. Like, there’s stuff to do if you’re looking for it, but people are mostly there for the music and not the Instagrams.
That being said, they have afterparties and, while I’ve never been to one because I’ve been too tired, the lineups are sick. Acts include Borgore and Shaq (among others, and YES, that Shaq), Eric Prydz, R3HAB, and a lot more. It’s worth staying up for.
Overall, Ezoo is the best/only? electronic festival in New York, and it’s one of the more manageable festivals that exist. If electronic music is your sh*t, you should consider going. If you hate that stuff, don’t go. You won’t like it.
Images: electriczoo / Instagram; aLIVE Coverage (4)
Galantis is probably one of those names you’re seeing everywhere nowadays. Between 150 live shows a year, numerous festival appearances, and two new hits, to say they have a lot going on is an understatement. Thankfully, they made the time to sit down with us at Shaky Beats festival in Atlanta over the weekend to talk about what it’s like touring together, how the duo Galantis formed, and a few of their new songs. Check out the interview below.
What did you guys do yesterday?
Show, at Syracuse.
What did you think?
It was a good show! Really good energy.
How are college crowds versus music festival crowds?
I didn’t know it was going to be such a great crowd. We actually talked about that, we should do it more. 100% of the crowd went haywire. They were happy we were there.
So you guys tour together a lot.
150 shows a year.
How do you keep up the energy to do that many shows?
It’s like, you press a button, you know, you’ve got to reset. And then you have to be as off as you can between the shows, but once you go onstage it’s like a switch in your head, and it just goes.
What was the moment that you were like, ‘I’m going to link up with this guy and we’re going to make music, and we’re going to do this?’
I actually know where I was in Stockholm when I called you that time. It was Old Town. Just so you know… I remember I was walking from a lunch or something and I had the idea. I started to think of names for the band before I actually joined.
What were some of the other names?
Well, we had some of the worst names ever. I’m not gonna say them, but it took a very long time to find the right name, actually. And when we found it, someone else gave it to us.
What is the significance of it to you?
The name now? I don’t know. Then it was the perfect mirror for the music we did, but now it’s life, you know? And now we figure it’s too late to change it.
You recently came out with “Emoji”. What was the idea behind the song?
I think a lot of people didn’t realize that there are a lot of deep, serious thoughts behind it, and thought it was kind of lightweight but it’s not. It’s kind of like, sad in one way, that you do start to only communicate through emojis, but also something beautiful with it, depends on what it is. Like, we’re away from family all the time, and you don’t even have words anymore sometimes, you just send a heart, you know, and that’s useful. I think we all know those words, but you sending that emoji means something either way.
And that kind of started the thought, how something simple like an emoji can change how people have a conversation. Because putting an emoji, words, it’s not the same thing. It actually added to the way you can communicate. So that’s where it came from, the idea.
Do you guys have a favorite emoji?
I like the crying laughing one.
That’s very good actually! You can’t put that into words either!
How did your new song “Bones” with One Republic happen?
It’s kind of a long and wacky story. There was like a seed of this original that came across us, and then we wanted to work on it, and then it was already taken by OneRepublic. And I kinda knew Ryan Tedder from the past, so I found out where he lives and I went to his place. And said, “you don’t have the correct idea, I have it.” No, I didn’t say that, but I did say I think we can do an amazing version together, how about that. And I think he liked the way we came really strong, and said that we could take this song somewhere great for both. And I think, yeah, it was such an easy quick thing after that. We were thinking the same thing about the song, and they already started a lot of cool stuff on it, so we took it from there and made it what it is today. But I think they’re great, I think Ryan Tedder is one of the best songwriters, I think his vocals are amazing, unbelievable.
So, what do you guys have in the works music-wise? You just released a new song, are we getting a new album?
We got a lot of music really close to coming out. It’s kind of a race which one will come out first.
Images: Jimmy Fontaine
I’ve conducted a few artist interviews in my day. Most of them are formal—you set up a time to meet in the designated press area at a festival, or (if you’re lucky) you’ll get escorted back to the artist’s trailer or tour bus. You get anywhere from five to 15 minutes, and you’re on the clock while a publicist times you like a hawk. You’re ushered in, you do the interview, maybe snap a few pictures if you have time, and then you’re whisked away just as quickly as you came.
