With about a month to spare, NYC’s Walker & Royce, aka Sam Walker and Gavin Royce, are back with their single of the year. Inspired by everything house and disco, “Need2Freek” swings from the rafters with house-centric flavor.
Returning to Claude Von Strokes’ legendary Dirtybird record label, “Need2Freek” can be played no matter the time or place. It’s light enough to close a set, heavy enough to play in the middle, and has a sufficient amount of groove to kick off the party, or in these times, dancing in our makeshift bedroom raves. Think: head-bobbing claps and hi-hats, British vocal samples, euphoric, springy synths straight out of the ‘80s, and bouncy baselines since this is Dirtybird after all.
From penicillin to the humble slinky, there is nothing wrong with letting your accidents redefine the project—a mindset Walker & Royce wholeheartedly endorse since the two formed in 2011 and produced their debut album, Self Help, in 2017. When it comes to producing, the duo dubs these often annoying deadends “happy accidents,” preferring to experiment in the studio until they uncover the next new sound to include in their discography. It may also help explain why the duo’s genre-blending has been played large and wide by Sasha, Adam Beyer, Maceo Plex, and Loco Dice. It carries a higher risk, but the rewards are great—let “Need2Freek” be the shining example this time around.
Like most artists, 2020 has been the year of adapting without festivals or clubs. Walker & Royce have been busy in the studio remixing Channel Tres’ single, “Controller.” Before the pandemic, but even more apparent, Walker & Royce have been keeping up with their Insomniac residency via their radio show, Rules Don’t Apply, as well as their collaborative Twitch channel, GOOD TV.
Noiseporn happily introduces Walker & Royce:
Let’s talk about “Need2Freek.” What was the process of making it? I enjoy the collage feel to it. It feels like there are so many layers and sounds going on.
Sam: Once the main pad was in there the whole track came together pretty quick. We don’t have a lot of chord progressions in our tracks so this was a little new. We wanted it to be a bit sad but hopeful at the same time.
Gavin: Initially we thought we would write a big dancefloor record with this vocal but the mood of the year sort of took control but we are super happy about it. It’s a long journey just like 2020 has been.
I hear you two prefer to improvise in the studio. I think there aren’t enough DJs who take this approach. Mind talking about why it works for you two? How do you know when a track is complete?
Sam: I don’t think it’s actually possible to take an idea in my head and make it real. It’s always a game of auditioning sounds and results. I take little sounds I like and put them into the track to fill it out. Sometimes that’s all a track is. And a track is done when the to-do list in my head is empty.
Gavin: It’s all about the happy accidents, the best stuff comes out of experimentation. I think knowing when a track is finished is something we’ve gotten better at, it came with experience for us. We don’t have the same taste in all music but we both know what we want our music to be so we are usually in agreement when it comes to a track being done.
You two have been featured on so many different labels, and DJs of all different styles play your music. Why do you think your sound is so appealing to so many different outlets and people?
Sam: Honestly, I have no idea. All I can say is we try to have an open mind sonically while also trying to keep things somewhere people can latch onto.
Gavin: We purposely make music that will attract all sorts of people. People have told me a few times that they didn’t like House Music until they listened to us which is the nicest compliment we could receive. It might have to do with us having different musical influences. I was also an open format DJ for years in NYC.
Rules Don’t Apply is gaining more and more traction. What was the idea behind the radio show?
Gavin: RDA Radio and now our weekly Wednesday night RDA show on GoodTV are so much fun for me. It gives us the chance to showcase all sorts of music that we may not always play in our sets, especially festival sets. I am a DJ first and foremost so this is us really accessing that. It’s a lot of fun and I’m glad the audience is growing all the time.
I’d love to hear the story behind remixing “Controller.”
Sam: The original track is so good. it was the right tempo for a remix/edit. And the line “throw some sub on that bitch” was begging for it to actually happen.
Gavin: That was a complete bootleg, the vocal was so cool we initially wanted it to open our sets up. Then it turned into this track everyone loves but the label didn’t want to release it initially, so the legend just grew. It was all we were asked about for a while and Channel kept being asked too. We agreed to release and now all the proceeds go to charity.
Besides producing great music, what else have you two been up to in this strange new normal?
Sam: Spending lots of time with the family, learning how to save money, lmao.
Gavin: I started exercising and lost a little weight then I stopped and gained it all back. Now I’m trying to lose it again… I have also done a lot of laundry.
More importantly, how is morale feeling? We are not that far off from approaching a year without festivals or bonafide shows. It must be rough in that sense.
Sam: Yeah honestly not good. It’s really hard to write music that’s missing the proper outlet to be heard in. Compounding the problem is that creativity is fed by social friction. So without being able to go out and see people, have our ideas challenged, and respond to that, it’s really tough getting inspired. No amount of shift in my own personal attitude will overcome that deficit. So we’re all waiting for a definitive end to this hell.
Gavin: I’m feeling more and more optimistic now there are some vaccines on the way. It has been an emotional roller coaster of a year that I don’t think is over, but it’s close. It has been hard for so many reasons but I think we will all come out stronger.
If I am correct, there was about a six-year gap between forming Walker & Royce and Self Help. Why wait? I must say the collaborations are certainly worth highlighting.
Sam: During that time we were finding our sound and our audience. When we first got together I was leaning toward EDM and Gav mostly disco. So when we got together we met in the middle and slowly evolved to the point where the sound started working. Took a while lol.
Gavin: We never saw ourselves as album type artists, we made club ep’s for the club. While we were really developing our sounds over those years making Self Help was a completely new approach to music for us. Not everything was aimed at the dancefloor.
Mind talking a bit about how New York City has inspired you both in terms of sound?
Sam: New York is a very inspiring place just because there are so many different types of people, so much going on, so much art and culture. So outside of specifics- like NYC was where we first went clubbing and got into house music- it’s a very fertile environment for creativity. Only a few cities are like that, that have that energy.
Gavin: NYC is unlike anywhere else in the world, it’s a powerful place. So much good music happens there so it’s very easy to be immersed in it.
2020 is finally, finally coming to a close. What do you two have planned for 2021?
Sam: I am very optimistic. I think 2021 is gonna be a catharsis on a scale you can’t even imagine.
Gavin: Lets go!!