JamFeed recently sat down with Brian Gustafson and Deniz Baykal of Blunt Force, one of Austin’s hottest up and coming electronic duos. The two 24 year olds jumped on the music scene quickly after meeting at St. Edwards University in Austin and have already opened for well-known acts such as Savoy, The Floozies, Opiuo & Sunsquabi.
After spending an hour with them, these guys not only impressed me with their music, but also their personalities and overall passion for what they do. They are approaching one of the most exciting times in their career, including their fourth year performing at Euphoria Music Festival, a multi-state tour with Bass Physics, and some new singles being announced amid all the traveling.
Even with all the excitement, these guys remain humble and very determined to network their way to the top of the electronic music scene by giving their music away for free and getting people to support them through tours and merch like many of their idols. The next 30-60 days could be some of the best months yet for Blunt Force, and you can guarantee they are going to have one hell of a time on this ride.
Where did you guys meet? And how did your musical career begin together as Blunt Force?
Deniz: We actually met in Austin. We both went to St. Edward’s University and had some mutual friends that introduced us. My girlfriend at the time was friends with his roommate, and they were like “Hey, y’all both make music, y’all should meet.” And we ended up getting this place to jam because we really had nowhere outside the dorms to chill and make music.
Brian: Yeah, I was making house music at the time, complete opposite end of the spectrum, and Deniz was making some shitty dubstep.
Where does your funk influence come from?
Brian: So I first started Blunt Force by myself. It was just me, and then I asked Deniz to come on board later. Like I said, I was making house music at the time because I had just gotten into electronic music. Then I went to my first camping festival, Electric Forest, and was lucky enough to catch Big Grizmatik (live trio of GRiZ, Big Gigantic, and Gramatik). I was definitely a fan, but not a die-hard fan at the time, and I was absolutely blown away. I had a full house music EP ready to go at the time, and I had a complete change of heart because of my experience at Electric Forest. This led me into all of that old-school funk, like Parliament Funkadalic, and then some newer funk bands like Lettuce, and The Motet, and I just loved the groove. Then when Deniz came on board full-time, you could hear our sound start to from to more of a mix of funk, glitch hop, and something a bit darker and heavier.
How did you guys come up with the name ‘Blunt Force’?
Brian: I was in a pretty crappy reggae band in high school. We played maybe two or three shows. I wouldn’t even call it a band really… more like a collection of friends just being idiots and thinking we were Slightly Stoopid.
How old were you when you got into producing music?
Deniz: I was playing drums in high school, for this punk rock band. We were just like some white boys getting drunk and thinking we were the shit. [Laughs]
Brian: Yeah, you guys were probably way better than we were back then. [Laughs]
Deniz: We played some different shows in Austin and San Antonio and then we kind of all just went our separate ways. I went to Nocturnal Fest my senior year without telling my parents. I just like left. It was incredible! I miss it. That festival was amazing. The first year was the best, with the upside-down stage. That was when all the big dudes we know now, like The Untouchables, Bassnectar, and Zeds Dead, were on the come up. That’s when it all just came together for me. Pretty Lights and Zeds Dead were when I realized that I like the heavy stuff, for sure, but also that funk/soul sound with it.
Do you guys plan to continue living in Austin?
Brian: For the unforeseeable future, yeah. We’ve been here about 5 years and both have jobs here now.
Deniz: I’d really like to move, though. I mean I love this city, but I also want to just try something new.
Brian: Yeah, definitely. But we have no plans to go anywhere yet.
Deniz: Yeah, nothing in particular. I just want to see something new.
I’ve seen you guys open for Sunsquabi at Stubb’s Indoor, and also the Floozies. How did you get connected with All Good Records crew?
Brian: Our booking agent, Kevin Woods, was good friends with Kevin and Chris from Sunsquabi, and I remember him introducing us when the guys came down to play a show here in Austin. A few months later, I had a few dates lined up in Colorado and Kevin had the idea to ask Chris [from Sunsquabi] to play drums with me for a few of the dates. That kind of got our foot in the door with the Squab boys. Then we all became good friends, and I think they came back down and we played another show with them at Holy Mountain. Eventually, they reached out to us about playing support for them on a few dates on their Odyssey Tour and we were like “alright, let’s do it!”.
Are you guys looking to sign to a label like All Good Records or something similar? Or are you trying to stay independent?
Deniz: There are a couple out there that we would definitely get on board with.
Brian: That’s true, but I think we are both have the same kind of overall view that we want to give our music away for free and make our money off touring, merch, all that kind of stuff.
Deniz: Absolutely. You make that music for your ears obviously, but it’s also meant for others to listen to. You want it to be in people’s ears and not have to be like “shit, I don’t have another dollar or two to buy this music”.
Brian: Exactly. If you want this song on your iPod, then I want you to be able to have it on there no matter what. That’s the way we have seen GRiZ and Gramatik do it, and it works.
Deniz: That’s a big difference in the way we started. For example, last year we didn’t have any new music besides Dreamer. We went out on tour and just played before making anything, and people loved it. We just kind of did it backwards. Most people put out an album and then tour, and we were just like “fuck it, lets just go and do it”.
Brian: We already had some music, but it was just from a while ago, ya know?
Deniz: Yeah, but now it’s time to put out some new music. We have two new singles coming out in the next month that we’re really excited about.
