Austen Afridi, the tanned and friendly Trinity College graduate behind Viceroy, struggled through his early childhood without the ability to hear. “Until I was about 7, I was completely deaf. I had chronic earaches for 4 years. At that young age, you’re learning the language and important things that I just wasn’t able to learn.” Scholars much more capable than I have studied how children will beef up other remaining senses when one is deficient, and I’ll leave the conclusions to them. But here’s what’s clear: Afridi has successfully developed his own philosophy about life that he applies wholeheartedly to his music. There is an undeniable feeling of “summery” happiness that pumps from his tracks, and his motto, “summertime all the time”, represents it nicely. While most of us were making sense of the world around us through listening to sounds, Austen was absorbing meaning differently. If this made him more sensitive and emotionally intelligent about the world around him, it make sense, then, that over a decade later he is producing music that makes listening to it not just an auditory experience, but an emotionally uplifting one, too. “It’s a remarkable thing that I’m now making music for a living,” Afridi says. “I’d like for kids to know that you don’t have to be limited because of something you think is wrong with you. It’s cool to see how far I’ve come.” I chatted with Afridi about this, his upcoming musical accomplishments, and why dance music just might save the world. Read up!
Underwood: You’re originally from the Northeast. It gets cold up there. Is that why you hate winter?
Viceroy: I loved playing in the snow as a kid. There’s nothing against winter in that sense. The whole “summertime, all the time” thing is not necessarily just about loving good weather. It’s more than that. It bleeds into my music. It represents a feeling, a memory. My outlook on life is representative of summer. I don’t hate on winter. I love a good change of seasons. I’m just more of a summertime type person.
Underwood: Your new music video for “While We’re in Love” is more of an urban adventure and seems to stray from that philosophy. Was that what you were going for?
Viceroy: You can always go overboard with things. Even when my productions get a little less summery-pop, they can still have a summer vibe. They’re just a bit darker. I really like how the video turned out. It is urban, which is something I haven’t represented before. It’s a party, and the music is made for going out and having a good time. The people in the video represent a very fun vibe. It goes back to what I was saying before: summer isn’t just a season. It can be a mood and personality trait. If I do the same thing all the time, it gets boring.
Underwood: I really liked the production line scenes. The disco ball and the super-soaker are crammed into the processor to make the summery drink which juxtaposes the nighttime party scene. How do those two seemingly different images fit together?
Viceroy: They’re both progressing in the same way. They are opposite but they parallel each other. There is a process to the night with an end result just as there is at the end of the production line.
Underwood: You recently remixed Passion Pit’s Track “Carried Away”.
Viceroy: I was hoping to release it this summer because of the timing of the album and the nature of the track. It’s definitely a fun summer tune. But the way record labels work, you can’t really control everything. I’m really stoked about how it came out. I made the bass line a lot more driving. There’s a remix contest for “Carried Away” so it will be interesting to hear the other takes on the track.
Underwood: Passion Pit can be remixed in so many directions. What do you think of the other previous remixes of Passion Pit’s tracks?
Viceroy: I really enjoy the M Machine Remix of “Take a Walk”. I thought they went in a really cool direction with it. They’re San Francisco guys as well. Passion Pit is a very up-beat, poppy band. When I remixed “Carried Away”, I wanted to keep a similar vibe. I wanted to put my own spin on it but keep true to the original aspects.
Underwood: What was it that drew you to Passion Pit?
Viceroy: I was offered to do a remix of one of the songs on their album. I’m friends with the bass player, Jeff, but I’ve been a huge fan through college. We brought them to Trinity a few times to spin. He told me to listen to the album and choose a track to remix. I heard “Carried Away” and thought it was right down my alley. It has such a powerful chorus. I’ve been with them since their first EP, so it was an honor to do it.
Underwood: One of the reasons I’m attracted to your music is how organic and regional you’ve been able to make it. It sounds like you’ve spent some time in equatorial tropical hotspots to achieve that sound. How much of your inspiration comes from traveling and how much comes through listening to other pieces of music?
