Better known as the fast-rising DJ/producer trio, Autograf, they take live DJing to the next level. Pioneers of originality, Autograf consistently wows crowds with their care for creating an immersive audiovisual experience, and their incorporation of live instrumentals into their already epic sets. Their show at Coda in Philly this past Friday night was no exception.
Autograf is known for their unique remixes and future house sound, intertwined with tropical beats and elements of a deep house groove. I was excited to hear them play live since they’re known to put on a great show.
Their set lived up to the rumors – mixes of popular songs, their awesome first original track “Dream,” old soul sounds/jazz melodies vs. future house beats, Jake’s rad performance on the vibraphone, and plenty more. Their talent for combining genres and breaking boundaries by pushing unique sounds outside recipe EDM is impressive.
I had the opportunity to sit down with Jake and Mikul at the end of the night and learn more about their artistic/musical backgrounds, the future of Autograf and their go to dance moves.
EPIC PRODUCTIONS: So how was tonight for you?
M: It was really fun! This was our first time doing a live thing in Philly together as Autograf, which was really cool.
EPIC PRODUCTIONS: Have you played in Philly before not as Autograf?
M: Yeah actually, at this cool place up in Fishtown called The Barbary. The owner’s a friend of ours and back before we were even Autograf we’d play shows there.
J: We used to play his monthly party called Hands and Knees and it was just…nuts. So much fun. They’re still going on.
EPIC PRODUCTIONS: Very cool!
J: I get the most nostalgia coming to Philly going to The Barbary, it’s just so much fun. There’s The Barbary, then the next story up is called the Barbarella. Both technically the same building, and both are just a wicked awesome party. I’d call it the Berghain of Philly because the bartenders won’t let you in if you don’t look a certain way. It’ll fill up regardless of who comes, so the bartenders definitely vet anyone who walks in. But it’s not nearly as intense as that spot in Berlin. Everyone’s so nice.
[Jeff Omega, the post-show DJ act, walks in and we start chatting about their sets.]
Jeff: That was super fun, didn’t know until today I was closing for you guys!
J: Hella big crowd too, it was awesome.
Security Staff Guy: I’d say that was the best crowd this summer.
Jeff: Oh definitely. I’d say that was right up there with Claude VonStroke. You guys definitely packed the house.
J: That’s awesome! Love Claude VonStroke. Mikul is like the dirtybird fan guy of Autograf. If he had is druthers, our after hour DJ sets would be straight dirtybird.
M: Oh yeah, the bounce! That’s what I wanna hear when it’s 5am and you’re partying.
J: Yeah tonight if it was Mikul with the headphones, that’s what we’d have been hearing. Instead I was doing some Euro German House.
EPIC PRODUCTIONS: Any shows coming up that you’re particularly excited for?
J: We have some cool shows coming up in Jakarta, Shanghai and then we have a five-day cruise in Singapore, which is pretty much the Asian version of Holy Ship! It’s called It’s The Ship and it’s a huge boat that can hold 6,000 people. We’ll be playing for five days and five nights. But it’s all very chill and we’ve got our own set up.
M: No days off! I mean we’ll only play for like an hour each day then get to hang out.
J: No dude, we’re doing day shows and night shows. But still only like a few hours a day…it’ll be great.
EPIC PRODUCTIONS: Is every set a live set?
M: No some we DJ, and some are live sets.
EPIC PRODUCTIONS: Where’s your third musketeer at, Louis?
J: He’s back in Chicago, it’s always two of us out. I play every show just because of the marimba, but Mikul and Louis swap out. And they’ll bring different equipment out based on where and what we’re playing. If we’re doing a big fest show, we’ll bring much more equipment.
EPIC PRODUCTIONS: As a live musician playing nearly every night, what’s your favorite part of it?
J: Oh man…I love all of it. When I was younger I used to favor certain parts of it, but nowadays I just love it all.
EPIC PRODUCTIONS: How would you guys describe your dynamic as a trio?
J: [laughing] I’d say I’m one-third redneck.
EPIC PRODUCTIONS: I can hear that! (Side note: Jake has an adorable Kentucky accent.)
J: Then I’d say Mikul is one-third cosmopolitan. And I’d say Louis is one-third Asian genius.
M: [laughing] We've got a bit of everything.
J: I’d say that’s our three-unit dynamic.
EPIC PRODUCTIONS: So you guys all come from very artistic backgrounds; what about your musical backgrounds specifically?
J: Yeah my parents made me take piano lessons, they made me take drum lessons, violin lessons, voice lessons, they literally made me take every single kind of lesson.
EPIC PRODUCTIONS: Only child?
J: No I actually have a twin brother.
EPIC PRODUCTIONS: Identical?
J: Fraternal. He ended up gravitating more toward the drums; both of us ended up taking drums for three years, and he continued doing drums, whereas both of us took piano for three years, and I continued with piano. Then once high school rolled around, both of us ended up doing drums in the marching band, the quads. I don’t do string instruments…I like percussion. I stick to my marimba and piano.
