Beatmaking its way across North America for the last month has been the Magical Properties tour. Created and curated by L.A. experimental noisemaker Daedelus, (née Alfred Darlington) the 26-date tour serves as a training ground and showcase opportunity for electronic world fresh talent. Now in its fourth year, previous Magical Properties have hosted artists including Tokimonsta, Nosaj Thing, and Shlohmo. This time around, the lineup includes Canadian producer Ryan Hemsworth, L.A.'s own Samo Sound Boy and Salva, Denver twins Two Fresh and Darlington himself as the dandy-ish magic making ringleader.
We spoke with Darlington (who was posted up at his favorite coffee shop in Atlanta) about the premise behind Properties, the time his face was on the side of the tour bus and what it's like being on the road with some of the fastest rising names in the game.
What's the premise behind Magical Properties?
The gist of it is that all too often, electronic music gets presented in these huge formats, whereas a lot of the time I think people really relate to music in a really intimate fashion, like headphone listening and, especially in Los Angeles, in car listening.
But most capital letter EDM happens at these raves and massive events. I always like thinking that Magical Properties is big sounds in small rooms where you can kind of reach out and talk to or touch the performers. It's also focusing on names that are less known, including myself. I know I'm not turning the world upside down; we're all just trying to get a little bit more intimate in this way.
How do you curate the lineup?
I don't think it was laziness by any means, but I was picking mostly people from Los Angeles. L.A. is extremely dynamic, and this time is no excpeption. Salva and Samo Sound Boy are both from L.A. although by the time we get to L.A. Salva will have jumped off and we'll have Two Fresh, who aren't as known in L.A. Ryan Hemsworth does so many good things, and he does work with We Did It, which is out of L.A., although he's from Halifax.
How has it all been going so far?
The tour has been fantastic. Absolutely amazing. The weather on the east coast has not been our friend. It reminds me of the reasons why I live in Los Angeles. The weather has been blizzard-ey, and it's been sort of a tough weather for people to get to a show. I've been amazed that some of these nights we've been filling up rooms. People really truly want to be there, and they're climbing big mountains of snow to get to our shows.
This a bus tour, yes?
It's a sprinter van tour. [The vehicle] is larger than your average mini van and large enough that you can stand up in it, but small enough that we were able to get beautiful local BBQ here in Atlanta and it wasn't like we took up the entire parking lot trying to park there. It's the little things. It fits all the gear, and all seven of us who are traveling right now are posted up nice and cozy with plenty of space. It's just not that feeling of eyeballs and strange questions every time you get off the bus to stretch your legs.
The last two Magical Properties were bus tours, but the thing with buses is that you're at an arms distance from the world. The bus has to be X number of miles away from any major metropolis, and you're always figuring out how you're getting to and from the bus. It's a drag because you're really never in a city.
I'm an enthusiast towards life. I like good food and good coffee and local food especially, and the last couple bus tours were tough. You'd get whatever the venue gave you and post up and keep your head low. It was nice for getting to and from locations because you would have all of this room to walk around and a bathroom in the vehicle, but it's a little overrated, especially when you have to put your face on the side of it, which has maybe happened to me once before. That was really embarrassing.
What happened there?
One of the tours was officially sponsored, so I had to have my face on the side of the bus. That was part of the rules. When my manager first told me I was like, 'I'm not doing this; there is no way that's going to happen,' and then they said, 'Well, we're not going to help unless you do.' You just always have to make choices in creative life. So I have chosen not to do that again. But it was cool at the time, don't get me wrong. I was honored to be so sponsored.
Is there a heightened sense of closeness between all of the tour mates because of the way you're traveling?
Tour camaraderie is really true. It's a special time that's one part summer camp and one part work. It's truly not a lifestyle for everyone. You're forced to be in this cramped situation on no sleep and very little food sometimes, and it can be very disorienting. I'm really grateful that this group of kids is so super mellow and such awesome people.
How do you pass time on the road?
There's a fair amount spent in phone land. Everyone has their lives away from this, and it's not like because we're on tour those lives stop or pause. Ryan is constantly on his computer producing music, because he has all the demands of the world riding on his shoulders right now. Salva is the same way. There are aspects of going into the hole and getting your work done, and then there are moments of looking up and seeing the nature around us.
We all take turns driving too. Our tour manager does most of the heavy lifting, but we help out. We're also sharing hotel rooms at night, and sometimes you have to be the one to break the news to your roommate who desperately wants to sleep that we have to drive at six in the morning.
The thing I usually say is that it's 23 hours of work for one hour of fun. All your time is spent monitoring your energy levels and caloric intake so you have enough energy to get up on that stage and do what you want for that brief hour. It seems like everyone is open to putting the time in to make it special every night. Give us another week or two and we'll see where we're at though. We'll have killed each other.
Isn't it true that people who go through traumatic experiences together tend to bond really deeply?
It's the Stockholm Syndrome really. [laughs] I've done this enough that I kind of know the warp and weft of it, but almost everyone on this run besides the tour manager, this is kind of their first real north Amrerican run. It's amazing to present this world, but at the same time I have to apologize sometimes; the world is not always kind or gentle or easy. It can be like you're cursing people as much as you're giving them a chance to make the run around.
Is traveling by bus providing a better sense of the country and the flavor of the places you're going to?
Yeah. It's nice keeping close to the ground and really being in front of fans and talking to people, not just having some festival play where you're always 20 feet away from anyone who paid money to come in. Seeing the universality of North America is amazing. People are so in tune with electronic music right now, and the sophistication of ears is incredible. There's just lots of pockets of ridiculous zombie based music that still happens.
How do you mean?
Just the dubstep-ness of the world. People got dubstepped on, really. That scene is ebbing away a little and trap music is kind of coming up, and that will be its own weird scene for a little bit, and that will wander away eventually too, but it takes all kinds.
Do you think you're educating people?
At its best we're inspiring and educating. At its worst we're just somebody's soundtrack for their drug experience. But I'd much prefer the first. It's a service industry for sure.
The Magical Properties Tour hits the Fonda in Hollywood on Friday and the Glasshouse in Pomona on Saturday.