Hotel Garuda Talks "Till It Burns Out" And Digital Friendship
As the artists behind electronic powerhouse Hotel Garuda, Chris and Aseem had an unconventional friendship that has since translated into an equally unique creative endeavor. When fate split them up after only one year together in Indonesia as seventh graders (now that’s a major throwback), the pair stayed attached at the hip in the digital sphere, sharing music and eventually collaborating on what would become Hotel Garuda. And though everything they make is deliberate, dance-provoking, and masterful, the duo always had their priorities straight; in Aseem’s own words, “…we are just two dudes who are good friends who happen to collaborate well together.”
For Hotel Garuda, it’s obvious that each new song comes organically, and with ease. They’ve dropped only three original tracks thus far (most recently, “Till It Burns Out”) and have spent the majority of their time in the spotlight remixing for the likes of Lana Del Rey, Kiiara, and Lorde (to name just a few). If it wasn’t obvious, this pair’s about as busy as they come; get a peep inside the minds of both artists (plus their new single) below.
I hear that you just got back from a sold-out national tour!
Aseem: It’s not like the whole your was sold out, but a few of the shows did sell out and that was great!
How did it go? How was it just getting out there and playing music for people?
Chris: I thought it was awesome. This was our first time doing a headlining tour on our own—usually we’ve been opening for people for past few years. So it was really awesome for us to sort of do it on our own, and it was really cool to see the type of responses that we got from around the States and play some cities that we’ve never played before. So, I was just really happy about the turnout and I was pretty surprised that we were able to sell out a couple of the shows. Overall, I was pretty happy about it.
A: Yeah, me too. It was very tight. Also, it gave us an opportunity to play shows that we would want to go to, if that makes sense. I feel like, a lot of the times we’ve had to—not had to—but the songs we play in our sets are songs that we enjoy listening to and enjoy partying to, and having good times with our friends to. So, it’s less of us just playing our songs or playing only deep house—it’s more of a dance party with a bunch of people.
Yeah, that’s amazing. I know “’Till It Burns Out” literally just dropped a few days ago, but what has the reception been like so far?
C: It’s pretty good so far!
A: It’s been good so far, yeah! I feel like everyone who’s talked to me about it say they really like it, and they said it’s nice to see different sides of us every now and then. Because Chris and I both like all kinds of music—we listen to everything and are inspiration comes from all kinds of things and that was one of those things that we wanted to push ourselves creatively and try to make something a little different.
C: Yeah, he basically said it.
[Laughs] Yeah! I know you guys have a bunch of remixes, but “Till It Burns Out” is one of only a few original tracks right?
C: Yeah, that’s our third original track so far, since 2014.
Cool. So what’s the creative process like for a remix versus a totally original track?
C: I’d say remixes are a little more easy to manage because we basically have something we can work with from the original, like we can take inspiration from the original song that we’re remixing. In addition to that, we also have the opportunity to work closely with the artist, and sort of build a mould of what we both like. As us, and as the original artist, we can talk to them and sort of figure out what kind of vibe they’re going for. But when it comes to originals, it’s kind of just, up to us. There’s definitely a bigger challenge when it comes originals because you’re totally making something new that’s never really been done before, something that hasn’t existed before. So, it’s a little more difficult but I’d say originals are definitely more rewarding, when it comes to making music.
A: Yeah, I feel like our projects, as far as literally producing the songs is not that much different. Because the few original songs that we’ve put out already have been songs we’ve received vocals for and produced pretty much the entire song around it, and gone back and forth with the singer and the writer to figure out exactly how to fit everything into what we hear in or head. As opposed to going into a room and sitting down and writing something from scratch and making it from scratch. But it’s something we’re trying to do more of going forward—just to be totally distinct from other artists and just make things totally new. Does that make sense?
Yeah, totally. I mean, I feel like with an original you also have more creative control because it’s from the ground up.
But, I didn’t realize before this that you guys don’t live in the same city. So how do you coordinate all of that?
A: [Laughs] Yeah, we’ve been long distance since we started. We’ve been friends since we were in like, seventh grade or whatever. We met in seventh grade or in middle school, and we’ve only been in touch over Facebook since then, I think. So, working online has always been pretty easy for us, we just send stuff back and forth and wetransfer, Dropbox, and that’s always been convenient enough.
So you met on Facebook?
C: No, we went to middle school together.
Oh right, right. I was like, “wow, digital friendship, perfect example.”
So, I would love to talk about some of the remixes—just the artists you guys work with are so huge, like Lorde, Lana Del Rey, and Banks and those people. Do they reach out to you or do you reach out to them? How does it normally work?
A: It’s sort of a half and half of us reaching out to artists we like, and on the other side their managers reaching out to our manager asking us if we want to remix their song, which is honestly very flattering. The Lana Del Rey “Ultraviolence” remix—I think we only got contacted for that with four days before the remix was due, so all four days Chris and I were on Skype for eight hours a day, just working on the song and trying to get it done. We managed to get it done, but that was a nail biter. But it’s hard to deal with expectations of managers who are managing big artists like that, who have a huge audience and you have to live up to what their fans want of the remixes, I guess.
Do you have a dream song or artist that you would love to make a remix for?
A: This might sound really weird and pretentious, but I think we did a bunch of the ones that we really, really wanted to do.
C: It’s true. I’ve always been a huge fan of Lana Del Rey, and we’ve been able to do an official remix for her which was really cool. We really love the song “Feels” by Kiiara, and we were able to do that as well. We also did a Galantis remix, and I’m a huge fan of Galantis as well. I think one day, I would love to remix and ODESZA song. That would be super cool.
When you guys first started out, did you expect to have these huge artists to be able to work with?
A: Absolutely not [Laughs]
C: [Laughs] Not at all. This was kind of just a hobby thing, we were just collaborating just to collaborate and make cool music. We weren’t really trying to make it a thing, at all, but it sort of turned into one. So, we just rode with it.
I would love to know what you guys have up your sleeve for the rest of the year, too.
C: Yeah, so we just finished this spring tour, I think we have something planned for the fall—can’t really say anything else, but definitely planning some big shows which would be really cool. In addition to that, really just keep on making music, and I think the big thing about 2017 is that we’re going to be making music that’s a little different from what we’ve been making the past few years. We’ll still have that signature Hotel Garuda style, but you’ll definitely hear some different influences and some different things going on in the music that we’re going to put out this year.
A: 2017 is the year of artistic integrity! [Laughs] That’s a really dumb thing but I just really I think where Chris and I have been going for the last few years has been in this direction of figuring out—what we do together is make music, and that’s the general crux of it, and we are just two dudes who are good friends who happen to collaborate well together. Yeah, we’re just kind of making whatever comes out of our heads and seeing what happens with it—if it comes out it comes out. If it doesn’t, it’s not lost, it’s still a learning experience. It’s a life experience to go through this creative process and make things all the time.
Cool. I have one last question. Is there a story behind the name? What does it mean for you guys?
A: Yeah, there is a story to that name. So Chris and I went to middle school together in Indonesia, in Jakarta, because both of our families lived there at the same time. We actually only lived there at the same time for a year. So, Chris and I only knew each other for seventh grade, and we played on the same little league basketball team—we lost every game. [Laughs] The reason we called it Hotel Garuda is because the Indonesian national airline is called Garuda Indonesia, and we just wanted to pay a little homage to how we met and how we became friends.
Wow. I’m so glad I asked, that’s a wild story.
C: [Laughs] Yeah, it’s a pretty long story.
Images courtesy of Irvin Rivera
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