EPIC PRODUCTIONS: How did you get into the marimba specifically?
J: Once marching band finished, I had to take band for the rest of the school year to fill that. So there I ended up doing the pit percussion, which was where I learned how to use the vibraphone. Or marimba…it’s actually the same thing, just different depending on what it’s made out of. Marimba is made out of wood, vibraphone is made out of metal. Xylophone is made out of metal, but a lot smaller! Same amount of keys, just really high-pitched.
EPIC PRODUCTIONS: So neat you incorporate that into your live sets. You guys do a lot of other cool things with your MIDI technology and your focus on both audio and visuals – what do you see as the future for your live performances?
M: I think the next step is that we’ve built a MIDI djembe. Jake recently built this massive one with LEDs in it, cast out of clear acrylic. The LEDs react to the music as we play it and it works with the Ableton technology, which we use across the platforms for our live show.
J: It’s this optical acrylic and it’ll change lights and color based on how hard you hit the drum, whether it’s with your hand or with the stick.
EPIC PRODUCTIONS: How cool!
M: This will allow us to deviate and play our set however we want to play it, while at the same time keeping all the lighting and visuals in sync since it’s run through Ableton. Right now a lot of acts have to plan their set to match the visuals they have on the screen, but with this everything we do will be live and interchangeable, while being synced up at the same time – as you change your set, everything will follow.
J: So as a performer that lets you do things on the fly, everything follows in sync with us and we can be as random as we want.
EPIC PRODUCTIONS: Sounds perfect for you guys and your style. Can’t wait to see it!
J: Definitely. As a performer I think that’s kind of the next frontier. For example, in the festival circuit, we’ve been on it – and I’m not going to name names – but you see a lot of people playing the same set every night. Having the same visuals. Every. Night. And realistically, I don’t think what they’re doing is inherently wrong. There’s not exactly a whole lot of people who are like, “I want to see that DJ tonight, and tomorrow, and three nights from now, and five nights from now, and seven nights from now…” So it’s not exactly the end of the world to have the exact same light show and the exact same live set. But we like to be more random and unplanned as artists, so it just rubs us the wrong way. We want to do something different every night, regardless of who sees us.
EPIC PRODUCTIONS: That must keep it more interesting for you too; the creative expression in your sets definitely seems fresh.
J: It makes us happy. Plus, it lets us tour without a lighting engineer. We don’t have to give anyone a heads up, “Hey we’re going to do this song, then this song, then this song.” It will follow us regardless of what we play.
EPIC PRODUCTIONS: Do you have anything right now like that?
M: Not yet. We have our EP coming out, so I think once we get our album going we’ll start incorporating these things for our live sets during our album tour.
EPIC PRODUCTIONS: Speaking of which…any hints you can give us about your new album?
M: So it’s pretty much all written and will probably be out in early February. Until then, we’ll be dropping singles every month starting late September/early October. So watch out for some singles coming soon and our album coming next year!
EPIC PRODUCTIONS: We definitely will. So now for some fun questions…you talk about how your name is Autograf because you want to write your mark on the world. Who has the best handwriting out of the three of you?
M: [laughing] I have terrible handwriting, so it’s definitely not me!
J: I got pretty good handwriting, definitely better than Louis.
M: Oh Louis has terrible handwriting. It’s gonna be Jake I guess.
J: Well you know what they say about handwriting – generally the worse your handwriting is, the smarter you are. So I guess that means I’m the stupid one in the group…because Mikul and Louis’ handwriting is WAY worse than mine.
EPIC PRODUCTIONS: Haha. Alright last question…what’s your go-to dance move?
J: Idk if these dance moves have a name…
M: Oh man, I’ve never been asked about my go-to dance move.
[After some persuasion, Jake whips out his phone to play a tune, grabs a glass as a prop and stands up. Mikul takes out the camera.]
J: Aw you better not film this! M: Alright Jake it’s off…
J: This track playing is Claptone, our manager also manages these guys. [Jake starts dancing.] Alright, this is the move, just a real subtle bob. You have to bob with your legs, you have to bob with your shoulders, but you have to keep your neck and head as still as possible. That’s the whole point for this move.
EPIC PRODUCTIONS: Is this the official Autograf bob here?
J: No no, this is like the deep house boogie. Just don’t move your neck…as long as you keep your neck still, you’re fine. As soon as you start moving your neck and head, your swag is gone. [Finishes dancing.] Alright, that’s it. [Round of applause from the room ensues.]
EPIC PRODUCTIONS: Well done!
Special thanks to Jake and Mikul for sitting down with me after their Philly show; we can’t wait to see all the exciting things you have planned and we’ll be on the lookout for more of your upcoming originals!
AUTHOR CREDIT: RACHEL NOVOSAD
PHOTO CREDIT: STEPHEN POWELL