Baltimore’s Normaling brings pure beats to Animal this Saturday (12/6)
.rar Kelly and Lemz make up the B-more dj duo, and the two of them are pumped to bring their hard hitting beats to the dance floor of one of Richmond’s favorite queer dance nights.
More details about the pair via their website:
Starting as an idea on New Year’s Eve 2012/13, Baltimore producers .Rar Kelly and Lemz decided to turn two minds into one.
They got together and worked almost non stop on creating music through in person and internet collaborations. After enough material was made to the standards of these two gentlemen, Normaling was born. However, this was no usual collaboration. Having a combined 20+ years of music production and DJing under their belts, these two have become a force to be reckoned with.
Both .Rar Kelly and Lemz each have a distinct sound to their solo work and have been known for finding the best of their respected genres as DJs. Together, they make music that spans all over the wide map of electronic music, and they can’t wait to share it with the world around them.
We shot a few questions over to Normaling and they were kind enough to go in-depth with answers.
1 – You’ve been producing and DJing for some time, what has changed in your song creating process? Do you miss the old days?
Lemz: Up until a few years ago, most of my music was being made on a drum machine/synth hybrid. I would record the songs by actually performing them on the machine until it came out right. I’m now strictly using Ableton and it has made my life WAY easier, and our music has become much more complex. I definitely do miss using the machine, but I love having a program to make our tunes have anywhere from 10 to 45 layers involved at any given time.
.rar Kelly: I come from playing in bands, where I was primarily focused on one instrument at a time. Now, like Lemz said, we have several instruments going at once in the studio and mix multiple tracks with various loops when we perform. And I love every minute of it. I don’t miss the old days at all. We fully embrace technology in both the studio and on stage. We both can do SO much more with a live set than we would be able to do if we just had crates of records or CDs.
2 – How does the Baltimore scene treat dance music these days? Are there clubs that stand out?
.rar Kelly: Baltimore has always loved dance music. I mean, the city created its own Baltimore Club sound. However, right now in the Baltimore, the level of talent and sense of community in dance music scene is unprecedented. I am consistently impressed not only by the ambition of Baltimore’s music scene, but by the quality of the output. A big reason why I co-founded Space is the Place Records is because I wanted to show the rest of the world what’s going on in Baltimore. Our peers are a constant inspiration for Lemz and me. The “new gen” producers like Thunderbird Juicebox, Mighty Mark, Matic808, Schwarz, James Nasty, Paul Hutson, DJ Dizzy, Grz and numerous others are constantly in our headphones and worked into our live sets. What’s more, Baltimore’s sound right now spans across generations of Bmore producers. We have had the fortune of working with our hometown heroes like Debonair Samir and Scottie B, who are just as inspired by what’s happening in Baltimore music right now.
What’s great is that the venues in Baltimore have recognized that there’s something special brewing and have put in just as much effort to upgrade their space to champion Baltimore’s rising tide. Venues like The Metro Gallery and The Crown have renovated and revamped so to create the perfect atmosphere for both the performers and audiences. It really feels like a citywide movement.
3 – does your sexuality play a role in your music? Do you look to mix/work with LGBTQ artists?
Lemz: As an out and proud gay man, being gay has warped into my daily life and become a part of my identity. I am inspired by so many aspects of gay culture from years past all the way until this very moment. I am a huge fan of artists that were vocal about their sexuality in a time where it wasn’t as accepted, namely Patrick Cowley & Sylvester. I view them as heroes and influences of mine. However, I’ve always tended to shy away from actually placing my sexuality as a main aspect of my music. I’ve always aimed to be a good artist that’s gay, not a gay artist that’s good. This does not mean I don’t include my gay influence in our music, though! One of the tracks on our debut EP, ‘Shade’, features a Baltimore local named DDm, who is an amazing rapper and very open about being gay. The track is influenced by vogue music and so DDm throws SO much shade through his lyrics. My being gay is definitely a part of the Normaling identity just as much as .rar Kelly’s straight preferences are. The element is definitely there and not hard to find, but our main focus is just to make music we enjoy. It just so happens that we enjoy and find inspiration from what’s dubbed as “gay music”.
When looking for collaborators, we look for one thing – talent. Whether straight or LGBTQ, whatever background you have, whatever race you are, none of that matters to us. We just want to work with people who we think are talented. We have worked with gay artists in the past, and definitely will again in the future.
4 – What are your shows like? What can people expect at ANIMAL this weekend?
.rar Kelly: We plan nothing before we get on stage. At most, we decide the first track to play beforehand, but that’s it. Every show we’ve played – and will play – is rooted in that spontaneity. Lemz and I play off each other. Our excitement on stage is genuine because we honestly haven’t a clue what’s going to come next. And because we get into it, we’ve found the crowds do too.
Lemz: Mr. Kellz just said that perfectly. It’s very important to us to be in the moment with the crowd in front of us and deliver something different each time. We feed off of crowd energy. It’s delicious.
5 – Have you been to Richmond before? Any fond memories of the area?
Lemz: YES! I absolutely LOVE it in Richmond. I first came here about a year ago when touring with Double Duchess, which is where I met Connie from ANIMAL. She invited me back to play the Pride ANIMAL Party and it was one of the most fun times I’ve had at a gig. The next day I met with some friends for brunch then was given a tour of the area. It’s gorgeous in Richmond! Not only that, but everyone is just so nice and welcoming. Richmond is the tea!
.rar Kelly: I think I was in Richmond for a school trip, but I don’t think that really counts. Lemz spoke so highly of ANIMAL from his Pride show that I am eager to check it all out.
6 – you mix a decent amount of hip hop into some of your tracks, but bounce back to more house as well – have you adapted to bring in different styles? Do you prefer one over the other?
