You might think electronic dance music, or EDM, is all about glowsticking and furry boots. The glow sticks are pretty cool, it's true, but the genre is also about a lot more than that: The combination of deejaying, audio engineering, production and songwriting requires real artistry.
Over the last few years, EDM has erupted in popularity; artists like the Chainsmokers, Flume and Skrillex dominate the charts. Their community of fans has grown too large to ignore, and Texas is their new mecca.
Dallas has long been home to clubs where you can hear innovators in the genre, like Lizard Lounge and It’ll Do; and festivals such as Lights All Night and Something Wonderful attract thousands from all over the country, and even world, each year. Naturally, that means we also have a lot of artists right here in DFW who are making music on the cutting edge of EDM.
Here are 10 Texas-based EDM artists who we think deserve your attention.
Chris Lund has been making electronic music in Dallas for over 15 years under the name Left/Right. In that time he’s scored gigs at massive festivals such as Burning Man, Middlelands and Lights All Night; and coverage in Rolling Stone, Insomniac and, most recently, on BBC Radio 1.
Music is Lund’s passion and he shares it with others as an audio engineering teacher at Collin College. “This semester I’ve been taking it a lot lighter because I’ve been doing more touring,” he says. “I had to take last semester off for the same reason. But I’ve been teaching there for five years.”
When he’s not teaching, Lund runs Left/Right Pro Audio in Deep Ellum with another electronic artist, Gabriel Isenberg. “I do both mixing and engineering, but I also record vocals and teach electronic music production,” he says.
Left/Right’s home label, Punks Music, is based out of the UK and fronted by British production duo Stanton Warriors. Lund describes his releases through Punks Music as “broken beat and garage-y.” But stateside, he and fellow Dallas artist Zander run their own label called BRØKEN, which features heavier electronic artists.
When we spoke with Lund, he was preparing for several SXSW appearances. He’s dropping a new Punks compilation at the end of March and will also be playing Middlelands festival in Todd Mission, Texas, in May. But the most exciting news for Lund is his first appearance at this year’s Glastonbury Festival, a five-day arts and music extravaganza in the UK.
John Paul Louden isn’t your average 16-year-old. Louden, who goes by the name Squalzz, has only been making music for about a year and a half, but in that time, he’s scored some pretty impressive buzz for a high school kid making beats out of his bedroom.
“It’s been kind of a quick start to my career, not anything crazy,” Louden says. “But I got played a lot on [SiriusXM] BPM Radio for like six months with my Marshmello ‘Alone’ remix, which has really helped my career.”
Growing up, Louden says he saw himself becoming a rockstar like his idol, Guns N’ Roses guitarist Slash, rather than a DJ. But all of that changed the second he heard “Scary Monsters and Nice Sprites” by Skrillex. He quickly picked up some equipment, learned the basics and began his electronic journey. And after hearing their son on BPM Radio, Louden’s parents suggested he try his hand at live performances, which led to his playing two shows at Austin’s Scratchhouse.
In addition to offering his music through all the major streaming services, Louden recently dropped “Nocturnal,” an original project with New York-based artist Jake Gersha that features Washington D.C.’s Layne, which Louden says took about six months to put together.
Right now, Louden’s top priorities are finishing out the school year and working on his music.
“I definitely want to get booked more this summer — you know, because of school. Trust me, it’s something else trying to work around that schedule,” he says. “I just don’t wanna just be some guy with almost 1,000 Soundcloud followers.”
Lady Parts (Dallas)
Dallas-based electronic duo Lady Parts is the brainchild of artists Austin Maddox and Eric Sauber. Both Maddox and Sauber started playing guitar at an early age, but over the years they’ve picked up other instruments, too. While Sauber had been playing piano since he was seven, for Maddox, it was the production side of things that really caught his eye.
“I got a program called Acid 2.0 and played around with loops and samples on my computer a long, long time ago, before it was ever cool,” Maddox says. “After college, I dove into a new program called Ableton. Skrillex was really poppin’ off at the time and the whole EDM thing really started happening, so it really started going from there.”
Before forming Lady Parts in 2013, Sauber had been in several bands including The Secret Handshake and Power Strangers, while Maddox had begun producing. The two ended up collaborating on several occasions, which led to their discussion about starting a duo. “We had lunch one day, just talked it out and made it official,” Sauber says. “We just wrote it down that it would be simple songs with cool, creative drops.”
