Dads On Display are young, talented, from DC, and (for now) giving it away for free!
Dads on Display have been blowing up as of late and we recently found out that they are from the DC area, so we thought it would be interesting to find out some information about this musical duo. Musically they produce songs that are funky with a bit of hip hop, boogie, glitch and dub-step all mixed together. Some people call the genre Ghetto Funk, but we think their music is much more intelligent than that, as they shy away from overused samples and “bro-step” elements, and focus on adding more depth and melody in their songs. They are currently attending college and out of the area, so we conducted this interview via email. Please be sure to check out the free downloads after the interview.
Rusty B.: First off how old are you and where do you currently live?
Tony: We’re both 18 right now and live about a block away from each other in the suburb of D.C. known as Silver Spring. Hop on the metro and you can go just about anywhere in the DMV. Absolutely love it here.
Rusty B.: What are you currently studying in college?
Tony: I started off as a music composition major but dropped it within the first week of classes. I wanted to write jazz but all my professor would talk about was serialist music and other nonsense (well, nonsense to me anyways). I switched to marketing because I figured it was easy and I’d have more time for the stuff I wanted to do. I was right about that, haha.
Jonah: Well, I started attending the University of Michigan this fall with the intention of studying composition and audio engineering at some point (through their well regarded music school). But as of late, I’ve just been trying out different things from Astronomy to Musicology. I’ll most likely end up studying music because that is the true love. That is what keeps us going and keeps the groove flowing.
Rusty B.: Can you tell me a bit about your musical background?
Tony: Absolutely. My grandma asked if I wanted to play guitar when I was five and I just sort of said “yes” without knowing what I was about to get myself into. I went off and on with the lessons like a light switch; I’d take them for a couple of years, get bored of that, and then start them up again. I even took lessons with Berta Rojas, who also lives in Silver Spring and is a really well respected classical guitarist (“really well respected” being a mammoth understatement). I took a music theory class my junior year of high school that really stirred the pot as well. I actually discovered electronic music through the game Dance Dance Revolution. My brother and I started playing it competitively and of course the music in that game is all disco, trance, eurobeat, house, drum and bass, breaks, and so much more. I started looking further into electronic music and discovered people like Squarepusher, Aphex Twin, and The Flashbulb. It was a humbling experience: seeing how much incredible music there is out there, and all produced with computers too. Soon after that I became addicted to chiptune music (music written in the style of retro video games, also called 8bit music). A lot of the guys writing these chiptunes were complete composition phenoms: absolute masters of harmony and melody. A lot of these tunes were particularly jazzy/funky and consequently got me into real jazz and funk from the 70s and 80s; stuff like George Benson and Stax Volt records became regular listening. It’s funny: I’d say 90% of my musicality came from writing chiptunes and copying what I heard. Needless to say 7th and 9th chords became my best friends.
Jonah: Both of us have fairly extensive musical backgrounds. I started learning basic keyboard theory in 1st grade until the end of 2nd grade but quit because I wasn’t vibing with my teacher. Same thing happened with my 3 year stint on the cello. Then I found guitar in 5th grade and have been playing seriously ever since. Both of us studied Jazz theory and classical guitar with top notch players in the DC area. Tony and I have really connected well musically because we both started out as serious guitarists whether it be shredding to melodic metal, playing wild jazz odysseys, or doing dual classical sets for fancy events. Now I spend a lot of my time teaching myself jazz piano and fooling around on the bass as well as guitar.
Rusty B.: Your sound is really polished for how young you are; what do you use for production?
Tony: Really? Awesome. I’ve never been super confident in my production abilities, but recently I’ve really noticed a significant improvement. I think that’s sort of how DOD came to be: something finally clicked and I was ready to make stuff public. I do pretty much everything in Renoise, which is a vastly underrated DAW. It’s not like Ableton or Logic in that it plays through your tune vertically as opposed to horizontally. Of course there are loads of other discrepancies, but let’s not go into those, haha. Jonah uses Logic, so I’ll have him whip up a riff or chord progression and then export the stems so I can work with them in Renoise, which is where the final product materializes. I’d say the main reason our sound is so polished is that I mix in mono and use a spectrometer. A spectrometer allows me to see frequencies in my mix that I can’t hear too well on my monitor (a Fostex 6301B). I just look at the frequencies of my master track and see where anything needs to be cut or boosted. It’s sort of like filling in the pieces to a puzzle: If I see a chunk missing at 200 hz, I look around for the right piece and fill it in. Also, I use high pass filters on every track to take out unnecessary low end; I mean, every track can use one. In addition to all of this, we try not to brick-wall limit our tracks to hell and back; just because it’s dance music doesn’t mean it has to be so loud. Besides, a club’s sound system handles modestly compressed tracks much better than over compressed ones. The drums have so much more clarity and punch when you leave a bit of room.
