The Lisbona Sisters infiltrated the scene with their spandex-infused spunk and a connoisseur's taste for elevated electronic beats. Over the last few years they have grown into a "house-hold" name, DJing across the country, opening for top-tier artists like Seth Troxler and Jamie Jones, playing some of the world's best festivals like Coachella and BPM...and having a ridiculously fun time through all of it. Tonight, they are playing with the lovable legend Green Velvet, so we tracked these fine ladies down to get the 411 on what they have cracking at the moment and get some insight into their fun and fabulous ways. You gals have blown up on the scene in a big way, playing all kinds of reputable parties, opening for huge DJs, touring, and even headlining some of your own shows. How did you embark on this journey?
Ava: The journey began when I was born and basically Laura and I couldn’t stop aggressively hanging out with each other. As we got older we started going to parties together and we always wanted to play, so Chris Smith gave Laura a tutorial, and then we pretty much practiced and taught ourselves in the basement of Monarch during off-hours. People wanted to book us before we knew how to DJ basically because we are two chicks (and nice ones at that). Apparently we pulled it off and fooled promoters for a while and now we are actually doing it, which is pretty cool.
Laura: Haha, yep. Pretty much. It's been crazy! Over a one-month span, we'll have played direct support for Seth Troxler, Green Velvet, Lauren Lane, Jamie Jones, Droog (huh?!); played The Gathering's 24-Year Anniversary (what?!), plus our first headliner show with LED at Bang Bang in San Diego (rad!)...we're freaking out. It's hard to say how we embarked upon this journey...I would say it all started with aggressively listening to music together when we were kids. We still trip out that we can actually get paid to hang out with each other and play music we like. If that's not a dream job, then I don't know what is.
Have you always had a passion for making music or a drive to be a DJ?
Ava: We just started making music. Right now I wouldn’t call it a passion, more of a frustration, but it' so fun to make something that comes out of the speakers and makes me want to have a nice old time. Drive to be a DJ? I fought the funk for a long time and pretended that I didn’t want to and now I just figured out maybe I should quit lying to myself, suck it up and just go for it. So, I don’t know if that answers your question, but that’s my answer.
Laura: YES. When I was about 8 or 9, I was obsessed with Salt n' Pepa and I wanted to learn to scratch like Spinderella. I told our mom all I wanted for Christmas were turntables and I freaking begged for them; she thought I was nuts. I didn't get the turntables. I was always really fascinated with arrangement of music, even if I didn't know that's what it was called. I remember when I was a kid they would do these remix contests on the internet for artists like Brittany Spears where they would give you the parts and you could arrange them differently in this very simple program; I would come home after school and spend hours every day messing around. I think there were only like 5 or 6 simple parts to work with, but I was obsessed with how you could put all of the sounds together in so many ways...aaaa! I was a dancer growing up and I used to love making mix tapes for my routines, so I taught myself how to record on a boombox going from CD to cassette tape; I had to press the buttons at the right time (right on the "1") to get the music to flow the way I needed it to for my dance sequences...I guess those were essentially my first mixes.
Do either of you play any instruments?
Ava: My dad was an incredibly talented piano player and always tried to teach me, but of course, I was too cool and now I can only play “Mary had a Little Lamb”. I played clarinet in band when I was a kid. It didn’t go well. I forged my moms signature on my practice sheets, I’m actually not sure how I fooled anyone that I knew what the hell I was doing, apparently from my answers in this interview I am just faking my way through life, so take that as a life lesson. And to answer your question, no.
Laura: Let's see...I was in honor band for the clarinet circa grades 5 and 6. I did not forge mom's signature--Ava, that's so bad! I wanted to play the saxophone but it was really expensive and they told me it could blow out my cheeks as a little girl. As Ava explained, our father was a master pianist who taught us piano at a very young age. He started teaching me how to play the masterpieces of artists like Beethoven, but I also decided with my excellent 6-year wisdom that it wasn't very cool. I can still perform a mean rendition of "Chopsticks" though, no problem.
