[Editor's note: Weekly scribe Jeff Weiss's column, “Bizarre Ride,” appears on West Coast Sound every Wednesday. His archives are available here.]
If you Google “Oak Park Music,” the first result is “the Wedding Music DJs.” The bedroom suburb of 14,000 is wedged between Malibu and Agoura. You've probably driven past it a hundred times on the 101 and never stopped. There are no large clubs or live music venues. It's the least likely place to have incubated Classixx, L.A.'s best dance-music duo.
During the early '00s, when Michael David and Tyler Blake attended Oak Park High, the reigning sound was post-Sublime or Incubus-ish — the result of the latter band forming in nearby Calabasas.
“Every Oak Park band wanted to be Incubus. What we're doing now is probably just a reaction to that,” says David, sporting a light brown beard, backward snapback, dapper dress shirt and two left earrings. We're speaking in his blue and white Venice bungalow. Ironically, Brandon Boyd, lead singer of Incubus, is a neighbor.
“We were turned off by the music that most kids at our school listened to,” Blake says with a laugh, wearing a Dark Side of the Moon T-shirt to double down on the irony.
Classixx's music is contoured by disco, house and boogie funk, genres that cropped up in partial response to the stoner prog-rock of groups like Pink Floyd. Yet the duo's first full-length, this month's Hanging Gardens, bears no purist streak or hipster irony — just slavish adherence to the groove.
David's crowded bungalow counterbalances the minimal expanses of Classixx's sound. They're currently preparing for their first national tour as a live group (they'd previously done only DJ sets). Keyboards, guitars and drum machines cover every square inch. A California flag and a framed Stevie Wonder poster adorn the walls.
Classixx have collaborated since they were teenagers bonding over Radiohead and early DFA, Warp and Astralwerks records. They took a sabbatical when Blake, primarily a keyboardist, attended Boston's Berklee School of Music. David stayed local, working for a Valley producer and playing guitar in touring bands.
The group jokes that when they first heard The Postal Service, they fumed that someone had stolen their idea. But their influences quickly broadened to include DJ Quik, Cut Copy, New York house pioneer Larry Levan and French house legends Cassius.
For the last five years, Blake and David have mastered the art of making people move, from the Westwood Brewing Company to the HARD festival. They cite pansexual party palace A Club Called Rhonda and Dam-Funk's Funkmosphere as harbors of support and inspiration. Remixes for Phoenix, Mayer Hawthorne and Major Lazer earned inclusion in DJ sets worldwide.
“When we first started making dance music, I'd make songs that I thought were dance songs but inevitably cleared dance floors,” Blake says. “DJing was the best education to learn how to make people dance.”
“I learned that big sounds and really expressive sonic moments aren't as important as a groove,” David chimes in.
This infinite groove is what makes Hanging Gardens so remarkable. Released on the ascendant label Innovative Leisure, it's the best dance full-length from L.A. so far this year. There's a universal syncopation that could send your disco-loving dad into the hustle but also ignite dance floors at London's Plastic People or Berlin's Berghain. Its singles have earned KCRW rotation and a “Best New Track” distinction from Pitchfork.
“I'll occasionally be on Facebook and see a post about us from somebody I never talked to,” Blake says. “It's usually, like, 'Check out these guys. … I think we went to high school with them.' ”
“I'd like to make it known that my first band was rejected from the talent show at Oak Park High School,” David addsß.
There's no word whether anyone in Oak Park has started imitating Classixx yet. Give them time.