Bandsintown Big Break: How Rising Electronic Producer James Orvis Plans To Tear Up The Dance Floor

Plus, check out an exclusive playlist and sneak a peek into his debut EP.

By Min Chen - Oct 12, 2018
Just before he drops his debut EP Oneironaut, up-and-coming electronic producer James Orvis chats about his creative process, his Song A Day series, his label Balter Records, and the scene on the dance floor. Plus, check out an exclusive playlist and sneak a peek into his debut EP.

Helping music lovers find new acts to obsess over is kind of our thing. With so many emerging artists to choose from, we wanted to let you, the fans, in on who’s going to be everywhere soon. That's why we're excited to announce Big Break, a new feature that highlights everything you need to know about the fresh faces turning the industry upside down. From the secrets behind their viral tracks to their big plans for the future, read on for the 411 on the industry's most promising up-and-comers.

James Orvis just wants to move you—emotionally and physically. Harnessing the driving and dynamic flow of house and techno, the Leeds-based producer has been weaving sets and tracks that conjure moods and states, extending heartfelt moments as much as invitations to dance. Just sample his 2016 sound pack, aptly titled “Movement,” a stirring, late-night palette of melodic highs and tense tempos that demonstrate both his technical skill and nuance. No surprise that BBC Music Introducing championed James as a promising electronic talent last year. Need more proof? Check out the following playlist that James curated especially for us, featuring his fine and expansive taste in electronic sounds—from the low key pulse of N’to’s “Carousel” to the rousing assault of Underworld’s “I Exhale.”

 

Since the real test of his music and craft is in the club, James’ schedule has been packed with live dates, at which he offers musical journeys equally spiritual and visceral. For him, as he tells us, there’s satisfaction in “the flexibility and freedom to be able to control almost every aspect of the music live. It’s challenging to play live in clubs and that in itself is so rewarding.” All that live action naturally feeds back into James’ studio work. And we’ll hear all about it on November 5, when he drops his debut EP, Oneironaut, containing three cuts of restless, propulsive techno. Have yourself a preview below, and keep reading for our chat with James on dance and dance floors, and his hopes and dreams (even the lucid ones).

 

We’re excited about your upcoming EP! What can we look forward to hearing on it?
Oneironaut musically conceptualises my experiences as a curious lucid dreamer, navigating through shades of house and techno. I find subjects touching on altered states of consciousness and psychology absolutely fascinating; these themes always seem to unite with my music. The first track titled “Lucid” is a musical and informative gateway to lucid dreaming. The idea behind this was to create something for the club that would embed the principles and themes of lucid dreaming into the listeners’ minds, in hopes that they would trigger lucid states when they next go to sleep.

How would you describe the experience of putting it together? What were the fun parts and the challenging parts?
The fun part of making EP was working on the second track “Dreamweaver.” I may have gone a little over the top here, but each time the call-and-response synth lines come in, they are completely different melodic runs and have different fx layers applied. It was really fun experimenting with this and trying to find a way to keep the music sonically interesting for nine minutes. The most challenging part of this EP was letting go of inner doubts and worries that come with finishing music. You start to go a little crazy when listening to something over and over again!

We’ve also been keeping track of your excellent Song A Day series. Why is this process and discipline of creating a song a day important to you as an artist?
It’s like a fun training session that strengthens muscle memory and neural pathways! The byproduct is that you end up with a bank of ideas to work with for releases. It is something that I have been doing for a while and I wanted to experiment with it publicly to see what would happened with my output and how others would respond. It’s been mostly positive and some good opportunities have risen from the live videos. For now, though, I’ve decided to shift my focus to finishing releases and setting up plans for next year.

 

Could you pinpoint the moment that made you want to make music?
I have loved music from day one and always leaned towards messing with instruments and making music. A key moment for me though was the shift from playing in indie and grunge bands to falling in love with electronic music. It was the mid-2000s, when you had acts like LCD Soundsystem, Crystal Castles, The Whip, Tiga, and Boys Noize breaking through in the media, dominating playlists in both dance and indie clubs. I just got into clubbing too through a new friendship group, so it was all like a perfect storm really and a gateway for all the things that I love and do now. I look back at that time with the kind of nostalgia that gives me goosebumps.

And what keeps you motivated and inspired on a daily basis?
The people around me, new music, my girlfriend, meditation, profound conversations, podcasts, and reading books! It really helps to maintain a curiosity about life and to come to the honest realisation that life isn’t boring. We don’t know everything and there is so much more to discover!

Leeds boasts such a rich heritage of electronic music. How has your city/environment been significant in your journey as an artist and in your productions?
I’m originally from Hull but I came to Leeds eight years ago. Both Leeds and Hull are hot pots for creativity and inspiring events. I’m sure the people and surroundings here have positively shaped me into who I am today. I have an urge to move to warmer climes though. I need sea, air, and sunshine!

 

What does techno mean to you?
I tend to associate techno music with the darker side of the human psyche and house music with the lighter side, two opposing musical shades, like yin and yang. Between these, you have all this space and freedom to explore and express a wide variety of human emotions and feelings. Techno and house, for me and I’m sure many others, represent community and an ever-growing movement. What I love the most about dance music is that it hasn’t faded out like previous musical movements and it keeps getting bigger.

What goes through your mind when you’re playing a live set?
Usually, at the start of the set I can be pretty nervous and jittery with excitement, similar to when you have too many espressos! But once I get going, my mind quietens and most of the time, I can reach a state of flow where I’m not thinking too much about what I need to do technically and it feels natural and fun. Once I’m in this state, I can start to improvise and try out new things.

How would you describe the dancefloor during one of your sets? And how does that same dancefloor feed back into your set?
No dance floor is ever the same! It’s like a theatre show; there is so much more happening on a dance floor than in the booth! I like to scan around to see who is enjoying the music the most, who has their eyes closed and is really feeling the music. I also love to spot the Bezes (Happy Mondays party starter!) of the dance floor because they really make my night. You know those people that are always acting silly! The dance floor is definitely a feedback loop for my music; I can really tap into what works and what doesn’t. This always guides me when I get back into the studio the following week. I’m a strong believer of making music for yourself, but it is equally as important to make sure that your music is moving people physically and emotionally in the club.

We’re also looking forward to the launch of your label Balter Records. Why is it important to you to run your own imprint, and what are your hopes for it?
Running Balter Records is important to me because it means that I will have an outlet and a home to express myself without the limitations that I may find on other labels that have a specific style. The label will focus mainly on up-and-coming live acts, and each release will be accompanied by amazing artwork, live performances, and introductory interviews with each artist. We also have a bunch of label showcase dates planned initially in Hull and Leeds. My hopes are that we can keep expanding over the coming years to a point which we can host showcases in other cities and festivals. It is my dream to eventually run a unique outdoor party in Ibiza for a season, something special that goes against the grain of the current paradigms of the island.

How would you define a Big Break?
20 years ago, a big break for me would have meant screaming on a stage to 20,000 people, while dressed like Jim Morrison. Thankfully, as I’ve gotten older, my mindset has switched to a more humble and less egotistical view of life. A big break now would mean having the opportunity to leave my day job behind to pursue a full time career in music, the opportunity to share my passion and musical vision with dance floors across the world. Ultimately, to help people feel free and alive.

James Orvis

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