During the first wave of post-electroclash hipster club culture Flosstradamus—the duo of Josh “J2K” Young and Curt “Autobot” Cameruci—were mentioned in the same breath as DJs like Diplo and A-Trak. But while some of their contemporaries set off on career paths that were as smooth as they were steeply rising, Young and Cameruci’s stalled. For a few years there they seemed destined to become a footnote, best remembered for their legendary parties at the Boystown dive bar Town Hall Pub and for combining Lil Jon with arena techno. But the pair stuck with it. After reconfiguring their hybrid of hip-hop and EDM they suddenly became bigger than ever, making major appearances on the global festival circuit and accumulating over a million followers on SoundCloud while making eccentric moves like releasing a mixtape on a combination flash drive and portable electronic vaporizer. For, you know, “aromatherapy.”
After spending most of the year on the road they’re closing out 2013 with a pair of big hometown shows tonight and tomorrow at the Riviera, both of which are now sold out. Earlier this month I talked with them at the hangar-like venue Terminal 5 in New York City before they packed it full of turned-up rave revivalists.
So you guys have had a pretty huge couple of years. Can you tell me about that?
C: We’ve been reflecting a lot lately now that we have a little bit of time, and it’s been crazy to go from the Floss 1.0 stuff to now. All of the whole 2.0 version with this new movement that’s growing, we haven’t really had much time to sit back and reflect and, I don’t know, absorb all of this.
J: We’re fortunate enough to have the privilege of experiencing an up and then a down and then another up. The perspective that we gained in falling off really helped us to mature a lot and prepare ourselves for this next level of whatever Flosstradamus is. Because this time around is way bigger than the first time we thought we were really doing it. If we just went from zero to where we are right now I know my head wouldn’t be right. Now it feels like we’re ready to hunker down and get straight to work. We were given this awesome opportunity and we know how valuable it is, so instead of pissing it away we’re just grinding one thousand percent.
You’ve both been really forthcoming about that minute where your career was pretty much in limbo. What was it like to have things stall out on you that way?
J: For me there were really good parts about it and really bad parts about it. The bad parts about it were obviously the really humbling moments like when we played a show in Denver in front of my mom and there were literally—including her—maybe ten people in the building. And it was probably a 1,000-capacity venue. Like I said, we needed those moments to give us perspective on ourselves as people and how much of a blessing it is to have a career in music. Also for me creatively it was one of the best times of my life because no one gave a fuck. No one was watching. You know how people say “dance like nobody’s looking?” it was like “produce like nobody’s listening.” I was making music for me and Curt only. It helped me get past some creative roadblocks that I had about making tracks before.
When you started moving towards the trap sound was there a moment where things started snapping into focus musically?
J: I think it was when we put “Total Recall” up and it started to get some traction. Both of us had gotten really deep into production on different levels. I got into beat-making and Curt got really into engineering, like mixing and mastering. So it ended up working out really well for us. We put out a couple EPs before just to kinda get our name back out there and they hadn’t really done much, and then we put up this song on SoundCloud and it got a ton of plays. Then obviously the cease and desist came. But shit just took off from there.
Obviously now you don’t have to worry about playing to ten people. You guys have a really devoted fan base now. When did you start seeing that come together?
C: I saw it come together when the Hoodieboyz stuff came up. Josh came up with the term for us because we were wearing hoodies at the hottest shows. Then fans started calling themselves Hoodieboyz and then Hoodiegirlz came from that, and that was the first time it was like a following. We would see people Instagramming at a Tiesto show wearing our shirt or doing our logo. At a Tiesto show or at a Waka Flocka show or whatever, people would be repping not necessarily us but the Hoodieboyz brand.
J: I like fucking with the Internet. I like using the Internet as a little machine to throw things into and see what happens. If you throw something like Hoodieboyz out there it might catch on, and in this case it blew up. There are so many times where we just let the Internet kind of do the legwork for us. Even our logo, the new logo came from the cover artwork came from our EP Jubilation that we did with Fool’s Gold, and then people started using that emoji for us and we were like cool, that’s our logo. I wish I could say I was creative enough to take credit for it.
You guys have told me before that you prefer being called “hackers” rather than musicians. I was wondering if you could explain what that means.
C: We’ve done a lot of different campaigns where we’ve tried to use the Internet in ways that people hadn’t tried. When we released the X EP we set up Twitter so when people tweeted at us with a certain hashtag it would send them a direct message right away, like this little bot, and it would send them an exclusive link that gave them one share and it would go dead, and that was the only way the EP was distributed. We ended up breaking Twitter. They banned our account and stuff. We’ve released tapes as BitTorrents and our next tape is the first album ever to be released on a vape pen. We just try to use technology to push things forward.
You guys reference PLUR and a lot of other old rave signifiers, but it doesn’t ever seem like you’re doing it ironically.
J: That whole culture is back in a very big way. PLUR isn’t an underground thing anymore. [EDM] festival culture in America is the biggest culture. You go to EDC Las Vegas and there are like 300 thousand people there. Coachella’s not doing those numbers, and Lollapalooza’s not doing those numbers. And all those kids are all about candy and all about PLUR. We got drawn into that world from making rap beats and we really like it because it’s super positive. Ever since Town Hall our mantra’s always been “anyone can come, no one’s excluded.” It’s evolved for us into PLURNT, which is like being PLUR and turnt at the same time. It’s not like peace is some kind of turn-down thing. These kids are positive, but they’re also going crazy.
C: And both of those words are kind of about being yourself and not giving a fuck.
The last time rave culture was a big thing, back in the 90s, it seemed very separated from hip hop. You guys are kind of in the middle of this collision that’s happening between them right now.
J: Every night we go out we really try to bridge the gap between EDM and hip-hop because those are the two genres of music that we enjoy the most. We want the cultures to mix, we want the people to mix, we want everything to be completely mixed and integrated, and I think that speaks to a lot of people. Now we’re seeing a lot of rap acts coming into the raves that weren’t there a few years ago.
Tell me about your trip down to Atlanta.
C: That whole trip was kind of awesome. When we started doing the EDM-trap thing, we almost didn’t expect to keep DJing like we did, we thought we were just going to be making beats for rappers. But now that came full circle and we’re making beats for rappers again. We worked with this guy Casino and did a track called “Mosh Pit” and it’s super turnt, and it’s cool because it has the influence of EDM trap, but it’s hip-hop, it can be played back to back with the new Future track or whatever. We made a song with Waka Flocka that’s a big festival banger.
J: The first opportunity we had we moved down to Atlanta for a month to work with these people. The influence, the reason we even started making the beats that we’re making in the first place was because of Southside, because of 808 Mafia, because of Lex Luger. It could have gone any kind of way but it went really well. And I just saw on Instagram that now A-Trak’s down there working with those people. I’m happy to be kind of the first ones to go down there and open these doors.