We have previously noted that Chi-town duo X5IGHT, formed by Brandon Levinson and Jerry Kurty, is a presence to watch closely in 2014. The young and dexterous duo, with tremendous potential, has been rising the ranks with a continuous stream of first-rate 128bpm productions. The latest release from Levinson and Kurty comes in the form of a remix of James Egbert’s ‘Exit Wounds’, where the two producers create a brilliant blend of Nina Sung’s vocals with clean yet driving percussion, and a slew of passion filled melodies and harmonies. Pick it up for free below.
Storming out of The Windy City, emerging duo X5IGHT is poised to capture and retain the attention of electronic music’s most devoted and fledgling listeners. Established by Chi-town’s very own Brandon Levinson and Jerry Kurty, X5IGHT has quickly defined itself as a formidable contender in the electro-house and progressive house arena. As they build on their splendid catalog of crisp and ground-trembling original productions, remixes and mashups, we had the chance to sit down with Levinson and Kurty shortly after their huge New Year’s Eve performance at SnowGlobe Music Festival to chat about summer festivals, memorable 2013 pastimes, and Super Bowl picks.
HT: With both of you coming out of Chicago, can you give us a quick introduction as to how you two met and explain where you both have come from musically, from musical upbringing to musical influence?
Brandon: As far as how we met, we were actually two individual producer/dj acts and about a year and a half ago we met at a local club. We both happened to be playing just individually and we starting taking after that and started sharing some music. We really just aligned very well with our styles and while they’re not exactly the same, I think they match well enough where we are pretty happy with everything. We just kind of decided in November of 2012 to start up and form a duo and ever since then it has been a lot of work and a lot of growth since. We’ve been pretty excited about everything that has happened. As far as musical influence goes, I’ll hand that off to Jerry.
Jerry: Pretty much I’ve been djing for about 5 years now and producing for around two and a half years. Like Brandon said we met at a club. I showed him a few tracks I had been working on. He happened to like them a lot. Ever since we formed X5IGHT, when we make music, production wise, we usually meet in the middle…I’m more from the Dirty Dutch genre whereas Brandon, he’s more of a Trance guy, so when we work on a production we try to meet in the middle and make something in between to both of our likings.
HT: What did you two start off producing with?
Jerry: I started producing music using FL Studio and I’ve been using that for a year. After I understood most of the basics and all of the good stuff, FL didn’t allow me to do certain things that I needed to do. We decided to switch over to Ableton a couple months after we formed X5IGHT and we’ve been using Ableton ever since.
Brandon: Right. I’ve said this many many times before but Jerry, production wise, is definitely the more talented producer between the two of us. I did mess around a little bit with Logic when I was working individually myself. FL wasn’t bad, but as Jerry said we switched over to Ableton this past March. I definitely don’t want to say whatever software use is better than another because in all honestly I feel like anyone can make good music in any VST. I feel like Ableton, it just makes thing easier. Its an easier program. The way we make music, it fits our style very well. It’s definitely helped us production wise, immensely.
HT: Some of your releases are labeled as progressive house and other electro-house. It seems like the majority of the releases hover around that 128bpm region. How did you two get into producing in this style?
Brandon: Well as Jerry mentioned earlier, our roots really comes from, from Jerry’s perspective Dirty Dutch and from mine, more of the Tracne side, and in my opinion I feel like progressive house is more of a commercial sub-genre of Trance, to some degree. I think there is a lot of similarities there. As far as Dirty Dutch goes, I think electro-house also, in terms of the energy it puts off, it’s also very similar. I guess that’s why we have been hovering around the progressive and electro-house genres. Recently we also branched out and did our first trap remix and that definitely interesting. It was kind of to go out of the 128 range. I think that was actually a 150bpm remix. It was a little bit different for us. We’re actually at the moment we’re actually experimenting, I guess if you want to call it 128bpm trap. We have a track we’re working on now. I think it’s pretty unique because it goes from a hard driving electro drop and then it transitions into a trap section, and it’s still 128bpm. That is kind of something that people haven’t heard before so we’re kind of excited to get that track finished up and then released.
HT: Would you ever associate your sounds and productions with “Big Room”? I’m asking because there seems to be some mixed opinions- some people love it some people while others think it is really bland.
Brandon: In all honesty, I think if you look at our older stuff, I would definitely consider a few of those more on the on the big room side. When it first came out it was actually something that we jumped on board with really qucily. We were actually making big room tracks before big room really even took off. That was something that didn’t really catch us by surprise. We kind of expected that to happen. In all honestly I think now it is a little a bit over done and I’m sure quite a few different people would also agree.
