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We caught up with New York duo The Knocks during CMJ week...

If you do something long enough, no matter what the reaction the outside world has in the beginning, trends will keep changing, and the best trendsetters continue to do what they think is right, stay persistent and true to their craft and it will eventually catch fire. Avicii did it not so long ago, right?

I’ve been hearing that all week at CMJ.

In the tiny confines of a greenroom-hidden parallel to a staircase, somewhere in Terminal 5’s expansive auditorium, BRoc and JPatt The Knocks are suiting up in custom black jackets, waiting their set time. They are supporting Portland based indie electronica group RAC who is headlining tonight and the venue is sold out.

For The Knocks, it’s a gig in their hometown and they are stoked. Their vibrantly funky-electro driven disco jams like “Dancing with the DJ” and “Comfortable”, sometimes coupled with quirky video-game or BDSM inspired music videos, and remixes for breakout indie acts like HAIM, Foster The People and even RAC’s "Cheap Sunglasses" has gained them an infectious following.


An album ‘ENDISCO’ was also slated to arrive this fall, but has been pushed back because, “the label they were signed to on Interscope sold”. But after the release of “Classic” and its success on Atlantic’s Big Beat / Neon Gold imprint, “it set a new bar for [them] to put spend some more time working on the record and also sparked a relationship with Atlantic. So we’re signing with them and the record will be out soon,” BRoc explains.

Having been around for four years, producing hip-hop for the likes of G-Unit and Dipset, they have opted to stick to their indie-disco roots, rather than jumping on to the commercial EDM boat. Their own label, HeavyRoc Music, boasts some diverse signings like St. Lucia to Viceroy. “When we play dance music, it would never really be for the big clubs where they play the Tiesto-style stuff. It would be more grimy bars where we would play more indie stuff like BLOGHAUS when that was a thing. Stuff like Justice, MSTRKRFT, Bag Raiders, Pony Club, all that stuff that was huge back in 2008, but mixed with that we’d play a lot of oldies like Jackson 5,” says JPatt.

As the duo’s set time approaches, Austin-based band Speak is wrapping up a melodic synth-pop set. Stage managers arrange the equipment for the next set. A few minutes go by and The Knocks emerge. A hazy purple backdrop lights the stage. They stand around their multi-instrument set up guitars, keyboards and drums. That’s the cool thing about The Knocks’ live set – it’s a hybridized live instrument performance similar to the likes of Disclosure and Chromeo, but has the feels of a continuous DJ mix.  When they first started doing it four years ago, no one took them seriously, but music’s tide has changed in the past few years, and as BRoc explained earlier, “its more interesting because you can make different sounds, which you couldn’t make while having a four piece and be more creative.”

Thunderous percussion, spacey disco loops and funky electric riffs of “Brightside” resonate through the room.  It’s like a suave ‘80s aerobics workout video. Dancers dressed in jerseys hype the crowd. New York is chanting loudly and moving in full swing. It’s somewhere around this time that the music began to build in intensity. As the duo made those graceful yet quick transitions into the next tracks, one could sense that The Knocks were pushing their own grasp of their music, creating a trip for the audience.


Photos by Cyrus Kowsari