The Crackbeetz Family Speaks on Their Formation, the #ClosedSessions Party, and DC’s Dance Music Scene

Image via #ClosedSessions
Image via #ClosedSessions

Tonight from 9-11 PM EST, DJs Pentamon and Semita Serpens are spinning their dark, techno-inspired sounds live online from Bethesda, MD’s as part of a “URL Party” version of the popular, Washington, DC-based #ClosedSessions event. Though only the fifth party to date for the blog-turned-label, the lineups for parties 1-4 have included acts like Kaytranada, Groundislava, Lindsay Lowend, Alex Young, Chooky, Nacey, and Steve Starks – definitely making #ClosedSessions of immediate newsworthy importance. However, that’s only part of a much larger tale.

As 2014 grows near, the spread of artist development in EDM across America is quietly becoming a story that deserves mention. From mid-western locales like Kansas City, Missouri to places like Boston, Massachusetts, Orlando, Florida, and other non-traditional strongholds for dance music in America getting in on the act, the breadth of talent in America extends far past New York, Los Angeles, Las Vegas, and Miami. On that list as well should be the Nation’s Capital of Washington, DC. If interested in a studio, label and party that are pushing barriers in the DC Metropolitan area, it’s absolutely worth your time to consider the rise of CrackBeetz Records,Bethesda’s Indigo Studios and yes, the affiliated #ClosedSessions party.

If you like Alex Young, you should probably be just as big a fan of Indigo Studios. It’s his “home studio,” a place where the 17-year-old Young is surrounded by a group of talented and motivated producers, engineers and artists, all who are intriguingly under the age of 25. If looking for the future of EDM (of all varieties) from the DC area, entering into the studio – nestled along a commercial strip in the DC suburb of Bethesda, MD – is definitely the place to be. In speaking with Indigo Studios Manager/Crackbeetz Records Owner Blaise Railey, and CrackBeetz artists/Indigo Studios producers/engineers and #ClosedSessions DJs Isaac “I.V.” Valenzuela and Imad “Royal” El-Amine, ones absolutely gets a full sense of passion, dedication and fun required in pushing a city and scene to the next level.

How did Crackbeetz develop?
Blaise: I started Crackbeetz as a music blog in late 2011 and with so many music blogs, it didn’t seem practical for me to continue to just be a guy blogging out of my dorm room (as a music industry program student at Middle Tennessee State). [College was short lived] so I came back home and that’s when I met Isaac and Imad and I was trying to help them find a new studio spot. We found this one (Indigo), got comfortable, then decided to launch Crackbeetz as a record label. We’ve just put out our fifth release. Royal and I.V. have been putting out releases and remixes, and it’s been important to watch them grow as artists as well as watch our record label grow and develop an audience.

How did #ClosedSessions develop? Was it used to promote the label, or was it an entirely separate concept?
Blaise: As a side project from Crackbeetz, I had started a promotion company called Dubtro Promo. We threw underground raves and events at (DC nightspot) Eden while we were trying to figure out what to do with Crackbeetz. We had always been into throwing shows, and once Crackbeetz got to the point where it had a large enough audience, we started to throw shows that were more geared towards the record label and its style of music.

Royal and I.V., thoughts about your development as artists and producers and working with the label?
Royal: It’s definitely been a learning curve to figure out how to brand yourself and picking out the right tracks. Overall the experience has been fun. It’s exciting to see every track gain a bit more traction than the last one.

I.V.: I like Crackbeetz because it allows for our artistic freedom. With the right push from the Crackbeetz team, it’s great to see how the popularity has grown.

DC’s party scene is rejuvenating. New venues, new parties, more party people. Thoughts?
Blaise: [#ClosedSessions] is discovering its place. We wanted to throw a party where we didn’t charge people for entrance, but to still bring a great crowd out to see a great DJ. It was a house party at first, but now we’re in a larger venue. I was actually in Brooklyn with a producer friend of mine, Brenton Duvall, and one night we left the studio at three in the morning, and you would’ve never known it was three in the morning. Every place was still going with music. In DC at 3 AM, everything’s kind of shutting down. [Ideally] we need something that brings all the people out who know what New York and LA are like and bring those vibes into the DC culture of partying. We knew that the best way to do that was to make it free and make the DJs dope.

I.V.: We definitely need more people with that awareness of what New York and LA are like, and develop a community around what DC can be compared to that.

As far as booking/playing with talent, there’s an argument to be made that DC’s talent compares well with DJs and producers nationally and globally. How does it feel to have this developing party and to know this as well?
Royal: I’ve been out and around in the DC scene for the last year and a half and to start to become aware of so many talented people is great. I.V. and I were thinking at first ‘hey, we’ll make a name for ourselves and then we’ll leave [DC], because that’s what everybody did. But then, when we reached out to folks like Faystime, Alex Young, Rex Riot, Lindsay Lowend, so why not build that here and DC can make a name for itself?

DC’s gained a certain level of renown for venues like U Street Music Hall and the 9:30 Club. #ClosedSessions (when not online as it is tonight) is at Flash, a venue on the same U Street strip. Joe Nice recently told me he loved the sound there as much or more than he did at U Hall. He says U Hall is big and hard while Flash is deep and smooth. Is there something to this belief?
Blaise: I visited U Hall and Flash in the same week recently (U Hall for Alex Young’s birthday and Flash for #ClosedSessions). I was at #ClosedSessions for Kaytranada, and every place in the walls were shaking, but you could still have a conversation with the person next to you at a reasonable volume. It was an amazing experience.

Royal: I played at Flash and U Hall that week, too. I agree [with Joe's thoughts]. There’s something about the ambiance of Flash, the way the venue feels. When you walk in, you can tell that room was treated (for sound) so nice. It was empty and nobody was there, and – this may sound weird – I was telling I.V. that my voice sounds so good in here, like acoustically, it sounded nice. I vibe with U Hall and the acts they bring in a bit more as Flash is typically more of a deep house type venue. While I love making that deeper type of music, with the acts U Hall books, and their great sound, it  [gives a sense that] this is where you go when you want to know [on the more underground-to-mainstream side of things] “what’s up.”

Who are the DJs and producers that you would ideally like to book as the party grows over the next six to 12 months?
Blaise: Brodinski, Cashmere Cat, and Mr. Carmack. Any or all of those three would be dope.