An attorney, a tech guru, and a finance mogul walk into the room. Their respective backgrounds may not be the most conventional stepping stones to becoming the kings of Los Angeles deep-house, but success is no accident for the DJ collective of Andrei Osyka, Brett Griffin, and Justin Sloe, also known as Droog. It's a name that translates to 'friend' in Russian, Osyka's native tongue, but more cleverly a name that nods to the 'droogies' of A Clockwork Orange. “They misbehave in a very sophisticated way” Osyka laughs. “We loved the book and film, in particular. When we started the project, we had a fourth person who was't a DJ but was a close friend–Matt. He was very influential in conceptualizing our collective and he suggested the name,” Osyka continued. “We're not making direct parallels with these characters but we thought the name was very tongue-and-cheek.”
The trio began by throwing their own parties a decade ago. Sharing a common sensibility and feeling the strength in numbers, they formed a partnership in 2006 and just a few years later formed dance music label Culprit. In a way fans have become droogies of the dance floor, entranced in a post-futurist groove, orchestrated by infectious beats and synthesized baselines. This has enabled them to hold down a residency at the Avalon for four years and The Standard Rooftop for six. They've played Coachella twice and five years ago they became fully touring DJ's traveling internationally to Moscow, Barcelona, London, Ibiza and every other city that demands a badass party. While it has become somewhat of a rarity for the trio to juke together, this weekend at Palm Spring's epic pool party, Splash House, you may just get to see all three.
Here's our interview with Osyka shedding light on the underground house music scene, new artists you should know, and a quick bit on the music Droog intends to release this summer.
OC Weekly (Taylor Morgan): When was the last time the three of you performed together?
Andrei Osyka: We're hosting monthly parties at a place called Lot 613 in downtown LA. On two of the four occasions we've played together. It's a nice opportunity to reacquaint ourselves with one another. This particular party I'm really excited about. The Standard was our trademark for many years but we decided to stop that when it was still at its peak and move on to a completely different environment. Instead of a rooftop we're doing Friday night events that have almost a warehouse vibe.
What prompted that shift?
We wanted a fresh and creative challenge.The nighttime party is the prime environment for dance music. We wanted to prove to ourselves that we could successfully and memorably do that. We're going through a very interesting time with music. What use to be considered underground dance music, broadly speaking, has become quite overground. It's not as niche and marginal as it use to be, which is a good thing, its become more popular attracting fresh people to the scene. But the one thing we hope to change is the certain style, or genre, of underground that's becoming oversaturated. Because of the relative popularity of underground dance music, the pure, primal, feel or vibe, if you will, at parties has changed; it's become more of a social gathering. We want to refocus the musical environment, the quality of sound, and everything that comes with it. Lot 613 is dominated by the dance floor, which we find really appealing.
Who was the first to be signed to Culprit?
Jamie Jones and Lee Foss as Hot Natured. Jamie was a super important artist for us because he was the first person to play our Standard Rooftop party. He was frequently hanging with us in LA, in 2007/2008, and he was already an accomplished producer. Lee Foss was a friend from Chicago that became part of our crew and he taught himself how to make music. Jamie mentored Lee in the studio and this was all happening in our house. So when they made music together they gave it to us and that became the first Hot Natured record.
Where is Culprit today?
We really like music that has a chance of standing the test of time. We try not to focus on any particular sub-genre of sound because I think that shortens your life span. If you get associated with a particular sound and inevitably that sound burns out then you go with it. It's an interesting time because underground deep-house has reached a critical mass. The genre that we helped form we're not as interested in anymore because there's not a lot of genuine creativity. Its a victim of its own success in a way. We are keeping our ears to the ground and trying to see what really excites us now. It might seem like we're a little bit all over the place but that's a reflection of where underground dance music is in general. There's so much variety out there, anything from disco influence to techno which is back in a big way. Desert-house is also back, it's both exhilarating because as a DJ you can really dabble if you do it smartly– you don't have to stick to a particular genre or sound. But it's a little more difficult to navigate if you're pushing a label forward. You just have to always stay true to what you find exhilarating and have some artistic integrity as well.
Who are some of the artists, signed to Culprit, that you're most excited about?
There's a really interesting artist, that we just signed. He's 21, Swedish, and a student at USC–ULF Bonde. He's roommates with Justin Jay who's released with us very successfully. There's an up and coming Swedish duo called Bambook, they released with us last year and they're doing another release with us in July. We're excited about Signal Flow they are two really authentic producers, one of the them [Michael Tello] is from the San Francisco based electronic band Pillow Talk. There are also people that have become part of the family like Jozif, he's a London producer and he's a fantastic DJ. Another guy that's released five times for us, and probably will release five more is Manik, he's a New Yorker.
What can fans expect from your set a Splash House?
Non stop, infectious jams, some of our favorite tunes. We're pretty experienced in playing outdoor gatherings so we're really looking forward to it. It's going to be a good mix of underground but also party jams — the kind of fun dance music that's not cheesy.
What's the future for Droog?
We have some music that is coming out this summer which we're excited about because it's overdue. We also have some exciting parties that will be happening in the next couple of months: Splash House, La Terrazza festival in Barcelona, and we're playing what's become an annual showcase at our favorite club in the world Fabric in London. We're going to be in NYC, in July, and new music will be released around that time too. We're collaborating with a really outstanding young producer, Edu Imbernon who's released for Culprit twice. He's become a good friend of ours and we've made two original tracks with him.
Do you have a name for the album?
Yeah, it's going to be called Spectral.