Interviewed by Natasha Lenart and Fatima Hasan
Written by Natasha Lenart
Photography by Fatima Hasan
AYOO – pronounced “AYE-OH”
James and Eric Estrada (“AYOO”), brothers hailing from Chicago, have been hard at work this year! Their skillful utilization of heavy bass and house elements has landed them a reputation of being diverse, with a multi-genre sound. In addition to working on plenty of new music, they’ve recently performed at Spring Awakening Music Festival and supported revered artists like Delta Heavy, Taiki Nulight, Petey Clicks, and AC Slater in just this year alone. Stay tuned for more from them, I know we’re absolutely stoked to hear more originals and remixes by these two!
We had a chance to chat with Eric and James at Spring Awakening about their production background, performances, their involvement with Chicago’s Be Nice Collective, and much more. Read on for the full interview!
GMC: How did you like playing for The Good Music Collectiv’s third installment of Bass Bloom on May 10?
[Eric]: Well, the venue is literally 10 minutes away from our house! We were like, cool, we’ve always seen this club. When we saw Petey Clicks and MASTERIA on the lineup, we were really stoked. When we got there, the venue and people were awesome. I’d probably say it was the best experience of hospitality at a show in general.
[James]: When we walked in, even Bryan of Birthdayy Partyy was like, “Yo, this is f*cking dope!” I was like, “Man, this is cute, but damn, it’s dope.”
[Eric] What made it really sick too was everyone’s vibes. You didn’t have any part of the crowd that was just like standing there or isolated, everyone was synchronized, moving to the beat– everyone was involved with it. Which is great because, as a DJ, we want to make sure that we actually read the crowd correctly. For major festivals and shows we typically prepare beforehand, especially this festival. But usually at gigs we just free-play because we like to read from the crowd and match our energy with it, and they follow our energy. That way we can control the BPM as we go along, because the sounds and keys we play can progress from soft to hard.
[James] I feel like all DJs have their own go-to songs too. I know people know the words to a particular song, and it’s a dope remix, so I’m going to play that one. You can set yourself up for that during a set. Even today, we had a set list for Spring Awakening, like bass house and mid-tempo, but that doesn’t mean that we don’t go back into other folders and nit-pick a few different tracks. Like, all right, I’m going to play that one. Why? Because people know it, and when we played it in all of our other sets, it’s become a sort of go-to track. When we’re playing, we don’t want to play all our good material first. So, when I start playing some go-to songs in my other folders, I can still go back into my Spring Awakening playlist and still have like 15, 16 songs that I haven’t used.
[Eric] Getting back to the Bass Bloom show, like I said, it was great. The Good Music Collectiv had us and MASTERIA out, who’s also a great dude. It was awesome to play right before him again today!
GMC: When did you begin to produce music together?
[Eric] We like to base everything off of our father. He is actually a DJ, so that’s how we got involved in DJing. When we were kids, we’d go with him to his gigs like weddings, birthday parties, all those things. We’d help set up and, of course, eat for free. That’s the best part – and getting paid too. So we were allowed to DJ and toss out a mix when he’d have to run or go do something. We were also always around him at record stores too, so we were familiar with the music world. We started taking production seriously maybe like four years ago, but we’ve been DJing since we were little. That experience as kids gave us a feel of knowing what to play, and when to play it. Our dad would show us what music we’d need to play depending on whether the crowd was drinking or eating or dancing. Ever since then, we’ve known how to set the floor up at a show to get people moving. I mean, really, we’ve been doing this our whole lives. Our family is so big with music, and we’re continuing on their path. Our parents are here today actually, they’ve been coming to Spring Awakening since we started playing here in 2017! It’s great to have them come out and support us. We just want to maintain this positive energy and make sure everyone has a great time.
GMC: Do you guys have a favorite track that you like to play out? Either yours or somebody else’s? What’s your go-to?
[Eric] My favorite track right now is called Bang by Matroda, and he’s here today! I’m a big, big fan of his music.
