A lot has changed since the last time I sat down with Droog a year and half ago. Back then they were in a state of fervent activity as promoters and labelheads at Culprit, dropping their 50th release and partnering up with DTLA outfit Prototype to throw a string of parties that would define the city’s blossoming underground legal scene. But now, as I find myself back in the same studio we originally met in, Andrei Osyka and Brett Griffin (minus Justin Sloe) are in a more contemplative state after dipping out of the local scene for the last six months.
“There were just so many things going on that we decided to take a step back and focus on other stuff,” says Andrei. “We didn’t want to get hyper competitive. We wanted to get out of LA, focus on traveling and making music for the label. We haven’t been as active, but we wanted to come back to keep pushing the downtown scene, but doing parties our way, in an above ground setting.”
The break allowed the boys to stop “throwing parties just to throw parties”, and rethink their role in a market which has become increasingly saturated - something they were quick to extoll as a virtue rather than a hinderance. This summer they are going to be coming back with a series of parties in downtown and the newly unearthed Chinatown district, that focus on classy production and bringing in rare acts that they admire, such as Swiss man trance pioneer Ripperton on May 27th, and Innerversions legends Henrik Schwarz and Âme later this summer.
“When we started it used to be enough just to book an international DJ,” notes Andrei, who started throwing parties with Droog in the now-distinctly bottle serviced Hollywood clubs in 2006, “but now these kids see international DJs every weekend. So it’s like, ‘Well, what else have you got?’. You need to create environments for parties and go the extra mile. And we like that challenge.”
For some in Los Angeles, the “extra mile” is throwing raw parties away from the oppressive gaze of the law. But the renegade warehouse scene, with its feeling of danger and hat tip to dance music’s bygone eras, no longer tempts the trio like it might have 10 years ago. Droog have been around for too long to be excited by the thrill of getting shut down. They want to find a meeting place between great music and immersive production, but housed in an above board venue.
“For us, it’s too much stress to think about putting all of this time and effort to organize a party, fly out a major DJ, and then have the event shut down by the police at 1am,” said Osyka. “We want to bring the underground overground. It’s always been the way that we like to play it.”
Just last week they played an underground that got shut down at 2:15am, supposedly because some rogue party heads had dumped their cars in a nearby residents driveway, prompting an irate 911 call. This is par for the course in a city that is shackled with unreasonably early licensing hours and yet tempted by a vast proliferation of empty warehouse spaces.
“It was a major tease,” Osyka continues, “There were a lot of people there, the vibes were great and we were really enjoying it. But afterwards we just brought like 60 people back here, set up the CDJs and got weird for a while.”
“In 10 years, we’ve only ever had one of our own parties shutdown,” Brett chimes in proudly. “It was in Hollywood in a loft in 2000-and-9, I think?”
“And the lineup we had!” exclaims Andrei. “If you had that lineup today people would lose their minds! Seth Troxler, Lee Foss, Lee Curtiss, Matt Tolfrey, Jamie Jones.”
And right there, like many times throughout our conversation, I got a glimpse of just how long these guys have been flying the flag for Los Angeles in the global scene. They get sidetracked by stories of Ibiza opening parties from years back, playing in every major European city many times, and the time that Jamie Jones and Lee Foss produced the first ever Hot Natured track in their studio after one of their afterparties. But at home they have recently graduated to 'Scene Elder' status, joining their predecessors DJ Dan, Doc Martin and Marques Wyatt in the subterranean echelon on the Southern California scene. It’s always insightful to encourage Andrei, the group’s handsome and likely self-appointed spokesman, to indulge in a spiralling history lesson to trace the city’s underground scene, which he says really caught flight in 2012, some six years after they became residents at Avalon.
Garret Chau had been installed as the booker for the Hollywood superclub, and sought to shake things up from the standard fare Digweed/Sasha/Rampling rotation of big room tech, and started booking more challenging new music. With Droog as residents, Chau’s fresh approach was the first in a series of steps towards the current underground boom we’re enjoying today. Chau is now at the helm of Transmit, a new events company looking to muscle into the local space with on point bookings and advanced logistics, and they’re set for a big summer working alongside Droog to zero in on that underground/overground ethos.
“We can’t go too into too much at the moment, but we’re going to be involved in some big parties with Transmit and Prototype, some stuff at permanent spaces downtown with really great guests. We’re very excited to be coming back into the party scene.”
Droog were also part of the team that helped Zurich/Brooklyn promoters Cityfox leave a massive impact on the downtown scene last year, when they brought their outlandish production and bookings to a dilapidated building site last fall. “Cityfox set a new standard for legal parties here in LA,” he said, “and I think everyone was really blown away by the levels of production and the logistics they brought to the event. I think you’re going to start seeing more promoters using that as a reference point here."
But the time away appears to have refreshed Brett and Andrei’s thoughts about the role that they play in a scene that is developing so quickly and in many different directions. Not ones to be overly sentimental, they seem to be relishing the veteran status that has given them the luxury of booking and promoting on their terms. As they look back over the burgeoning scene that they were an imperative part of creating, they see a bright future for Los Angeles’ underground movement, and they maintain the music and experience-focused perspective that kept them at the nucleus of it for so long.
“It feels like it happened overnight,” said Andrei. “In the early days we felt like mavericks, but now we’re the veterans. There’s so much good stuff happening in the city right now. It’s an extremely exciting time to be here.”
You can get tickets to Transmit's season opening party on May 27th with Droog, Ripperton and Sandrino here.