For Bay Area DJ Jon Reyes, his first moment of DJ glory didn’t come in a packed room full of admirers and splendor, but rather while spinning in a club’s converted kitchen singing D’Angelo’s “Ain’t That Easy” with a stranger.
“It was a lightbulb moment for me, rewarded by making a genuine, honest connection through music instead of mindlessly going through hits just to keep a dance floor,” he recalls.
Continuing that trend through his various projects like ColdCutz!, GOODCOMPANY, and DLRN, Reyes works closely with the community and arts scene to create casual and creative events and music. We talked with Reyes about his DJ history, the up-and-coming duo DLRN, and his preferred libation of choice for a perfect S.F. night.
SF Weekly: Give us a brief history of how you got into DJing.
Jon Reyes: My uncle was a prominent mobile DJ and my older cousins were part of the turntablism scene back in Sacramento, so I grew up around DJ culture. But I’ve always been a music digger and was always making mixtapes, thinking about how cohesive songs sounded together. It wasn’t until I moved to the City that I started taking DJing seriously and ended up forming a crew with two close college homies of mine, DJ Incognito & DJ Lucasbear, called Shades & Staples.
SFW: What did your first gig look like?
JR: Our first gig together was at a late night Korean/Japanese sushi bar off Polk Street called Sudachi. Everyone reading this probably just groaned out loud. Everyone who’s ever been there has a “Sudachi story,” most likely due to bad decisions that were caused by the spot’s bottomless sake specials. I made friends with the bar manager Jenna, who invited us to try out for a gig. A few sake bombs were able to calm the nerves and we provided an alternative to the cheesy EDM the staff was used to. We ended up playing there twice a week for a couple years. It was kind of a crash course in nightlife.
SFW: At what point in your career did you think, ‘Wow, I’m actually a DJ?’
JR: I DJed an electronic music party where one of the rooms used the establishment’s kitchen as the “hip-hop” room. I was playing pretty left-field music and ended up clearing the room except for one other stranger who stuck around dancing by herself. Feeling the moment, I threw on D’Angelo’s “Ain’t That Easy” and we both lost our collective shit singing at the top of our lungs in the middle of this kitchen. “You can’t leave me/ It ain’t that easy/ To walk away/ When I want you to stay baby…” It was a lightbulb moment for me, rewarded by making a genuine, honest connection through music instead of mindlessly going through hits just to keep a dance floor.
SFW: Tell us about Good Company, your crew that’s based out of Sacramento.
JR: Good Company evolved from a summer day party crew (with Mooselini & Drewbacca) to a trio featuring emcee/host Soosh*e!, DJ Druskee, and myself. Druskee and I incorporate a “back-to-back” style, switching off every few tracks, while Soosh keeps the party element alive with his golden voice. We’re trying to fill a void in Sacramento nightlife where traditionally, “going out” meant trying to fit in a mold of meat markets and bottle service. There weren’t many nightlife opportunities where folks can just go out, dance, and enjoy good soulful music. We started the Sacto chapter of Cuffin’, an international R&B party founded by “The King of the Sunset District” KuyaRols, but we work closely with the local arts and creative community to offer an alternative look to what it means to “going out.”
SFW: DLRN, your musical duo project, characterizes itself as “floating in the ether of golden era lyricism, dark, translucent synths, and melodic harmonies.” What inspired this description and what is your role in DLRN?
JR: For DLRN, I produce the music, while emcee Sean Lamarr tells the stories. We draw a lot of our inspiration from growing up in Sacramento. It’s a town filled with so many different pockets and scenes that you end up getting exposed to and being a fan of everything. So musically, we’re drawing anywhere from Hiero to the Deftones.
SFW: What are you guys hoping to accomplish this year?
JR: DLRN is releasing a short EP featuring Terra Lopez of Rituals of Mine at the end of this summer. I’m real excited about this project. We incorporated our touring band Privileges, a progressive jazz trio, in the recording process to give it a more analog feel.
SFW: As one of the co-founders of ColdCutz!, a local night dedicated to record culture, what’s your most prized record possession?
JR: My two prized records were actually gifted to me by other homies in ColdCutz!. The first is Foreign Exchange’s Connected, gifted to me by Mooseilini the Soul Fascist who was pissed at me for not owning my favorite album on wax. The other is The Wrestling Album, gifted by D.Hop because professional wrestling is America’s second greatest art form…next to jazz.
SFW: With all these partnerships, what’s important to you in the musical company you keep?
JR: To me, it’s important keeping a musical company that stays grounded and has fun. Here in the Bay, I’m blessed to be surrounded by world-class musicians and DJs that are hella knowledgeable and passionate about music, but also aren’t pretentious about it. We’re all still fans at heart. I’m always learning music through 4 a.m. living room listening sessions or drunken bar debates about whether the Sylvers or the Jacksons were superior (for the record, Patrick, it’s the Sylvers), or going out to events like SweaterFunk, Constellations, or the People Party.
SFW: What does the perfect night out in the Bay entail for you?
JR: Good people, good loving, and good music in my life makes me happy. Also, any night that winds up at the Bow Bow Lounge singing karaoke with Mama Candy is a sure sign of a good night.
SFW: What can we catch you drinking at the bar?
JR: Fernet and tonic. The tonic mellows out the Fernet without covering up the flavor with any sugar.
SFW: And what’s song can’t you get out of your head?
JR: Jarreau Vandal and Mr. Carmack’s cover of Rihanna’s “James Joint.”