And that’s exactly what they did. Lady Parts have shared the stage with artists like R.L. Grime and Pretty Lights and played larger events such as Austin’s Euphoria Festival. “Most recently we were asked to play Boo! [Festival] at South Side Ballroom,” Sauber said. “It was a two-day thing for Halloween with names like Zeds Dead and Baauer.”
This year, Lady Parts have already released three new tracks including their bootleg remix of Migos’ “T-Shirt,” as well as an original, chill trap/future bass track called “Through the Night.” Most recently, the duo dropped their original mix “Unshakable” on the Dallas record label No Parents No Rules.
Of the artists on this list, Hereford native Ryan Scott probably had the most unconventional start to his EDM career. It all began in a barn for the artist known as Swanbeats. “I’ve been making music for like six years,” Scott says. “I started when I was 18 by making hip-hop beats in my parents’ barn, just recording my friends rapping. I was done with athletics and I was trying to find another outlet.”
After high school, Scott left home to study at Texas Tech University in Lubbock. It wasn’t until he turned 21 that he really started taking his music seriously. Since then, he’s played Euphoria Music Festival, Trapfest, Foam Wonderland and Waco’s Neon Paint Party — but he’s not always playing alone.
Depending on the size of the venue, Scott brings along an enormous, inflatable swan who enjoys crowd surfing. “Her name is Lucille and she is a hassle,” Scott says.
Lately Scott has been feeling pretty great about his music. Within the last few weeks, his original track “So Young” hit the Spotify Global Viral Top 50 playlist. The track, which features two other Texas artists, Austin’s Evolsi and J-Clark, hovered there for several days. It was enough to get Swanbeats verified on Spotify, not to mention over 450,000 plays.
“To see a song that I made be so successful — to be up there with all of those artists like Eminem and Ed Sheeran — it was really dope,” Scott says.
For the time being, Scott is focused on touring and getting his music to more people. “You know, I kind of just started making music as a joke. I don’t have a regular background,” he says. “I just enjoy doing it and [my friends and family] push me to do the best that I can, make stuff that I like and to not care about what anybody else thinks.”
DJ T-Rexx has been on the electronic music scene since 2010. At that time, she was simply known as Thi Phung: your average, sheltered college kid with little-to-no night life experience. “I didn’t go out, I didn’t know anything about the club scene. So, when you’re that sheltered for that long and you eventually go out, you have a blast,” Phung says. “So, I made a lot of friends and started building up a huge network and one of the promotion companies noticed.”
As Phung puts it, the promotion company wanted her to get involved with their operation. She said yes, but with the stipulation that someone teach her how to deejay. They obliged and when she showed up for her first day, she was greeted with a set of decks and not much else. “I was sort of pushed out of the nest before I was ready to fly,” she says, adding, “I had to pick it up really quickly, but then I started getting residencies at places like Plush, Buddha 9 and Bella 32.”
For a few years, Phung didn’t see her newfound hobby as anything more than that, even though she was spinning regularly around DFW. But last year everything changed. She started making her own music and looking beyond Dallas for opportunities. “I picked it back up, started focusing on myself as an artist and revamped my image,” she says.
With help from a mutual friend, who happens to be a manager with Ultra Asia, Phung will be hopping around Asia on a mini-tour. “I’ll be going to Tokyo, Bangkok, Singapore, Saigon and Na Chang,” she says. “Before [last year], I didn’t really look at [music] like something I could do as a career. But now I want to share it with people around the world.”
When Boerne native Chris Marshall first decided to try his hand at music, it was from behind his computer keyboard. “I was a nerd, just to be straight up,” Marshall says. “Whenever I was home from school, I’d just be online all day, looking up music. I fell in love with dance music because it was newer; it was really fresh. And that’s how I met a bunch of people on Myspace and started connecting.”
By the time he graduated high school, he was throwing his own raves in San Antonio. But it wasn’t until 2010 that he started focusing on music production. He developed a style that blended dubstep, trap and several other genres, and began releasing music under the name Crizzly.
Since then, Marhsall’s star has been steadily on the rise. He’s played numerous festivals, including Lights All Night on his 21st birthday and Electric Daisy Carnival Las Vegas, where things have been known to get pretty lit.
“Oh man, last year [at EDC Las Vegas] the stage caught on fire right before my set — the pyro was just going crazy,” Marshall says. “They had multiple flame cannons going off all night, so my set got pushed back and cut short, but there were still a hell of a lot of people there.”
