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The scene is a sweltering, heaving mass of joyous humanity. One part Berghain techno bunker, one part soca sweatbox, one part Caribbean house party: this is the fundamental vibe of St. Martin’s burgeoning SXM Festival. Imagine the sweaty tank top/shorts sensibility of Winter Music Conference, but with a decidedly island bent. And up on top of the palm-frond lined DJ booth, the slim figures of the Martinez Brothers are holding court. Presently it’s the younger sibling, Chris, sweeping the mixer to introduce “4 Day Weekend” off their latest Masters At Dutch EP, and the dancefloor is drinking it up like coconut water.
For these two kids discovered while still in junior high, it is just another day. After a blind reach-out from Chris in 2006 (at the time, aged only 13, Steve 17) to New York producer Dennis Ferrer, their star has been steadily climbing the house music pantheon. The very night Ferrer heard their CD, in fact, he immediately booked the Bronx siblings to play NYC’s Shelter — and their ascension has been star-dusted ever since. They’ve toured the world while still in high school, DJed Givenchy runways as the personal selection of Ricardo Tisci, and even earned Mixmag’s “DJs of the Year” honors in 2014.
We caught up with the brothers Martinez to find out what it’s like to conquer the world, from the city streets of the Boogie Down to the sandy beaches of St. Martin’s. They talk trap, dream collaborations, and about that time Nile Rodgers asked them to record with Chic. And perhaps most importantly, they tell us what’s next.
Billboard: So how was your set at SXM? How did St. Martin’s treat you?
Chris: I think it’s a dope, growing festival. More people are getting more knowledge around it; it’s gonna be one of those destinations you have to just go. And it’s cool, because it’s right before WMC — you can hop there, and hop there. And I think the crowd is just gonna get better, you know what I mean? It’s dope that they’re bringing that knowledge to the area, because it’s a vacation crowd normally.
Steve: Yeah, St. Martin’s is really, really beautiful. Just being there itself, it’s like you don’t wanna leave. So once you start partying and this and that… it was a lot of fun, I was pissed we had to leave.
Growing up you guys had a notoriously rich musical history, coming from a musical home that listened to a lot of samba, jazz, hip-hop, house. What do you listen to now, especially in the hip-hop realm?
SM: We listen to everything, I mean we love the old school hip-hop, the Boom Bap, Premier, Dilla, all that stuff. But we also listen to loads of music, trap, and whatever you wanna call it: Young Thug, Travis Scott, Uzi Vert, all that stuff. We feel the groove; if it has a groove, it works for us.
CM: At our age, we were brought up with the Biggie, we were brought up with the Jay Z stuff. Now we’re still young, and now the Young Thugs and Migos, Travis Scott — we like that too. So we’re kind of like in the old-school, new-school in between generation, you know what I’m saying? Because that stuff is really, really dope right now.
I’ve read in the past you guys have been working on hip-hop beats. Have you released any, or are you working on a project?
SM: We put out a couple of little EPs, we put out an EP [Sunday Service] with Bodega Bamz…
SM: Yeah Raekwon got on it. It was like an EP, like five, six tracks, something like that. Then we just did some beat tapes that we called Warhol Basquiat, if you go on SoundCloud, they’re there. And they were just chopped up beats, chopped up samples that we found and put together. So as far as the hip-hop front, that’s what we got. But we’re definitely gonna get into like… We’ve been making the trap artist stuff as well.
SM: And our own sound too, in our own way, trying to make new things, you know?
CM: A lot of experimenting.
When you guys come across the trap or Atlanta guys, do they know who you are?
CM: That’s crazy though. Funny enough, they actually do, man. Anytime that we bump into A$AP Rocky or even when we did a Carolina Herrera shoot with Rory, a lot of people know who we are, fortunately for us. So that’s good to see that the name is reaching other scenes, you know what I mean? They might not know our music, but they definitely know who we are. I can’t wait to see what the future holds, because we’ll collaborate with them for sure. And all of them are on our agency, William Morris, so we hook up with them every once in a while and just network.
I know you guys have already collaborated with a lot of people, big names in the scene like Seth Troxler, Miss Kitten, Mathew Jonson. Anybody else you wanna put out as a wishlist?
CM: We got signed up to work with MF Doom right now. We got a little project, we’re doing a little mix series, and he actually put some drops on it; that was really dope. So we’re finishing that up right now. Definitely Young Thug and those guys. I wanna say Travis Scott, too. He’s on the soulful side of things, of the whole trap world. He’s definitely got his own little sound. But that’s as far as hip-hop, and house….?
Give me one person in house music or electronic music that you’d love to work with.
CM: Yeah, you know what? Ricardo Villalobos, man. He’s like the MadLib of the techno shit, straight up. He’s another untouchable, bro. That’s another guy that’s like you can’t get in touch with him, he doesn’t have a phone.
SM: He doesn’t even have a phone, you know what I’m saying? But, man, we got so much respect for this dude, his music is just outta this world. He’s been making crazy music since forever, man. He’s so far ahead of the time, it’s crazy. But that’s one guy I would love to get into the studio, and just observe and learn, bro.
You guys were asked to do percussion on Chic’s album. As far as I know, you were the only people that Nile Rodgers asked to perform that weren’t in Chic, which is a ridiculous honor. My question is: did your dad — a Paradise Garage vet, the guy who got you both into house — go nuts when he heard you were working with Chic?
CM: [LAUGHS] Yo, pop did not know what to do with himself, man, seriously. I think [Nile’s] manager was at the Boiler Room set that we had done a month or two prior, so he had talked to Nile about working with us. And Nile just hit us up on Twitter randomly, and I told my dad that. He was like, “Get outta here, man!” Then he started talking about times when he’d seen Nile Rodgers back in the day, and this and that. I’m like, “Alright, you’re getting excited right now.” But yeah, man, he was bugging. We were all bugging, to be honest with you, I couldn’t believe it. He hit us up saying, “Yo, I just got my Chic tapes back, we should just go through them.” That was the first message that he gave us. I was like, What? And we came to the studio, we went through all the Chic parts. I couldn’t… We were bugging out, bro.