DJ STEPDAD Figures Things Out: NYC-based producer and DJ STEPDAD started drumming when he was six, due to the fact that he was a Revolutionary War reenactor in Virginia.

“It was actually through that strange pastime that my mom met my stepdad, Mike, who DJ STEPDAD was eventually named in honor of,” says the artist born Ted Davis. “In high school, I joined an experimental rock band and played a bunch of shows at DIY spaces in DC. When I was 17, I got super into a lot of the L.A. beat scene stuff that was having a moment in the 2010s. I bought a Native Instruments Maschine because I was obsessed with Flying Lotus/Shlohmo/D33J-type artists, and made chill electronic music in that vein for a couple months before I went off to college in the Los Angeles area. It’s still on SoundCloud, but I won’t tell you where to find it (laughs).”

“In college, I went back to playing in scrappy indie rock bands,” he continues. “But in 2018, my friend Alex Conradt — who did the artwork for my upcoming EP time to figure things out got me into house music. He started throwing these living room raves, which I would spin at under the moniker Sebasién. I was dropping a lot of trendy lofi house stuff, like Baltra, Ross From Friends, and Mall Grab, but would mix it with corny tech house in the vein of Claude VonStroke and FISHER. Those sets were… not great. But they were fun as hell, and the late nights definitely sparked more of an interest in DJing for me. Growing up, I thought that artists like Burial and Laurel Halo were cool, so it was nice to cosplay as someone like that in sweaty, fogged-out Orange County living rooms.”

It took a while to settle on his moniker.

“A few months after I started touting myself as a #selector, my childhood best friend and I were drunkenly riffing about hypothetical DJ names late one night,” he says. “He suggested the name DJ STEPDAD as a loving homage to my stepdad, Mike. It was both a lot funnier and a lot cleaner-sounding than Sebasién, so I adopted it and it stuck. It’s obviously a bit goofy, but I genuinely like how the name looks in writing, too. In 2019, I produced an EP called For My Stepchildren Vol. 1, in the bedroom of a sublet in Highland Park. It came together over the course of a single sleepless weekend using Logic’s built-in instruments and drum kits on Maschine. When I put it out a few days later, my friends seemed to like it more than the indie rock I was involved in making, so I decided to stick with the dance vibes. I put out a few other lowkey releases in the years to come, and kept casually spinning around SoCal. The highlight was a set at the very-chill-but-now-defunct Koreatown space Chewing Foil. When Covid hit, it kinda put everything on pause, and I took a step back from both rock and electronic music to focus on my journalism career. I knew DJ STEPDAD would return, but I kept waiting for a spark that I just wasn’t able to find in Southern California. I felt like none of my friends really listened to the same music I did, which made my interest in club and experimental music feel a bit inconsequential.”

Things started looking up when he relocated to Brooklyn in the summer of 2022.

“After relocating to Brooklyn in the summer of 2022, I started brushing shoulders with formative influences and DJing at some of my favorite radio stations and bars across town,” he says. “I’ve put a lot of work into leveling up the project, and spent this year working hard to learn how to use CDJs well and expand the range of sounds on my USB. There’s a lot more DJ culture in New York, and I find it really inspiring.”

The DJ STEPDAD sound has shifted over the years.

On For My Stepchildren Vol. 1, I was actively going for a lo-fi house sound,” he says. “I think I nailed it, and I really love revisiting that EP. It’s the most melodic my music has ever been. On the followup EP, beige paradise, I was really inspired by the stuff and Anthony Naples and Jenny Slattery’s label, Incienso. The music sounds literally nothing like anything that imprint has ever put out, but I was trying to tap into the vibes of early DJ Python and Huerco S. It’s actually kinda cool to have missed the mark, but to still feel proud of my work. It’s obviously not the most unique-sounding music ever, but it definitely feels like its own thing more than a Nowadays-type beat, which I’m happy about. time to figure things out touches on a lot more styles, and I think each track feels like its own thing. The opener is a cover of ‘Heaven’s On Fire’ by The Radio Dept., which I heard for the first time this year. I just kept listening to it over and over for days, and finally decided the only way to get the obsession out of my system was to record a version of my own. I love how it came out, and I would say the beat plays like Galcher Lustwerk, while the vocals sound more like this Philadelphia indie band Draag Me. The second track, “dads can’t step,” is my attempt at dub techno. Again, it doesn’t really sound anything like Basic Channel, but that’s kinda why I like it — I feel like it pushes my early sound into new terrain. The third track, “she took the kids,” is my least favorite on the EP, so of course it’s the one I’ve gotten the best response on. It’s sorta balearic and ‘80s-sounding, and I was really turning to artists like Ela Minus and early Kilo Kish for inspiration as I laid that one down. The final track, ‘bad vibes,’ is an homage to a lot of the vibed-out electronic stuff I was into in high school. Most of this EP was recorded using nicer VSTs from Native Instruments, but on that one, I just used Logic’s built-in features, so it also kinda harkens back to my prior work in that regard. It’s kinda the nostalgic track, I guess.”

