Photography by Lance Skundrich
Last year at Symbiosis, a festival in the Nevada desert, the best new music I heard came from a production duo named Smash & Grab. Based in the Bay Area, Smash & Grab went beyond just holding it down – they raised the ‘effing roof, as well as the bar. Their music was the perfect dancing potpourri – it had a little something for everyone to move to. Fusing practically every imaginable genre into their music, for me they bridged the channel between sound and movement. Using an Elektron Machinedrum, tracks and loops with on-point improvisation on stage, they are the groove-guarantee.
My crew loved what we heard, and I broke from dancing only when I beelined it to the stage to find out their name. Smash & Grab just came out with a new album, one.twenty.seven., (available on iTunes and Beatport). To celebrate the album release, they held a party at Monarch, performing along with some other Bay Area favorites of mine: Majitope, Christian Martin, and Nikola Baytala. Here is a little bit more about the duo…
[LiS] Who is “Smash” and who is “Grab?”
[S&G] Smash is Ribotto and Grab is Jerome.
How did Smash & Grab come into existence?
We were in a band together called The Flying Skulls for a few years, and as that came to an end, we branched off as a duo, then started producing and performing together. We also worked together in a digital music office in SF, frequently ate lunch and battled at the ping pong table during which times many great ideas have been brewed.
Please tell me about the etymology of the name “Smash & Grab.”
Basically, we were sitting around the office, trying to figure out what to call ourselves, and it kinda just fell out of the sky. It is definitely an extension of our personalities.
Did you play an instrument when you were younger?
Grab grew up playing the guitar and keys, and Smash has been playing the keys since age two.
How did you get into recording music?
Grab: The natural progression for me came from being a musician, to finding out what was behind the scenes. I started producing/recording music in high school and ended up going on to get a degree in recording and music business.
Smash: I’ve always been making music… Depending on someone else to record/produce it for me became both inhibiting and expensive so I got a 4-track in high school and developed from there.
What equipment and programs do you use?
We use Logic, Live, some software synths. Most of our music is recorded using hardware (Virus TI, Elektron Machinedrum, Nord Electro 3, Korg MS2000, Tempest, Moog Little Phatty) and we record organic instruments as well (Cello, Sax, Drums, Violin, Vocals, etc.).
We try to touch on as many genres as we can. We both became obsessed with the Moombahton craze, so we made nothing but Moombah for close to nine months. I describe Moombahton as slowed down house with a salsa vibe, garnished with big room rave noises. The emersion of a new set of “rules” that defined Moombah provided an exciting framework to compose and build within. It’s interesting how imposing restrictions and limitations on a creative process can actually induce innovation. Although none of the elements of moombah are essentially new (cumbia rhythms/old school rave sounds), it’s been really exciting to recreate and arrange them under this new perspective. For the live show, we break down the tracks into sections and loops. Jerome plays those via Ableton Live, as well as adds some flavor and effects, and Ribotto plays the Elektron Machinedrum and/or the Tempest, off the clock, for more flexibility and to create a more live feel to the performance.
As with any project, we could only play the one-show-pony show for so long before our rave induced ADHD kicked in, and we needed to start diversifying the BPM and vibe. We’ve been continuing to explore and revisit old school vibes with newer sounds, striving to produce and re-innovate fun energetic sounds that got everyone into EDM in the first place.
What are your three favorite venues to perform at?
We prefer concert venues and definitely love to play outdoor festivals. Clubs are fun if the drinks are cheap and strangers are your friends.
What three cities would you like to perform in next?
Montreal, Kazantip, Ibiza… anywhere there is a solar eclipse at the moment. Also, we’ve never played Chicago, Miami, or New Orleans.
Have you played internationally? What festivals have you performed at?
We’ve played Canada and Mexico. As for festivals – Symbiosis, Fractalize, Alchemy, Pulse, Raindance, a few more smaller ones.
What festivals do you want to perform at?
Detroit, WMC, Coachella, Glastonbury, EDC – you name it, we want to play it.
Which three artists (that you have not performed with yet) would you like to share a stage with?
Grab: Modeselektor, Diplo, Beats Antique, Holographic Jimi Hendrix.
What were you listening to in Junior High?
Grab: Punk rock, third wave ska, hip-hop.
Smash: Punk rock, thrash metal, grunge.
How did you get into electronic music?
Grab: I went to my 1st ‘rave’ in ’93 and was instantly hooked.
Smash: I got into electronic music a little later in the game when I ended up in toronto (’99). We didn’t have techno where I’m from (Thunder Bay).
What are some recent things Smash & Grab has been up to?
Lots of production, new sounds, genres, and flavors.
What would Smash & Grab like to do in the next year?
Through the rest of this year and into the next, we would love to find good management/booking, make the live show more alive and take it on the road!
So, you’ve got a new full-length album set to come out mid-February… What can fans expect?
I think they can expect something different than what they have heard from us so far. We wanted to create a sound similar to what brought us to dance music in the first place. For us that was house, trance, and techno. We really tried to bring those elements in and have our own spin on them.