In the Studio: Angel + Dren
If you’re even an ounce familiar with the NYC party scene, you’re familiar with the Capricornian twins hailing from the Bronx — for those not so lucky, listen up: Angel + Dren are putting out their own project this year, and we couldn’t be more excited. From Nike to MoMA, these two have been spinning for crowds across the map. Remember the annual Burton party at the Milk penthouse last year?
Upon entering their purple-lit studio in Ridgewood, you’ll notice the phrase “10,000 hours” scrawled in orange dry erase on the top corner of their hanging whiteboard. When asked how far along they are with Malcolm Gladwell’s popularized theory, they responded: “About halfway, just in the thick of it.” With 5,000 hours under their designer belts (they both have impeccable taste), they’re definitely the masters of something. The pair chatted with Milk.xyz about the unexpected places they find new music, the benefit of working in the early AM, and what constitutes a “good night.”
Do you want to tell us about the space first? Where are we?
Angel: So we’re in Brooklyn right now at the studio. We spend a lot of time here working on our projects and production stuff. We like the setup and the vibes are good here.
How do you go about researching new music?
Dren: I spend a lot of time on sites like SoundCloud. For a long time that was one of my favorite platforms to discover new music. We also like to go and see artists perform.
Angel: My Shazam is always on my phone. Sometimes I’m at the Dominican salon getting my hair done or at the corner store, and I want to know what that song is. New York is one of those places where you can hear so many different things, and I don’t take that for granted. I’m always trying to get it.
Now I’m curious what your last Shazams are.
Angel:I hope it’s not obscure. Oh, it’s Afrobeat! I should’ve known.
Okay so there’s “Legwork Riddin” – Sarz
What goals have you set for yourselves in 2019? And how do you stay on track as we reach the midpoint of the year?
Angel: We’re not necessarily dreamers, but we’ve always set really big things for ourselves. This year, the biggest one was putting some music out, and it’s probably going to be the death of us. Along with that, we’re making sure that we’re still deejaying and still out here in these streets playing the music that connects with people.
Dren: I think the goal has always been to challenge ourselves. Making a music project was a bigger goal than what we thought when we first embarked on it, but I think that that was something we had to learn along the process and as we get closer to putting it out.
Angel: There are also the sub-goals. I think on the day-to-day, we have to try to challenge ourselves to become better; that’s why we’re lucky to have each other. She can tell me when she thinks it’s not my best, and I won’t be offended – well maybe I will be- but I heard it. We’re pushing each other to be better artists, better musicians, deejays.
Dren: She’s not going to hear it from anyone but me, that something wasn’t good. It’s going to come from me first.
Being in the creative realm – how do you carve out the time? Do you wake up and decide to put in a certain amount of time into your work or do you have a specific routine?
Dren: To be perfectly honest, I made a realization this year that it’s really hard for me to specifically carve out two hours of the day and be like, “I’m going to do creative things for two hours.” I don’t think that’s how creativity flows for me. I work my best when I know I don’t have anything to do that day. Whether I have ideas or I want to take a break, I can do that, but I need time to get into any type of creative energy. I’m staying home.
Angel: It’s kind of different for me. The hours of 4:00 AM – 7:00 AM are the best hours in the world.
Angel: Peak hours. Sometimes I will go to sleep at 9:00 PM and wake up around 4:00 AM ready to go. I’ll clean my whole house. I’ll do all these errands. I’ll do my taxes. I’ll do some music. I’m inspired and I’m organized. But I realize it’s also because that’s when nobody is texting me; that’s when nobody’s calling me. The activity is so little that I’m with myself. I have the clarity to be creative.
I was reading a couple of interviews that you did, and when being asked to give advice to people that are interested in deejaying or taking a similar path to you both, your response was “Don’t water down your voice.” When did you realize that you found your voice and how did you stay true to it (Keeping in mind that it will obviously it will change and grow as you do.)
Angel: It will change, but I think music helped us find it. We were naturally shy growing up, and first finding that outlet to even start to actualize a voice or figure out what we have to say, makes me know that what I feel matters every day; the things that I’m making, they matter to me. It’s not about other people. It’s about getting that out. That’s an important vibe for me.
Dren: We’re really aware that are our voice will change, and has changed so much from where we started. Everyone has a level of “What are other people gonna think of what I’m doing?” but the level to which I question it is less now because I’m way more comfortable with what I’m doing.
How did you get to that level?
Dren: I don’t think I’d ever been as passionate about anything before. Even if everyone was like, I hate what you’re doing, I would still be like “Well, I’m with it.”
Angel: Not gonna lie, when someone first showed me a DJ Controller, I came home and I was like, “We have to DJ. I love it. I think you’ll love it.” We bought a little controller the next week. It was tunnel vision. And I feel like when you have tunnel vision, the things that are happening on the side, really are on the side. Being able to get that noise out and lean into your own self is what you have to remember.
What are the most unlikely places that you pull inspiration?
Angel: I’m from the Bronx, so I’m biased, but I love it so much. New York is changing a lot, and I feel like it’s so untapped in so many areas, and if you really want the rawest form of New York, where nobody’s apologizing for being who they are, or what they’re listening to, or what they’re eating, or what they look like; everything feels just so honest. It inspires me every time I’m there. If you look at our stories on Instagram, I feel like it’s so much of us going back to the Bronx because it just reminds me how I really love it.
Dren: For me, I love being on the train. Recently, I’ve been running up a tab on Uber – I’m not going to lie to you. But when I do get on the train, it’s really cathartic for me. It’s centering because you don’t have Wifi for most of it. The fact that you’re just with your thoughts is inspiring. I take a notebook sometimes, and I’ll listen to music.
You see so much.
Angel: I people watch- it’s so bad.
So you guys have a show tonight – what gigs do you have coming up, and what are you most excited for?
Angel: So tonight we’re at this club that’s just opening – the event is called Insaño. People will have to check in their phones at the door or something. I’m excited for the two new Drake songs to come out too.
That reminds me of Berlin. I was there a few weeks ago and at the door, they put bright pink stickers on everyone’s phones. It was nice because people were acting crazy, but because they genuinely wanted to. There was this naked girl screaming and dancing and smoking cigarettes, and it felt so genuine. She wasn’t putting on a show for anyone, but herself.
Angel: I hope that’s the case tonight.
Dren: I don’t think it’s going to go that far, but I wish that on the party.
Angel: Some naked energy.
Do you have any lucky charms that you keep on you during a set?
Dren: I feel like I should now that you’ve said that.
Angel: Honestly, the lucky charm is when I have all my shit. When I don’t lose anything after the gig. She loses computer chargers..
Dren: That’s not a “me” thing, that’s a “we” thing.
Angel: I lose USBs. Our files are everywhere – they are for the world at this point.
What constitutes a good night?
Angel: It’s a good night when we finish our gig and it was good, people danced, and we brought all of our stuff home.
Do you have any last words of wisdom?
Dren: I’m still trying to figure this out myself. I’m just grateful to be doing what I like doing.
Angel: I feel the same way. I just want to send out respect to anybody who is putting themselves out there. Every day, in this process, it makes me realize how hard it can be to do that. The world can be kinda mean sometimes. I want to encourage people to not let that stop them in any way. People are gonna have their opinions no matter what. It’s really important to know that when you look back, you did it the way you wanted to, not the way people wanted you to do it.
Dren: Also, I make a point to surround myself with good energy only, as much as I can. I know you can’t control everything, but as much as you can. You can control your atmosphere, where you are, and how long you’re there. Preserve your energy.
Stay tuned to Milk for more studio visits.