Who all is a regular part of the Blunt Force team outside of you two?
Brian: There’s three of us. Our manager Kevin Woods, and us. We’ve been doing all the managerial stuff on our own, but we are starting to get to the point where we can’t do it as well. We may be making some changes sometime soon.
Deniz: We are kind of diminishing the amount of time we could be working on music when we have to handle all this stuff, on top of working full-time jobs. Hopefully that will change soon. We can feel it coming.
You guys are about to start a tour with Bass Physics, right?
Brian: We actually met him at Euphoria on the Thursday night pre-party. We’ve always been a fan of his music, with that hip-hop sound. He played right after us, and we ended up just talking back stage afterwards. His manager came up to us after our set and said he really liked our show and that maybe we could find a way to tour together. It’s funny that was only just an idea over a year ago and we just played our first few dates of the tour.
Deniz: Yeah, we just kicked it off this past weekend with 2 dates in Arkansas, and 1 in Dallas. Then we come back for Euphoria, and then head back out on tour starting out in Colorado. We’ll play around 16 shows till the 29th of April. We get to play some places we’ve never played before, so that is definitely exciting.
Brian: We’ve only done one other tour and it was mostly the Southeast, so we are excited to hit the Midwest with cities like Chicago, St Louis, Kansas City, and some other awesome cities.
And you guys are playing Euphoria again this year. How many times have you played Euphoria Fest?
Brian: This will be number four. Euphoria has become like a second-home to us and we couldn’t be any more thankful for the opportunities they’ve given us over the past few years. Each year always finds a way to top the year before. You could say we’re pretty excited for our set there this weekend.
Are you guys going to be releasing your new music as singles, an EP, or what?
Deniz: They will be singles. It’s looking like two new singles in the next month. We’re really excited to share what we’ve been working on with everyone.
What other artists / type of music do you listen to for inspiration or when you aren’t working on your own music?
Deniz: I think Zed’s Dead is a big one for me. Obviously Pretty Lights and Gramatik have been a huge inspiration, as well. I grew up on a lot of indie and punk rock… like Blink 182. I actually just saw them last week in Austin, and Travis Barker is my true inspiration- my number one right there. He is a true robot. [Laughs]
Brian: I actually listen to a lot of Reggae music. Obviously, I love a lot of other types of music, but I honestly listen to reggae music more than electronic music when I’m just hanging out. I love that white boy reggae music like Sublime and Slightly Stoopid.
What is the coolest / wildest crowd you’ve ever played in front of?
Deniz: I think Opiuo was pretty sick. It was a two years ago at Empire Control Room, the show was completely sold out. I think capacity there is something like 1100. It was incredible. Hands down one of the best shows we’ve ever played to date.
Brian: I would say mine would be the Euphoria Denali show in Alaska. It was during the summer solstice and our set was at like 11pm and it was still fully light outside. It was the coolest experience just because it was so beautiful out there. They had the old bus from Into The Wild right next to the stage. It was amazing!
What software do you produce your music on? Have you always used it?
Brian: Ableton Live.
Deniz: Yeah, Ableton. I’m a huge fan of Native Instruments’ Massive VST as well. It just is so powerful and can create some of the fatter, beefier sound that I like, and it’s super intuitive. It’s my go-to.
So you guys both produce?
Brian: Yeah, but when we first started off it was more of Deniz just playing drums for me, and I was making more of the production decisions since I had started Blunt Force before he came in. But you can definitely see a difference in our sound and our live sets when Deniz came on-board as a contributing member of the group. Once Deniz came in, we kept the funk and hip hop sounds in there, but it definitely got a little heavier.
What advice would you give to an aspiring musician on the grind to make it big?
Deniz: To keep going to shows, keep listening to music, and stay inspired. Going out to shows is like therapy, and that’s where all the creative ideas flow. There’s always the cliché of saying “just keep at it, keep going, work hard”, but I really think that going to shows and seeing live music is what really gives you the inspiration to say “I can do that, and I’ve gotta keep learning and working on this”. In my opinion, live music makes you want to go home right away and just start making more music.
Brian: I would say once you start trying to make your own music, that seeing something through and finishing a project is huge. Because, just like anyone else who creates music, I have a ton of unfinished projects on my computer. I’ve realized that managing my work-flow and understanding that I need to do X,Y,and Z to finish this project. Once you get that feeling of completion, you’re like, “oh damn, I can do this”! And I feel like that’s the most important thing to keep your motivation and creativity flowing as an artist.
Deniz: Honestly, when it comes to production, it’s a lot of trial and error. When you are teaching yourself and you get stuck on something, don’t scrap it- save it. Just put it somewhere for later and start something new. There was a big writer’s block point in my life where I would start something and just throw it away because I didn’t like it. You have to just keep creating, and you can come back to projects and finish them.
Brian: Some days are tough, and then other days the music just comes out and you pump out a whole song in a single day. Those are the best. Those songs are the ones that are the most fluid in terms of composition, and you don’t feel like you’re forcing anything.
Deniz: Absolutely. And learn from artists who share the production techniques online. Artists like illGates and Slynk. Watch their videos, tutorials, see what they’re doing with their business, their marketing, etc.
Brian: When you’re coming up in the music scene, you think it’s you against everyone else and that there’s this big competition. But that’s not how it actually works. Everybody is in this together, and if you network with other musicians and artists I think that is your best way to succeed.