With a 6:30 a.m. flight and a total of seven shows over the course of Art Basel week, Aidan Kennedy is going to be a busy man.
Still, for his first trip to both Art Basel and Miami, he couldn’t be more pumped. “I've heard a lot about how amazing Basel is for art and the music,
Kennedy is one of many musicians who will be showcasing their music under the shadow of South Florida’s largest annual art event. Artwork from across the globe, drunken revelry, and almost as many celebrity sightings as stars on the Hollywood Walk of Fame (Leonardo DiCaprio, Lenny Kravitz, and Jamie Foxx have all already been spotted) all frame the world Kennedy and his band, Wrestlers, will become ensconced in for the next few days.
Crafting a dizzy blend of disco-inflected pop and elctro-R&B, Wrestlers are still a relatively young project born out of Kennedy’s old band, Bagheera, and his own chillwave bedroom recordings. However, they’ve already caught the attention of Neptunes producer Chad Hugo as well as the artist development program, Red Bull Sound Select. It was Red Bull that set up a collaboration with Dominican-American new-wave artist Twin Shadow for the Wrestlers’ 2014 single “Say Anything.”
We spoke with Kennedy just prior to his flight from his native Houston to the Magic City about the origins of Wrestlers and what people can expect to hear from the band at Art Basel and beyond.
New Times: How did you get started in music? Are you classically trained in any instruments?
Aidan Kennedy: I started playing the guitar when I was in fifth grade. I started with Rock Star, lead guitarist dreams. I feel like every kid that picks up a guitar at that age wants to be the next Slash or something. I have an older sister that throughout middle school and high school was giving me records that she was listening to at the time. I learned a lot of new music from that. Up until then, I was pretty die-hard: [in a squeaky teenage voice] "Classic rock is the only music I'll ever listen to!"
I was one of those kids with the fake Led Zeppelin vintage shirts. It was pretty silly. I was really heavy into guitar; then I picked up the bass, and then I picked up the drums, and then I picked up some keys. I started learning all these instruments and discovering things through my sister and my friends and this crazy thing called the internet. That's just how I came into electronic music and DJ'ing. It was a very natural progression.
After shedding the name Bagheera because of a cease-and-desist letter, why did you go with Wrestlers?
Yeah, oddly enough, it was from another band, not from Disney, which would've made for a way cooler story. This sounds totally lame, but there isn't really a huge significance behind [the band name.] We had a brainstorming session, and it was actually one of the original names we came up with before Bagheera. We went with Bagheera instead because you know, we were like, "Oh yeah, let's pick a band name that's impossible to spell and remember." Wrestlers
Aside from an unexpected love affair with Michael McDonald, who else is an inspiration for you that informs the kind of music you do now?
Definitely Prince, in the way he's spearheaded all of his own records by doing all the recording himself, and the songwriting is just phenomenal. And as cliché as it sounds, I'll go through phases where the only record I listen to for a month is Homework by Daft Punk. Then also a lot of stuff lately that I've been listening to is R&B, like Erykah Badu and Keith Sweat and stuff like that. I try to keep it all over the place. The main thing for us is I don't want to be stuck in a genre; I don't only want to write house music records... I want to make my music sound like me, a culmination of everything that I'm into, which ranges from Michael McDonald to 2 Live Crew.
What format will your Art Basel shows take: DJ sets or live instrumentation?
We've got a mix of both; we've got a couple of DJ sets, but what we're really bringing to Basel is our full live show, which is all original music and remixes played with a full three-piece band. It's a live, house-music band. There's a lot of percussion and synthesizer action going on.
We did a collab with Shy Girls, who was also on my list of people I wanted to work with. That was really cool. He's a friend of mine, and he's a phenomenal songwriter and producer. Who else would I like to work with? There's this dude, Roman GianArthur, that I like a lot. That would be really cool. I'm not looking for any superstar collaboration. I've been in situations like that, and it's never quite as cool as two people that are on the same level, just
What do you want people to know about Wrestlers and your music?
Dance music isn’t all about just people standing up there and pressing play and then being like a commercialized
Satellite Art Fair. 9 p.m. Thursday, December 3, at the Deauville Hotel, 6701 Collins Ave., Miami Beach. 305-865-8511; deauvillebeachresortmiami.com. Admission is free.
Soho Beach House Tent. 2 a.m. Thursday, December 3, at Soho Beach House, 4385 Collins Ave., Miami Beach. Members only.
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Basel Castle presents Armand Van Helden with Wrestlers. Friday 9 p.m. at 1 Rooftop at 1 Hotel, 2341 Collins Ave., Miami Beach.
Wrestlers at the Gale. 11 p.m. Friday, December 4, at the Gale, 1690 Collins Ave., Miami Beach; 1690 Collins Ave., Miami Beach. 305-673-0199; galehotel.com. Admission is free.
Smashed Canvas with Wrestlers. 8 p.m. Saturday, December 5, 244 NW 29th St., Miami