Cedric Gervais on His Breakout Hit "Summertime Sadness" and Ultra's Influence

Cedric Gervais
Cedric Gervais
Photo by Camilo Rios White
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Miami's globetrotting house DJ Cedric Gervais first made waves by debuting his controversial song "Molly" at Ultra Music Festival 2012. The next year, his remix of Lana Del Rey's "Summertime Sadness" became a massive hit on pop radio, going double-platinum in the United States and earning him a Grammy. The song's runaway success was nothing Gervais could have planned.

"I did the record simply because I wanted my DJ friends to play it," he recalls. "I never expected it to become one of Lana's biggest songs on the radio, playing everywhere, selling millions of copies worldwide."

It was especially surprising given the subject matter of the original song, he says. "You have to understand that 'Summertime Sadness' is a song about killing yourself, and I turned it into a worldwide hit that people dance to. Think about that." 

In any case, the song propelled Gervais into rarefied air. Suddenly, he was an international star, one of the world's most in-demand DJs, and his love life became the frequent subject of tabloid speculation. As an artist, though, Gervais has spent the past five years or so working in the shadow of his breakout hit.

"You want every record to be at the same standard," he says, "but it's very hard to duplicate something like that, you know what I mean? So I was never satisfied with what I was doing. Even if the records did very well and picked up millions of streams, it was never to the level of 'Summertime Sadness.'"

New Times caught up with the French-born Gervais to discuss his sure-to-be massive set at Ultra Music Festival this Friday. He's been in Miami for the full evolution of Ultra, from a one-day event that drew several thousand people to the explosion of superstar DJ sets it's become.

"It's really represented Miami well and helped change the scene," he says. "In terms of sound, there are so many different kinds of music now, from trance to techno to house. I don't understand what people mean when they say, 'He plays EDM.' What does that mean, you know? Every time I do an interview, people ask me where I see the EDM sound going, but it's so many different things."

Gervais is revisiting his house roots with the new single "One Night," featuring Wealth, issued via the dance label Astralwerks. He's stopped trying to chase the newest sounds. "That never works," he says — and now he's sticking to the simple aim of making music for the dance floor, just like he used to.

"There's an oversaturation of trap and bass music in America at the moment," he says. "I was just tired of it. Instead of trying to understand it, I'm just going to go back to what I do best — house music. I'm best when I don't overthink it and just make a record for the love of the music and the dance floor, like I did with 'Summertime Sadness,' like I did with 'Molly.'"

Fans can expect Gervais to double down on that approach.

"The next record is going to be even more house," he says.

Cedric Gervais. 10 p.m. Saturday, March 24, on the Ultra Worldwide Stage at Ultra Music Festival 2018, Bayfront Park, 301 Biscayne Blvd., Miami; 305-358-7550; bayfrontparkmiami.com. Tickets cost $1,499.95 via ultramusicfestival.com.

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