The Freshest crew of DJs are an interesting mix, and what they have in common is an ability to shape and guide the musical narrative of Vancouver club life. Seko, Rico Uno, Marvel and Kutcorners have been creating together for the past 7 years, and in that time have carried residencies in Vancouver’s most popular clubs; incidentally, their nights are consistently the most packed, most anticipated nights to party. They’re thoughtful in their approach and it shows; they know music, they organically intuit trends, and they’re not afraid to experiment. Plus, their original productions and multimedia sensory performances engage the partygoer in a way that most DJs aspire to – it’s not wonder they hold a sacred place in the music scene. Thisisblueprint.ca caught up with the trailblazers to talk a little about their history, their talents, and of course the scandals they’ve seen.
(From left to right: Marvel, Seko, Rico Uno & Kutcorners)
Blueprint: Tell me the history of the Freshest DJs…how did you meet and start working together as a crew?
Rico: I think we started around 2007. We got together to do a night called Higher Ground which was at a place called the Century House which is not there any more. We met playing basketball and hanging around the record store and just doing regular music stuff that people did in 2007.
Blueprint: And what really has made you guys the freshest DJs in the city?
Rico: The night Higher Ground we wanted to do something a little different, music was starting to change a little bit, hip-hop was changing at that time, including a lot of newer stuff which has led to the recent new sounds like ASAP Rocky. Things like MIA were happening, Baltimore Club which is now Jersey Club. A lot of stuff was going on then that we weren’t able to play at hip-hop gigs. I guess the name the freshest came out of that. We wanted to push new music; we like new music and there wasn’t really a place to do a mix of that music in the city at that time.
Blueprint: So would you say you’ve shaped the hip-hop scene here in Vancouver?
Rico: Yes I think so.
Seko: We also started nights that helped influence all the scenes to be on board too.
Marvel: Currently one of the ones that came out of that same era was Goodlife Sundays and we still continue to do that now, and it’s a pretty consistent hip-hop and reggae night where again, we’re just playing a lot of new music and pushing songs – we get away with quite a bit. And then maybe hear it at other places too – hopefully it’s an influence in a way.
Rico: During that same time I was doing reggae Sunday, which I’m still doing now at The Queen’s Republic and I’m still doing that. That’s my longest residency, 7 years. That was the only Sunday night around that time a lot of different places have come and gone since then. We’ve stuck with breaking new music and not being that safe.
Another night that we influenced is REUP which started in 2008, not that many places were playing southern-style rap music at that time. Now we’re doing that at LED bar, it’s going real strong. We recently did a mixtape for Diplo and friends’ show on BBC Radio 1Extra, and since then, the sound of hip-hop has changed from barely playing southern rap at all, to that’s the predominant sound.
Seko: Like club rap, it’s dominating.
Blueprint: You guys have a lot of longtime residencies, is there a formula you’ve found that works?
Kutcorners: The reason why you have longstanding nights ultimately comes down to how passionate you are about the music itself. If you’re a really big fan of the music and you really study the music people will ultimately relate to that. They’ll want to come to your nights because you’ll be playing songs that you have an investment in as opposed to just playing songs that you know you have to play. I think everyone would agree we all really love music so much that we will take chances to play songs that will sometimes clear a floor and we’ll take that risk because ultimately we love music and we want to play the songs that we love. If you do that to a certain degree, it’s a balancing act, but if you do that consistently people will constantly come to your night because they will trust in you that you’ll play new and exciting music and not just be the status quo.
Marvel: We’ve all DJ’d in a lot of other places around north America, and I think we’re offering something a little bit different – we get that feedback when we’re there and we see the results of the dance floor working and I think its transfers from city to city as well but it sounds uniquely Vancouver.
Rico: The DJ climate that we came up in made a big impact on how people come to return to our parties. There was always a focus on discovering new music. The old school approach that you dig for music, make sure you have skill when you play it.
Kutcorners: I also think that we’re all quite big fans of music performance so we all take pride in our craft and try to perform the music with our own flair and style, whether it be with whatever technology we can get our hands on.
Blueprint: What do you feel is each of your indivudual “flair and style” when performing?
