INTERVIEW: Man & Woman

Known for their feel good, breezy aesthetic during live sets and upbeat production style, Man & Woman – aka Patrick Gordy and Rachel Wong – has had a phenomenal 2014. From opening for artists like Duke Dumont to their ultra smooth jam “Do It Right,” it looks like nothing but a bright future for the DC nudisco duo. Just recently I got to sit down with them to discuss their inspirations, their approach to production, and “sunset house.” These were some of the highlights of the interview.

How did you guys start collaborating? When did it start?

Rachel Wong: We’ve been collaborating for about a year. I started producing on my own, just as a side project, and I came to the point where I wanted to try to DJ. I actually just sent a bunch of emails out to local DJs to ask if I could try to DJ for the first time just to see what it was like. I didn’t have any intentions of actually continuing it. But Patrick actually responded to me and let me DJ for the first time at a local bar called Dodge City and it was such an amazing time. It was a Friday night and my parents were there – not for that reason but they ended up being there – it was a fun experience and I was hooked. Since then, most of my gigs are still with Patrick. […] We get along really well and our music styles blend together very well. So we decided to start working on music together, too, since we have the same preference for nudisco and indie dance. Now it’s been almost a year.

The man is silent.

Patrick Gordy: Yeah. I’ve been DJing in DC for a very long time. Probably 10 years, if not more. And I have a lot of regular gigs like 18th Street Lounge and Motown Mondays at Den of Thieves. And then, also, we’ve played U Street Music Hall a bunch of times. I was playing there before we met as DJ Provoke, which I still am, but yeah. I’ve been a record fiend for a long time. I have thousands and thousands of records. It kind of takes over my entire house.

RW: It’s a good balance though. For me, I’m a little bit newer into the scene, so he educates me on a lot of things I should probably know about music wise. It works well.

PG: I mean, I was buying psychedelic 60’s records. They’re my big genre. Like, old Brazilian music. I’ve been buying 60’s and 70’s funk and disco. Now, I’m more into modern soul. Because I spin at Showtime, too, which is all records.

Actually, I was going to bring up your history as a record enthusiast because we’ve talked about records before. How does your record collecting inform your choices – and also your choices together – as artists? 

PG: The first song [we did together] we sampled this 90’s R&B record. I had never heard it before and had just gotten it. We sampled the vocals from that track. So, we pull stuff like that when we can. The second thing we were working on, we sampled this really cool disco record, but that’s a backburner track for right now.

You have tracks that are coming out in the future that you’re working on.

RW: Yeah. Really soon.

The creative process – any DJ or producer can attest to this – can be a pain in the ass a lot of the time. For you guys, what does it normally entail? How do you guys go about using the resources at hand to make something fresh and new for an audience that’s craving fresh, new stuff?

RW: I think our process, when we start, we’ll start off with some vocals. I find some vocals that are really catchy for the both of us. Since we have some very similar tastes in music, it’s not too hard to find something we both agree on. Starting there, with my background in classical piano, we usually come up with the general sound of the track. And then working together, we find the right tempo and percussion. With Patrick’s experience as a DJ, he is able to get into the more technical components of it and, with his ear, know where to break things apart and arrange things for the track. So, since we’re both putting things into it, it really helps with the efficiency of making the song. […] Most producers are working on their own. So, when you’re working with a partner, you have to accept recommendations or constructive criticisms.

PG: Or straight up, “I don’t like that.” Or, “That doesn’t sound right.”

RW: And some people don’t like hearing that because it’s their own work. So we work really well together in terms of telling each other that we don’t like the way something sounds or we would like to do something differently.

So, obviously there’s a lot of musical knowledge between you two. When it comes to producing, what causes the instant spark from your mental catalog that makes you go, “We should try this”?

RW: We try a lot out. We’ll have a track that we’ve been working on and we don’t really find the right sound that clicks, we fiddle around. Like the Keljet remix. We had actually made the whole track and wanted to figure out vocals and somehow, we just went, “Let’s try the Keljet and Avan Lava vocals,” and it fit perfectly. The key fit. The sound fit.

PG: And the basic song was already made. And somehow it was perfect.

RW: We had made the instrumental and we hadn’t planned on using their vocals on there.

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And that’s a big track. It has that summery, deep, groovy vibe.

