Indy Nyles goes deep. The Oakland-based artist has held a steady presence on Bay Area dancefloors and club stages, frequently performing his steadily evolving live set, rooted in acid techno, that just keeps getting better and better.
He’s got range, too, with spaced-out ambient and downtempo flavors under his belt. Local heads are taking notice — Indy Nyles’ debut 12″ is releasing soon on local label Sirena Negra, featuring four tracks that showcase his unique sound.
Nyles supplied the latest edition of the As You Like It podcast, a lush 90-minute live set that journeys through moods and sounds, all produced with two drum machines. (More on that below.) He’s making his live debut for AYLI this Friday, June 15, supporting Sandwell District don Function at Monarch. Don’t miss it — and read more about Nyles below.
CZ: Tell me about where you’re from. Are you California born-and-raised or did you make your way here from somewhere else?
IN: I was born in Christiansted, St. Croix, USVI [U.S. Virgin Islands], but lived in California my whole life. My Dad is from the Caribbean, specifically Trinidad, so I definitely still have strong island blood in me. I’m pretty much just from Oakland though. Spent loads of time in Oakland as a young kid with my folks and grandparents. My family moved down to Southern California for a while in ’97 and we were always up here for family stuff then I moved back to Oakland in 2009. Had a random stay in San Mateo for a year then planted myself back in Oakland for good in 2011. Never leaving again.
CZ: I’ve always appreciated how deeply connected you are with Oakland and the East Bay, and how much that informs your work and practice. What do you love about Oakland? Do you think the music you make would sound different if you lived elsewhere?
IN: My family started in Oakland so I will always have a strong connection with the Town. My parents both immigrated here around 1980, and then met at the McDonalds on 45th and Telegraph because they both worked the drive-thru together. My older brother was born at the Kaiser across from Mosswood Park so it’s pretty much the motherland to me. I like to think I write a sort of style that “comes from” Oakland. I’m always thinking about how I can bring something unique to the table that represents what I, as an artist, contribute to our music scene out here. Like if someone was just browsing and came across my profile and saw I’m from Oakland, I want them to feel intrigued thinking that other music that comes from here will appeal to them, too. We have so many killer artists that are Oakland natives — and even not native but came here knowing the vibes were right. I could go on forever about how much I love this place and what it means to me. A decent amount of my music actually includes field recordings of sounds around Oakland, so just in that way it’s a major influence, and I would definitely not be an electronic musician today if I didn’t live here, I don’t think. Moving back here was one of those things that was supposed to happen so I could start writing this music as a solo artist. At least that’s how I feel. Ya dig?
CZ: Are you a lifelong musician? Do you play “analog” instruments? What attracted you to electronic music to begin with, and when did you decide to start producing yourself?
IN: Music has been in my life for as long as I can remember. My mom recently told me I started playing piano and taking lessons when I was 3.5 years old. I thought it was 4. So 27 years in the game! Started playing guitar at 11. That was a milestone for me cuz I started playing in rock bands around then too. Played many other instruments along the way but I’ll leave that for another time. Pretty much been performing since I started playing piano too. My pops used to get me to jam on whatever piano was around whenever we went somewhere. He always put out a tip jar for me too, haha. I kinda hated it because I was always so nervous to play but those dollars as a kid came in handy.
These days I play a combo of analog and digital instruments and machines. I can’t afford to be one of those hardcore analog purists that has EVERYTHING analog but I do admire their dedication. Currently I’m jamming a few Dave Smith Instruments pieces that are all analog and my delay is analog. My 303 is digital even though Roland tries to market it as analog based which duh, everything is “analog based” — haha. And my Reverb and second drum machine are digital. Is that too nerdy of an answer?
Well, my pops got me to listen to Daft Punk for the first time as a kid. Loved the song “Around the World” and pretty much that whole album Homework. Since then I always felt kinship with electronic sounds but didn’t get into it heavily until around 2006-2007. I was brought up in the death metal and hardcore scene, playing guitar back then, so for some reason I eventually got into some epic trance stuff like ATB and Above & Beyond, haha. I then pretty quickly figured out I liked techno more and of course found the likes of Jeff Mills, Kevin Saunderson, Adam Beyer, you know…all the heaviest popular artists. Wasn’t much of a digger back then. Eventually found darker stuff from Europe as time went on. Anyways, my upbringing always had me in bands of at least 5 people so when I moved back to Oakland, I finally had the chance to be a solo artist. Took it and RAN WITH IT HARD after I realized I had the ability to do everything my own way and found a way to dive in deep with electronic music. It felt right. This was in 2009. Since then I’ve been investing all of my money into my studio and more gear and here we are!
CZ: You’re a consummate live performer. What’s your process like? Are your live performances improvisation-based, or do you find yourself planning and preparing your sets — or a bit of both?
IN: Oh bruh thanks so much… I just really love playing my machines. For one, I keep my Live setup the exact same while in the studio so I’m pretty much always in the performance-ready state. So no matter if I’m just writing new material or rehearsing, I’m always getting more familiar with my machines as a rig, rather than individually in a studio setting, since the setup is always the same. When I first started playing Live as Indy Nyles, I was definitely improvising every performance. I had some patches that I would revisit but never in the same combo with another patch. It worked back then because of the gear I was using. After some time and revamping my setup like a billion times, I started handwriting stuff in a notebook, which I’m sure peeps have seen me use lately. I kinda plan what songs I’m going to play in general but I don’t really make much of a set list. I need to have enough flexibility to read the crowd and feel what I need to play next and I can improvise how I’m going to transition into that next vibe. It comes from DJing for a few years prior to playing Live as I currently do. These days, I feel I’ve found my balance of improv and preparation. For y’all just starting to play Live, I suggest you improv as much as you can. Learn your instruments better than anything else you know how to do so you can think about it and make it happen fast so you don’t lose the idea. And love your instruments as part of your family, because they will return the love, no doubt.
