Q&A with Two Friends musician Eli Sones
In the days before this year’s Green Key concert, The Dartmouth sat down with Eli Sones, one half of the LA-based DJ group Two Friends, best known for their extensive collection of “Big Bootie” mixes. A Los Angeles native and long-time music lover, Sones began pursuing music seriously while in high school and has continued evolving artistically ever since. Working alongside his childhood bestfriend and fellow DJ-Producer Matthew Halper — the other half of Two Friends — Sones has learned a lot about the importance of connection and cooperation throughout his musical career. Over the course of the interview, Sones shared his insights as a musician who is well-versed in collaboration and creation.
How would you describe your music to people who are new to Two Friends?
ES: Over the years, it’s definitely gotten a little harder with each year to give a specific description. We’re always evolving, and I would say we’re more of a melting pot of a bunch of things. At the core, you could classify us as part of the electronic music and dance music realm, but we have a lot of other elements. There are a lot of pop elements, we’re influenced by a lot of stuff in alternative rock, hip hop [and] we include a lot of live elements in our music — 90 percent of our songs feature some type of guitar that Matt records and we work a lot with saxophonists and trumpet players — so Dartmouth will definitely have some special guests come out on stage with us. Our music is just fun, energetic, but with a little more depth, and hopefully resonates emotionally with the audience.
How long have you and Matt been working together? What do you feel like you’ve learned from working together?
ES: Matt and I grew up together in Los Angeles. We went to middle school and high school together, so we’ve known each other since we were 12 years old, and now we’re 25, so for literally more than half our lives. We were best friends right away in middle school and throughout high school, and it actually wasn’t until the very end of high school that we decided that we should mess around with music. We both had an interest in music — Matt played guitar, was part of the choir, and I was, at that point, starting to mess around with DJing and making some mashups. So we both knew we had an interest in music and potentially had complementary skill sets. Whenever people ask for advice, the biggest two things are put in the hours and make it fun, because if you can do those two things, there’s no stopping you. In our case, having each other and having our relationship as friends rather than just business partners made it super easy.
What are some of your biggest musical inspirations?
ES: Musically, early on, I’d say Avicii was probably one of our biggest inspirations, just for getting introduced to dance music. He was a pioneer in terms of making the electronic music world a little more accessible to America and to people who weren’t necessarily super familiar with the underground parts of the genre. He brought electronic music into the mainstream and on pop radio; he kind of opened a lot of doors, so he was pretty influential starting out.
How would you say social media has influenced your work?
ES: It’s had a huge impact. At the end of the day, the number one priority for us is going to be the music, but I do think that social media, branding and showing your personality and putting out good, interesting content is super valuable especially today, when there are a lot of very talented producers who all deserve attention. I think for us, we found that sweet spot where it doesn’t feel like a chore, where we have to create an unauthentic brand. It’s pretty natural, and we’re not exaggerating. We try to keep people engaged and feel like part of our Two Friends community, even in the periods where it might be a month or two between songs. We love interacting with everyone and having that personal connection rather than making it feel super corporate, which you can get if social media presence is coming from management. Anything you see online, that’s us.
You and Matt have gained a lot of popularity from remixes in particular. What’s the key to a good remix?
ES: I think when we go about our remixes, it’s about trying to find a balance of something where hopefully the original song resonates with people in some way and they get that initial little bit of familiarity to get their foot in the door, and then we want to kind of spin it on its head and put our Two Friends’ touch on it. I think that’s always the goal: No matter what, we have to be original. We’d never remix a song we don’t like. All of the songs in our remixes are songs that we like, so it adds an element of it being a little scary; a lot of people don’t want their favorite songs to ever be touched or reworked. You want to go about it where you can keep some elements from the original song that makes it what it is, but then inject some fresh new elements.
What do you think live performance adds to your music? What’s special about hearing Two Friends live?
ES: I guess that the easiest way to see it is to come to a show and see what it’s all about. We just try to make our performances super high-energy, a lot of fun, where people can sing along. We play originals, we play remixes, we play our favorite parts of the Big Bootie mixes, we’ll have our special guest — usually saxophonists, sometimes singers, sometimes trumpet players — come join us for a few songs. It’s really just, a high-energy party. We love performing and we’re really excited to come to Dartmouth for the first time.
How often do you perform on college campuses? Would you say there’s anything unique about college audiences?
ES: It’s definitely a lot. We play at a lot of fraternity parties and college events. The fun part is going to visit college campuses we otherwise wouldn’t have an opportunity to visit or check out, so we definitely feel lucky to get an experience of a lot of the country and a lot of different campuses. It’s hard to really categorize all colleges, it really depends. We graduated college four years ago, so we’re not that much older, so a lot of the stuff that we remix or that we include is stuff that we loved listening to growing up and in college, so it still resonates with people. I don’t want to rank colleges they’re different in their own ways but we do love it all.
Is there anything you’re looking forward to in performing at Dartmouth’s Green Key?
ES: We’ve never been, so anytime we get to go somewhere for the first time, it’s always really exciting. We’ve been hearing a lot of hype about Green Key, and when we actually originally got booked for this, they asked us to keep it a secret before they announced the lineup. It was pretty funny; we were getting bombarded with a lot of messages saying, “I hear rumors, can you guys confirm?” and we just didn’t want to say anything, but now we’re obviously out and we’re super excited. The other acts in the line-up are awesome, so I think it’s going to be a really fun night. I’m excited to make our debut.