Posted On July 29, 2015 By In Artist Interviews, Music

Writtalin Artist Insider: A Chat With Dance Music Duo Mako

 
 

Since hearing the single “I Won’t Let You Walk Away” feat. Madison Beer this past Winter, I’ve been a huge supporter of DJ duo Mako. I saw part of their set at EDC, but had to miss a lot of it due to an unfortunate overlap with Avicii. So, when I heard that they were going to be at Global Dance Festival at Red Rocks, I knew I had to go.

A week or so before, I, or should I say, my rave alter-ego “Afrocat,” tweeted: “Who is everyone most excited to see at @GlobalDanceFest? I love the whole lineup, but I think I’m most pumped on @WeAreMako.” They retweeted it, I tweeted back mentioning my interest in an interview, they answered saying something like, “that sounds great!” And now, here I am at the Sheraton in Downtown Denver, preparing to interview one of my favorite EDM acts before their set at my most favorite venue on Earth.

Made up of Julliard-trained composer Alex Seaver and house DJ Logan Light, Mako has been in the dance music scene since 2011, but really started making waves in the last year or so as releases like“Our Story” and “I Won’t Let You Walk Away” gained global recognition. Now on a festival-stacked tour and with a recently-released track with EDM legend Steve Angello (formerly of Swedish House Mafia), Mako has made their presence in the dance music industry felt in a big way.

I feel the usual nerves that I get before interviewing any DJ, but more than anything, I’m excited. Mako’s songs – melodically driven, uplifting, musical – are what make up the music of my soul and so I already feel a kind of kinship with these guys. Upon being let into their room, I immediately know that I wasn’t wrong to feel that way. Instead of interviewing Alex and Logan in the formal sense, I talk to them, learning about how they met each other, where their sound comes from and their original music, among a plethora of other things.

Cat and Mako

Cat sat down with Alex (left) and Logan (right) of Mako before their set at Global Dance Festival.

Cat: I’m sure you guys probably tell the story fairly often, but I know our readers would be interested to know how a Julliard-trained composer and an experienced DJ came together. Will you tell me about how you met?

Logan: Our dads were roommates at Syracuse in 1976 – go orange! *he laughs* They kept in touch and they had a few other buddies that they kept in touch with also. And that’s ironically how we also got connected to Madison [Beer]. So we can thank them all back in 1976. And we must have met once because there’s a picture of us together when we’re toddlers.

Alex (laughing): I have a sword and we’re in like onesie, footie pajamas!

Logan: I’m from LA and he’s from San Diego, so we must’ve gone down to San Diego or they came up to LA.

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Alex (left) and Logan (right) as children

Cat: So how did the reconnection happen?

Alex: I graduated from music school in New York in 2011 and I moved out to Los Angeles to do music for film and television and Logan’s dad works in the music industry, so I was gonna ask his advice on what to do. And he brought Logan to dinner and Logan was this quiet kid that didn’t say anything. His littlest brother talked more than he did *more laughter*. And Logan said, “I’m a DJ.” And I was like, “What is that??” *even more laughter* Because I was such a classical music nerd and he took me back to their place and started playing me some stuff.

A couple days later he was like, “EDC is next week, do you wanna come to this?” And I had no idea what that was, but I’d never been to Vegas and it sounded fun, so he took me to Vegas. We saw all the big name DJs and I was transformed- I was so hooked.

Logan: The only song he knew was “Sandstorm” [by Darude].

Cat: Where did the name “Mako” come from?

Logan: So we basically needed a name to start working on stuff. We had an old hip-hop/electronic demo and we sent it around just for fun. Alex played it for his college roommate who worked for a commercial house. The commercial house picked up the song for part of some Olympic 2012 ad campaign. This was the first thing we’d ever done. They called and said, “We want to put you as part of the advertising campaign. What’s your name? What’s your website?” And we were like, “Oh my God, we don’t have any.”

I wanted something that meant something to me, and something from when we were kids. So it came from a video game we played as kids. My brother lived in Japan at the time, our last name is “Light” and “Mako” means “some kind of light” in Japanese.  It was a cool sounding name, no one really had it, so we decided to go with it.

We never thought it would turn into someone interviewing us in a Denver hotel room asking what it is. *laughter*

Cat: You clearly come from two totally different musical backgrounds, but you’ve come together to make a very cohesive sound. How would you describe your sound? 

Alex: The start of our sound was all about melody, especially all about beauty. There’s really a sincere emotion – especially to our early stuff. In addition, we’d make these cinematic remixes to our music, that were coming form my orchestral background. These days, we really started to find our voice with song writing and then I started singing a bunch of our songs too. “Our Story” was our first release where I was singing. I’d written earlier songs, but “Our Story” was the first one we released. So that kind of started to become a big part of our sound, the song writing. And then kind of the band aspect of performing it ourselves. So with our upcoming sets especially, we’re not leaning on the tracks like we used to, it’s more kind of featuring a song.

