Electronic music pioneer – and one half of much-loved American electronic music duo Thievery Corporation – Rob Garza captures the spirit of long carefree days and seductive nights on his club-focused re-rub of ‘Summer is Ours’ – an achingly beautiful and emotive track perfectly primed for euphoric dancefloor moments. Lifted from his GARZA album ‘Daydream Accelerator’ and a collaboration with Minneapolis indie band Enemy Planes, the original blends catchy pop vocals with rock drums and nuanced electronic textures. Underpinned by warmer bass and more silky electronic drums with twinkling keys up top, Rob’s ‘G’s Dust Up’ rework is more smooth and sensual – its balmy synths take you to the exact moment the sun sets into the sea as you dance on the beach at some boutique festival, while the heartfelt vocals and falsetto coos from Enemy Planes’ Yësac heighten that feeling of loved-up summer magic that lingers long in the memory.
Having achieved a lifetime’s musical success with Thievery Corporation, Rob’s insatiable creative curiosity sparked his GARZA project, which he launched in 2020. Just as richly infused as his Latin, world music, funk, hip-hop, dub and broken beat explorations with Thievery, GARZA is where nostalgia and the avant-garde meet. Bringing Rob’s love of ’80s electronic music and indie synth-pop into sharp focus, it sees the revered producer journey into exciting new realms.
Indeed, featuring a diverse pool of up-and-coming young artists and released on his own Magnetic Moon label, GARZA’s multi-genre ‘Daydream Accelerator’ album blurs the lines between rock and electronic, marries pop sensibilities to techno beats, flirts with dancehall and toys with new wave. With several tracks primed for dancefloor re-rubs in the coming months, we asked Rob for the low-down…
Hi Rob! Welcome to DMC World. Let’s start with a little background on your GARZA project. What sparked the idea and how did you go about selecting the young artists to work with?
I really just wanted to work in genres that inspired me when I was growing up. I listened to a lot of electronic music that in some way was mixed with pop elements. When I was 10, back in 1980, new wave was becoming a huge thing and I was very captivated by those sounds; the synthesizer was something that sounded out of this world. I was also very influenced by the punk, indie and hip-hop ethos of just doing it yourself. At the beginning of this project, I was living in a space with SMLE [production duo Ruben Cardenas and Lewis Martinee] down in LA. They were working with a bunch of young talented artists who were just popping through and we would try working with different singers and songwriters. It was a very organic process trying different ideas and directions.
What’s exciting you most about revisiting and exploring different genres under this project?
It’s nice to stretch out musically after 27 years. I definitely didn’t want to keep doing the same thing that Thievery has been doing and wanted to challenge myself with crafting different types of sound. Working with different young artists is very inspiring and feels like opening doors into different realms. I learn a lot just by sharing music with the people I was collaborating with and being exposed to what they are listening to. It was also a blast putting this project together and taking it on the road.
Your debut album as GARZA – ‘Daydream Accelerator’ – showcases your influences and pulls together a number of genres into one beautifully cohesive body of work. What’s the common thread linking the tracks together?
The common thread is the influences from when I was young and sort of a new wave pop aesthetic – everything from Blondie to The Pixies to techno/synth wave and dancehall. Having a broad appreciation of many genres allows me to pull from many different sources. That, for me, is what feels fun creatively.
You recently plucked your Enemy Planes collaboration ‘Summer is Ours’ from the album for a ‘G’s Dust Up’ re-rub, which has all the makings of a summer anthem. What constitutes the perfect setting to hear the mix blasting from the speakers?
I’ve heard it a few times in a beach club environment in Greece and it sounds very suited towards that environment. Sun and summertime is definitely the vibe. This song was written about re-found freedom after the pandemic so the spirit of the track is centered around elevation and celebration.
Do you plan to revisit other tracks on the album and what can we expect?
The thing about being an electronic music producer is that there’s always the ability to reimagine work and collaborate with different artists who you admire and some who are just getting started. I’m planning a bunch of different remixes throughout the rest of this year and will be releasing brand new music come 2023.
You’re still very much part of Thievery Corporation too. How has GARZA impacted your professional, personal and musical relationship with Thievery’s Eric Hilton?
