They say you have your whole life to write your first album and two years to write the next. Luckily for ghetto-tech beatmaster Justin Martin, he never got the memo.
"I think I'm more relaxed, like almost a little bit too relaxed," he says. His 2012 full-length debut, Ghettos & Gardens, killed dance floors around the world with its extraterrestrial corner-bending vibes and huge hits, from "Don't Go" to "Lezgo."
Since the album's release, Martin has become one of the most beloved characters on the San Francisco-based label Dirtybird. He makes funny Vine videos. He's 100 percent approachable. Fans bring pizza to his DJ sets simply because he likes pizza. He's a walking good time, but when it comes to music, he is not messing around.
Martin began working on his follow-up LP, Hello Clouds, in early 2014. It's destined to be funky, but it's more conceptual too.
"I wrote this one more with the big picture in mind," he says. "I'm not as concerned with the dance-floor success of each track. There are songs on there that I'll play in my sets, but I felt a little more relaxed creatively where I could just get a little more experimental."
Fans can hear some of the more dance-heavy tracks on the ongoing Hello Clouds tour. He'll swoop into SoBe's Trade this Friday night, along with support from Dirtybird player and Martin's real-life roommate, Ardalan.
With 60-plus stops in four-and-a-half months, the Hello Clouds tour is Martin's most hectic to date. It's given him a chance to test tracks on the road, although when he booked the dates, he intended for the album to be out. That's the thing about perfectionists: They don't answer to anyone, not even themselves.
"I realized when I did my first album that you can't really put a deadline on something like this," he laughs. "When it's right, it's right; otherwise, you're going to forever regret it. You're going to hear that one little mistake in a song, or at least I will with my OCD-ness. I'll be forever haunted by one little thing I could have made better."
He swears that all the tracks are done and that fans should get Hello Clouds by fall. When you have only a day or two between weeklong cross-country tour dates, it's easy to let mix-down sessions slide, but Martin is focused.
"I really put a lot of my soul and my heart into creating these songs," he says. "I like for songs to sound as simple as possible, but I want them to have an incredible amount of depth. I want people to be able to listen to something again and again and hear something new every time they listen to it."
If you’re going to be a creative and passionate deadline-neglecter, there’s really no better label than Dirtybird.
“Everyone on the label inspires me in some way, whether I’ve met the artist or not,” Martin says. “It’s usually something that’s forward thinking, especially because of Barclay’s A&R skills.”
Under the direction of head honcho Barclay Crenshaw, aka Claude VonStroke, the boutique brand expanded into one of the dance music world’s leading incubators for the hottest up-and-coming producers, sounds, trends, and styles.
“He’s never wanted to stay pigeon holed – excuse the pun – into one particular sound,” Martin says. “Usually there’s one big breakout record each year. Last year it was Shiba San's 'Okay.' The year before that it was Breach's 'Jack. [Afterward, he’ll get] 50 demos that all sounds like that hit record, and it would be very easy for Barclay to just say, ‘Okay, these all sound great,’ but he’s already searching for the next thing.”
With a reputation staked on being ahead of the curve, the fact that Barclay allows Justin Martin so much room to work at his own pace is kind of insane.
“He’s told me that ‘Whatever album you turn in, if you’re happy with it, we’ll put it out,’” Martin says. “There’s no ‘Hey, this isn’t banging enough’ or, ‘This song is too deep.’ He just gives me my complete creative freedom.”
Maybe unfettered artistry between friends is the key to greatness. It’s most certainly why fans rally so hard around every little thing the Dirtybirds do. Martin hopes it’ll be no different when Hello Clouds finally sees the light of day. If its reception is what he expects, Martin already knows his next move – a full-length remix version of the album to get dance floors poppin’.
“It’s ambitious though, finishing an album and then remixing the entire thing,” he says. “I’m probably going to end up reaching out to some friends for remixes like I did with Ghettos & Gardens as well, but that’s still my plan. I’d like to hopefully see it through, hopefully by the end of this decade.”
Justin Martin with Ardalan. Friday, July 31, at Trade 1439 Washington Ave., Miami Beach. Ages 21 and up. The party starts at 11 p.m., and tickets cost $10 plus fees via residentadvisor.net. Call 305-531-6666 or visit trademia.com.