By Jacob Katel
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"Even when I was making house, it was unconventional house back then," he explains. "I think it didn't really fit into the deep house category, and it didn't really fit into the disco house.... You know, when I'm working on stuff, I don't like to label it."
So with the escape to New York came an opportunity for something of a musical 180. But a planned sublet fell through and Tyler began couch-surfing at friends' places. This is when he decided to begin definitively working on what would become Model Tested, Rockstar Approved.
"It was definitely not easy when I was making that album. But it put things in perspective for me," he says. "I wanted to reach my dreams and goals and just do it, no matter what." No matter if he had to record each track, with minimal portable equipment, directly onto a Mac laptop and then carry the laptop with him.
For such a forced minimalist method of music-making, the final product is highly textured, exploding with drilling bass lines and the kind of aggressive enthusiasm of someone pushing for a change. Tracks like "Moviestar" and "Jack the Rocker" are swirling, distorted dance-floor skull-crushers. Others, like "Cause and Effect" and "I'm in Love," almost reach dance-rock, driven by funky licks and New Wavey vocals. A cinematic feel pervades it, as if the whole thing were the soundtrack to some narrative.
And that's how it's intended. "I wanted to make the album about making it ... whatever you want to be, go for it, no matter how hard it is," Tyler reiterates.
It was also in New York where he met DJ Patrick Kelly. Together they started Snapshot Recordings, scoring a major distribution deal and putting out Model Tested as the label's first release. Kelly also wanted to invest in Miami Beach real estate. So this past March they came down for Winter Music Conference and never went back north.
"I love Miami. I love the beach; I love the people," Tyler says emphatically. "Once you get to the real scene, the real people who are here are very warm, friendly, and real tight people." He also views it as a sort of spiritual homecoming, a chance to connect with some of his inherited Latin American culture, which was scarce in Indiana. "I just feel really, really at home here."
Forever open and outgoing, Tyler made quick work of meeting like-minded locals. "There's enough stuff going on in the underground here that's really cool and really stamps Miami," he says. "It seems really close-knit to me. And every day I run into someone involved with something, even more so than when I was in New York." He has graced the decks of Spiderpussy, Revolver, and other area clubs where an indie ethos fuels a mixed-genre, electro-doused soundtrack.
The official Miami album-release party for MTRA takes place next Wednesday at the N3ON Pony party at the Boom Boom Room in South Beach. It marks the beginning of a serious five-month touring schedule that will take Tyler and Kelly out to L.A., up the East Coast, to the Midwest, and finally overseas. They'll land back just before next year's Winter Music Conference, for which Tyler, of course, already has plans: He hopes to unveil another official album, comprising material he wrote at home over the long, hot summer.
"After the whole not-having-a-home thing, and the house fire," Tyler says, "it's really all come together."