Walker & Royce Prepare for Hard Summer Fest: The Hard Summer Music Festival is back this year at the National Orange Show Event Center in San Bernardino. For many of the performers, which include the likes of Future, Jauz, Dillon Francis and 2Chainz, it’ll be the first big show post lockdown. As we write, question marks remain over what the future holds, particularly in the wake of surges due to variants. Our fingers are crossed that the march towards normality can continue, and how attendees behave at events such as this will play a big part in determining that future.
L.A. DJ and production duo Walker & Royce are performing, and when we speak to them via a Google Meet interview, they’re clearly psyched to be back. It’s been a long journey; the pair met as mailroom interns before deciding to work together in a musical capacity.
“I got into DJing at the end of high school,” says Royce. “My family’s from England and all of my cousins were going to raves. So I was getting all these rave tapes, and I really wanted to do that. I was interested and started going to raves, and then I started DJing when I was about 20. I don’t think I saw it as a career path, I just wanted to have turntables at home, buy records, and play for my friends on Friday nights. I met Sam when I moved to New York when we were both interns.”
“I went to school for music, I was trying to be a classical musician,” adds Walker. “It all hit a wall in like ‘99 or 2000. Still in college, broke up with a girl, got disillusioned with classical music, started going to clubs, and the first or second time I went to a club was to see Sasha. It was like walking into one of the best clubs in the world. Straight to ten. It imprinted heavily on me. I started interning at a studio and we met there, stuffing CDs in envelopes for hours. We were mailroom interns at a dying distribution company.”
They stayed friends for eight years before working on music together, but when Royce was struggling with a remix he turned to his friend for help and Walker & Royce was born.
The guys describe their sound very simply as house. There’s tech-house in there, and bass house. But they try to do their own thing and not get tied down by sub-genres.
Even then, with the project established, they were slogging away for years and their heads were starting to drop before a timely relationship with Dirtybird developed.
“We had this remix for Digitaria and 12 Stories,” Royce says. “That came out on VIVa, a song called ‘Bright Lights.’ That remix hit a chord with a lot of people, especially Claude VonStroke. He started paying attention to us, asked us to do an EP. We had thought about throwing the towel in because we felt like we’d hit the ceiling. We did the Dirtybird EP and the next thing you know, we had an album deal with them. It set us on the path we’re on now.”
Walker & Royce have now been on Dirtybird for five years, and they have just released their first collab with VonStroke – the “Enthusiasm” single.
“We’ve never remixed each other, for whatever reason,” says Royce. “It’s our first time working together, and we’ve very enthusiastic about it. The first track we did right before the pandemic was ‘End of the Line.’ We got together in Sam’s studio and scared his six-month-old baby. We did another one post pandemic where we sent the music back and forth. That was ‘Enthusiasm’.”
The pair have been able to work virtually during the pandemic, but Walker says that the lockdown did hamper their motivation, and perspective.
“If there’s no place you’re going to play the track, that’s one thing,” he says. “The second is, you’ve lost perspective on what’s going to work on the dancefloor. When you get that feedback, you know what’s going to work. When you suddenly don’t have that, it’s hard. Why would we write a bunch of music and then it winds up being irrelevant by the time people hit the dancefloor? Some of the things we’ve written have held up. But we didn’t want to write a whole bunch. Meanwhile, there’s a pandemic happening which is depressing on top of everything else. The world is suffering, it’s not a good time to party. The very thing we were doing – filling rooms with people smashed together – was the most dangerous thing you could do.”
But again, things appear to be opening up again. The guys are thrilled to be able to get out and perform this new music at Hard Summer this week.
“We’ve got a bunch of stuff now,” says Royce. “We’ve been working, and we’ve got quite a few unreleased tracks, and some new remixes. We also feel like we just discovered a rush of inspiration. There’s a lot of music we’re excited to see how it works, definitely on a festival stage. We’ve been playing a bunch of clubs recently, and I feel like Hard will be our first big festival. Open air, California, no shade, sunburn and dancing. We’re excited to get back to that.”
Beyond that, there’s much to look forward to. The pair have been streaming on their Good TV channel, though they say they’re chilling out a little with that.
“We’re not abandoning it though,” says Royce. “Our big announcement is that we’re launching our record label called Rules Don’t Apply. Some artists we’re really into, and some of our music too. There’s a track we helped Dances With White Girls called ‘Skinnydipping.’ We’ve done a cool video for it and we’re excited to get it out. That’s another exciting venture for us. It’s club-adjacent. We’re gonna do an EP with Life on Planets. It’s a bit more mellow, but really cool music. We’re gonna try to work with Sophiegrophy, who we’ve worked with before. She’s amazing.”
“Eventually there’s another album in the works,” adds Walker in conclusion. “Original stuff, album stuff, and the label.”
Walker & Royce Prepare for Hard Summer Fest: Hard Summer takes place on Saturday, July 31 and Sunday, August 1. All info at hardsummer.com.