We’ve always kind of tried to take all the best of all the genres we like and put together a song. For instance I know the song ‘Wacky Arms’ we just released, there are elements of Melbourne, elements of big room, electro, and we also threw in some elements of drum & bass…in the second breakdown. We just try and take pieces of different songs and different genres that we have really been liking and put it all in our music. Sometimes it’s hard to even classify what genre a given song would fall under because we have so many different influences and styles all in one song. That’s kind of the challenge if you’re going to classify music. Going forward, we’re not really focusing on making festival tracks or any specific big room tracks. We’re working on a lot more progressive, a little bit more melodic and mellow tracks as well. I think there is just a fine mix that you have to meet with when it comes to that.
HT: Can you share some thoughts on you think of the complextro classification? I was listening to the Purdue mix and saw some FTampa in there which is why I’m asking.
Brandon: As far as complextro goes…one of my favorite artist of all time is still Porter Robinson, and that was kind of something he developed in his sound a couple of years ago. As a genre, I love the genre. I think it is just, on the production side, something that quite frankly we just aren’t that good at making so we kind of stray away from it. I wouldn’t say it’s dying exactly because I think there is actually quite a bit you can still do with complextro. We are actually working on a collar with another Chicago artist and there are actually some complextro elements in the song…I think the complextro you heard 2010 or ’11, is probably a little dated at this point but I still think artists will innovate and push the envelop and keep that genre alive.
HT: ‘Wacky Arms’. Can you tell us about that release? Is it a new direction for X5IGHT or something experimental that you two wanted to toss up for free?
Jerry: We had a show. I forgot what show it was.
Brandon: Indianpolis. It was one of our Indianapolis shows.
Jerry: We were in Brandon’s room at IU. Him and a kid were driving somewhere and they saw the arms flailing tube man on the side of the road. He brought that up and he said “what if we would do something like “now move your whacky arms” into a drop?” Instantly he had a catchy melody and he was like “Jerry, do you have a computer? Let’s make this melody.” We only had the drop done at that point. The breakdown took a little while to make but we found a way to make it work. That’s pretty much the story behind ‘Wacky Arms’. It definitely was something that we experimented with and tried a few different things. Like Brandon said, ‘Wacky Arms’ has a little bit of drum n bass drum, except it’s at 128. We like to experiment with different genres and bring them into 128, just to see what we can do and see how creative we can get.
HT: I often wonder how duos work, questioning exactly how production goes down when it comes time to write. Do you both work on elements together on drums or bass and the move on to something different, or does one of you work on, for example, melodies, and the other on synths, and then you bring them them together?
Brandon: I mean it’s kind of a combination of everything really. Obviously Jerry has his strengths. I have mine. In terms of just the fine tuning whether it’s mastering or EQ’ing, Jerry definitely has the upper hand there. As far as developing melodies and chord progressions, or something along those lines, I’d say it’s pretty much a 50/50 split on that. There are certain things he’ll send me, and I’ll like [them], or certain thing he’ll send me and then I’ll edit [them]. Or as he said with Wacky Arms, I come up with some random melody and it goes to him and if he likes it, we’ll go from there. I’d say it’s probably close to a 50/50 split on idea generation. I’ve always said if a song can be liked be both myself and Jerry, the odds are, if its good enough where we both like it… it really is good enough to release. I think it is an extra filter on just making sure we don’t loose the best and the most developed music.
HT: You two just got finished playing SnowGlobe? Huge event, how did that performance turn out?
Jerry: SnowGlobe was amazing. We were talking about this but a year before our performance I personally didn’t think we would be that far, playing on the west coast, playing a big festival like SnowGlobe. A year before [SnowGlobe] we actually played at the club that we met at, played a show there together and then we are playing at SnowGlobe a year later. It was just awesome to look back on how much has happened in a year. It was really an awesome experience. The crowd was great. The whole stage set up was amazing. Pretty much everything was just amazing.
Brandon: As Jerry said, hospitality, the fans, all the bloggers, everyone we met were fantastic. Overall, I think it was definitely really motivating, because as Jerry said, a year prior to that show we played technically our first ever show together as X5IGHT. Since then we’ve played shows all around the Mid west, and accomplished all the things that we did and ended the year traveling across the country, playing at SnowGlobe. It was really just motivating and humbling to know that we had done that all in just one year. It leaves us very excited and motivated to see where we’ll be a year from now.
HT: Did you stick around for some of the other sets that night? Any favorites?
Brandon: Yea we did actually. We performed the 30th and we did stay on the 31st on New Year’s as well. We also had another friend of ours, SirensCeol, who played on the 31st so we hung out with him the whole day after his set. We just kind of wanted to see a bunch of different acts. We saw Kill Paris, Dillon Francis… actually we saw a couple of deep house sets, which were really cool actually. I’ve never really have been to a festival with a lot of deep house.
