I had the pleasure of sitting down with Larry Cons and Torgier Byrkness, the duo you all know as Calyx & Teebee, by the cornerstone of Washington D.C.’s dnb scene, 3D Productions. We sat down in a roomy kitchen pantry inside the warehouse and discussed their thoughts on latest US run as it drew to a close, their unique take on a running album release, and some insane camp stories of run-ins alongside D.C. protestors and stubborn snowstorms.
I’ve seen you play in several different cities across the east coast over the years. Can you tell me what stands out to you about the east coast drum and bass scene?
Calyx: Well, if we go way back, literally to the late 90’s when we first started playing over here, DC was like one of the capitals, probably THE biggest city, along with LA. DC was massive. There was a club called Buzz that was absolutely amazing, man– Legendary experiences there. I wouldn’t really discern between the east and west coast though. Honestly, I think drum and bass is a universal sort of feeling, and we get the same sort of vibes east, west, in the middle, down south.
TeeBee: It doesn’t really matter where we go, there seems to be some sort of unison agreement that this is some place that is worth going out to.
Calyx: And to draw into that, tonight’s show was just amazing– Really proper warehouse vibes, it was great.
Alright, so this is the last stop on your tour. How did you feel the run went? I know you guys were super hyped up about it last night in New York and were looking to really go off tonight.
Calyx: Yes, amazing tour, beset by horrific travel woes. That storm [Nico] basically followed up across the continent. It was basically the apocalypse with all the snow, when we had to get to Nelson [British Columbia] from LA, that involved 3 cancelled flights, endless driving, 20 hours of travel before we got to Nelson. Then the next day we had to drive 10 hours through two mountain ranges to get to Vancouver, it was a mission. When we came east, our agent rang us and said, “Guys, this storm is actually following you, you’re gonna be fucked.” And we were gutted to miss Boston– We tried everything we could but we couldn’t make that. We are gonna go back there soon though. But aside from Nico, we had a great tour, we loved it.
With your tour ending in DC, have the current events effected how the tour has felt for you? Do you have any problems once the travel ban went down?
Calyx: Here’s the deal, we are white Europeans, so we are just fine. And that’s fucked, obviously, but I would say this: Personally, I’m a news junkie, and we’ve been following your politics since way way back. When we came, we wanted protests and feel a bit of the drama of where American politics is at, and when we arrived in LA we stepped out of the airport and there was a protest going on and we were like, “Yeah, yeah, this is exactly what I want to see, let’s have some protests!” Then this big fat white tourist comes out, and he looks at the protest and starts going, “Losers! Losers! Losers!” So we then – all the tourists, not even the protesters – started shouting at him, “You fucking racist fuck! Get the fuck out of here!” Suddenly we’re shouting him down, it was amazing! And the whole way over we’ve been loving it, it’s been fascinating. It’s a car crash, a horrific car crash that you can’t look away from. I found one Trump supporter on our tour, and that’s it. But yeah, we’re been soaking it up.
So you guys have been working together for at least a decade now, what do you think are the keys to success in your partnership and on the road?
TeeBee: The main thing is to never sit together on flights. No joke, that’s one of the things. Cause you want your personal space, and you have to create a divide. Another thing is that we were both our own entities before we decided to be a duo, and you just have to let that shine through.
Calyx: We have a very similar taste and work ethic, we’re very OCD for details. We realized when we first started working together in 2005 that we had a natural synchronicity. And another thing that kept us going, aside from having incredibly similar tastes, we’ve done the whole solo career thing, and it’s a much lonelier existence; touring, making music, when you’re an individual entity. When you have someone to bounce ideas off of and vibe with, it’s so much more enjoyable.
How has your working relationship with Ram evolved over the years?
TeeBee: Ram is fantastic, we love everyone there, they take really good care of us, and we couldn’t be happier.
Calyx: I think in a way, in an age when everyone releases just on their own label, it was great to join a really flag baring label, we were joining a label that really brought us to a bigger audience. It feels good being part of a collective. And the recent BMG merger has meant more resources for us, it’s been great.
TeeBee: We came from days with indie labels that ran a tight ship with offices and everything, and today you’ve got these big labels that don’t necessarily have an office. But after the merge, it all feels really official.
Calyx: And they have never asked us to compromise or change ourselves. They got us into Ram to show what we’re about, not conform to what they want.
Could you tell me a little bit about your production pattern? I know you guys like to set things to a deadline, could you tell me more about that?
Calyx: With the new system, we are releasing one track every month for 10 months, then at the end of that we release an album. We found with the last two albums that what a lot of people do is that they hide away– They end up juggling 20 tracks, and by the time you finish, the first track feels dated. So we decided, let’s finish music that we love and then put it out so it feels fresh to us and our fans, and gives us more of an omnipresence.
TeeBee: And on top of that, it allows us to ebb and flow a bit, and we know we have another track coming out next month, so we can go a bit deeper and darker, or uplifting, it doesn’t matter, cause by the time one track comes out, the next one is ready. That’s how we keep on schedule, and it allows us to sort of mold it into what we want it to be. It makes perfect sense this way.
You’ve been making a lot of waves with your vocal work [Calyx]. What do you most enjoy writing lyrics about?
Calyx: I try to sing about stuff that’s a bit personal. We’ve both always love melancholy in music– I’ll never sing some shiny happy people vocals, it’ll always be about something a bit melancholy.
We can break it down a bit more, “Elevate This Sound” was about the inhibitions that stopped me from singing in the first place. “Strung Out”, that was a diss track for a vocalist that we were gonna have on a track that kept cancelling, then he turned up one time and had nothing prepared.
The only one that wasn’t a personal, resonating vocal, was “Takes One to Know One”, I felt like I was acting, in a way. It wasn’t a personal statement at someone, I just wanted to sing something that resonated with people and keep up with the vibe of the track.
Do you think either of you will go back to releasing solo material at any point?
Calyx: There’s no end in sight to us being a team, we’re still growing, evolving, progressing.
TeeBee: Who knows what will happen in like 15 years, but we’ve built something that we’re not going to be walking away from.
Your 6 deck style is just a signature, and you’ve been slaying dancefloors for years because of it. Who have some of your biggest influences been– I’m sure something must have influenced the set up?
TeeBee: There really isn’t actually. We showed up at a gig in Moscow and went on after Pendulum, and there were 3 mixers and 8 decks set up on the table, and promoter just said, go play. And so we tried it out, and we had some spontaneous moments where we thought that this could really work.
Calyx: As a duo, it’s way better than taking turns on a set of decks.
TeeBee: It’s great for the crowd as well, they see the interaction. But really it’s about the music.
Calyx: And with this sort of style, the two DJs really start competing a bit, I can think of endless duos that do that. So who’s gonna draw that smasher first, etc. But for us it’s really about a partnership.
Time to wrap it up– So you guys have basically conquered the drum and bass scene, from tours, to releases, different sub genres, etc. What haven’t you accomplished yet that you would still like to do?
Calyx: We like the great unknown, that’s drum and bass. We don’t know what’s going to happen a year from now, it forces to keep pushing and step outside our comfort zone. If we kept doing the same thing and kept trying to come with the same sort of twisted bass that people are known for, we’d feel stale.
TeeBee: With this record now, we grew a bit tired of trying to be on the radio. We’ve gone straight back to doing exactly what we feel like. The last record was hard for us to do– There was a lot of pressure and it was hard to make for many reasons. This one is going to be easy to make though, cause we’ve decided that we’re going to do exactly what the fuck we want. We’re as guilty as anyone of looking at our peers and seeing people really smashing it, but we’re at our best when we’re just doing what we want to do.