[James] So, damn, okay- there’s a couple for different instances. Last year it was Sick by Dr. Fresch. That’s what I’d play when I’m like, “Ok, let’s turn this b*tch up.” This year we’ve been playing a lot of Tony Romera, his song Left is one of my favorites.
GMC: You guys are opening for Delta Heavy in few weeks. That’s crazy – it’s a totally different style of music than what you guys normally play. Are you going to drop a drum n’ bass set?!
[Eric] It is different, and that’s why it’s awesome! We’ve been thinking and talking about playing some dnb here and there, but it kind of depends on the placement of our slot. We have to make sure that we don’t go under or overboard and ensure the whole set flows together.
GMC: Totally, you really need to be able to read the crowd and be ready to change the energy quickly when playing a show that’s different from your usual genre.
[Eric] I feel like one show we did excellent with our flow was the first time we were direct support, which was for Taiki Nulight at Spy Bar!
GMC: As your music influence and popularity grows in Chicago, how are you going about breaking out of the local scene?
[James] Well, we’ve gotten so many opportunities, and more recently we’re hearing from bigger promoters asking us if we’re available for shows. It’s awesome that people are reaching out to us. Along with consistently producing music, we’re taking advice from other successful artists in the industry to push ourselves further.
GMC: What is the Be Nice Collective?
[Eric] The Be Nice Collective is a DJing and promotion company. We have an alias there called Oh Yeah to distinguish our house and bass music versus Top 40, rap, and hip-hop. We wanted to make a fine line between those two projects. We have a couple of other artists and friends that we work with and perform at events and parties out of state. We as a collective just want to push and bring a difference to Chicago and the local music industry. The scene right now is divided between rap, hip-hop, and electronic, but we want to make sure everyone is welcome. Clubs always limit their audience and are constantly judging others. At our parties, you come out as you are because we just want you to have a good time. We like to say, always remember to “be nice,” and that’s always our main goal.
GMC: We’ve heard it’s difficult to move forward in the industry if you don’t produce much of your own music, do you agree with that?
[Eric] Right now we’re looking to push more, and the process of pushing ourselves means doing a lot of production. I always tell people that production is really important. Mixing comes second in my opinion, because you want to learn how to make your own music and sound so you can define your own brand. Then you learn how to mix. As an artist, you need to make sure your music is different and you have something of your own.
GMC: DJing is important, but production defines who you are as a brand.
[James] It also helps to make sure you’re keeping up with your brand. Like, something we started doing is making tacos a part of our brand. We’re very proud of our race and ethnicity and we want to embrace that with AYOO. Recently, we had this taco lunch and Spring Awakening ticket giveaway. It was so cool to see people wanting to engage and do something more than just get free tickets. We love connecting with our fan base, and being able to connect our brand to our audience is so valuable.
GMC: What are your future goals and hopes for this project?
[James] We do work our regular 9-5 jobs now, but eventually the main goal is for music to be our full time careers. This year, our personal goals were to produce more tracks than last year, which we’ve already done. Another mini-goal that we set this year was to have 5 tracks before Spring Awakening, and now by the end of the year we really want to double the number of tracks we’ve produced as well as get booked out of state.
[Eric] Another goal is definitely to get on record labels right now. We want to make sure that people listen to our music. As we reach out to labels and network ourselves, we’ll meet managers, public relations people, and be introduced to others who can help us progress. Those same resources can help us go from a local opener to direct support to headliner.
GMC: Are there any finals thoughts or comments you’d like to add before we wrap this up?!
[Eric] Thank you guys for interviewing us and bringing us out to play with Petey Clicks and MASTERIA in May! It was so much fun. Big shout out to Jeff aka Xonic and Birthdayy Partyy for everything. They’ve showed us the ropes and helped us out so much. Also shoutout to React for giving us the opportunity to play here!
[James] It’s just all about consistency, being patient, and being persistent. As long as you’re making music and have some product to show for your work, things will come together as an artist.
We want to give a big thank you to Eric and James for sitting down with us. We at The Good Music Collectiv are so happy to get to work with such amazing artists and creatives, it was truly a pleasure. Check out their socials linked below for new music, updates, and show announcements!
Connect with AYOO: