2015 is coming to a close, and over the course of the past 12 months we've seen the dance music community ebb and flow with talent and new sounds. The same old beats and the same old sounds have grown old, and the people crave something different. LA producer Nick Chiari aka Grabbitz has set out to bring 2015 to a close by shaking things up a bit. His latest single, Float Away, is a preview of his upcoming record Better With Time, set drop December 11. We sat down with him to discuss the new record, his inspirations, his sound, which he has dubbed “alternative dance”, as well as his plans for 2016.
1. So your upcoming body of work, Better With Time is set to release December 11, and you’ve coined “alternative dance” as a genre to describe your sound. Can you give us some insight into what “alternative dance” is and how it’s different from the rest of the current dance music?
‘Alternative Dance’ is a term that my team and I have been using to describe ‘Better With Time’ for a number of reasons. Much of my work is heavily influenced by alternative rock, in both instrumentation and songwriting format. After deciding last year to start incorporating more vocals into my music, which was predominantly instrumental at the time, I’ve been able to use a clean slate to create a sound that is my own. It’s different because the music can be interpreted as wide range of genres, but the underlying pulse of dance music and rhythm remains intact.
2. You’ve been actively producing for more than 3 years now. How has your sound evolved over time?
I’ve been writing rock songs since I was 7 years old on guitar, and have been producing on a computer workstation since I was 13 or 14 years old. My production has always been rhythm based, and started off as mostly hip-hop and R&B songs and beats. When I was around 18 I started delving into the world of dance music after hearing Skrillex and being intrigued by how different it was. Now, at 22, I feel like I have the ability to blend all of my styles together.
3. Are there any notable influences and inspirations that helped mold your sound into what it is now?
There are so many. From the genius songwriting of Eddie Vedder, to the dark and twisted beats of Trent Reznor. From the elegant melodies of Ennio Morricone, to the innovative rock of Led Zeppelin. The electronics and synth work of Skrillex and Nero have also greatly inspired me in the world of dance music…. to name just a few.
4. Better With Time is almost cinematic in nature, the way it develops from track to track. Was this the original artistic vision or something that came about along the creative process?
I like to create a listening experience when putting together an album or EP. Blending the tracks together seamlessly is one of the last steps after the final track placement is decided, but it’s something I love, and I know I’ll be doing this on all future releases.
5. Does that development style translate into your live performances? (Intro, build, climax, release etc)
Yes. I’ve seen plenty of DJ sets, and live performances, and have been able to absorb a lot of different methods for constructing a set. I like to keep an energetic pace, but I feel breakdowns and interaction is equally as important.
6. Something very unique about you that we’re incredibly fond of is your original vocal work. Dance music producers writing and performing their own vocals is very uncommon in the community right now. What are some challenges that go along with that?
Thank you. The world of vocal production is incredibly difficult to handle, and adds a whole new beast to conquer during the recording and production process. Writing lyrics can be tricky sometimes, but it’s also another form of creative expression, which means there are no clear cut rules.
7. The 7th track on Better With Time, “Cold” features guest vocals by LAYNE. How was collaborating with another vocalist in the studio? Was the production process any different from start to finish?
Collaborating with LAYNE was the first time I’ve ever had a chance to duet with another vocalist. Originally LAYNE had wrote an entire topline for the song, then in the later stages of the song I wrote in my parts to make it a back-and-forth type thing, which I think turned out great. Her voice is so hauntingly beautiful and has such a unique timbre, our styles compliment each other well.
8. Are there any other producers or vocalists you have in mind for future collaborations?
I’ve just finished a collaboration with my friends the Pegboard Nerds, which I haven’t been able to stop singing since we finished. I’ve always wanted to get into the studio with Skrillex. I would also really love to work with Meg Myers.
9. This past year has been a busy one for you! With another EP Friends released in April hit the iTunes Top Ten in the dance music category, you collaborated vocally with Deadmau5 on his track “Silent Picture”, multiple singles that have garnered millions of plays on YouTube and SoundCloud and now Better With Time. What does 2016 hold for Grabbitz?
2015 has been a great year for my career and I’m very thankful for all of the opportunities. 2016 will have more touring so I can meet fans and make new ones, kicking off the year with headlining shows in NYC (Jan 30th) and LA (Feb 6th), and of course new music; the reason I do any of this is the joy it brings to me to add to my catalog of work and share it with the world.
Pre-order your copy of Better With Time here as it's set to be released December 11 on Monstercat.