Electronic dance music is increasingly becoming the property of youth. The global craze for EDM in the last handful of years has encouraged many aspiring teenagers to dabble in electronic production.
Hailing from Santa Barbara in California, boy-girl team Ethan Davis and Josie Martin form EDM upstarts Candyland. The pair got its breakthrough in 2011 after winning back-to-back remix competitions on internet music store Beatport. They were still teenagers at the time, so it’s easy to class Candyland as yet another young act hopping on the EDM express, destination mainstream. However, Martin says the scene wasn’t so fashionable at the project’s inception.
“When we started there wasn’t really anyone doing it and then two or three months after we got into it, everyone was doing it. It kind of became the thing people want to do and people want to listen to. There’s people that definitely love the music, but I’d say for some people it’s kind of a fad.”
Candyland’s intentions may be pure, but when they did those initial remixes they weren’t exactly experienced DJs. In fact, prior to the competition victories, there was no distinct notion of a Candyland identity.
“We were more trying to fit in, rather than make a name for ourselves,” Davis says. “We wanted to latch onto what was hot at the moment and try to build off of that.”
“We were experimenting,” adds Martin. “Every single genre that came by, we tried it out – whether it was trap or dubstep.”
The winning remixes – of Skrillex and Bingo Players tracks respectively – went on to be Candyland’s first official releases. Subsequently, offers for DJ gigs came rushing in. It wasn’t long before the duo was travelling far and wide, playing festivals and club parties.
Musicians of all ages commonly struggle with the volatility of life on the road. Being thrust into a massive touring schedule at a young age inevitably posed a number of challenges for Candyland.
“When we started out we were teenagers and we were kind of in our wild phase,” Martin says. “It was kind of weird being thrown into all that, when everything’s just around you. But we’ve definitely grown up in the industry, so we’ve learned it. At first it was harder, but with maturity we’ve figured out what to do and what not to do on the road.
“You make friends with people who aren’t your friends and you do stupid things. But then you learn it and get used to it. At the end of the day it’s work. You’ve got to be professional and you’ve got to get the job done.”
“It’s definitely been unsettling at times,” agrees Davis, “but you definitely adapt.”
Candyland’s journey through the clubs of the world brings them down to Australia later this month. Their live show promises a party-oriented mix of trap, dubstep and house, thus evidencing their experimental origins.
“I think when we play live, Josie’s more of a DJ and I’m more of a hype man,” Davis says. “We definitely know our strengths and weaknesses and we try to stay in our own areas. [Being a duo] does help a lot, for sure. That gives us the opportunity to get better at what we’re good at.”
Amid ongoing tour commitments, Candyland have continued to issue regular remixes as well as dropping their debut originals EP, Bring The Rain, early last year. The stage show still revolves around a DJ set, but Davis says they’re gradually transitioning into a performance-oriented set-up.
“Basically right now the live show’s Josie DJing and me playing drums. Eventually we’re going to have more of where we put the songs together live – drums and guitar and stuff like that. It’ll be more like a band thing.”
This shift in approach will be properly introduced on a forthcoming debut album. Davis explains that the near-complete LP will be “ten songs of original music, [which is] going to be fairly different from any of the remixes that we’ve done. It’s definitely going to be more radio-friendly and more listener-friendly, versus just making a bunch of club bangers.”
Having largely made their name through toying with other people’s music, it seems natural that Candyland plan to use this first full-length to cast attention on what they’re uniquely capable of.
“When you play a huge track that someone else made it’s awesome, people go crazy,” Davis says. “But I’d way rather have people go off to our music that they heard on the radio and they really connected to the album. I think the music doesn’t need to have necessarily as much energy if the songwriting is really good and the actual song itself is written really well.”
Davis and Martin seem determined to separate themselves from the masses of indistinct EDM and dubstep hopefuls. Even so, Martin says the album material is “all music that you can dance to”, and despite the embrace of live instrumentation, it shouldn’t be regarded as a definitive statement.
“I think we’re always going to make remixes and club songs every now and then, but we’re definitely going to focus on being more of a band. I think we’re never going to be just stuck in one spot. If this sound doesn’t work well with us, who knows what will happen? We’re always changing.”