HT: Because you are both still in school right now, do you feel like you’re unable to push this project at full speed due to academics? Do you guys have something planned for X5IGHT when you guys actually pick up a degree?
Brandon: Well, that’s the question that is always on our mind. I’ll tell you that. It is definitely challenging sometimes to manage the workload and also manage an increasingly, more time consuming music career. We’ve kind of found a good system so far, as far as academics go and how much time we put into both music and school. But as I said, it is getting harder and harder the bigger we get musically so we are excited to graduate because obviously once we have our degree we feel like we’ll really be able to pour 100% of our effort and time into our music…it’s motivating to realize that well if we actually put in 100% imagine where we’ll be then. We definitely value the degree and what that means. It’s not something that we want to sacrifice either but there is definitely a fine line between how to manage academics and music.
HT: The new year is fresh ahead of you. There some upcoming performances this month but is there anything in the near future that you two are hoping to lock in, maybe some big hometown performances in Chicago?
Brandon: Yea definitely. We actually have a headlining show in a couple of days in Chicago. That’ll be really fun. We have another show in Bloomington, which is where I go to school, with FIGURE. So that’s going to be cool. That is in late January. As far as some more upcoming shows we’re really are going to try and focus, at the end of winter and early spring, on getting as many summer festivals locked down as possible. We kind feel that based on the size we are now, what we’ve been able to accomplish already, this is the first sumer where we should be able to play a fairly major role in the summer festival circuit, or across the midwest. We’re definitely excited to hit up some of those.
HT: There is Spring Awakening Music Festival and it’s coming back to Chicago at Soldier Field. Would that be something you guys would be hopeful to hit up and are there some festivals that you two would like to make an appearance at this summer?
Brandon: I was actually at Spring Awakening last year as a fan and it was just an incredible experience. Me being a huge Bears fan, it was really cool to step on Solider Field (laughs). As far as playing there, that is definitely something that is on our radar right now. We really hope to make that happen because playing in our hometown at such a prestigious festival would just be a dream come true for us. As far as that festival goes, yea, that’s definitely at our radar. As far as some others go, we’ve looked at a bunch of different festivals in the Midwest. Electric Forest comes to mind. If for some reason Spring Awakening doesn’t work out, we’ve looked at some other Chicago festivals wether it be Lollapalooza or Wavefront. Hopefully you’ll see our name on some of the summer lineups.
HT: On Facebook you guys mentioned a collar with Louis The Child. How is the sound for that release turning out and is the one you guys mentioned had some complextro flavor to it?
Brandon: How did he guess, how’d he guess (laughs). That was the collab I was taking about earlier. They are immensely talented producers, and they’re so young. If we started when we were their age, I can’t even imagine where we’d be. I respect everything they’re doing and musically, they are just really talented. It is interesting because they have such a unique sound and style that its almost a complete 180 from where we’re at. It’s really interesting how this collab is turning out, and how we’re kind of putting our stamp on it while having their stamp on there as well. It’s definitely going to be something that I think is really really different. I’m pretty excited about it actually and hopefully we actually have that finished off in the next couple weeks and hopefully have that released sometime February or March.
HT: The NFL playoffs have been going on, are you guys into football at all and if so do you have any Super Bowl Picks?
Brandon: As far as football goes, I’m a huge huge football guy myself, whether it be college football or NFL. Unfortunately our hometown Chicago Bears didn’t do so well, so they will not be in the playoff corner right now (laughs). If I had to pick another team, I’m a big Saints fan. I’m also kind of a Chargers supporters so if one of those two teams wants to win the Super Bowl this year I’d be pretty happy about it (laughs).
Jerry: I personally dislike football (laughs). I’m not too big into football, neither am I into basketball, or any of those sports except for hockey. I’m a big Bloodhawk fan. That’s as far as I’ll go with watching sports. However I did do sports in High School and I did gymnastics and diving. So those were my main sports, which they don’t really go on TV unless it is like the Olympics or something bigger. But yea, I’m not a football fan at all.
HT: Favorite, most memorable moment of 2013 for X5IGHT, maybe an instance in your career that you can look back on and use it as something to keep you pushing in 2014?
Jerry: My memorable moment was when we played with Krewella at Life in Color. We had to do an opening set and it was probably my favorite opening set we’ve done. That would have to be my most memorable moment, especially since we got to relax a bit with Krewella before their set.
Brandon: Well I’ll tell you Jerry stole mine but yea that’s probably the one that stands out the most. But I guess if I’m going to be a little different, and not say the same thing, I’ll say SnowGlobe Music Festival. That was a huge step forward for us. I think all those events combined just really motivate us to keep working hard, expand and grow even more in 2014.