I know you've started getting into the studio. What programs are you using? Are you picking it up quickly?
Ava: Picking it up quickly? Well, It’s pretty much like trying to learn another language, but it’s happening. We are lucky enough to have a lot of really talented friends that have been doing this a while helping us iron out kinks and letting us annoy them with stupid questions.
Laura: I would say we're picking it up quickly. I've been LOVING it. Chris Smith has tutored us quite a bit in Ableton and recently we've been doing some lessons with Alex Nazar down in LA. Both guys are musical geniuses and have been perfect for helping launch us into self-sufficiency with the program. Arrangement-wise we're pretty solid, though we still need need some help steering through the kits and such since there are, I don't know, a GAZILLION of them. Now as we start expanding our sound, we're excited to work with more live elements, fusing those with electronic ones. I love the type of stuff Nick Monaco has been doing for the last couple years, recording harmonizing parts using his voice, like a melodic beatbox sort of style. That's something I'd love to experiment with, especially with the two of us since we can harmonize in some pretty interesting ways. Ha. Also, my goal for this next year is that I'd like to become a G on the 808. I saw Erykah Badu get down with one at her show and was like, "Ok, that's it--I need to do that."
How would you describe your sound? How do you see it evolving now that you are producing?
Ava: I wouldn’t. We are just starting, so it’s just forming now and I am sure will evolve into something. Vague, I know, but we love all types of music and spent our childhoods in the 90’s listening to everything from heroin grunge to R&B, house music and gangster rap. We were brought up by a Jazz musician and a Disco queen so I’m pretty sure that will come into play in our music.
Laura: Well, crayap. This is a tough question. Our sound is so tied to the environment we're playing. I would say for bigger club gigs, we stick to mostly deep house and techno with disco and funk persuasions, but we've been loving to tie in some old school hip hop, r&b, pop and who knows what else. We love such an eclectic range of music; I've dropped everything in from Deadmau5 to Marshall Jefferson to Kylie Minogue to Louis Prima. We're feeling less and less constricted by musical boundaries as we've started producing because we've found interesting ways to work in certain parts of songs we like with others, even if the genres are completely different. It's so exciting, but in a way it's also completely overwhelming because the possibilities are limitless.
You play in LA a lot. How is the scene down there in comparison to SF?
Ava: They are completely different. It is definitely not as deep-rooted so it's a different energy, but there are a lot of kids who are hungry for something more and that is exciting to see.
Laura: I've been loving LA for the last couple of years and it's been rad to see how the scene down there is burgeoning. I mean, a lot of pivotal stuff has happened in LA since the early days of rave culture. Doc Martin has been doing parties down there since...well, forever? I used to beg my mom to go to raves when I was like 11 years old because I heard about these older kids driving up there and it just sounded so FUN! I wanted to go anywhere I could wear a cereal-box backpack and blinky-light jewelry! I didn't know what the deal was, but I knew I wanted to go...but, yeah, mom said no to my 11-year-old ass, and I think we'd all agree that's reasonable. LA doesn't have the same scene that someplace like SF or NY does, and I'm not saying that in a bad way; it's got it's own thing going on and it's really refreshing to go out there. You have clubs like Sound, which is smack in the middle of Hollywood and is still concerned with bringing quality electronic music and attracting the real music-heads when, if they wanted to, could just book some mindless Top 40 or EDM and get paid. There are beauties to SF and LA and it's nice to enjoy the best of each. I used to think LA was too network-y for me, but now I love the feeling thatshit happens down there.
Your Stretch parties were pretty epic--so much flavor and originality. Do you anticipate bringing that party back or have anything in the works in that creative vein?