My interview with DJ and producer Ookay (real name Abe Laguna) was not like most interviews. When I caught up with him during weekend one of Coachella, I met him and his almost exclusively female entourage (“my biggest inspirations right now are all women,” he says) inside the rose garden, where we sat down on the grass and sipped rosé and chatted casually. While most interviews are intimidating, with Ookay, I honestly felt like I was talking to a friend. We laughed and joked; I even called him a troll at one point. Despite the 350,000-plus Instagram followers and the fact that his songs have personally put me deep in my feelings (due to one memorable Ezoo experience when I was cracked out and listening to his song “Thief” on repeat until 5am), I felt completely at ease. I didn’t feel like I needed to impress him with well-thought-out questions, and in fact, I learned more about him from the ones that popped up off the cuff. Ookay’s publicist told me in advance that he’s “super light hearted and full of personality,” but even still, I was taken aback by how much that characterization rang true.
It was not most interviews, in part because Ookay is not most artists. The San Diego-born DJ and producer plays drums, trombone, piano, bass, guitar, harmonica, as well as some instruments I’ve never heard of. “The melodica, keytar, SPD, which is like a drumming apparatus,” he ticks off his fingers. I ask how many instruments he can play. “I think 6 now?” he responds, not even completely sure. He credits his musical prowess to his father, a bassist who introduced him to “very complex jazz early on, like, 13 or 12 years old.” He says, “It’s all thanks to my father, I wouldn’t even be here right now if it wasn’t for him.”
And in an age where being a DJ can mean anything from “getting paid to hit play on a premade playlist” to “arranges all their own music,” Ookay sets himself apart from the pack, especially with his live shows. He’s been performing live on the festival circuit for a few years, but revamped the format for Coachella, where he plays multiple instruments and sings. He’s also upped the visuals. “It’s funny,” Ookay remarks, “it’s called dance music but there’s no dancers.” So he added dancers onstage. “Problem number one, fixed.”
It was important to switch up his live set for Coachella because it is a special place for him. (He will also be playing weekend 2 at the Sahara Tent at 2:45pm.) “I had a lot of realizations here, in good ways. The first time I came here , I figured out I want to be an artist that gets to this kind of level to play this kind of festival.”
It feels oddly poetic, then, five years later, he’s taking the stage with this original set format, performing as not simply a DJ, but a bonafide artist. “It’s kind of full circle,” he admits, “very wholesome.” He reflects that every year at Coachella he’s learned something different. This year? “I think it was more of a reflection of how far I’ve come to get to this point,” he decies. “My blood, sweat, and tears, the traveling, being exhausted, working my ass off, being in a warehouse for two months straight… it’s worth it, everything we’ve been going through led to something special.”
He gushes, “And for everyone that I’m involved with—as far as like, my team, and crew, and all of my fans even—it’s awesome to see it just progress and keep going. And a lot of new fans, even just walking around people have been like straight-up, ‘yo, never heard of you before but checked out your set because we walked in and we heard people just like jumping around and it’s awesome to see you doing all this stuff on stage—’”
I shit you not, on cue, our interview is interrupted.
“Are you Ookay?” asks a girl who came up to us with a male friend in tow. I look to Ookay to see how he’s going to handle this.
“I am,” he answers calmly. She visibly starts freaking out.
“I love your songs so much,” she tells him.
“Can I give you a hug? Is that okay?”
He stands up, gives her a hug, takes a picture. The whole interaction is too perfect, and timed too well, to make up. But I can tell this isn’t out of the ordinary for him—not the getting recognized part, but the “being genuinely grateful someone likes his music enough to tell him personally and engaging that person even though he’s clearly busy” part. After making this fan’s day, we sit back down and resume the interview, picking up at what makes Coachella so special to him. Yes, there’s the fact that Ookay credits it as “one of the first festivals I paid for,” but it’s also where he got the inspiration for his breakout hit “Thief,” which boasts over 56 million Spotify streams to date and has been remixed by the likes of Slushii and Flux Pavilion.
He wrote it after that first visit to Indio, where he was inspired to, as he puts it, “make a song that matters in two seconds… something so spectacular that you get excited.”
So that’s how the musical aspect of his smash hit came to be, but the lyrics?
“Oh, it’s definitely about my ex-girlfriend. That’s what most of the big songs are written about.” That’s not a bad claim to fame. “Yeah, well, I’m forever thankful,” he says without a hint of irony. Given just how big the song has gotten, there is plenty to be thankful for.
He credits the success of “Thief” in part to its snappy and immediately recognizable intro, plus the memorable sax riff, but what I suspect most of all, the vulnerable lyrics, which are a breath of fresh air in the realm of dance music. “ the first time I ever put my voice out there like that, one of the first songs I sang/wrote, period.” His approach to writing that song, more or less, went as follows: “I’m going to take what you would consider a journal or a diary and throw it out there.”
