Das Music: Summer Playlist + Interview with Bay Area DJ/Producer SNDRLND
We are fully dipped in Summer by now. Even City Folk are looking slightly more copper and the sun is avoiding the horizon well after 9pm- we are out in full form. It’s a time for backyard parties, picnics, ocean, camping, weddings, and driving with the windows down listening to the best music in the world.
Now, more than ever, is the time to dive fully into the warm joys of Summer. And you know what’s the best at making you sweat those sweet glittery droplets of joy? The perfect music mix.
Tommy Sunderland, aka SNDRLND, has been a DJ in San Francisco for 9 years getting dance floors moving at weddings, house parties, corporate galas, clubs and Burning Man. He is best known for his eclectic mixes and his modern spin on dancehall favorites. We were immediately drawn to his soulful, synth-laced, funked up beats - not to mention his vinyl collection.
In addition to being a coveted DJ on the scene, Tommy also composes and produces original content, having composed the score for brands like House of Borel, recently released podcast Gasoline & Fire, and various re-mixes and collaborations. We begged him to make us a Summer Mix, which he so very kindly obliged, and we’re so excited to share it on the Das Bus Blog! We also had the honor of asking him some burning questions about music, life, and the DJ experience. Check out his answers below along with a STELLAR summer mix!
DB: How did you get started DJing?
SNDRLND: I grew up in a household that always had music playing. My dad’s turntable sat opposite from an upright piano in our living room, and I’d spend hours trying to match the original melody from a record by playing it on the piano keys. I believe this activity trained me to really listen to music from an early age.
I started collecting music in both vinyl and digital form in college (I still have an original iPod complete with click wheel) and was often asked to play DJ at get-togethers. It wasn’t until I moved to the Bay Area that I met a friend and DJ (Monsieur Arnaud) who was willing to show me what amazing things you could do with just two CD-J’s and a mixer. Since I had a decent vinyl collection at that point, I bought a second turntable and a cheap 2-channel mixer and started DJ-ing friends’ birthday parties and the like. I got hooked and have continued to expand my music collection and upgrade equipment since then.
DB: Who are your biggest influences?
SNDRLND: Growing up outside of Detroit, Motown was extremely influential in my early exposure to music. That and my dad’s affinity for classic rock n’ roll. As a child, we had a briefcase of cassette tapes that we’d take on family road trips, and every family member was represented in it. It included Tracy Chapman, Pearl Jam, Cracker, Paul Simon’s “Graceland”, Whitney Houston, New Kids on the Block, Gloria Estefan, Jon Secada, the Bangles, Cyndi Lauper and (my childhood favorite) Debbie Gibson. I don’t know what all of those artists combined creates, but I honestly feel that they’re somehow represented at least in part in my current musical choices.
In college I had a secret (or not-so-secret) obsession with Euro-pop. Spiller’s “Groove Jet”, DB Boulevard, Moloko, Bassment Jaxx and really anything put out from the Ministry of Sound (including their Annual) was influential. The explosion of internet resources and getting into the club scene really diversified my tastes, bringing in more electronic influences. I’ve started following a bunch of artists, from down-tempo sources like Bonobo, RJD2, Pilooski, Toro y Moi and Phantogram, to mid-tempo beat makers like Miguel Migs, Gigamesh, Prins Thomas, Todd Terje and Breakbot, to full-fledged hit makers like Cut Copy, LCD Soundsystem, Tame Impala and Beck. I’ve been heavily influenced by the Hotel Costes and Kitsune compilations and think that The Twelve’s Essential Mix BBC’s Radio 1 program may truly be the best dance mix of all time.
DB: What resources do you use to find new music or discover artists?
SNDRLND: I have a handful of friends that I completely trust. If they say I need to listen to something, I listen to it. Even if I’m not convinced at first, I listen to it because they deconstruct and absorb music in the same way that I do.
There was a time when I believed in Pandora, and I used that and blip.fm exclusively to find new music and curate channels. Today I appreciate my Spotify Weekly to find artists I wouldn’t normally be exposed to. For the electronic influence, I follow my favorite artists/DJs on SoundCloud and MixCloud to see what they post and re-post. Usually their mixes will have a few gems (new and old) that can take me down a path of music discovery.
Many weekends you can find my combing the crates at Amoeba. I’ve actually made a few connections just striking up a conversation about a record that someone’s holding, and am always amazed at how music can open doors to social interaction.
Most important to me is finding music in the moment - buying tickets to see an artist I know but getting there early to see the openers, or catching a set when a favorite DJ comes to town to see what it is they’re playing and how it influences the crowd. Today’s there’s really great music playing everywhere, from the channel at a department store, to a local jazz bar, to a drum circle in Golden Gate Park, to your Lyft driver, to an office mate that wears headphones - just ask people what they’re listening to and you’ll be surprised. And thank god for Shazam and SoundHound!
DB: What type of events do you DJ and how do you decide what to play?
SNDRLND: I’ve done weddings, corporate events, magazine launch parties, fashion events and the like, but my favorite events are just house parties with friends and others where I can engage with the audience. Some events have pre-set needs (like a wedding), but I always like to work with the host to understand what they’re looking for to explore options for using that as just a construct to be expanded upon to make the event a truly unique experience. I tend to be on the upbeat side of things, often including music with lyrics that has a good beat and keeps the energy up. NuDisco is my forte, but I’ll play anything from soul, oldies, rock, some pop, 80s, disco, indie dance, positive hip-hop, future funk and beyond depending on the event and the crowd. I’m always up for a new challenge!
DB: Why should people hire a DJ over using a playlist?
SNDRLND: Simply enough, a playlist can’t read the crowd. It just can’t! Even a crowd-sourced playlist doesn’t usually fit the bill. I truly believe that a good DJ takes in the energy of their surroundings and puts that to music. It’s all about understanding what people want (Is it to chill? Is it to dance? Is it to sing-along with? Is it to hear something new and explore the fringes?) A good DJ can assess the situation and reinterpret it through song. It can be the small things, like bringing new music in at the right point in the song or switching things up just after a climax to surprise the audience. A playlist doesn’t let you do that, and more often than not it will leave a party flat as opposed to creating the peaks that will make it a one-of-a-kind experience.
And without further ado... here’s the latest Summer Mix from SNDRLND:
AMA #5: Summer Mix for Das Bus
1. Hemisphere (Beat Ventriloquists Remix) by Gavin Turek & TOKiMONSTA
2. Pools (Roosevelt Remix) by Glass Animals
3. Silhouette by Goldroom
4. H.S.K.T. (Extended Mix) by Sylvan Esso
5. You Were Away (Space Ranger Hypno Remix) by Bonar Bradberry
6. Shine (Anoraak remix) by Cyclist & Maiko
7. Deux (Original Mix) by Tobtok
8. Superman (SNDRLND Remix) by Skylar Spence
9. Don't You Want Me Baby (Master Chic Mix) by The Human League
10. Drop The Tough (The Twelves Remix) by Groove Armada
11. Partyfine by Yuksek & Juveniles
12. I've Got This Feeling (Cabinett Remix) by Glen Check
13. Handful of Gold by Chela
14. All About That Bass (Sailors Remix) by Meghan Trainor
Please contact SNDRLND via his website www.sndrlndmusic.com to get in touch about DJ or music services, collaborations, or original content for your video or media project. You can also follow him on Mixcloud and Soundcloud to listen to more mixes and collaborations!