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Marbs & Evan Casey on Launching a Label and Going Deep

The two Desert Hearts members follow their own creative path via new Desert Hearts Black Imprint

Marbs is a pillar of the Desert Hearts crew. When he met Evan Casey, they discovered a deep creative connection in their mutual love for darker, driving sounds. A niche within the community at large formed, leading to the birth of Desert Hearts Black. The two collaborators now lead Desert Hearts into the future with their forward-thinking new subsidiary, with the help of Rinzen through the inaugural ‘Torus’ EP.

We sat down with Marbs and Evan to talk about Desert Hearts Black, their coming together as a team, the maturation of the American dance scene, and of course, ‘Torus’

Let’s start with the basics: how did you two meet, and discover your like minds when it came to musical taste? Tell us the full story!

Marbs: Evan and I met years back at a warehouse party in San Diego throw by Desert Hearts Co-Founder, Kristoff. It was called Psychedelic Lovebox [laughs]. We were introduced as people who should know each other because of our similar tastes in music. We had both known of each other and I know Evan was excited about finding the Desert Hearts community, so we were looking forward to meeting each other as well. There was an instant connection through music and from there our bond only grew. Fast forward a couple years and we were at Coachella together. We were enjoying Tale of Us in the Yuma Tent and Evan told me a story about an, at the time, odd but amazing dream he had while sleeping. It was about us playing together at the Desert Hearts Festival. He said it was intensely lucid and powerful. We had jammed together a few times but nothing official so us playing together wasn’t normal, but the dream made him think more seriously about us working more together. Over the next few years we became really close, he lived with me for a while, he asked me to be his best man in his wedding, and then we decided to play Desert Hearts together finally. That was a moment that we will truly remember for ever and was a major celebration of our friendship. While working towards that set we made our collab EP with Rinzen, titled Torus, and decided to start the sub label to DHR, Desert Hearts Black.

Evan: After I was welcomed into the family and made a resident of Desert Hearts, Marbs and I quickly became known as the two within the crew that had a darker and similar sound. The Life and Death label really set us both on a new path in terms of what musical exploration was happening, and the heavier sounds that really moved us. We hadn’t really thought much about playing together, but would often get asked by people within the community when we would make that happen because we were so similar. Over the years we played a couple b2b sets but nothing really planned out. Then we started getting really close as friends and the musical paths we were both on were becoming more and more intertwined. I invited Marbs to join me on my Lost Dimension mix series and we created a 3 hour mix that really captured the journey driven sounds we both love. When this was received with such love, we knew we should continue to work on things together with more intention. Our friendship is something really special to me, and the dynamic we have is something I’ve never really experienced before. So after the moments he spoke of above, all signs were leading towards our projects together and culminating in a 4 hour set at Desert Hearts and the birth of Desert Hearts Black. These monumental moments really confirmed to us we were on the right path and that working together was something sure to create magic. Really excited about everything ahead.

Whose idea was it to make Desert Hearts Black into a label? Or did the moment happen spontaneously?

Marbs: After Rinzen, Evan, and I completed our title track for the EP, Torus, I had the idea to start a sub label more focused on the genres we play and one that reflected the late night and early morning hours of the festival. I brought it up to Evan and he immediately was firing ideas. I asked him to be my partner in the project, one, because of our deep relationship and, two, because of our similar tastes in music. From there the ideas started flowing and 6 months later it became a reality.

Evan: Yeah we always felt there was a strong following of people within the community who loved the darker music we were playing. To me the most unique part about this crew is everyone has their own vibe and it birthed something really special over the years. As Marbs and I became known for a similar late night, weighted sound, I felt like things were always inching towards something like this. Mikey has done such an incredible job with DH Records, and that’s what has really allowed us to create our vision and start a label geared more towards the things we’ve been playing. Desert Hearts Black is just another branch of this incredible community and a way to explore new sounds in the same beautiful, loving environment that we’ve shared for years now. So I would say it was created over years, but the concrete idea was something that only recently took shape.

You guys favor a proggier, darker sound that’s quite a deviation from the Desert Hearts norm. What is it about this type of music that draws you in?