As far as other muses, he credits a lot of women. Piggybacking off his comments about his female-led entourage, he says, “I’m a huge fan of what Rezz and Alison Wonderland and what all these women are doing.”
Women run the world foreal.
— OOKAY (@Ookay) April 11, 2019
He adds, “it’s really cool to see women set the bar on so much shit. On top of that, the black hole thing that happened was discovered by a woman. It’s amazing. I think most things have been women-driven. We got 10 more years before—”
“Before we figure out how to get rid of you guys?” I chime in (I’m sorry, I can’t help it).
“Oh my god, please get rid of us, we suck,” he agrees.
Ladies, he’s single.
When, naturally, I ask Ookay where his dating life stands now, he seems surprised by the question.
“It’s nonexistent,” he answers plainly. “I think I’m at the point where if you were like, ‘text a girl right now’, I couldn’t do it.” I clarify: because he has no girls to text? “Pretty much,” he replies with a shrug. Seems surprising for a young musician who’s playing stages like Coachella and Electric Zoo.
“When it happens, it happens,” he answers nonchalantly. “I’m not looking, I’ve been finally single for a year. And I’ve been working hard, so music has been my girlfriend.” He expresses that when he’s ready, he’ll go out there and find someone—or perhaps someone will come to him. He jokes about maybe even finding the love of his life at Coachella. Then he and I in turn joke about doing an interview a few years from now about that. “Who knows,” he guesses. “When I’m married! Or dead—just kidding, hopefully not.”
I inquire if he sees himself ever getting married. He quickly answers no. When I press him on why, he says, “I don’t know. A ring costs a lot of money.” After a pause, he elaborates, “Marriage is interesting, it’s like the weirdest tradition. It’s traditional, you know what I mean? It’s conventional. No one’s like yes, marriage is going to be beneficial”—except for maybe the tax benefits, which launches us into another side tangent about people who get married for healthcare benefits. He sees it often, being from San Diego where there’s a huge military base, where people often rush to get married.
And just like that, I find myself falling into a predictable pattern of jest that I would with my close friends, making a wisecrack about rolling up to a military base to find a boyfriend. Ookay doesn’t think I’m being desperate or weird (or, to put it plainly, that I’m being serious); he gets it, as if we’ve known each other for more than the 15 minutes or so we’ve been sitting on the grass.
All joking aside, he asserts, “I’m focused on my work right now, I’m very happy. I just wrote a song about that actually; it’s called ‘Better Off’,” as in, better off alone.
He doesn’t mean it in an antisocial way, either, but rather, more on the side of self contentment. “I’ve gotten used to dinner with my phone,” he cites as an example.”I really don’t mind being alone. And that’s fine! And I think that’s where I’m at right now, I think right now I’m just like focusing on being the best version of me for someone who comes along, whenever that happens I’m cool with it.”
For now, Ookay is working on his relationship with his music, with an album in sights—his first comically accurately named album, Wow! Cool Album!, came out a little over a year ago. He pledges to return to his roots and make more EDM, because, he explains, “those are the people who gave me the platform to do this ”. After a few shows in Vegas, he’ll take a break from performing, return to the studio, and come back with another new live show. He’d like to do shows in cities that don’t often have electronic artists come through, perform overseas, but above all, stay creative and keep pushing.
He puts it simply: “I’m just going to keep making good music for good people and try to reach an audience.”
If you’re any sort of EDM fan, you’re probably well aware of Alesso’s music. For the past decade, he’s been one of the top dance music DJs and producers, headlining festivals and clubs around the world. His songs are iconic, but who is the Swedish DJ behind the music? We caught up with Alesso at Electric Zoo 2018, and asked him some of our most hard-hitting questions about his creative process, his new single “Remedy”, and life in general.
Betches: I really like your new single “Remedy.” What was your inspiration behind it?
Alesso: When I make music, I don’t have like, crazy ideas going on. I just start working on ideas and sometimes you get sent ideas. In this case, I was sent this idea, like a very rough demo of “Remedy.” I listened to it, and that rarely happens that someone sends me something and I like it. I’ve never worked with these guys before, and I was just like, “wait, I think I can do something great with this.” I was working on it in Mykonos. The more I worked on it, the more I felt like it was the right song for me to put out next. ‘Cause I’ve been working on so many songs the last six months, going back and forth which one would be my next single, and when I finished this one, which was literally like a month ago, I was like “wait, this is the one.” It’s a very melodic, melancholic song… I’ve been saying that it feels like a song you listen to when the summer is ending. Like, you had a great summer, but you’re sad about it too.
I feel like a lot of DJs nowadays are sort of anonymous, they hide behind a mask or a helmet, but it doesn’t seem like you’ve ever really chosen to hide your identity. Why?