Right now Crizzly is finishing up the Ninja Nation Tour with Datsik and Virtual Riot, but he’s got Middlelands and Michigan’s Electric Forest coming up later this year. He’s also working on a release for the label Insomniac.
“It’s called H.I.T.S., which stands for ‘Hands in the Sky,’” he says. “It’s not dubstep; it’s this style that I make which is faster dubstep, but more hip-hop, so it’s more groovy. It’s definitely not something you rage to — it’s more house party vibes.”
Minnesota-born, Dallas-based artist Jacqueline Jaquez — or jACQ, as she’s known professionally — made her musical debut at age five as the vocalist of a local mariachi band. Two years later, Jaquez got the chance to sing the National Anthem at Game 7 of the 1991 World Series, which led to her appearance on several TV shows and even an opportunity to work with award-winning producer and Prince’s former drummer Bobby Z.
By the time she was 18, she found herself signed to Universal Music Group, as one-third of an all-girl, pop-rock/country group called Tres. The group was short-lived, but Jaquez’s passion for singing, songwriting and all aspects of the music production process were solidified.
Not long after her split from the group, Jaquez moved to Dallas and got a job at Armani Exchange where they played dance music nonstop. “I kind of fell in love with dance music there,” she says. “I love writing music and doing harmonies, so I really just dove in.” And by 2013, Jaquez scored her first big break in electronic dance music when her track with artist DANK, “Crystals,” hit number 12 on the Billboard charts.
Since then, she’s garnered multiple Beatport Top 10s and provided backup vocal support to local artist Tony Williams, while also gigging as a voiceover actor and working heavily on her upcoming projects. Over the next few months, Jaquez is set to release her new single “Waiting For You,” as well as a new EP in the spring.
Sno White (Dallas)
If you’ve ever even entertained the idea of going out to a club in DFW, chances are you’ve seen and/or heard of Sno White. Her musical style spreads across several genres, including house, trance and hip-hop. And with residencies at Lizard Lounge, Studio 80, Station 4 and Fry Street Tavern, not to mention her festival appearances and side projects, this artist might be one of the busiest on our list.
“I’ve been deejaying, in general, since I was 16 and I’m 32 now, so a really long time,” she says. “But I didn’t start making a living out of it until I was 25.”
While her residencies and events, like her upcoming appearance at this weekend’s Illectric Festival in Waco, tend to be her primary focus, White’s actually been working on a pretty sweet new movement. “I’m starting up an all-female DJ crew. It’s called the Vinyl Vixens,” she says. “It’s mainly Texas-based female DJs and producers — just to get more exposure for female DJs, because we don’t get a lot of recognition.”
Producer and electronic artist Medasin has been on our radar for a couple of years now. The Dallas native first caught our eye as an enthusiastic 17-year-old who’d been making all the right moves at iStandard, on Soundcloud and with local artists, such as A.Dd+ and Slim Gravy.
Two years later, Medasin has dropped numerous projects, including the Pink Polo EP, which was a collaboration with Masego, and he’s even gained the support of big time EDM artists such as deadmau5, Kill the Noise and Snakehips. He’s also released three volumes of his Microdose sample packs through Splice Sounds, which are used by both deadmau5 and Getter.
Medasin has an upcoming performance at Euphoria Festival on the books, but his main focus at the moment is his upcoming projects with Austin Mahone and Sammy of Marian Hill.
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Josh Real (Dallas)
DFW-based electronic artist Josh Real cherishes music as an outlet for his emotions. Following the death of his parents two years ago, Real decided to throw himself into music and hasn’t looked back since.
“I started making music really, because I found it to be really therapeutic for me, personally. It helped me take my mind off of that,” Real says. “Then, when I made [my first] song, I was just so excited and in love with it. Like, yes, this is therapeutic, but that’s when the first thought came of, ‘This is actually what I want to do.’”
Locally, Real was mentored by list mate Left/Right. But outside of the DFW, there was another artist who inspired Real to take his music seriously. “When I was learning to produce, Skrillex was my favorite producer/DJ, period. He’s just so innovative. Even though he’s not local, I’m always keeping up with what him and his label are doing.”
While Real still considers himself a “baby in the industry,” he has big plans for 2017. “I’m actually at a really exciting phase of everything, in my opinion,” he says. “I’m going to be touring all summer and I’m currently collaborating with an artist out in the UK by the name of Sheena Bratt.”