It’s Monday night at Chandelier Bar in the Cosmopolitan, and Chad Cisneros and David Reed are getting ready to perform a set at Marquee Nightclub. Their pre-show ritual, however, doesn’t involve any bottle poppin’. The affable Austin-based duo, known as Tritonal, are everything you wouldn’t associate with superstar DJs: no groupies, no partying.
Monday is, in fact, the end of their workweek, which starts on Thursdays and has them traveling across the country and back playing gigs.
“Last year, we did a 50-city, three-month bus tour all throughout the U.S. and Canada,” Cisneros says. “We’re doing Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday—it was insane. Dave’s wife gave birth while we were on tour. So this year we are doing major markets; it’s less strenuous. We’re family guys. We love to write music and play, but we also love to take care of our families. It is hard to do that when you’re on a 50-city tour.”
Almost a decade ago, Reed and Cisneros met online, and that friendship and mutual passion for music turned into a business partnership that has now sparked a record label, Enhanced Music, and has them producing for other artists.
“There was this synthesizer at the time,” Cisneros says, reminiscing how they met. “We were just figuring out the problems and bugs to tell the forum why it sucked so bad. It was really expensive. I was at the University of Texas studying music, but also business and economics. … Dave was a kid, but taking college courses.”
They decided to join forces and start Tritonal in 2008. Reed moved to Austin from Washington, D.C., just shy of his 19th birthday.
“I was a little older, he was younger, and his dad being a conservative father, the whole premise of two guys making a livelihood out of what at the time was considered to be underground rave music … it was a little sketchy.
“Writing music is such an intimate experience. You have to learn each other’s language and how to interact.” -Chad Cisneros, Tritonal
“That first year, we worked as hard as we could, and I wouldn’t say that we became Calvin Harris or Michael Jackson overnight; but we did [achieve some] very ascertainable, awesome goals,” Cisneros says. “We made enough of a movement in Year 1 to definitely give you Year 2. In Year 2 there was way more success, which led to Year 3. Then, by Year 5, we were in Russia, Asia, Australia, Hawaii—we were everywhere. All we wanted to do was make a living on music, [and] we were doing that in four years. The shows, money, residencies and the like have all gotten bigger, but at the end of the day, the ultimate goal was to be able to do what you love and pay the bills doing it. We achieved that.”
Along the way, they turned down numerous lucrative deals in order to keep control of their own music—a strategy that paid off. “If I want to put out a track tomorrow, I can, and I don’t owe anybody anything,” Cisneros says. “We quit trying to make a record that they would play, or he would play, and really made our first album how we wanted to make it. That was when fans started to flock to us because we were doing our own thing.”
Their diverse backgrounds are part of what make Tritonal such an interesting duo despite an eight-year age difference. Reed started listening to dance music at 12 years old, whereas Cisneros’ experiences came as a 15 year old going to parties, doing drugs and dancing all night. “Dave’s first time in a club was the first time he DJ’d,” Cisneros says.
“What we do as a duo [is] learn from each other, and the dynamic is good,” Reed says. “If a plan fails, [we] try another angle of attack. That’s why it’s beautiful to have a duo that is in a mature friendship, taking place over the last decade now.”
“Writing music is such an intimate experience. You have to learn each other’s language and how to interact,” Cisneros says.
Cisneros, who is 10 years sober, says that having a clear mind is another key to their success. “When you’re doing 150 shows a year, going back to the studio on Monday or Tuesday morning and trying to be inspired and creative, forward-thinking, be a leader—this industry is filled with people who think you can just get lit all the time. You see those guys … anyone can get high. Greatness is being able to maintain success through the years.”
Their album, Painting With Dreams, released in September, features the track “Broken” with Adam Lambert.
“It took us two years to write [the album],” Cisneros says. “We wrote like 50-something songs over that course of time, and whittled it down to about 15. Dave and I have the potential to produce a track a week, but that doesn’t mean [we] should. We’re at a level where we need to make big, awesome, amazing songs. Just because you can turn out a song a week doesn’t mean you should. Now we can take the perspective of all the songwriting sessions and understand if the work is worth putting out. Before, it was all about getting it out.”
Another single with Steph Jones called “Blackout” passed 10 million streams, and Ross Lynch is featured on another track called “I Feel the Love.”
“[There are] a bunch of writers and vocalists that I would say have not yet been discovered in terms of a massive pop presence, but they’re still awesome,” Cisneros says. “I always think that those writers have the most to gain and [the] most to say. It’s always a cool experience to work with someone who hasn’t had a huge record but has a great idea, versus when you’re working with someone who’s already had a bunch of success and they have a big team with a hierarchy and red tape.”
And in 2017, expect to see Tritonal at Marquee—almost every other week—on 17 to 20 dates.
“We love Marquee,” Cisneros says. “We built a bit of a family here. We really enjoy this property. Vegas is tough—all these different things competing. Marquee has a great team that is inside a really awesome hotel, which helps. It’s also geared toward a younger crowd.” 7
See Tritonal at Marquee Nightclub on November 18.