Well personally, I just feel like they do that for branding. Maybe some are uncomfortable showing their face. But I don’t really have that much to say… It’s a brand.
I wanted to talk a little bit about your planning process when you start a song.
It’s different every time. Like I said, sometimes it’s just me playing around with a laptop and keyboard, and sometimes I have an idea and I walk into the studio, and sometimes I write with these songwriters and they have certain style; it’s different every time. I always try to keep it focused.
I think it’s really interesting that you’ve been around for like, forever, but you’ve only released one full album. What’s the decision behind that?
I think releasing albums is important, but you don’t have to necessarily do that to show people what you represent. I’m working on an album right now, so hopefully it will be released, but after my first album, I was kind of deciding where I wanted to go with my music, because I don’t want to repeat myself. I need to keep things interesting or I’ll get bored. My team and I, we said we all agree I have an album, but anything could happen. Sometimes you get cold feet… but I think what’s important for my next album is that it’s a project, not just a bunch of songs that are put together.
How do you see it being different from your previous work?
I think that the difference is going to be not necessarily festival music, because my last album was very based on what’s happening on the stage. I feel like now the older I get, the more relationships I have with people, I feel like the music is inspiring me and coming out in another way. And I want people when they hear my music to think “this is different,” but hopefully in a good way. Still dance music, but I want to evolve.
Finally, you have great hair. I really want to know what hair products you use.
The secret is genetic. Both my mom and dad have great hair, so I think I was blessed with that. I think there’s a few tricks. Like when it’s this humid, I can’t wear my hair out, it will get crazy. I use this brand called Maria Nila, it’s all like, vegan stuff, like no bad chemicals or anything like that. And coconut oil, I use that too.
Check out Alesso’s new single, “Remedy” on Spotify.
Image: Harrison Boyce
If Valentine’s Day left you ready to get hot and heavy, or at least ready to send that text that you probably shouldn’t, you need to gather all the right supplies. Between cleaning your apartment, trying on every piece of lingerie in your closet, and throwing on all of the makeup you own, what betch has the time to concoct the perfect mood-setting playlist? Not to fear—we’re here to help you make at least one good decision this weekend: Listen to ROZES x Nicky Romero’s new single, “Where Would We Be.” ROZES’ silky-smooth vocals and Romero’s classic melody create ~intimate~ playlist gold in a sensual rumination on love, life, and bittersweet romantic nostalgia. This song is perfect for whatever mood you’re in, whether you’re pregaming, getting ready to go out, or having a dance party alone in front of your mirror (just me on that one?). Warning: maybe don’t listen while you’re scrolling through your ex’s Insta.
You may remember ROZES from her co-writing and singing credit on The Chainsmoker’s “Roses,” or maybe you caught her at Coachella, SXSW, The Late Late Show with James Corden, The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon, or her amazing performance at the Betches Meme Gala. A vocal powerhouse and versatile artist, ROZES’ sound and soulfulness has only grown with her latest outing. Throw in a melody from superstar Dutch DJ and producer Nicky Romero and you have playlist gold. This true power duo will def be topping the charts. Listen below so you can be the first to know and love that song every betch is gonna cry to in a bar in the next few months.
Image: Justin James Muir
There are two types of people on Thursday: the ones who say they’re only going for a few happy hour drinks and end up blacking out and calling in sick to work on Friday, and
lame “responsible” people. Obviously, if you’re reading this article and this site in general, we are only concerning ourselves with the first group of people. Anyway, it’s Thursday night so obviously you need a playlist for your pregame/the last few minutes of work before you leave for happy hour/your drunk subway ride home. And what better to get you pumped for the weekend than a shit ton of dance music from some of the best EDM acts in the game? There…isn’t one. That’s why we’ve teamed up with Electric Zoo, New York’s best (and only, I think?) electronic music festival to bring you your ultimate weekend playlist.
But this is not just a playlist—it’s a lineup announcement. We’ve curated a special playlist with songs from every artist performing at Ezoo this year, so consider this your Ezoo phase 2 lineup announcement. Headliners for this year include Zedd, Above & Beyond, Armin Van Buuren, Deadmau5 & Eric Prydz, and a whole fucking bunch of other people you’ll hear on the playlist. Yes the playlist is v long so you basically never have to make another playlist again. This year’s festival is taking place on Randall’s Island during Labor Day weekend, so you really have no excuse not to go given that you have an extra recovery day.
Check out our playlist below and buy your Ezoo tickets here!
Check out the full lineup. It’s gonna be lit.
Buy Electric Zoo Tickets here!