Some songs you think only you like. But then a DJ plays them, and your allegiance is forever sealed. That's what happened to me when Brenmar spun Supa Blanco's slurry Southern underground anthem “I Bet I Do” while opening for Iggy Azalea recently. In fact, he stole the spotlight from the rising female rapper by catering to the rest of the women in the crowd.
“Always pay attention to the ladies,” the New York-based DJ, who plays Mustache Mondays tonight, says over tea at Silverlake's LA Mill café. “If the girls are having fun, the guys will always have fun. Get the girls excited first and it's a wrap. I want people to go home afterward and get laid. I want people to hook up at the club.”
Brenmar's philosophy was definitely in play at the Azalea show. Secure the girls with some slinky R&B, throw in a cut for the fellas, then sneak in some completely off-the-wall shit, like ghetto house and juke, Jersey club, or African house. “All you're gonna remember is that DJ playing the song you loved when you were 17 or some weird remix that blew your mind. It doesn't matter how dope your blends are if what you're playing is boring,” he says.
Boring is not how one would describe Brenmar, an intelligent 26-year-old born William Salas. In conversation, his mind races from one thought to the next, and he makes interesting his anecdotes on everything from his seven-month intensive study of chess to a history lesson on America's appropriating of dubstep — “we like it fast and hard.”
He grew up in Chicago obsessed with video games, super heroes and skateboarding. Acquiring his first set of turntables at age 14 (“some shitty Geminis and a shitty mixer”), he paused his music making when he was 16 to dedicate his time to winning high school chess competitions. “I find something I really like to do and I do it a lot,” he explains.
Attending Columbia College in Chicago for audio recording and producing, he dropped out after a year and half because he was more interested in the experimental music he was making on his own time. “Throw in a loop pedal, chop it up later on the computer. Sample pots and pans and turn that into a beat. Weird shit,” he says. He started a one-man band under the name “Brenmar Someday.” He read John Cage. He hung out with kids from the art school.
Then former Liars bassist Pat Noecker asked him to open for his new noise band, These Are Powers. At the end of the tour, their drummer left and Brenmar took his place, playing with the band for another two years. But the schedule was grueling and they weren't really making money.
He started doing remixes with Ableton and his laptop for other bands they'd meet on the road, and his first went up on Pitchfork right away. “People were sincerely responding to the music,” he says. “I got really bored with indie rock and got back into hip hop and dance music.”
Honing his aesthetic became a priority, though it was something he'd never considered very important before. “There was a point I was just making everything. But you can't keep an audience doing that. 'We're gonna do everything we want every time.' That's really cool personally, but your fans don't appreciate it.”
Now, Brenmar is solely focused on cultivating his distinctive brand of club music. “This is the first time people actually care about what I'm doing. Coming to terms with my artistic identity has been really exciting,” he continues.
That identity is synonymous with sensual, glamorous club music spun with such clean, technological precision that even non-techies recognize its beauty. He recently created a mix for Manhattan's purveyors-of-cool Opening Ceremony, and decided to move to L.A. for the winter. Though this incarnation of Brenmar is only two years old, he immediately was snatched up by promoters across the city.
“Shit's poppin' off in L.A. I wanted to come out and see if I could do it permanently,” he says. He doesn't love the ubiquitous Skrillex or “in-your-face dub[step],” but he respects it. “That's just not my party. But we're all out here doing the same thing … exposing people to music they haven't heard.” After all, there are plenty of parties to go around.
Brenmar plays Moustache Mondays tonight at La Cita Bar downtown, 336 S. Hill St.