Cat: You guys often play what I like to call “puppies and rainbows” EDM in your sets. You know, really uplifting, fun stuff. Where do you pull the inspiration for your music from? Who are some of your biggest musical influences? 

Alex: We have a lot of separate musical influences. For me, it’s all the classical guys and all the film music guys. Logan is REALLY into Radio Head and Daft Punk. I think Daft Punk is probably who started your kick into dance music, right? *speaking to Logan*

Logan: Yeah, I saw them ten years ago- which is crazy!

Alex: Then he got me into dance music showing me guys like Swedish House Mafia, Avicii and Alesso – the puppies and rainbows crew! *we’re all laughing*

And so our music started from that sphere, which is very melody-oriented, very beautiful and uplifting. From there, I think we’re trying to develop more of our own sound and draw inspiration from a lot of other guys. I’m loving the Robin Schulz stuff. We have a lot of indie rock influences in our music too, a lot of guitars and stuff like that. We kind of draw from across the spectrum.

Cat (to Logan): When you were DJing by yourself, was it mostly progressive house?

Logan: Yeah, that’s what draws me to the music – the melodies, the uplifting. I love your description of puppies and rainbows – it’s funny and accurate.

I started DJing pretty much right when I went to college and I would be playing any events that I could just for practice, whether it was the basement of a frat party or someone’s house party with 50 kids. And at that time, no one liked the music I was playing, it was not cool. Then going from freshman year to graduating, dance music became a big thing. It was nice to see the transition.

Cat: You guys played EDC Las Vegas last month. Tell me about that experience.

Alex: It was sweet! That’s what started this all for us – EDC.

Logan: It wasn’t sweet from 3-5 p.m. though. They brought us out to sound check and it was 117 degrees! I would open the computer and it would melt down really quickly, so I’d have to reboot it. But after that, it was great! *he laughs*

Alex: We played the Discovery Stage maybe two years ago, so that was our first taste of being a part of it. Then this year we were at the 7UP Stage which was really special. It’s such a cool part of the journey to cross milestones like that and to revisit places that you experienced in a way different way when you were starting out. Very cool.

Cat: You’re thoroughly making the festival circuit this year – EDC, Global, Lollapalooza, Electric Zoo and TomorrowWorld to name a few. What are you most looking forward to in your upcoming shows?

Alex: I would say the big thing for us this summer has been having fans come to our shows. When you start to play shows, you’re just trying to get out there and most of the time you’re playing to a room of strangers. Nowadays when we play “Our Story,” everybody is singing along. It’s the craziest shit ever. And that is making shows a lot of fun. When you get to come out and see everybody’s faces and see kids going nuts and hearing from them on Twitter afterwards, that’s so dope. So that’s probably what I’m looking forward to the most the rest of the summer.

Logan: I’m looking forward to just expanding on the first run of shows, which are always kind of hectic and all over the place. Before we were just playing rooms in clubs, but now we have more space so Alex will be playing keyboard. He’ll play it twice tonight and then at Lolla[palooza] you’ll see a lot more of it – Madison will be there, we have violinists coming and we just talked today about a harpist coming on stage and drums. So we get to expand and make it more creative and outside the box, which is fun. So the festivals provide the bigger audiences and the platforms to create something different for us instead of a club vibe. It’s nice to be able to show off Alex’s instrumental skill set.

Cat: Let’s talk about your original music. “Our Story” got a lot of attention last year and your recent release with Madison Beer, “I Won’t Let You Walk Away,” is climbing the charts. How did these songs come to be?

Alex: “Our Story” started at a piano, just writing something very sincere and very personal. That was through and through something that we put together.

“I Won’t Let You Walk Away” was a little different because we proceeded it by releasing our first-ever just instrumental track, “Sunburst.” It’s the instrumental you hear under the song. And all of our fans got so used to our vocals that they wanted a vocal. They just wanted that from us. It was really nice to hear back from fans because it reinforces what we’re doing and also gives us a little more direction. So that kinda started us thinking about what we wanted in this song. It’s very summery, it’s very pop-y, so we decided we wanted a girl voice that had a very strong pop sound.

I met Madison’s manager through our old Syracuse connections and he recommended her. So we brought her to the studio. I’d written the whole thing and sang it all out in falsetto, pretending to be a girl, it’s kinda funny. And the lyrics are through the voice of a girl, which is also a little weird, I’ve never taken on another gender before. But it worked! She got in and she loved it and she crushed it in like two thirty minute sessions. I was singing in the background and she made leave my guy vocals in the background too. It was super positive and very effortless. It’s been really cool to see it climb in the charts and play on the radio.

Cat: Even more recently your collaboration with dance music legend Steve Angello,“Children of the Wild,” was released. Tell me the story of that song.

