TABS Remixes Indie Pop and EDM Hits into Ass-Shaking Extravaganzas
The men behind TABS: Ben Andersen (left) and Eric Hoss.
In last week's issue of New Times, we profiled 10 new(ish) bands we expect to dominate Phoenix iPods and boomboxes this long, hot summer. We'll be focusing more deeply on those artists over the next couple of days on Up on the Sun.
See the entire list: 10 Phoenix Bands You Should Be Listening to This Summer
Eric Hoss and Ben Andersen would prefer it if crowds did more ass-shaking than fist-pumping or head-bobbing at their gigs. To that end, the Arizona EDM duo known as TABS fill their high-energy beatscapes and remixes with effusive grooves and infectious hooks.
"We get tons of fist-pumps at clubs but not tons of dance," Hoss says. "We've got that really high-energy sound down pat, but we also wanted to mix in that '80s, shake-your-ass kinda grooves. I mean, who doesn't like doing that? We're always trying to make things more dancier with our music."
While the pair haven't gotten as many clubgoers' moneymakers moving as they'd like, they've certainly been successful at building a buzz in the Valley scene for reworking songs by local favorites like Peachcake and Super Stereo, as well as props in the EDM blogosphere with their remixes of indie pop and electronica artists.
A writer for San Francisco-based blog Ambassador Beats, for instance, gushed about how TABS' reinvention of Foster the People's "Pumped Up Kicks" using pitch-shifting effects, original beats and instrumental elements, and tricking with the tempo created "a completely different vibe [that] make this a big winner."
They weren't the only ones showing the track some love, as New York club DJ Liquid Todd aired the track on an episode of his Sirius XM show "Boombox Radio." TABS' remix of Kaskade and Deadmau5's "Move for Me" that they produced in February also made it to No. 5 on Hype Machine's Top 50.
Jeffly Choi of New York City was one of many who dug the remix, stating on his Tumblr that TABS "[breathed] new life into an already classic dance track."
Hoss, who performs under the nickname Speedy Graffiti, says they're overwhelmed by all the kudos they've gotten.
"We've had lots of people freaking out about many of our mixes," he says. "You wouldn't believe how flattered that makes us feel."
Peachcake's Stefan Pruett says that TABS excels at transforming good music and making it better.
"They have an earnest capability to take a song from one place and bring it to another," he says. "And ultimately, whichever direction they choose to take it, you'll end up liking it."
To wit: TABS took the band's poppy track "You Matter" and dialed it up with house music verve.
"It has some twists which leave it effervescent," Pruett says. "They'll throw in a dubstep breakdown amid a sleek electro track, but not the kind of abrasiveness you're used to. Something more palatable to the ears, that flows with the song as opposed to [transforming] it entirely."
Hoss says that in addition to dope grooves, the duo typically infuse their indie pop remixes with the over-the-top aesthetic of main room house, which is similar in spirit to the electronica bombast of superstars Martin Solveig and Alesso.
"Our soul is in house, that four-on-the-floor, 130 BPM style, heavy on the kick drum, that just goes, 'Boom, boom, boom,'" he says. "We love that shit. It's our heartbeat. That's the music we decided on instead of the ever-growing dubstep or moombahton scenes."
The two met in 2008 when they both were guests at a weekly gig at Club Congress in Tucson. After Andersen (who's also known as Swookie Monster) spun a remix by Photek during his set, Hoss struck up a conversation about music and the bromance developed from there.
"He was the first person in Tucson who knew what I knew," Hoss says. "And we instantly bonded and spent the rest of the night talking about music."
Two years later in 2010, they began collaborating. As for the explanation behind their partnership's name, Hoss says it came from a text message between the two where Andersen's phone auto-corrected the word "faves" into TABS.
"And I was like, wow, I guess TABS is the thing to say in Phoenix. So we called each other it as a joke for awhile. And when it came time to come up with a name, we just said, let's call it TABS," he says. "It's an inside joke, it's a great story, let's just do it. People think it's a moniker for things and we've made up silly stories for what it might mean, but really it means nothing."
According to Andersen, it took the duo little while of working in several different genres to find their niche. While their debut performance at an event promoted by local DJ collective The Night Thieves, as well as their first-ever remix of "Holidays" by Miami Horror, were well-received, something felt amiss.
"We were doing everything in the beginning: Moombahton, dubstep tracks, house tracks, main room," he says. "So a year ago we really talked about changing up our style to not only be more dancey, but to capture artists that were bigger in the scene."
Andersen says they tried a different approach to creating remixes.
"Since that talk, its always been about creating dance-oriented sounds," he explains. "We've been playing club gigs so long that we ask ourselves when we're writing songs, 'Are people are going to dance to this?"
Since Anderson still resides in Tucson (and Hoss has since relocated to Tempe), they're creation process involves collaborating via the Internet. Being on the other side of the state has actually helped with things.
"I'm a little faster at the music programs and I'll usually start out with something basic and Ben will point out what needs to happen and where because my ears have been warped from listening too much," Hoss says. "And that's what benefits us from him being 100 miles away, is that he's not around when I'm doing my thing."
Each of them have their own area of expertise, Hoss explains.
"Ben's the huge mind behind it. As a better DJ than I, he knows what's good out there. As more of a producer, I know what's in here," Hoss says, pointing to his head. "And we mix those two things. I know what we can make, he knows what we can achieve. So we each compromise and meld songs out of that."
He adds they've gone through much the same process when working on their original songs, which have yet to see the light of day. Although the delay is mostly due to their search for the perfect vocalist to add lyrics to the tracks, Hoss says its also part of TABS' two-prong plan for success. First, hook 'em in with addictive remixes, which will whet their appetites for their own music.
"We have about nine original tracks we've been sitting on, but are waiting for a quality vocalist. We don't want to put out a song with a mediocre singer," Hoss says. "Some of them are timeless, others we've got to get out soon. Right now we're concentrating on remixes because it's easier to make your mark and get people to listen to you when they know a song and then get hooked on your version of it."
TABS are scheduled to open for Peachcake on Thursday, June 21 at the Rhythm Room. Doors open at 7:30 p.m. Admission is $5.
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