“As a whole, I’ve described time to figure things out as ‘vibey ambient house and techno,’ and I think that works well enough as a loose descriptor for where I’m at in 2023, stylistically,” he continues. “When I play out, these days my sound tends to vary. On the radio, I mostly opt to play ambient music. But at bar and club sets, I actually get pretty hype. Davis Galvin, Priori, and Piezo are three of my favorites to drop. If I had to point someone towards the quintessential DJ STEPDAD mix, I’d go with the last one I recorded at The Lot Radio about a month ago. I was so sick, but I pulled it together.”

DJ STEPDAD’s latest EP is called time to figure things out.

“It came to life alone in my bedroom and at my kitchen table, on a dying computer” he says. “When I had so little memory left on my hard drive that I couldn’t add another synth to a track, I decided it was done lol. It was mastered by meme lord Zac Emerson, who runs the label Doom Trip and has mastered music from artists including Panda Bear and Maral. My college bud Alex Conradt did the art, and my former coworker-turned-friend Tim Gagnon wrote the liner notes. All of those dudes still live in Los Angeles, so for an artist who draws a lot of inspiration from New York City, I have definitely inadvertently stayed true to DJ STEPDAD’s SoCal roots. Since it’s electronic music, I don’t really think there’s a super clear theme. But it’s been a very liminal and unpredictable year for me, so I would say the music very much feels marked by uncertainty. I cheekily named it “time to figure things out” because of a ‘70s phrase used to softly suggest a couple’s divorce. However, over the course of this past year and going into 2024, I very much have been taking time to explore new creative and professional avenues and figure things out. These tracks have stayed on repeat and kept me company as I’ve weathered the storm, and I think this EP will always remind me of the weird combination of frustration, reckoning, and hope that I’ve grappled with most days this past year.”

DJ STEPDAD thinks that the current state of electronic music is “sick.”

“I only want to get so into this, but as someone who also writes about a lot of electronic music, I feel really motivated to make music when I explore the stuff that’s coming out right now,” he says. “There are so many ambient, house, and club labels that have sprung up over the last five-or-so years that have profoundly shaped my taste in real time. On a more critical note, I kinda hate the capitalism of club culture and the scene-iness that defines a lot of the New York nightlife world. However, I think those are things you encounter when making any genre of music in a major metropolitan area.”

Looking ahead, DJ STEPDAD has much planned for 2024.

“2024 is gonna be a big year, I think,” he says. “I’m kicking things off with the release of time to figure things out on January 26th. The rollout is already going a hell of a lot better than I ever imagined it would. So much to be grateful for, even before I have this thing out in the world. I appreciate so many people I admire (yourself included) taking a listen and deeming it worthy of their time. There’s a release party at Baby’s All Right in Brooklyn on January 23rd, which should have a solid mix of live ambient artists and tasteful club DJs. I also have a couple big mixes around the EP that I’m super stoked to see out in the world. After the EP’s out, I have a single coming up on the label Mechanical. I don’t have an exact date locked down for that yet, but I’m hoping it’ll happen in March. It features a special guest on slide guitar, and strikes a breezy, wistful vibe that I think will be perfect for the dawn of spring. There’s a track by this artist CFCF called “Marigold Mix” that really inspired me to try putting some lonesome fretwork over synth pads and a 909. I think it’ll be a nice way to tide people over, as I try to keep the interest going after time to figure things out has been out for a bit.”

“I’m currently working on my first full-length, which is almost done,” he continues. “It’s easily my favorite body of work I’ve made as DJ STEPDAD, and touches on a lot of styles and textures — everything from chilly downtempo to Berlin-style 4am techno. I bought some new synths and plugins, including Omnisphere and Serum, before I got started on it. It was bad for my bank account, but the new tools have really reinvigorated my workflow and drastically upped the production quality. I don’t have any set plans to tour, but I’m hoping to change that once my LP’s out, hopefully in mid-Spring. I absolutely want to return to LA to do some shows ASAP, since so many of my best friends live out there. It’s also a lofty goal, but if I could take off work for a week to do some dates in Europe, I would be crossing a major item off the bucket list. For now, though, I’m just working on the final few tracks of my record in between staying super busy promoting the EP. I have two part-time jobs and a writing career that also eat up a lot of my time, but I’m pouring a ton of energy into this music and it’s nice to see it finally starting to pay off!”

DJ STEPDAD Figures Things Out: DJ STEPDAD’s EP time to figure things out is out January 26.





































































































































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