Marbs: I’ve always been more about the journey than the beginning or ending of something. Getting lost in music and art is important to me and when you have that moment it’s the most incredible feeling. I think this sound tends to be more journey driven, taking us deeper both internally and externally. The progression of the tracks, the story that gets woven between them, and the feeling of traveling through sonic spaces is the main driving force in my love for this music.

Evan: Yes absolutely. From day one we both have said the most important aspect of the music is the journey and its impact on everyone involved in the experience. From the first time I heard tracks from Mind Against, Tale of Us and others I felt this insane connection to the weight and darkness they were creating. Something about a track being both haunting and beautiful really changed my mindset and direction musically. Marbs and I both share the same sentiments in that people truly learn about themselves when faced with darkness, and often come out thriving on the other side. That is the intention of our project, and ultimately our own journeys; and I think it shows in the music we make and play.

What were your paths into falling in love with this kind of sound in the first place?

Marbs: I first fell in love with “good” tech house at an event called Love Fest in SF. It was back when they drove art cars in a parade down to the civic center and then circled them up for an epic block party. That was the day I tried LSD and Ecstasy together for the first time. It was incredible. I meant to go see deadmau5 that day but got lost understandably haha and ended up at a stage where I had no clue who was playing. I later found out it was Lee Burridge and he’s the one who got me obsessed with tech house. Later that year I stumbled upon Plastikman at Coachella and thats the night I fell in love with Techno. From then until now I’ve journeyed through so many versions of house and techno, but was always drawn to the darker, heavier, proggier, techno sounds. When we first started touring as the Desert Hearts Crew, the places in North America that we played at were more into Tech House, so I found myself leaning on the genres I love that were in line with what was being received well in these locations. Over the last 5 years I’ve noticed more dance floors enjoying when I played proggier and more techno, so I’ve been able to express my true love for those genres more and its an amazing feeling. Lately I’ve been playing whatever I want merging progressive melodic techno with minimal and tech house, creating the sound that I’ve truly been reaching for.

Evan: Mine really shifted from experiencing Boys Noize, who just electrified my world and what I thought about music in general. This was followed by finding a Richie Hawtin b2b Dubfire set from the Exit festival, which was when I truly felt like techno was king for me and from that moment everything was different. Then like I mentioned above, discovering the sounds being pushed by Life and Death, especially from Mind Against, completely changed the style of techno that moved me the most. From clubs, warehouses, burning man, and desert hearts, I couldn’t get enough of those dark sounds and I’ve been following that sonic exploration ever since.

What are you most excited about in regards to running a label, and what are you most nervous about?

Marbs: I’m most excited to open new doors for our community to create and grow within the Desert Hearts love bubble. Desert Hearts Records has been so incredible and I’m so proud of Mikey Lion and what he’s done with that project. DHR primary reflects the tech and house communities so perfectly, but the late night and early morning hour music at the festival needed a place on our label. Thats where the idea for DH Black came from, so I’m excited for the community to have an outlet within our umbrella to now push these genres. What I’m most nervous about is making sure that we curate a catalog that both pushes our community and grows it to new high caliber artists. At first we didn’t know if the music being submitted to us would be inline with the specific niche genre that me and Evan love so much. Right away though we’ve received an insane response as far as music submission goes. I can’t speak a lot on upcoming releases yet, but we’re booked through February 2020 and we can’t wait to tell you who we have signed!

Evan: To simply share and make music that creates similar experiences and emotions like those that shaped my own life over that past decade. Music truly is the universal language and it’s impact is something that has connected people all over the world. If we can play a part in that and bring the sounds we love so much to other people and share some time and space, I will feel incredibly grateful and successful. Nerves aren’t really a part of it, but definitely excited and incredibly driven to build something special within an already beautiful community. Always giving back to the scene that’s given me so much love and inspiration.

Will you two bhave distinctive roles in the label operation? ie, one does A&R, the other does management, etc? Or will you both be fluid in your responsibilities?

