It's known by many names—The City by the Bay, The Paris of the West, Fog City, and even The City That Knows How. Whatever name it's given, the city of San Francisco (and the surrounding Bay Area) has long been a site for inspiration; from its early Gold Rush days to the hippie counterculture, the sexual revolution and hub of gay rights activism, “The City” (as locals call it) has continued to find ways to stimulate the minds of the artistic and creative beings over the course of generations.
The sprawling vistas, soothing waters, towering Redwoods and rolling hills that surround this metropolis are the canvas for one of the most promising musical artists to come out of this decade. His debut album, Illusion of Perfection, is a continuous mix of melodic tunes that captivate the ear and take the listener on a symphonic journey through trance, techno, and deep house all while keeping its progressive beats.
With track titles such as “Hippie Hill”, “Bill Graham” and “Nightwalk” (a late-night nod to S.F.), and a previous track entitled “Embarcadero“, Spencer Brown is not afraid to showcase his love for his hometown in his music. I sat down with the rising talent (signed to the popular Anjunabeats label) before his open-to-close set at Sound Nightclub in Hollywood. There, Brown opened up about his life on tour, genre-bending music and the reasons why San Francisco continues to be an inspiration for his artistry.
Q: For our readers who may not know, Sound Nightclub is an intimate, smaller capacity venue off the famous Hollywood Boulevard. Have you performed here before?
A: I've never played at Sound, but I've been here before. I came for a Dubfire party about a month after I turned 21.
Q: Do you find yourself at home in a setting like this?
A: Yeah, I prefer playing intimate clubs like this. I don't really book many Vegas-sized clubs, I feel like my set would trainwreck there. You have to find places where your music really works—certain artists fit certain spaces. 250-800 capacity spaces are a perfect size for me because I feel like it's intimate enough that you can control everyone but it's big enough that you don't feel like you're playing to an empty room.
Q: Tonight's set is an open-to-close set, why did you decide on playing all night?
A: I make different kinds of music ranging from progressive to techno and I feel like you can't really cram all of that into an hour or two. I also get to play things that I normally wouldn't in a festival set and that allows me to slowly build it up throughout the night.
I've also been DJing since I was twelve and I was always playing at all these school parties, so you have to learn how to DJ for five or six hours. It feels natural— you get into this flow-state and time flies.
Q: Does that mean that 1-2 hour sets feel rushed for you?
A: Not really. With those kinds of sets I normally just start at peak time instead of playing all the deep stuff. You have to start with much higher energy, especially at festivals because you want to grab their attention.
Q: Speaking of festivals, you're about to perform at Tomorrowland in Belgium. Are you excited?
A: I'm very excited, I've never played Tomorrowland. I played in Utrecht with Armin van Buuren and that was one of the sickest sets of my life. The European crowds are so different than the American crowds. I'll be able to test out things there that I've never played before and I know it will work there. I'm looking forward to not holding back at Tomorrowland.
Q: Let's come back to the U.S. for a bit—explain to me how San Francisco has been such an inspiration for you.
A: Inspiration is everywhere in San Francisco; the views, the fog, everything about it is what I want to encapsulate in my music. I personally don't like warm sunny weather, I prefer the dreary and foggy cloudy climate and I can enjoy that in San Francisco and take that scenery and put it in my music. There are hills and trees all over, it makes you feel like you're in this mystical forest sometimes.
I really like how everyone does their own thing out there, regardless of their profession. There's very little judgment. No one is giving each other a hard time for anything; you do you and people are accepting of that.
Q: How do you portray that in your music?
A: In my music, it's mostly the scenery that's portrayed. As an artist, you need to live somewhere where you want to take in whats surrounding you and put it in your music. Some people really find inspiration in living in L.A. or New York, for me, it's the Bay Area.
Q: So it's safe to say that San Francisco is home for you?
A: Yes. My whole family is from the Bay Area. I've lived in a few different cities—Newport Beach, Dallas, I was on the East Coast for college— but SF is home for me. As an artist, it's really important to find somewhere that's comfortable for you, somewhere you can go back to and get inspired.
Q: Your debut album, Illusions of Perfection, was released in May and it is a continuous mix, what made you decide on blending all twelve tracks?
A: After I graduated from college I found myself surrounded by my music all day. I also found myself finishing tons of music that I had started— I had such a big catalog of tracks. I really wanted to create a body of work; as an artist that's they only way I felt I could close one chapter of my artistry and move on to the next thing. Eventually, I found it just naturally coming together. I guess when you have a ton of music you're bound to find 10-15 tracks that are gonna mix really well.
Q: Do you plan on releasing any tracks that didn't make the album?
A: A lot of those tracks are tracks that I know wouldn't necessarily do well on the Beatport charts, but they work really well on my sets as transitions and bridging tracks. I have been getting a lot of requests from fans lately to release some of them, specifically some of my techno tracks.
Q: Does your music fall under a specific genre?
A: It all falls under the umbrella of progressive. Whether its progressive house, progressive techno or progressive trance. The technicalities, I would say, would land me on 60-70% house, but I do obviously touch on trance and techno. But it's all progressive at the end of the day. I don't really produce music with a genre in mind.
Q: What can Spencer Brown fans expect out of you in the near future?
A: I just signed an EP with a great techno label that I've loved for maybe 8 years now and I'm really excited for it. It's a two-track techno EP that I'm planning on releasing after this album.
Q: Do you have a release date for that yet?
A: I can't say anything yet. You're just gonna have to wait.