This week’s rising artist spotlight is aimed at Matt Halper and Eli Sones of Two Friends, the LA-based Soul House duo making waves in the music industry with expertly-crafted remixes and a new release on Armada Trice. Matt and Eli gave use some of the most ernest advice on producing and the drive needed to make an impact that you’ll ever read. If you’re looking for inspiring insight on succeeding as a duo, look no further than these two friends:
What’s the best advice on the music industry you’ve ever received?
Give before you ask. Don’t constantly go around begging for favors. Give people a reason to want to help you and want to be part of your longer-term journey. You’ll see the results are much more beneficial for all involved.
Tell us about yourself. What makes you stand out?
We’re not out here trying to fit into anyone’s pre-conceived mold of what a producer or what a DJ should be. We’re just two best friends who grew up together and decided one day to pursue a crazy dream. We both went to middle school and high school together in Los Angeles, and right before we split up for college, we decided that the two of us would make a good producer/DJ duo since we had musical backgrounds that complimented each other nicely, and since anything we did together we knew it would be fun. We make music that gets you dancing, but hopefully that also resonates with you on a deeper emotional level. We want our music to be the background music to your brain’s most special memories.
Why did you start DJing and producing?
I think there’s a lot of factors that go into that, and there are probably still some reasons we aren’t fully self-aware of. But both of us had grown up with a strong love for music, even if we weren’t always creating it ourselves. We also both had entrepreneurial spirits, and could never really picture ourselves working a typical corporate job. And then the biggest reason is that it is so fun. When we first started DJing and producing, it was obviously just a hobby, but as we kept improving and as cooler opportunities kept happening, the thought of being able to do our favorite hobby as a full-time career was suddenly a reality— and that was something that excited us more than anything in the world.
What software did you start out on?
When we first started back in 2011, we thought we would be primarily hip-hop producers, but that did not last very long haha. So based off what we were reading in online forums, we chose to go with ProTools, which definitely has a combination of advantages and disadvantages, but it’s not something you’ll typically hear from most electronic dance music producers. But it’s just one of those things where we started with it, got super comfortable with it, and now it’s just our go-to program for the past five years. With that said, the glitches and lags in ProTools are getting a little bit too frustrating and inefficient. We are currently undergoing some really cool studio renovations, and after that’s all done, we may switch over to Logic.
If you were a new producer today, with no music knowledge or following, outline your schedule and tools you would use in your first year to have the biggest impact on the music industry.
I know this might not sound too fun, but if you’re only looking at the first year, I would probably get in the mindset that you’re not gonna have any releases for the entire year, and you need to be comfortable with that. That first year should be learn, learn, learn, practice, practice, practice, create, create, create. And when we say create, we mean for yourself, not for potential fans just yet. Let those potential fans wait until you have polished your skills to the point where you can make a truly awesome first impression. Learn some basic music theory, watch tutorials on YouTube until your eyes bleed, find a DAW that’s right for you, and then just dive in. Experiment, make mistakes, learn how to fix those mistakes, try to finish some projects all the way through so you get familiar with all the stages of production, and just stay committed. You gotta have patience and you gotta have dedication.
Take us through your creative process. Do you have any rituals?
Our creative process is honestly super different each time. Sometimes we’ll start with just a chord progression, and we’ll start writing a vocal topline over it before we really start to produce it out at all. Other times it’ll be the opposite, and we’ll have an almost-full instrumental draft, and wait until then to start writing & recording vocals. We’re also relatively slow producers compared to a lot of other producers that we’ve met or that we’re friends with (we like to think of it as patience haha), and we also prefer not having to juggle a lot of projects all at once. However, if something inspires us or a new idea for a song pops into our head, we’ll immediately drop everything we’re doing and make sure to get that down.
What’s your favorite sample pack? Do you synthesize your own sounds?
This is a hard one. Some companies we use all the time are Cymatics, Vengeance, and so many more. Over the last year, we’ve made a folder called BEST that basically is a combo of samples we have made/altered/found over the last four years, so honestly we don’t even know where samples come from anymore. It makes you a way faster producer having organized samples. We probably take 80% of our samples from this folder and know exactly what we are looking for before we even go at it. Here is our organization method. It gets super specific in some sub folders.
In terms of sounds, for samples we often make some dope combo of samples in one track and bounce it out. For synth sounds we definitely make a lot of them but rarely save them for some reason. Often will start with a preset too and mess with it. Definitely want to get more into sound design though.
Do you need to be in the studio to produce?
Not an absolutely necessity, but it makes it so much easier. Both in terms of physically having all our equipment that we use and also just being in a space that’s conducive to creativity and productivity. We’ve had to produce in the car while on road trips and it is definitely not an easy task haha— probably because we’re not in some big, roomy tour bus with all the proper wiring, we’re just in our trusty ol’ Honda Civic.
Who are your biggest inspirations?
I think it changes all the time. One moment we will be inspired by Galantis‘ songwriting, another Audien’s top-notch production, and a day later Don Diablo’s chord progressions. We always try to pick up on what we love about other people’s music and create our own spin on it.
What have been your top three musical accomplishments?
- Hearing our first song on the radio: our remix of Lana Del Rey’s “Born To Die” on Sirius XM rotation. It was huge for us.
- Booking a full tour this spring/summer.
- Getting support from so many of the guys we look up to—hard to really pinpoint a particular moment on that front.
What genres define you?
We hate using the word ‘define’ haha, because we, like many other producers we know, don’t like getting boxed into only one sphere. But I guess as of lately, we’ve been pushing our ‘Soul House’ sound, which is a fusion of different elements from progressive house, deep house, lots of piano, and lots of other acoustic elements and live instruments. With that being said, some of the stuff we are currently working on is nowhere near that sound, and we’re experimenting with a lot of different tempos and vibes which has been really fun and refreshing. I guess we eventually just want our genre to be ‘music’.
What are your favorite plugins to use?
Instrument-wise we use a lot of Sylenth right now, simply because we are most comfortable translating the sound in our head to the plug-in. With that said we use a few awesome piano plug-ins like Minigrand (Protools plug-in, sorry!) and Nexus for certain layers. We’re starting to experiment with Serum as well, and have used Massive a bunch more recently too. If computer power was a non-issue, Omnisphere would probably be one of our most-used as well. Effects-wise, I think FabFilter is on top of the game with usability. The weirder Waves plug ins are dope too, just got to know how to use them right. For reverb we usually go back to Valhalla Room time after time, and for delay we love H-Delay from Waves.
Do you have any advice on promoting music?
The music always has to be the #1 thing, simple as that. There are definitely smart strategies for various platforms, and it’s important to surround yourself with the right team and to network to the right people, but at the end of the day, if the music is not the #1 priority and the thing that you devote yourself to the most, then first of all, you’re probably in it for the wrong reasons, and second of all, you are fighting an uphill battle. Again, we’re not saying you shouldn’t put effort into promotion, but if the music gets better and if it’s unique, then you’ll 100% notice more organic exposure, which can often be the best type. And over time you will gain instincts on the flavor-of-the-week promotion tool (which is key and ever-changing).
What producers have impressed you the most in the last year?
What’s your favorite set you’ve ever played?
I think we’d go with one we did in San Francisco recently at Ruby Skye. We played there as an opener a couple years ago, and then we got invited back as the headliners and filled the place up to the max. The energy in there was insanely awesome from start to finish. And it was a pretty cool way of seeing how hard we’ve worked and how much progress we’ve made over the last few years. And the cool part is, we know we are still just getting started!
Keep up with Two Friends here.