Marbs: It’s pretty equal between the two of us, but we do handle some different things. I’m so heavily involved with Desert Hearts as a whole and touring that Evan has really provided incredible support on the day-to-day stuff, while I focus a lot on big picture ideas, branding, vision, and music. He has been completely involved in all of those things too though. With my background in Desert Hearts since the beginning, I’ve directed my energy to the management and execution of our vision. Evan helps with everything that that entails. We share AR responsibilities and we both hunt music for releases. The energy exchange is completely equal.

Evan: Yes it’s a true partnership. The trust between us is why it works so well, and we are beyond excited to be working together more and more everyday. To us, this will only work and take it’s proper shape if we are both involved and build it together, in addition to the wisdom and support provided by the community already thriving around Desert Hearts. Working with my best friend and someone who truly inspires me daily is really special and something I’m very grateful for. Marbs really is one of a kind, a selfless work horse with a massive heart!

How did you end up bringing Rinzen on board to collaborate on an EP?

Marbs: When Evan moved to LA he met Rinzen and began working in the studio with him. When I had heard what they were making I got really excited for Evan. A good friend of mine had been telling me that I needed to work with Rinzen, so I took this as a sign that the three of us should get into the studio. They invited me and from the second we started working together things just clicked.

Evan: Mike (Rinzen) actually sent me some tracks, saying he enjoyed what I was doing within DH and thought our styles were somewhat similar. After being linked by a very close mutual friend, I went to his studio and we began writing together. Our very first track was signed to Parquet and we were immediately off and running, which was really something special. As we both love minimal, melodic techno, I thought adding Marbs to the mix who brings a more drum heavy intensity would really create a full vibe. Long story short, we came up with 3 big tracks that I love so much and completely smashed our expectations! The Torus EP is almost out, and DH Black is the ultimate result of all the hard work. Mike is an absolute monster in the studio, and someone we are very happy to have on board with us as we build this label.

And how was the writing process with that? Did it come together easily?

Marbs: The title track in our new collab EP, Torus, was completed in two sessions and it went so smoothly, it really blew us away. We knew we needed to continue working together since that productivity was not normal for us as individual artists. The next two tracks came together just as easily and we completed the EP in amazing time. This EP was the spark that urged us to create Desert Hearts Black and we’re planning on working on our next collab release very soon.

Evan: The dynamic is so wild and free flowing. We all love similar music and get inspired by the same artists and labels. But with that, mike brings a beautiful and powerful cinematic element, I would say I add a darker/meaner melodic aspect, and Marbs loves his full and expanding drums. Throw all this together and we found ourselves with three really interesting and massive tracks. They have been crushing dance floors for some time now and I can’t wait to continue this creative process with these two guys. Everyone plays a very important role and it’s not something any of us could create alone, and that is really cool for us.

What is one thing readers should know about the both of you that you might not have disclosed in the past? Any fun fact/tidbit you wish to share!

Marbs: I was a child model and I had my face on large photos inside Target in their boys clothing section. One day we were waiting in a cattle call style casting job. I was restless like most children would be and my mom asked me if I really liked this. I said, “Nope!” I just wanted to go play with the other kids and eat the food in the RV. My mom hated it too so that was the last time I did that. Thank god I didn’t continue down that path haha.

Evan: [laughs] We didn’t talk about this before, but I was also one of those child actor/models! Nickelodeon auditions, headshots holding roller blades, performing monologues in front of hundreds of strangers, weird times! Then Limewire came out, I starting burning cds of music that took all night to download, and I’ve been sharing music with people ever since!

To close, what’s coming up next for the label after ‘Torus’ and the launch party?

Marbs: We have some really amazing releases scheduled through the new year. I can’t really talk about any specifics yet, but we were really excited when we received this caliber of music for the launch of the label. If its any sign as to what this project will grow into the sky is really the limit. Other than that we want it to go international and eventually have DHB parties all over North America and outward.

Evan: Some really solid releases! We knew this project would be well received, given the foundation DH already created full of music loving individuals, but the music we’ve collected for the next year or so definitely surpassed our initial expectations. Those along with label showcases and parties in different cities, we have high hopes and goals for all things ahead! Desert Hearts Black is here!

Listen to ‘Torus’ below and grab a copy of the EP here

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