Thievery is still touring and doing better than ever. Eric and I have paused on the studio front and have been taking time to pursue our own solo projects. I really enjoy having this time away and exploring other sonic territories. It’s been great to revisit places touring-wise with this new project on a smaller scale and playing it live.
You wrote an original score for the King Tut virtual reality experience – ‘Tutankhamen: Enter the Tomb’ – which travelled to museums worldwide. How in the world did your journey take you there and what was the most challenging aspect from that experience?
Well, I set up Magnetic Moon as an independent record label and production house focused primarily on the creation, release and promotion of new music for both emerging and established artists. But it’s more than just a record label – it’s a content portal too for working on many different types of projects. I love being creative with lots of different outlets.
The challenge on the Tut project was to imagine what the sound was like in ancient Egypt. There are obviously no sound recordings from that period so it was about creating something that fit thematically and supported the virtual reality experience.
Any other projects like this in the pipeline?
I’ve been working on some video game stuff for Apple and there’s some other music for various projects in the pipeline, as well as work I’ve been doing with Donovan McGrath and Amplified Yoga. That’s a way of connecting music and health, which is very different than traditional yoga. I’m also looking to travel to Yemen with the World Food Programme in the fall and work with local musicians.
You’re friends with American neuroscientist and neurologist Dr. Adam Gazzaley. Tell us more about the project you are working on with him?
Adam is a great friend and a brilliant innovator. He is doing groundbreaking work at his UCSF [University of California, San Francisco] lab and with his company, Neuroscape – they invented a video game to be prescribed to treat ADHD in young people. Adam asked me to create some music for his Coherence project, which is a VR game that focuses on rhythm and coordination and how it affects the brain. I look forward to more collabs in the future.
What are your thoughts on the metaverse for artists and how are you exploring this avenue?
I’ve only started to scratch the surface. Living in the Bay Area, I’m definitely interested in the tech world. It’s fascinating the way that blockchain has the potential to positively affect the music industry. At the same time, it’s a lot to manage sometimes, thinking about social media, blockchain, the metaverse and future technologies. I feel nostalgic sometimes, longing for the days when an artist could just be an artist.
How are your hardcore Thievery Corporation fans from 1995 reacting to your GARZA project?
In general, the reaction has been very positive. You’ll always have the diehard fans who want everything to sound the same but that doesn’t challenge me creatively. Those sounds are still sonic colours on the musical palate but if feels great to play with a different spectrum of sound and collaborate with a different roster of musical talent.
How do you balance keeping long-term fans happy while stretching your artistic landscape – or is it even a consideration?
It’s not the first consideration but I believe in the music and if people can let go for a second, it’s a very fascinating and beautiful musical journey. Genre-hopping has always been what Thievery is about so I don’t think it’s a huge stretch for the older fans.
What are the differences performing to an audience now vs pre-pandemic vs ’90s?
People have been craving live music so I really feel that energy and intensity. Everyone has a more profound appreciation for all of this – the audience and the performers. Pre-pandemic, I don’t think people could have imagined a world without live music. The enthusiasm from the audience now is palpable. The ’90s was such a different time. We were about 25 years younger and tapped into the zeitgeist of the time. It was all so new and never could I have imagined I’d still be doing this decades later. Now our music has stood the test of time. It is a real blessing to be doing this 25 years later and have the audience still growing and a new generation learning about the music.
Your music shows appreciation to a good number of great artists, while you have influenced many young producers and musicians. Which one person would you thank for their contribution to your musical journey?
Antonio Carlos Jobim, the great Bossa Nova composer. I found his music when I was 19 and it changed my perspective. I had been really into hardcore punk, electronic, techno and industrial music right at that time and his compositions taught me a lot about space, texture and melody, all with organic instrumentation. I think that is a common element within the Thievery sound. Whether it’s dub or Bossa, there’s a lot of room for texture and space. It almost feels like the sound is swimming.
What will we see and hear from you next?
Thievery will be touring throughout 2022 and I’ll be doing some dates as GARZA in the fall. I have a few GARZA singles dropping in the next few months, with some remixes by my friends Tara Brooks, Walker and Royce and others. I’m still plotting and planning for the rest of the year so there’s more to come.
GARZA feat. Enemy Planes ‘Summer is Ours (G’s Dust Up)’ is out now on Magnetic Moon