Ava: Stretch is still there, we just have too many other creative things going on to promote a party that we put so much passion into. Stretch to us was more than just putting some DJ’s on a bill and calling it something. We brought in performances and other productions elements to get people involved and feel like a part of the party. I don’t like to half-ass anything in my life so I definitely don’t want to do it with a brand we took so long to create. There are lots of new things on the horizon, party-wise, we want to do something with a little more purpose that can give back to a community. That’s all I will say for now :]
Laura: Umm, yeah they were. And they aren't gone. We've had to put it down for awhile so we could focus on other things, but Stretch will be back and it will be better than ever. We've had talks of expanding into LA and NY, but we want to make sure we do it properly and when the time is right. We also want to bring in new production elements (starting with Stairmasters, per Bubbles' suggestion) as well as figure out how to tie in a philanthropic connection. I'm really passionate about bringing music and arts to kids as well as to people who are incarcerated (I know that Give A Beat is doing something like this). Though they can seem somewhat different, they're actually so connected; with both children and incarcerated adults, you're dealing with humans that have tremendous potential and a lot of energy that, if channeled properly, can have beautiful outcomes. Maybe they just need to Streeeyaaatch it out!
Speaking of your creativity, that was one bad ass video you produced for Yolanda Be Cool. Tell us about that?
Ava: It all started that fateful night at WMC in our hotel room. The Yolandis liked the video we has produced for Stretch. We spit out a few ideas for their new track and well, magic happened. It gained a lot of attention and has over a million views on YouTube and, as Laura said, has made it in to MTV in Europe. I can’t even believe we have accomplished something like that. I guess I should speak for myself in saying I can’t believe I have accomplished something like that. We love working working with those guys, and it definitely won’t be the last time.
Laura:Haha, well thanks. It pretty much stemmed from hanging out with you, Brittany Tilleman. We met those guys in Miami this year and they're kind of the best. We all instantly clicked and had the best time together, and some epic hotel room after-party shenanigans turned into a zany brainstorming session for visualizing their track "Soul Makossa (Money)". We followed up with them after the madness to let them know we were serious about taking it on, and we somehow convinced them to let us do it, which to us was hilarious to us because, in the business sense, we feel like we're Will Ferrell and John C. Reilly doing Prestige Worldwide out of Step Brothers. It was intimidating at times, because not only were we in charge of producing a stellar video for Yolanda Be Cool, but we also felt personally responsible as artists to respect the original track they sampled--Manu Dibango's "Soul Makossa", which is an original disco classic from the early 70s. But the finished product was awesome; we got to shoot with a bunch of our friends and it was featured on MTV across 25 million households...no big deal.
You ladies are producers in every sense of the word, so incredibly talented and always involved in a million things. What's on the horizon for 2016?
Ava: Thank you, that means a lot. For 2016 we just plan to keep going with the momentum we have right now. Lots of Lisbona, straight in your face.
Laura: Our very first remix is coming out in January! It's a collaboration with Shiny Objects for killer electro-pop band Date Nite, called "Venn D" and it's a dance floor banger. It has some Dirtybird-esque rolling bass lines as well as a funk guitar incorporation, with plenty of female voice tones. It's just so us. Now we're in the process of working on an EP sampling Auntie Fee's voice; if you don't know this woman, look up her cooking videos! She is off the chainz and we can't get enough of her. Beyond that, we're looking at how we can start taking our influence to the next level, expanding our network and leveraging our dance music community to make a positive impact in this world! I'm also getting ready to launch my blog, Lisbonafied, so stay tuned for that. Oh, we're also making a build-your-own-pizza-kini...you'll see. We've got a ton of things going on right now and some very exciting talks in the mix; it's all a bit nerve-racking at times, but overall it's thrilling and we're ready to crush it. "Lots of Lisbona, straight in your face", as Ava said.
THE RAPID FIRE: FIVE
WORD: Love FOOD: Pizza. Capellini pomodoro. Frozen yogurt. CITY: New York MEMORY: I was about 4 years old, Ava was probably 6 months. She was sitting on the floor in our parents' bedroom in Atlantic City and I was running in circles around her and she was cracking up like a little idiot. QUALITY IN A PERSON: cutie
WORD: No FOOD: Pizza, duh. CITY: I don’t feel like I am qualified to answer this question because I haven’t traveled the whole world, but I have a feeling that New York will always be close to the top. MEMORY: traveling through space QUALITY IN A PERSON: consistency