Kandy is at an interesting point in his career right now. I caught up with the young producer recently to talk about what he’s been up to and how the rest of the year looks for him. Most recently, he completed a brief but packed schedule of live shows with a variety of other DJs, including Austin TX for South by Southwest and Miami FL for Miami Music Week. It was the first time he had been on the road for a schedule that was as hectic as this. He explained that this time on the road was great, though, because he’s become more competent and comfortable as a performer. It’s a lot easier to play for a few nights in a row when you aren’t stressing about your abilities with the equipment. As is the experience for many DJs, starting out, your practice sessions with CDJs are your performances.
You learn how to DJ in front of a crowd, because odds are, you don’t have a pair of CDJs at home (it isn’t a cheap investment). Simply, in March, Kandy had a great time, and he’s excited to get back out playing again soon: “I just confirmed a bunch of shows in the summer that I can’t say anything about yet, but, I’m stoked to play at Global Dance Festival, that’s July in Colorado.” EDM fans, this is your cue to check your calendars to see if you can swing a trip to Denver CO for June 20th and 21st. This year will be festival’s fifteenth anniversary, which is quite the achievement.
“That will be the biggest festival I’ve had since Ultra.” Kandy’s set at Ultra was a massive success, his first big festival performance, and his stage’s crowd reached capacity. “It was crazy, and that’s what keeps me going, you know, being up there and seeing all these people really enjoying the music, you feel like you can do anything.” Kandy is just as familiar with being in the crowd as he is now with being on the stage. He got into electronic music “oh gosh, around like 6 years ago, I guess. I got into the music through Brooklyn warehouse parties. I wonder if people remember me from back in the day, like if you can imagine, my name comes from the word kandi, because I used to wear kandi up to my shoulders.” If you aren’t familiar with this fashion, still very much alive at raves and festivals, I’d recommend a quick search. I’d also recommend this great article that was written a couple months ago about the subculture of ‘kandi kids’ by Joel “DJ Deadly Buda” Bevacqua for LA Weekly. Fashion-wise, it’s a great way to be remembered in the midst of a crowd. “At the time I was looking for somewhere to DJ because I wanted to get into it and I needed to come up with a name on the spot one time. I was like, ‘why not just go with the name Kandy,’ and since things started catching on, I can’t really change my name now.”
“I want everyone who likes my music to know that anything’s possible because I used to be in the crowd dancing with them and now they see me playing big stages and stuff and I hope it’s an inspiration to anyone with their own music. I was literally out every single day, Monday through Saturday. A lot of nights at Webster Hall and other places in New York City before they closed down.”
Kandy wasn’t only inspired by the music at raves, either. “My brother was really into electronic music so I grew up listening to it, whether or not I wanted to; it was always on in my house.” Kandy grew up in New York, and Long Island–where his parents live–has become his home base recently, in the midst of all the travelling he’s had to do. He now knows a lot of producers and DJs in Los Angeles, and loves it there, but isn’t sure if that will be his next place to settle. He’s busy. A recent collaboration fell through because he had too many other things on his plate. There’s also a collaboration with 4B that’s he’s been working on: “he just texted me the other day like, yo, are we gonna finish this thing?” For an up-and-coming electronic dance music producer and DJ, being versatile with your time and location is an asset. And Kandy is nothing if not versatile. He’s dabbled in so many different dance music styles, when asked what genre he aligns himself most to now, Kandy’s response is “Oh Lord. Haha, I guess I’d have to say something like bass music.”
“And it’s always changing. Like, what’s cool went from dubstep to future house, to future bass, now it seems to be going back to dubstep and I see it going toward this riddim style. It always changes. I mean, I try to play everything. I’ll play a dubstep set and change the next set so it’s more like house. I play what I like, really. I mean, if there’s a song that I like, I’ll play it.” It’s true that style lines are becoming more and more blurred every day, in electronic music as well as on a wider spectrum. Kandy admitted that it’s a little tough now, with so many different sounds out there, to know what kind of bill you’re on. If you can play so many different styles, it’s important to be able to prepare accordingly for the event.
I asked how much he thinks about the crowd when he writes new music: “I keep it in the back of my head, but then, I make music for me, first and foremost. And I don’t always produce heavy tracks, but my live sets are heavy, so I’ll make like a bass heavy edit of something and I’ll play those all the time. Kinda like how Porter Robinson flips tracks. Because I know that the crowd will recognize something, and they’ll love to hear that track, but it’ll be my own twist, so it’ll be something known and refreshing at the same time.”
Kandy’s live sets may remain heavy, but his work as a DJ is quite different from what he’s interested in as a producer. He’s been producing for far longer than he’s been performing, so his skills have evolved, and recently, he’s realized that he is interested in pop music. Earlier this year, he released a single out of left field, called “Shout.” “I think it’s like, the first real song that I’ve written, and I’m definitely interested in a more ‘musical’ direction like this for future releases, too. You realize that you want to do something more than write a banger that’s popular for like, one or two weeks.” Shout features the vocals of Los Angeles singer/songwriter Mackenzie Thoms. Kandy says it was pretty easy for him, and he’s very happy with its success, so there are plenty more similar collaborations on the way. Producing more in the pop direction seems to be Kandy’s next personal challenge.
Don’t expect Kandy to release music through any major dance music labels anytime soon, however. “I’ve been able to release music on my own and these tracks have been way more successful than anything I put out with labels. I mean, I’m not opposed to it, I love all those labels, but I’d rather put out music under my own name.” This quest for independence also led Kandy to want to help out other artists that he liked; he called this The Cavity Collective. Just a couple weeks ago, the Cavity Collective introduced a young producer –OMNI– to the group, with a release entitled “Ripstyle.” It’s a straight-ahead dubstep banger, that flies out of the gates and proceeds with playfulness and high-energy.
“Not that I’m all that big, or where I wanna be yet, but I want to be able to put other artists that I know on a platform for people to get their music out. I’ll help them out with merch, getting their music on Apple Music, Spotify, getting other big guys to repost them, pretty much anything I can do to help them out.” He’s quite excited by the prospect of cultivating a strong group of artists and down the line, “maybe in a year or two,” he’ll be able to throw his own parties with this group. It’s another nod toward Kandy’s quest for independence as a musician. With the following he’s gained, and the success with his releases so far, it’s a perfectly reasonable goal.
Other than his spot in Global Dance Festival this summer, check out Kandy’s latest, called “Basketball,” freshly shared on the 10th of May. With so much original music and collaborations on the workbench right now, considering his diverse experience and interests as a producer, expect the music to keep coming this year.