BROMANTIC VOYAGE: When the boys from GTA got together, things just clicked—musically speaking.
Like an ever-increasing number of Americans, Matt Toth and Julio Mejia met online. Toth produced tech house and Mejia focused on hip-hop-centric dance music before a mutual friend introduced them on Facebook—linking them to each other’s SoundCloud pages. The day they met in 2010, the two took their first step towards becoming Good Times Ahead, or GTA, when Toth started playing a System of a Down CD.
“We knew every word,” Mejia says. “We became really good friends, and he’s even better to work with. We have the same thought process when it comes to producing.”
GTA achieved almost instantaneous success. Shortly after uniting, they sent off a collaboration to several studios for feedback. The song, which they had mostly laid down in their first session together, got the attention of Afrojack, a top Dutch DJ who wanted to release the song on his label.
“I honestly have no idea how that happened,” Mejia says. “They said it sounded professional. To us, that was crazy. We’d been together producing for four months. And before then, we hadn’t been producing for that much longer. But we just got lucky.”
After that, they became bona fide by working with major names in the industry, like Diplo, A-Trak and Calvin Harris. In EDM, a genre with hundreds of acts jockeying for listeners on overstuffed streaming services, GTA saw these collaborations as an opportunity to expand their sound.
“There’s a lot of competition because there’s a lot of people doing the same kind of thing,” Mejia says. “So people are just trying to do it better, trying to do something different. We’re getting both aspects: the cool underground thing that we love and then the epicness, and the melodic catchiness of Calvin Harris.”
Soon, the duo attracted the attention of Rihanna. She took them along as openers on her 2013 Diamonds World Tour. They went from playing a club show once every month to 70 shows over six months as they traveled from Montreal to Manila to perform in arenas that held up to 90,000 people. Toth calls it a “crazy, eye-opening experience.” They improved as DJs, learned about global music tastes and incorporated universally beloved songs into their hype-the-crowd set while still mixing “in a way that only GTA can.”
On their newest, eponymous release, they develop a singular vision of EDM that displays their versatility. They get assists from Tinashe, Tunji Ige, Iamsu! and Vince Staples, weaving together the disparate up-and-comers who, unlike more established artists, were willing to experiment with their still-solidifying sound.
“We love the creation process of music,” Toth said. “We love trying to push music forward in our own ways. We just want people who have fresh minds and love to do something different, but not too weird, too crazy. People who get how to do the right amount of different.”
The songs boast atypical rhythms and novel sounds. Some meander mellowly while others bounce with clubby fervor. The release straddles the intersections between pop, hip-hop, R&B and EDM. On the album’s biggest track, “Feel It,” they collaborate with What So Not to craft shimmering, super-sized synths, then they tap Tunji Ige for some cocky, nasally bars before letting the track breathe with an electro-ballad bridge.
On “Little Bit of This,” Staples bucks against his “activist” label, then lists what he likes: “big guns, fast whips, ass and tits, Mansions and white women, Mike Jackson shit.” In this song and others, GTA seeks to go a bit deeper, lyrically speaking, than most EDM. After rising to prominence on the strength of their bangers, they want to tone down the adrenaline, so they can say something.
“The purpose of dance music is trying to go out and forget about all the hard times, trying to forget about life and all the real shit that’s going on,” Toth says. “So it’s hard to try to incorporate something that’s really real and meaningful. But we had more experience with actually writing lyrics and working with other vocalists. So we’re trying to figure out the right way to incorporate that into our more dancey stuff.”
Dec 30, 10pm, $25
Pure Lounge, Sunnyvale