Canadian DJ/producers Sultan + Shepard have been making warm-and-wonderful electronic music together since 2007. Over time, the duo – Ossama Al Sarraf and Ned Shepard – has gained a substantial following for its melodic grooves like “Send Me Your Love,” their chart-topping, 2012 collab with Taryn Manning.
Post-lockdown, they’ve returned to the scene in full creative force. Earlier in 2021, they released their third artist album, Something, Everything, which now features an extended mix of the gorgeous title track featuring Richard Walters. And now that some of clubland has re-opened up again, they’ve hit the road and will be performing in Sin City for a day-party on Friday, Aug. 6 at Élia Beach Club at Virgin Hotels Las Vegas. We recently caught up with Sultan + Shepard to discuss how they spent their lockdown time creatively and how they’ll approach Friday’s set.
Did you spend your lockdown/pandemic time creatively? If so, how did you do it & where did you do it?
Sultan: Yeah, actually, it was weird, but lockdown worked out well for us creatively. Once we got over the initial shock of realizing we weren’t going to be on the road for a really long time, we settled in and found a really good groove of creativity. We started with an EP and then we ended up writing and releasing our entire album, Something, Everything, during that time. The fact that we have a physical stamp of that time is really special to us because it was definitely a period of heightened creativity and focus, even though so much crazy stuff was happening in the world around us.
The track, “Something, Everything,” has a wonderfully melodic vibe. Tell us about what went into that one.
Shepard: Thank you! It was really about making what we wanted to hear. We didn’t have the pressure of touring and we had just started diving into the deep-progressive sound after a long period away from us, so there was a lot of inspiration. Also, working with Lane 8 and his label This Never Happened was a great partnership creatively and we bounced so many ideas back and forth. It was one of those moments where you just feel like everything is going the right way, and doors are just opening to allow you to walk through them with no resistance. Even working with the writers and singers on the album just felt effortless – which it hardly ever does! It was a beautiful thing and we don’t take it for granted.
What’s your main DJ set-up and why do you use that system?
Sultan: We keep it simple – four Pioneer DJ CDJ-2000s and a Pioneer DJ DJM-900 mixer. We started DJing when it was two Technics 1200 turntables and a mixer, so we think that you can do enough with your track selection and mixing. For us, we just learned to DJ and connect with the crowd in that straightforward way, and we still love seeing DJs rock it without loads of other gear. Maybe in the future we’ll expand into a live show and then it will become something different, but for right now that’s all we need.
What’s your main studio set-up? Any secret weapons that contribute to your sound?
Shepard: ProTools is our main DAW and we have a Wurlitzer keyboard, which is essential for our songwriting process. Something about the way it sounds, really helps work out chords. We have some other analog synths like a Moog Voyager and Virus TI that have been staples of our sound, but these days were more into virtual synths like Diva and Serum. ProTools is interesting because, even though it might not be as common as Abelton Live or Logic, it forces us to work with audio in an interesting way that results in crazy samples and chops that have become part of our sound. It’s also nice to work in a way that’s a little different from other people.
Playing Vegas isn’t for everybody, but you’re working with a venue that seems to value groove and atmosphere over pyrotechnics, etc. What should fans expect from your set on Saturday at Élia Beach Club at Virgin Hotels Las Vegas?
Sultan: We’ve been playing Vegas for over a decade now, but we were really excited to join the Élia Beach/Virgin Hotels family because we really liked their approach and thought they were doing something different and exciting that hadn’t really been done in Vegas before. The concept fit our new sound and direction and we love the idea of promoting atmosphere and vibe, as opposed to other things since that’s really what we’re about. Fans should definitely expect music from our album, as well as unreleased new songs and edits that we’ve done specifically for Élia Beach Club – basically an uplifting, melodic vibe to make them feel good under the sun and in the pool.
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