CZ: And on that note, your AYLI podcast stands out from the pack — it’s a live recording of your own work, not a DJ set. Tell me about this set — how did it come together? Is it a jam session or a collection of individual tracks?
IN: Glad you’re diggin’ it. This set is a recording from the MORD Records showcase that my crew Direct to Earth hosted back in April. I was direct support for Uun, who was also performing Live. It was a big show, the only date other than their night in Detroit for the whole MORD Records 5 Year tour. I wanted to challenge myself and pretty much force myself to gain a deeper understanding of my drum machines. Obviously Techno is all about drums and percussion. I’ve been heavily listening to a ton of African music so I felt the need to get better at drums. Anyyways… the challenge was to perform a 90 minute set (my preferred set length) using only my 2 drum machines, and make it actually cohesive and proper. I wouldn’t call them individual tracks just yet, but maybe works in progress. So yeah — I guess it’s a Jam session then, ha. I had a blast though. I’ll definitely do it again one day. For now I still need all my synths.
CZ: What is your composition process? Where do your tracks begin — and how do you know when they’re finished? What sort of textures and grooves do you find yourself gravitating towards?
IN: Deep questions, man. Not even sure where to begin. I don’t think I have any one particular method or anything. I feel I come off as a space case sometimes, if anyone has noticed, and it’s because I always have some sort of music beat or melody, etc., stuck in my head, so my process usually starts there. Like I mentioned earlier, my gear is always set up in a performance-ready configuration so it’s easy for me to just power on and play. I needed it this way because once I have that gem of a acid riff or something I need to be able to put it down in the machines immediately, before I forget it and there goes my multi-platinum single… nah just playin’ ….but you know what I mean. Now that I have my little notebook, I scribble in some stuff like chords or patch references and keep building from there. Leave it for a few days, maybe work on other tracks or sounds, and come back to it. See if I still like it and if it has the same energy as when I first wrote it.
OH BOY, how do I know when a track is finished? ….that’s the golden question. Tracks are never finished — haha. There’s always something that can be added, or tweaked, or whatever. If you know you know….it’s the one thing that gets me all the time. I’m sort of figuring out a point where I start to loop around, and not really improve the music, so I guess that’s where I’ve been “finishing” tracks lately. I’m my own harshest critic, so the work is never done, ya dig? I like broken beats a lot and weird off-time syncopations with percussion. I try my best to create abnormal grooves that are still danceable. Maybe mix that with some weird toms and an arp to keep things driving. I play at a slower tempo than most techno, so my textures need to hold some energy so the music can feel fast and upbeat without needing to be at 140bpm… not that I don’t love me some 140bpm every now and then.
CZ: You’re just about to release your first 12”. Tell me how that came about — and tell me what’s next!
IN: Yoooo I’m so freaking excited about this release. YOU MIGHT HAVE AN IDEA HOW MUCH! You know, I wasn’t expecting it to happen in any way, but I wanted to make 2018 my year to make something happen, so I probably reeked of determination. A while back, my good friend, and very talented artist with impeccable taste in music, Soleil (aka Birds of Rhythm) told me I needed to meet Gonzo Manuel (aka Santo Sangre). She said we’d do dope things together, and boy was she right. I met Gonzo and we clicked immediately. He showed me some tracks, and I showed him some tracks. He mentions he’s trying to do a release and asked me to do a remix for him, and he’d put it out on vinyl. So came out as a ingle for Santo Sangre, called Quetzal, that had another remix from Slope114. It did really well and got some dope feedback. Then Gonzo came at me with “I want to release an EP by you on vinyl” … and I was all “BRO HELL YEAH!” Luckily, I had already written 3 of the tracks and was just starting to play them out in my Live sets. Not in their full glory — because they weren’t really finished yet — but now I had the incentive. Finished writing the third and wrote a fourth to fill it out. They made it super easy with everything, from the mixdown, to the press and had it all ready to go and all I had to do was submit my tunes. I can’t thank Gonzo and Miguel Solari enough for their belief in me and my tunes. It’s wild to have that much support. They hooked it up with a SICK video with visuals from Sophie Baker that are just bonkers.
As of today, I can’t say too much about what’s next, but I’m always writing new stuff so come catch me at one of my shows if you can and maybe look out for a special A/V thing?? Only time will tell…
CZ: What new music are you feeling lately? Any genre, any sound, whatever’s got you excited and inspired.
IN: Bruh, this one can go on for DAYS. So much music is out right now that’s blowing my mind. When Sampha’s Process came out, that gave me all the feels. Same with Solange, Seat at the Table and Caleborate, Real Person (Caleborate is from Berkeley, by the way). My boy Snuise from out here in San Francisco is crushing. His music is so wild. Also the homie SelimX is another cat coming up with some wild shit in the city….then there’s more recent artists like DJ Raph, Ethiopian Records, FKA Twigs, Kelela, Laurel Halo. Then there’s 2 Chainz, Kmru, and Actress’ new album LAGEOS. Alva Noto’s Unieqav is a killer album as well. I’ll round it out with the latest Blocks & Escher album called Something Blue. That one is a life giver. Shout out to all the Jungle heads. I could go on and there’s lots that I left out that I’m jamming constantly. Maybe i’ll make some playlists or something when I have time and share. Bunch of really good local stuff too from all the homies. Bay Area peeps are really doin’ it right now, it’s amazing!