Rusty B.: What soft synths if any are you currently using?
Tony: Really the only one I’m using now is Zebra Computer Music Edition. It’s an incredibly simple yet versatile synth. I used to use it in conjunction with a bunch of third party effects, but now I make all of my basses inside the box. Jonah makes a lot of his sounds using the synths that come with Logic Pro and I have to admit I’m pretty envious of his synth brass collection, haha. Other than that and basses, pretty much all of the sounds are either me playing guitar or sample based. I don’t believe the hardware myth. Soft synths sound incredible these days. I mean, look at guys like Madeon and Porter Robinson; they’re doing everything inside their respective DAWs and they’re kicking all sorts of ass. Even some hardware junkies are starting to throw in their towels.
Rusty B.: What artists are you guys currently checking out?
Tony: Oh, man. Well, within the world of ghetto funk, the first name that pops into my head is Stickybuds. We saw his Ghetto Funk EP teaser on youtube awhile back and had it on repeat for days, so it’s especially awesome that he’s been supporting us. Shout-outs to both Father Funk and Defunk as well; they’re a couple of other new cats who are into the whole “giving tunes away for free” thing. My all time favorite producer (at least for the past few months) has been edIT of the Glitch Mob. His album Certified Air Raid Material has been so much more than just an inspiration; I use it as a model for all of our mix-downs and masters. I mean, what an incredibly well produced record. We still listen to tons of chiptune music too, so a big name there is FearOfDark. He’s got this one track called “Surfing On A Sine Wave.” My god, man: what a tune. “Riffage” from that still gets stuck in my head even years after first hearing it.
Rusty B.: Are you guys DJs as well, if so what do you DJ with (ie Turntables, CDJs, Serato et al)?
Tony: No, not yet. Hopefully we’ll be getting our feet wet with live shows and what-not this summer. To be honest, the whole thing seems a bit daunting. We don’t want to just hit “play” on a laptop, so we’ll have to find a way to keep things interesting and more like a performance. We’re both decent instrumentalists so undoubtedly we’ll be flaunting those skills as well.
Rusty B.: Where did the name Dads on Display come from?
Tony: My brother was watching this episode of Kid Jeopardy and there was this one really bizarrely worded question: something along the lines of “during the summer months, dads are on display doing this.” He made it a status on facebook and I just thought it was so weird that I jokingly made it the username for our soundcloud page. I feel like every artist says this about their name, but it “just sort of stuck.” I realize that’s a bit of a trite response.
Jonah, I noticed you have a side project that is more chill in nature. Can you let us know what that is about?
Jonah: Tony and I have been making music together for all of high school but have never officially collabed until now. Tony had his projects ranging from Mootz Music to Fuzzy Cuzzin while I just sat around and made weird hip hop beats. We both experimented with countless genres but now I think we can safely say everything is rooted in hip hop. That’s where Jonah Baseball comes in. All the beats I make, some with the help and input of Tony, go up on my Jonah Baseball page. I have handfuls of unfinished beats with influences from Xaphoon Jones to Nujabes that will be finished, mastered, and posted in the months to come. Just gotta juggle school and beats. Stay posted!
Rusty B.: I see your new song “We Back For Real (Featuring Clair G)” is getting some real love, how did you link up with Clair G?
Tony: We got really lucky with that hook-up. Claire G heard our tune “Sofa Talk,” and liked it so much that she threw a quick vocal-take over it and sent it to us over soundcloud. I was so impressed with her voice that I asked her if she would be interested in laying down a few verses on a new track of ours. Little did I know it would become so much more than just a few verses. She’s a real joy to work with and finished her part at speeds generally reserved for tachyons. In other words: damn quick!
Rusty B.: What are your plans for the future?
Tony: It’s quite simple, really: Keep on cranking out the tunes and (hopefully) start playing live shows. We’d love to travel to space too. Looks wicked.
Rusty B.: Finally, when your in the DC area, what are your favorite places to eat at?
Tony: The Parkway Deli has always been a favorite of ours; it’s a Jewish deli just off of East West and Sundale that has this insane mac and cheese. The Quarry House in Silver Spring is a bit of a best kept secret; it’s this burger joint that’s underground and has no windows, making it really dark and consequently giving it a great atmosphere. The place doesn’t even have a sign, and yet it gets packed in there. Half-off burger night is Monday, so I’d definitely hit it up then. I’m just waiting for someone to tell me that the reason they’re half off is because they’re a few days old and have been dropped on the floor. When I’m feeling particularly classy I hit up 7-11 $1.99 for a bag of mini-donuts? I mean come on.
Jonah: Yeah. The Deli has always been a crucial staple of our diet. I also thoroughly enjoy Thai food. Silver Spring Thai is killer. The DC’s classic Ben’s Chili Bowl always does me well too. I love food. I’m a huge foodie. Always have been, always will be.