Behind the Beat: The Aston Shuffle
The Australian duo Vance Musgrove and Mikah Freeman, that make up The Aston Shuffle, continue to put out underground hits even after more than a decade of producing and DJing. The Aston Shuffle enjoys recent success on The Magician’s Potion label and has even crossed into mainstream electronic music with their tracks being support by artists like Oliver Heldens, Martin Garrix, and Pete Tong. Most recently the Aston Shuffle released their Only 100s June Edition and are in the midst of their first Only 100s Australia tour.
Musgrove took the time to go Behind the Beat during Miami Music Week at the Spinnin’ Hotel before one of his sets to talk about the duos history and current focus.
Only The Beat: Take us back. Where was your first official gig?
The Aston Shuffle: It was in Sydney in about 2006. Aston Shuffle was originally a label that we came up with in 2005-2006. It was Mikah and I and another dude named Russ. We were making all kinds of records and tunes together. We wanted an outlet that was just ours because we had some record deals. We came up with the name Aston Shuffle for the label and we purely wanted to start releasing music to promote the label. If we released a record called ‘The Aston Shuffle’ it was a remix, and we just figured that it would be a good idea to use it to promote the label.
With the couple of remixes we did, we happened to keep the sound very specific. We were already DJing out of our hometown as a different name because we were already making records under another name. People were like, “Oh wow, you guys are the same dudes, why don’t you just do that?” People saw that it was getting traction and we realized that it didn’t make sense for us to split our attention. It was in 2006 in Sydney that we started DJing at this club called Moulin Rouge (that doesn’t exist anymore). It was amazing during it’s time. Aston Shuffle had a snowball effect and it happened by accident.
OTB: Who or what has been most inspirational or helpful in your music careers?
TAS: Early on guys from outside our hometown saw that we had potential. We needed to have it pointed out to us that if things were connected over here that it wasn’t necessary to do the other things. One of the first people to tell us that was Andrew, who is now our manager. He used to work at the label that we used to put records out on in Australia and made the transition into management. These days The Magician is a huge contact to go to for advice. It feels like he has a common ground with us musically. There have been a few other people over the course of the years more on the business side also.
OTB: If you had to pick another career…?
TAS: I went to the University and it was in my final year that we got our first proper record deal and I realized that I could throw myself at music full-time and it was building towards something viable. I was doing law and chemistry and I never felt that I really wanted to be a lawyer or a chemist, science or research. I could and had that fall back on, but I would not have found it to be that fulfilling. At this point, I have had too many years of doing what I love to do to comprise it.
OTB: What is your favorite track the you produced?
TAS: There are a few favorites. The ones that have done really well are tracks that I am definitely proud of like a track we did a few years ago called “Tear It Down” that went gold in Australia. That is still a big moment of pride for us. Everything that we have done recently with Potion has been great and something where we are not making any comprises and remained focused.
There are a few tracks that we did a few years ago that are remixes that have not made too many waves outside their scene, but we are really proud of them. There was a a remix for an Australian artist called “Owl Eyes” that we did that we are super proud of.
We did a remix for a dude named Grum who had a disco sound in 2010 that we chopped up sample house vibes. We have done about 40 remixes now. Our manager texted us the other day and told us that we hit that number and I kinda forgot that we have done so many. When you have done so many, there is alway that moment when people play it and we did it 10 years ago.
OTB: What advice do you have for an aspiring DJ that is trying to get a shot in the industry?
TAS: You got to really uncompromisingly realize what you are trying to say out there. There are a lot of talented people, DJs, the culture for DJs is really alive out there and everyone is trying to make tracks, write tracks, produce tracks, and you have to differentiate yourself from everything.
A key part of that is having a strong identity musically and creatively. Feeling that you don’t want to compromise is a really big part of that. Especially with producing, the barrier of entry is so much lower because of the software and a basic computer is all you need to make sounds that are super professional. A lot of dudes get big making things that are so simple and you don’t need a ton of equipment like you did a long time ago. The tools have been democratized and you had to do things to stand out.
OTB: You guys recently released a new track “Pass You By”. Can you tell us a little bit more about this project?
TAS: It was a demo that we have been working on for a while. I live in New York and Mikah lives in Canberra and Styles lives in Melbourne, so when we are all in the same place we can be smashing out music really quickly over an intense period of time. Other than that we swap clips back and forth and beats. We have a folder of instrumentals and I was going to London for a few days to work on some stuff and we were in the studio and played some demos and this one worked. We had a day working on it and honing it in. The writing was 80% finished in one afternoon. Over the next couple of weeks we put together some different parts and recorded it and put it out.
The Aston Shuffle – “Pass You By”
OTB: You played a couple of shows for Miami Music Week. What was the atmosphere like?
TAS: It is cool that everyone is here to see good music everywhere. Parties are everywhere. People are like I’m going to see this person and that person. You have to be passionate to go to four or five parties a day. Everyone here is a fan of the culture, of dance music, and hopefully everyone has their own individual fans at these shows. It has been awesome to meet our individual fans at these shows as well. It has been cool getting high fives from folks and meeting people that have actively interacted with us on Instagram and stuff like that. It has been really awesome to meet the people that keep liking everything that you post and you notice, and then to meet them at a thing like this makes it easy. It feels natural because everyone is a fan. It is an easy event to get into something because of the vibe and setup.
OTB: Where do you see the dance music industry going in the next five years? New technology? Changes?
TAS: I don’t know. It is kinda interesting to see kinda the peak of EDM and guess you can it was a couple of years ago. It has been a big shift of people of 18 years ago that were super passionate for artists like Swedish House Mafia x percent of them that don’t feel like partying anymore. There is always an attrition rate when it comes to people getting older and not necessarily wanting to party as much or be less connected to the scene.
The conversion rate from that type of music to like deeper stuff or more underground sound has been huge. I think that is completely set to continue. An event like Ultra caters to the broad spectrum, but like the Crosstown Rebels party was also so packed. The demographic whose entry way into the culture was a little more commercial or mainstream, is now like the culture is amazing and looking into other sounds and what else is out there.
The sound is maturing and the market is maturing. There is three to four years left of that first wave of EDM fans that are making there way into different scenes. The biggest records for us have been underground hits that people play here and in a commercial setting, but people still get it and have a positive reaction. At the same time, the same hits can be played at underground parties like Crosstown Rebels and still do well.
OTB: What can we expect from you this year and big releases, collaborations, shows?
TAS: We are working on more music. We have some singles coming through. We love doing remixes. We are always doing a lot of stuff.