Alex: That one is a little over two years old and is another one that I’d written and sung. Our old managers weren’t that fond of it. And that was a little bit disappointing. We switched managers and our new manager loved it, sent it over to Steve, and Tiesto and a couple other people, and we got crazy, rapid-fire responses. Steve was probably the most aggressive about it because he was working on an album called “Wild Youth,” and it fits thematically so well.

So we were in the studio with Steve Angello in just a couple days. That was a highlight experience for me. He’s one of the guys that got me into dance music as a part of Swedish House Mafia and everything that he does. He was so cool – we worked like two or three times and then he brought me back to his home in the hills and I had spaghetti with his family and everybody was speaking Swedish. I was just sitting there smiling, thinking, “this is so awesome!”

Then we went back to the studio and Above and Beyond came by and they really liked the song. Also, in that first session, I didn’t get to finish the vocal because David Guetta walked in. It was insane pressure. I was thinking, “What if these guys don’t like what I’m doing? What if this is weird? What if they’re mean?” There were SO many things going on in my head. *he’s laughing* But nothing went poorly, everything was really great!

Cat: It’s hard to get any bigger in the dance music industry than Steve Angello, but is there anyone else you’re dying to collaborate with?

Alex: Absolutely! I think from our sound world, guys like Galantis and Audien, we really admire their music a lot. I don’t know how likely it is that they ever collaborate, but obviously we’d love that. Sometimes I can write songs for these guys behind the scenes, so that’s one way to do it.

We worked with Avicii on his first album, which was really fun. That would’ve been a big one for us. And of course Calvin Harris and all the big time guys like that.

Logan: If they like puppies and rainbows, we’re in! *we’re all laughing again*

Cat: I watched the making of the “Our Story” music video on YouTube. You guys put so much thought into your music and everything that goes along with it, music videos and shows included. What do you hope people take from your music, music videos, live shows, etc.?

Alex: That’s kid of the million dollar question for us right now. A big part of being an artist is having a brand and a community and building something. A lot of it so far has been led by the music that we make and we’re trying to figure it out. But recently we’ve really started to cultivate more of a visual and auditory experience for our fans that’s kind of consistent throughout. We don’t know exactly how to describe it yet, because we’re kind of poking around, but I think each of these videos is an experiment. They’re each a learning experience. It’s kind of like sharing a part of ourselves with our audience and it’s hard.

Cat: You play the legendary Red Rocks tonight. What can you tell me about the set?

Logan: We were just working on it and we need another song or two. We probably have about 80% planned of what we’d like to do, and then the rest is kind of up in the air. We always joke, “when is it okay to play Levels [Avicii’s hit] again?”

Cat: Ohmigod, DO IT!! (it slips out before I can control myself *embarrassed emoji*)

Logan: If Alex likes the crowd, we’ll play a remix version of it that we have. We have a bunch of things like that. Every time we play “Levels,” if we’re gonna do it, you’ll see me put my head down and start laughing.

Alex: He gets embarrassed!

Cat: 2015 has been a huge year for you. What else can people be expecting from you in the future?

Logan: We have another song coming out at the beginning of August that’s a little more chill.

Alex: Yeah, it’s more song writer-based. It’ll be a good point to embark a little bit from our past releases. It’s called “Smoke Filled Room.”

And we’re going to do a cool acoustic mix of “I Won’t Let You Walk Away,” coming out on Monday.

We want to put an album out this fall really badly so we’re trying to build enough really good, quality tracks to pile onto that. We’ve got a bunch of collaborations, a bunch of new music coming out. We’re really starting to book a lot of shows, so we’re going to start popping up in cities that we’ve never been to before, which is really exciting!

Logan: They’re talking about us coming back to Denver, so hopefully that happens!

Mako 5

Alex came to the front of the stage when they played “Our Story” during their Global set to sing as Logan continued spinning.

I ran into Logan before the Red Rocks set and he told me that if they saw me front and center, they’d play “Levels” for me. I was there, front and center, and much to my delight, they played Avicii’s megahit as promised. All “Levels” jokes aside, Mako’s Global set was dynamic, musically driven, an all around good time and was one of my favorites of the weekend. Talking to Logan and Alex and then seeing them live was a supreme pleasure and I encourage all of you to go and see Mako and their “puppies and rainbows” filled sets at any chance that you get.

Check out the song that initially got me into Mako, “I Won’t Let You Walk Away” feat. Madison Beer:

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Cat Hausler is a music contributor for Writtalin. She currently works in corporate communications, but often wants to say, " F real life," and festival hop instead. A music addict, Cat struggles with containing her EDM personality "Afrocat" who is very famous in the Twitterverse. When she's not at some concert or other, Cat can be found reading Agatha Christie, watching the NFL, or pretending to know how to play the guitar. You can email Cat at: cath@writtalin.com

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