.rar Kelly: There isn’t a preference per se. Rather, we have an idea for a particular track and then see where it takes us. Our track “Low Drop” with Rye Rye and TT the Artist was a track that we had sat on for nearly a year. It had hip-hip inspired kick drums and vocal samples that worked hand-in-hand with the track’s club music aspects, but we both felt it was incomplete. It wasn’t until we had Rye Rye and TT the Artist on the track that we felt a sense of completion with “Low Drop”. Because of our patience with the song, we ended up having two of the best Baltimore rappers – from two different generations of Baltimore Club – exchange rapid-fire verses for the first time on the same track. “Low Drop” was a great lesson in patience and perseverance for both of us.
Lemz: We started making tunes that we wanted to hear out in the clubs. Both of us loooooove hip-hop as much as we love club music, so blending together those genres was bound to happen. When I started DJing, I could only find hip-hop vinyls at the record store, so that’s what I learned on. But I was spending my time downloading techno on Kazaa and Limewire because I didn’t know where else to get it. They’re both prominent on what we are musically, but I secretly love techno a smidge more than hip hop. Like a 51/49 percent split.
.rar Kelly: That smidge is heard even in our more hip-hop sounding tracks. I think that why Lemz and I work so well together and why Normaling works is because we both love such a wide array of music and bring that myriad of sounds into our productions and live performances. We are like giant sonic sponges. Case and point, Clint Mansell’s soundtrack for the show The Knick is playing in the background while we are answering your questions.
Lemz: Yep, just two giant sonic sponges sittin’ here soaking in all kinds of basslines and soundtracks and whatever else. #squarepants
7 – What’s the hardest part of being a DJ these days? How do you develop a unique sound?
Lemz: Honestly, the hardest part is delivering something fresh during a live show. It’s just not that entertaining to watch a person stare at a laptop and be so enthralled in it that they can’t do more than a head bob and occasional smile to the crowd. That’s why we work so well as a duo, because we spend our stage time entertaining ourselves and jumping around like madmen. While one is working away on the equipment the other is making a spectacle of his self or talking to the crowd. We show love to the crowd that’s in front of us cause it’s so cool to us knowing that maybe somewhere in the crowd, someone possibly came just to hear us play.
.rar Kelly: Lemzy, that’s it exactly! You can’t go into it with a preconceived notion of making something unique. For us, any kind of “unique sound” we may have created comes from our “don’t overthink it” live show mentality. Every single show we’ve played has been on the fly; therefore, we will never play the same set twice. This approach, coupled with our passion for a variety of musical genres, is what makes playing together as Normaling so exciting. We will end up mixing everything from Nine Inch Nails into Carl Craig into Biggie into RuPaul.
8 – What trends in modern dance music do you like? What do you not like?
.rar Kelly: I like how dance music has now become this melting pot. I think of producers like Swindle or Total Freedom or House of Black Lanterns who pull from a variety of musical genres, dissect and then refine them into their own unique productions. I love these hybrid genre musical amalgamations that keep cropping up in dance music. Conversely, what I don’t like in modern dance music – namely modern American dance music – is whatever the hell “EDM” is. I detest those Big Room synths. That whole sound is like the hair metal ballad of dance music. Unnecessary. Also, I’m partial to keeping dance music inside – not at outdoor festivals. I do not want mud on my Sauconys.
Lemz: And .rar does love his Sauconys. My favorite trend is all these record labels that are more of a family than a business popping up. I mean this in the sense of all of the artists are obviously friends and still influence each other. It leads to amazing collaborations. Some on the ones doing it best are Bromance, Dirty Bird, Night Slugs, and Fade to Mind. This is the mindset and ethos at our home base Space is the Place Records. I’m not a fan of people trying to make dance music exclusive. It’s just not what it was founded on. I’ve seen people waste so much money on buying a table at the club and ordering a huge bottle of champagne with a gigantic sparkler attached to the top to show off but my god that looks stupid. It goes completely against the nature of the music. Dance music was almost strictly played at raves and warehouse parties back in the day with the PLUR motto with a huge community mindset. I want to see more of people looking out for each other at shows, and just simply being nice to each other. I’d love to see the masses go out to hear something new rather than to hold down as many shots as their bodies will allow.
9 – Any advice for folks on the fence about coming out to your show this weekend?
Lemz: Sleep when you’re dead.
.rar Kelly: And if you’re dead, you will still make for an excellent Normaling audience member.
Lemz: Oh my god. No. Please don’t be dead. Kidding aside, it would be great if you came. We’re a huge fan of meeting new people and will be likely posted up at the bar drinking with anyone who will talk to us before the show.
.rar Kelly: Even if you can’t talk because of your death, then we will still string you up like Bernie and marionette your ass onto the floor.
10 – Anything else you want to say about your music?
.rar Kelly: Our collaborative track with Berlin’s Ghettozoid just dropped on Space is the Place’s Expose Yourself compilation. We also just did a Baltimore Club remix of Austin-based blues artist, Leon Bridges. We also recently did a remix for Double Duchess as well as one for TT the Artist, Mighty Mark, and DDm’s “Elevator”. We also just finished up a remix of Woz’s amazing “Cherry Hill” with Debonair Samir that we hope will be released on Black Butter Records, and are working with Samir again on more material. Oh, and we did an unnerving remix of Sophie that’s coming out on a compilation in 2015.
Lemz: Even though quite a few of these won’t be out for a while, expect to hear them at ANIMAL along with remixes and edits we made specifically for live shows. In addition to all of the things .rar mentioned, we have started working on original material for our debut album. We are excited for all of these to come out in the near future.
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