Familiar names abound at clubs up and down the Strip … almost too familiar, with the same headliners bouncing between properties in a week. Thankfully, a fresh face will soon arrive on the scene in the form of Felix Cartal, coming to Las Vegas for Nectar Music Festival Saturdays at Hard Rock Hotel’s Beachlife pool complex. Before his May 12 debut (to be followed by his June 9 appearance at Electric Daisy Carnival), the 25-year-old Canadian let us inside the Cartal cartel.
Your recently released second album, Different Faces, seems to incorporate the pop-music influences that have seeped into electronic-dance music, while still retaining your unique sound. How much of the trends in dance music do you take into account when writing music, if at all?
I don’t think that I can listen to exactly what’s going on in music, because trends are trends, right? They’re gonna fade and go away, so the thing that I focus on more is trying to write something that’s really catchy. I’ll write something, and then come back to it later. If it still sounds memorable to me, then I know that I’m on the right track with it. I don’t want to write a song that just sounds like what’s cool right now, because that song has no shelf life. I want to write a song that, hopefully, when I come back and listen to it in five years, I’ll still be proud of it.
What was your approach to the project?
When I make an album, the biggest thing for me is trying to balance stuff that works really well in the club, but also if you’re not in the going out/clubbing mood, still nice songs to listen to when you’re chilling around the house, going to work in the morning or on your iPod. I try to balance it between the two structures of dance songs that work really well in my DJ set and more traditional pop-song structures, verse, chorus … that kind of thing.
One of my favorites on the album is “H.U.N.T.” How did the collaboration with vocalist Sebastien Grainger come about?
I’ve been friends with MSTRKRFT from Day 1. They’re one of the earliest supporters of my music. So Jesse Keeler—one half of MSTRKRFT—was in Death From Above 1979 [with Grainger], and I had that connection through him. I was always talking about the idea that it’d be really great to get him on a track. I think it’s an unlikely collab for dance music, but I think it turned out really cool.
You’ve got these cool Weekend Workout mixes you post. Where did that start?
People were asking me, “Send me tracks, because I need music for when I go on a run!” So I thought, “Well, I’m always getting these requests,” and I just market it toward the gym, or it could be your pre-drinking mix. You can take it literally or any way you want to interpret it, really.
Since you got your start in a punk band, what are your top punk albums?
Ooh, that’s a good question. I’m really into the SoCal scene, so NoFx’s Punk in Drublic, is really good. I like Lagwagon’s Hoss or Trashed, I guess, one of those earlier ones. Anti-Flag, maybe A New Kind of Army or Die for the Government was pretty good.
I hate to ask, but I couldn’t find the answer anywhere: Where did your DJ name of Felix Cartal come from?
I just sort of thought it up, and I really wish there was a story!
Your real name, Taelor, is pretty unique. Why not use that?
I just liked the idea of keeping it separate. You can sort of embody being someone different then, and I always liked that idea with being an artist.
Many Las Vegans are just getting into dance music. What do you want them to know about you as an artist?
I just really want people to get into my catalog. I think a lot of dance artists aren’t doing full albums, and I’m trying to set myself apart by doing that. In dance music you can just release singles, but I still think there’s a place for albums and people want to listen from beginning to end. This is my second album already, and I just put a lot of work into trying to create something as a whole rather than just individual tracks thrown together.
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