Matt and Eli met in the halls of middle school and now tour the world together. Transforming DJing from a be dream to a career, they stay inspired by other artists while honing their production process. Songs like 'Out of Love' and 'Pacific Coast Highway' highlight their unique use of instruments and trademark sound.
The DJ duo Two Friends became “two friends” well before the pair produced their first beat. Back in seventh grade, Matt and Eli met in the halls of middle school. “We were mutual friends with a dude named Ben, so we ate lunch together one day. Thanks Ben,” says Matt. The music then interest blossomed alongside the friendship. Other than Eli’s early success with a few popular mashups, the duo had zero experience before diving into music production senior year in high school. “We formed ‘Two Friends’ way before we had any clue what we were doing,” admit Matt and Eli. Matt’s earliest influences included almost no electronic music. Bon Jovi, Led Zeppelin, and Blink 182 dominated his classic and alternative rock upbringing. Gravitating towards hip-hop early on, Eli bumped electronic music on his playlists slightly before Matt. Eventually, both embraced the electronic genre as their influences evolved alongside the transition. “Now, we’ll love someone’s production, songwriting, or experimentation,” tells Eli. Anything fresh catches their attention.
Like any couple, Matt and Eli excel in different circles of competence, adding to the overall quality of the music. As a kid, Matt’s Dad made him play guitar. His early instrument of choice paid off as the group now records guitar on almost every track. In high school, Eli fiddled with the clarinet, “which unfortunately has translated onto zero of our tracks,” he jokes. As Eli isn’t insanely organized with his ideas, Matt takes the lead on organization and most production projects, while Eli has carved out responsibility with most DJing and all mixes. The give and take has been intact since they produced their first beat together for a college rapper named Gabriel Stark. The duo began sampling rap beats before they learned enough skills to produce electronic music.
At the beginning, small victories convinced both of their parents that the two could DJ as a career. Watching streams go from hundreds to millions bolstered the confidence in their abilities. “We knew we’d need to be at a good spot after college for them to give their blessings to do this full time,” said Matt and Eli. In the earliest stages of live performances, they booked any available show opportunity. Even the most experienced DJs cannot escape train wreck right of passage at the start of a music career. Two Friends hosted their fare share of awkward events and empty dance floors, but never relinquished any effort. At a charity event in Chicago, nobody in the audience knew any electronic songs. In case there weren’t enough crickets in the room, neither Matt nor Eli knew any song the crowd requested. “If you’ve ever seen the movie The Perfect Storm, it was that in musical form,” they laugh. Despite mishaps, the duo preaches patience on stage. “It definitely was a slow process to get touring. We probably did five times as many shows in 2016 as we did in 2015, and five times more shows in 2015 than 2014. All the while, the quality has gone up.”
Matt and Eli, graduates of Stanford and Vanderbilt respectively, are no strangers to firing up a college crowd on tour. They still gravitate towards college venues because of the relentlessly good vibes. While still in school, Matt and Eli remember the moment they each realized their musical callings. A sophomore on winter break, Matt was lying in bed, eyes glued to the ceiling, imagining the success down the road from hard work. Having a less sober realization, Eli texted Matt from a Porter Robinson concert nearby campus. “I was texting things like damn this guy is the same age as us – we can do this. Matt was cracking up at my typos but down for the mission,” remembers Eli. The mission, working as full time DJ’s, is like starting a company. Friday and Saturday night shows mean using the little time left on Sunday to prepare for the upcoming week in the studio. Used to the unforgiving hours, they hang out with friends and savor off days to recharge creatively.
On weekdays, Matt and Eli work 11am to 8pm like clockwork. They run errands, workout, and make appointments early in the mornings. With a recently redone studio, Matt and Eli each have their own seats to lock in and focus on the making music. LA meetings limit studio productivity, especially when it takes half the day to drive cross-town. “The schedule stays pretty consistent throughout the year. Certain months have more shows than others, but nothing too crazy,” say both DJs. Constantly self-evaluating, they look for opportunities in social media, branding, and new music. Wasted effort can be debilitating in a tight-for-time, unforgiving music landscape. “Like many others industry, we work super hard for small victories and never take what we get to do for granted.” The slightest misstep can break the building blocks of the brand. Matt and Eli control their destiny with sweat in the studio to solidify their genuine sound on stage. When asked about their genre, the answer was short. “Our style is Two Friends.”