Viceroy: That’s interesting. I’ve gone to a lot of tropical places, but I wouldn’t say my experiences there have weighed in on the type of music I make. It’s my personality. I grew up in California, and was a pretty happy kid. At a young age I was introduced to a wide range of off-beat music ranging from Reggae to Disco. If you were to put my music into a genre, Nu-disco and Summer Music are ones you could throw out there. The idea is “feel good dance music”. I got into that my Sophomore year in college. In 2009, a buddy of mine, who is a fantastic DJ, was sending me tunes. This was right before electronic music made it’s big pull in the United States and became mainstream. He showed me Treasure Fingers, and I was like, “What is this? I love this music.” I listen to all kinds of genres, and that’s really important. Otherwise you’ll get stuck. Diplo received a lot of influence from Jamaica. I wouldn’t say his music is tropical in exactly the same way as mine, but he is influenced by the Jamaican culture. My music stems from stuff people showed me over the years. I just really like “feel good music.”
Underwood: You’re music does capture a certain feeling and a vibe.
Viceroy: Thank you! I’m not saying I’m reinventing the wheel, either. There’re plenty of Disco and Feel Good artists out there. I have no problem going into the Pop side of things. People hate on certain kinds of Pop Music, and yes, there is a bunch of trash out there. It does serve its purpose. But there is also great Pop music, too. I’ve always enjoyed a good Pop track. I kept my sound more poppy than say Plastic Plates or Goldroom. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with that. I think I’m just going for a wider audience.
Underwood: Do you find that your sound is more receptive in certain places around the U.S?
Viceroy: The obvious one would be LA. LA has a huge Nu-disco scene because of the weather and the atmosphere. I have a lot of friends down there, so I might be a little biased. Same thing in San Francisco. New York has a great vibe. Since I came out of the college game, I was doing mash-ups and learning programs. In 2011, I became Viceroy, and I had all these connections with college blogs and college networks. Other DJ’s don’t have as much of a college following. I definitely play a lot more colleges than the other guys. These connections have enabled me to reach a wider audience.
Underwood: Do you enjoy DJing overseas?
Viceroy: I do! I have a big fan base in Mexico. Every time I play in Canada it’s awesome. I am doing an Australia tour next March then drop to New Zealand, up to Singapore. Besides when I was studying abroad in Rome and was just a club DJ my senior year in college, I never played abroad. I know I have a huge following in Paris.
Underwood: How much live instrumentation do you incorporate into your music?
Viceroy: I grew up playing guitar and bass. I’ve been playing a lot more bass in my songs coming up, which I’m excited about. I have a buddy, Brett, who is an incredible Jazz pianist. I mean ridiculous. I credit him in the DCUP remix I did. He rips on the keys. So with things like that, I think it’s really cool. I’m a one-man show, and I am not going make Viceroy a live band anytime soon. It is cool to have buddies come in who I think are talented and like-minded. It makes it fun for me and makes my range of music more dynamic.
Underwood: What are you excited about in Dance music right now? What are you looking forward to, what do you see happening that you like?
Viceroy: I am really excited that the United States is catching up to Europe as far as the excitement about dance music. Europe has always been there, but it has been really cool to see how it’s grown in the last three years. I like Dubstep, Complextro, and heavy electro, but I think the kids that were listening to it are getting older. They are going to want something they can still dance to but that isn’t so intense. I can show my parents a song I’ve done and they’ll get it. They are going to want something that is multi-generational and multi-purpose. Nu-Disco has been blowing up a lot lately. I’m excited to see where the summertime stuff goes. It’s getting a lot of following at BBC Radio One.
Underwood: If you could give a topic on dance music, what would be the topic and why?
Viceroy: You may not have to like dance music. It’s not for everybody. But at the same time it’s something everybody needs to take a hard look at. There hasn’t been, in my opinion, a genre of music that has brought so many types of people together. It (dance music) brings out a primitive sense in all of us and allows us to let go and not focus on the worries of the world. You’re dancing. Other genres have touched upon it, but not in such a global way. I’ve never seen so many different types of people come together. You may not know the person right next to you, but they are your family at the show. I’m so blown away by the community that there is with dance music. There’s a lot of lessons to take from that and can be applied to other problems around the world.
Underwood: Thanks, Austen!
Viceroy: Thank you!