RW: We made that one during the summertime. So, we wanted to show people our array of abilities to produce something that’s more on the dance-y side of things versus the more tropical, nudisco type of thing.

I mean, tropical house is huge right now.

PG: Yeah. “Sunset house.”

That should be the new hashtag. Sunset house. “The new Thomas Jack ‘Sunset house’ remix.” 

RW: I know, right.

When it comes to your sets, they’re very diverse. You play tropical house, deep house, indie dance. When you open up for a big name artist – and you have to keep things tight and concise – where do you guys come to an understanding in regards to loving a track, but deciding not to play it? How do you make your cuts? 

PG: [Before Duke Dumont] We were having that for sure with one song I really like.

RW: Justin Faust?

PG: Yeah. “Slowing On” by Justin Faust. I freaking love that song so much. But with the set that would have made sense to play there, something about it just didn’t work. And I really wanted to hear it at U Hall because the sound’s so amazing. With the flow, and she said it and I agree with it, I still wanted to play it. She’ll do that, too.

RW: A lot of times I’ll be like, “I wanna play this!”

PG: And it might be a little poppy. Or sometimes there will be a song that’s too played out, or a version of that song, and I’ve heard it so much I’m just tired of it. Whereas she may not have heard it a lot.

RW: I’m more of a novice DJ. So I’ve learned a lot from Patrick in terms of what works and what doesn’t work. And for the most part, I pick things up pretty quickly. So we’re able to not go overboard during our sets.

When you’re opening up for someone like Duke Dumont, he obviously has a very specific sound. But do you guys ever worry about playing a song in your set that the person after you is going to play?

PG: It’s happened before.

RW: Not with us though.

PG: Not with us.

RW: But, like, vocally you heard it?

PG: I think the first time I opened for Tensnake just by myself, I played a song that he winded up playing. But we kind of knew Duke Dumont was gonna be way more high energy and kind of faster.

RW: We wanted to bring some energy, but not overdo it.

PG: Good vocals, happy music.

RW: And I know we were opening, but we also wanted to be Man & Woman. We wanted to play stuff that was us. So finding that in-between to not go beyond our limits as an opener, but also keeping our style, that was important.

So, in that case, you didn’t have to worry about playing Ten Walls’ “Walking With Elephants.”

PG: What we’ll do is the songs that have ideas that we like we will come together and be like, “Okay. These songs.” And we’ll go through them and ask each other if they make sense. No… not really… yeah. And that’s how we make every mix, every DJ set.

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Does Washington, D.C. inform your sound in any way whether it’s the sets you play or how you produce?

PG: I think so. We’ve opened for and played with people like Jackson Ryland who’s a Virginia and DC guy. Great producer. He has Silence in Metropolis which is a DC label. So we see them play a lot at Flash. […] Obviously, you other DJs and there’s a similar style around here. But, deep house is pretty much what the majority of people are playing and there’s some minimal house, too. There are a lot of techno people which, we don’t play a lot of that genre, but I really like. A lot of tech house. Straight techno, too.

In the U Hall family alone you have Chris Nitti and Lisa Frank. And they’re rocking the techno scene right now. 

PG: Yes, of course.

RW: It’s good. DC has a really great, huge variety of artists and different genres and performers which is really nice. It’s not just one area.

In indie dance, there seems to be this feeling of free floating then falling and then levitating again which I would document as catharsis in music. Is catharsis a theme you would consider prominent in your sets?

PG: Feel good is –.

RW: What we go for.

PG: It’s cathartic, obviously. And that’s pretty much what we’re going for is positive and happy.

RW: That’s ’cause it’s what we like. We like to play positive, happy music that makes people smile and want to dance.

So Marilyn Manson will never be something…

RW: Probably not.

In the future, obviously, you have new stuff coming out. Can we be expecting something along the lines of an EP?

RW: I think that’s definitely something that’s on our list of to-do’s for 2015. I think right now we’re just focusing on putting a couple more mixes out since the year is coming to an end. We want to put out at least one new song which will hopefully be in the next month that hopefully we’ll be able to play out when we open for SNBRN at Malmaison the night before Thanksgiving.

If you want to listen to the full audio interview with Man & Woman, please visit the Blisspop SoundCloud page or listen below after the jump.

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