It was classic rock like the Rolling Stones and the Eagles that got Gryffin to take up the guitar and piano. But it was his brand of house music that melds indie with dance that got him on the charts last year with the single "Heading Home." The Venice, California-based producer, DJ, and multi-instrumentalist will headline the poolside day party Corona Electric Beach at the Clevelander Hotel January 14, but first Gryffin began the new year by answering a few questions from New Times.
New Times: You started out as a classically trained pianist. What made you transition into producing?
Gryffin: I've always been a music kid, so back when I was younger, I was always making music. But it was more rock/acoustic-based in middle and high school. Once I got to college, I really began to fall in love with electronic music and wondered what it would be like to create that sort of music. While I was in school, I downloaded Ableton Live and began to immerse myself into that world, going on music forums and looking at YouTube videos on techniques and tutorials. That's really where this project began coming into form.
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Can you walk us through the process of creating one of your songs?
For me it always starts with the vocal. I always strip all of the original or whatever production currently exists on the demo/vocal and just begin listening to the vocal and imagining where to take it in my head. Then I hop on the piano/guitar and start writing chords and melodies around the vocal. For instance, with the "Desire" remix [by Years & Years], I tried a bunch of different chord progressions and ideas on the piano. Once I felt like I had created a good vibe with the piano chords, I began experimenting with synthesizer sounds and plucks that best complemented Olly [Alexander]'s vocals. From there, I plugged in my electric guitar and began experimenting with melodies and riffs that could take the song into an edgier, more rock-oriented direction. I discovered that it was a matter of arranging the song and putting all the transitions and effects together, which honestly takes most of the time. That last 10 percent of the track takes the longest.
What do you look for in a song that you choose to remix?
I really look at two things. First, I really have to admire and enjoy the artist's musical style and vibe. If I don't personally connect with the artist, I won't do a remix for them. Second, I really take a look at the vocal top line, melodically and lyrically. If I feel like it's something emotionally moving or engaging, I will usually want to give it a go. When I hear a song I want to remix, I usually know within the first minute or so of the song if this is something I'd like to do.
What are some of your plans for 2017?
It feels like this is going to be the biggest year of the project for sure. A lot of new music, originals, and remixes will be coming out this year, and I plan to release an EP in the first half of the year. I will be announcing a ton of huge shows later in the year and will be traveling more overseas, which is exciting. I'm looking forward to 2017 big time.