Kutcorners: I really like to take pride in blending songs together seamlessly and musically and a little bit of scratching.
Rico: I think I’m known for my versatility. I hold residencies currently playing everything from southern rap to dancehall reggae, to top 40 electro to post punk and Indie dance. I think my strength is feeling what a room wants and needs and pushing that a little bit.
Seko: I think my strength is that I introduce people to a lot of new rap and new hip-hop, even to veteran DJs in the city sometimes. They let me know, “yo you were the first one I heard playing that song at a club.” And still keeping the dance floor going, keeping the party live – to introduce a new artist for example, it’s called doing the sandwich. You play a well-known song, then a new artist, then you play another hot song that people know. I just call it the sandwich. I’m also really open-minded to other types of music too. Growing up with a Latin background I was always introduced to a whole bunch of different sounds. When it’s an open format night then I can go pretty deep playing some world sounding dance music. Mainly coming from a hip-hop background.
Marvel: I really like to focus on the dance floor but I like to try to get from one place to another and think a little bit ahead and try to plan a good flow to bridge things together, but again still keeping attention on the dance floor. I also like to add a little but of technical stuff, I’ll try to cut up quite a bit if I’m DJing or just mess with loops and effects or whatnot just to add a bit of performance to it.
Blueprint: What other creative pursuits do you guys enjoy outside of DJing?
Marvel: Most recently I became a new dad so I’m pretty passionate about trying to be as creative and crafty as I can with Instagram photos, whether it’s story time or whatever. I’m pretty goofy when it comes to that.
Seko: I always like to edit video and play around with visual stuff. So now with technology you can do video sets, which is really interesting for me, just kind of making my own edits of video when it’s time to perform. I can do my own loops or my own visuals. I’ve also been trying to make some beats lately. I recently put out a remix…kinda modern club RnB remix.
Rico: With REUP or REUPtrippyshit or more recently RUTS this is the first night I’ve ever promoted and we’re known for having a pretty creative approach to marketing. I’ve been writing a lot of jokes lately, doing a lot of memes. Just putting things together visually. Writing jokes and using ghetto photo shop.
Kutcorners: I’ve always had a real strong focus on producing music. As a matter of fact it was always my first priority and DJing was a secondary thing. I do a lot of that with various members of the group and you can see all that on our soundcloud and my soundcloud and our youtube channel. We have untold live videos of us performing our remixes that we make, and original songs that I make.
Blueprint: All this time at parties, you guys must have seen some crazy things…
Rico: This is a hard question to answer because usually we are drinking the nights that we DJs and the memories don’t work to well after drinking while DJing.
This year I’ve seen what I thought was a guy and a girl going into a photo booth in one of the clubs in the city and the girl performing oral on a guy. I could see because under the curtain for the photo booth there were 2 sets of legs going in and then it turned into one set of legs. You could kinda see the chair and someone standing on the chair and kind of a thrusting motion from the outside. After a few minutes, after they stopped moving, they came out…and it was 2 girls.
Marvel: We were all together on New Years and there was a marriage proposal we had to incorporate into our set and it was for 2 guys and he said yes and it was really good and it surprised everyone. Right before the countdown at Robson Square in the centre of the ice rink – spotlight, played a song for him and everything, it was perfect.
Blueprint: You guys have a reputation for introducing new music; how deliberately do you guys search for new things or predict the trends?
Rico: I don’t know if we were every trying to predict the way things were going with playing new music and breaking new music. We just liked certain artists and played them at our nights. Or work with them. And it kind of just grew organically from that.
Kutcorners: I think Vancouver has had a lot of really great people that we’ve been fortunate enough to work with that have gone on to do great thing. I can think of several people off the top of my head. I’ve worked with U-Tern on music and he’s now producing for A-Trak. And we got Falcons to do a remix for us this past year and he’s doing really big things. All these artists that we’ve been associated with are doing really well and there’s lots of people like that in the city. Vancouver has a lot of really great talent and we’ve been fortunate enough to be around those people before they’ve gone on to be big things.
For information on all Freshest nights and releases, please visit www.thefreshest.ca
– Amalia Nickel