[INTERVIEW] Tom & Collins Breakdown Launching Their Labels, Recent Releases, + Share Advice to Upcoming Artists at EDC Orlando 2022
Hailing from Mexico City, Tom & Collins is a groundbreaking duo that is paving the way for the future of house music. This project stems from brilliant minds of Juan Pablo Escudero (Tom) and Jorge Corral (Collins). Together, they have cultivated a unique production style that blends elements from a variety of cultures such as Afro and Latin.
Showcasing their infectious sound to the world, Tom & Collins has been on tearing up the tech house scene all of 2022. In addition to mesmerizing sets at Tomorrowland and EDC Mexico, the talented pair demonstrated their live mixing abilities across the hottest venues in their home country. Equally as impressive, Tom & Collins' labels Terms & Conditions and Hidden Jams continue to exponentially grow their following and influence, leading the Latin house movement. If one thing's for certain, it's that Tom & Collins will carry on their legacy into 2023.
Check out iEDM's exclusive interview with Tom & Collins below.
Tom (left) & Collins (right)
iEDM: How did each of your childhoods and where you grew up influence your passion for music? Which artists do you think have had the biggest impact on your signature sound and why?
Tom: We both come from different musical backgrounds. I have always been a huge fan of pop music, like Michael Jackson and Justin Timberlake. As I grew up, I started listening to the Ministry of Sound and trance artists such as ATB and Tiësto. Living in Cancún for three years definitely influenced my taste for electronic music because there were a lot of clubs and parties. More recently, Disclosure and Gorgon City, along with other artists who deliver that housey vocal sound, have heavily influenced me.
Collins: As a kid, I played the drums so I obviously was a rock fan. Red Hot Chili Peppers was one of my favorite bands, but really any artist I could put my headphones on to and jam out to for a couple of hours carried me into my teenage years. When I was introduced to dance music, mainly through European labels who put out a lot of compilations and mixes.
iEDM: What was the toughest obstacle you faced when first gaining recognition for your music and how did you overcome it?
Tom: Starting a tech house scene in Mexico City was one of the toughest challenges because at the time there weren’t many festivals or clubs that promoted that type of music. Most clubs were open formats with the DJ booth located far away from the dance floor. We had to convince club owners to put the DJ booth in the main area with a good sound system, as well as ask that attendees refrain from requesting songs. This way the clubbers can really listen to the sound and style that the DJ is embodying. We battled with this for the first couple of years but once we finally committed to a sound people began to identify us for our tech house style. Over time, it became easier to get booked for venues and play for audiences that preferred our sound over a DJ just playing top hits.
Collins: Another obstacle was that we were signed to a major label a few years ago. It had a lot of resources for when we wanted to do something vocal and radio-centric. However, it was hard for us to release a more instrumental-based track or tech house themed around a sample. The stubbornness and consistency to follow our sound allowed us to not let what’s popular or mainstream change the direction we wanted to head in. This eventually resulted in us launching our own label.
iEDM: What are a few common misconceptions about getting booked for shows and touring? What advice do you have for upcoming artists who are struggling to get booked?
Collins: Sometimes clubs just simply need a DJ. If they hear from someone that you are doing good and have a solid following they could book you without really knowing your sound. There have been times when the club atmosphere and music being played were completely different than what we expected. It is important to get proper expectations from the club management before showing up for a gig. What’s the warm-up set going to be like and what genre will the opening DJ play are great questions to help you provide the best experience for your audience and deliver the optimal set.
Another piece of advice is to not be afraid to put yourself out there and ask for the opportunity. If you stay locked in your studio, it will be very hard to gain recognition and get booked. Show up to the club that you want to play at, meet the management, and without coming off as pushy ask for a warm-up set. People appreciate when an artist is hungry enough to do that and you will eventually get your shot.
Tom: Electronic music and the overall DJ industry is so competitive right now that you really need to be able to identify your sound and stand out through production. Clubs and venues are looking for ticket sales which is more difficult to accomplish when you don’t have any of your own original music. At the end of the day, you are not just a DJ but a whole product. There should be a balance between PR, building relationships connecting with your fans and the crowd, in addition to putting together quality tracks or albums. Committing to a specific sound will enable promoters and venues to truly recognize what you are trying to accomplish as an artist.
iEDM: How did you two meet and what led to the decision to pursue a music career together?
Collins: After going to different high schools in the same area, we met through our friend groups. During college, we got to know each other more and I knew Tom was DJing at the time. When I partnered up with a club to handle the music side of things, I asked Tom to DJ for opening night. He suggested that we should do a back-to-back set together. We did this for a year and got a residency, doing extended six-hour sets without even having a stage name. Eventually, we got called to do a festival and other events, which made us start to realize that this could be something more. We began to learn to produce together and as the momentum for our project increased there became a point where it was impossible to do both. We quit our day jobs and took a leap of faith.
Tom: 10 years since first playing together, we have achieved more than we could’ve imagined and I wouldn’t have it any other way. It started as more of a passion and hobby but as we strengthened our knowledge and skills Tom & Collins took up the majority of our time. We would play at clubs at night, work our day jobs, then attend music production classes, so it was definitely a hustle to reach that point.
iEDM: What goals and vision do you have for your label Terms & Conditions? What preempted the launch of its sister label, Hidden Jams, and what are the main differences between the two platforms?
Collins: Terms & Conditions was a dream that we always had. Being involved without it being your music is a great thing because you get to support something bigger than yourself. When COVID hit, we had the time to set up everything and properly launch the label. We worked on it for about six months before officially announcing the label. If you are releasing on other labels, they give you a date and you have to plan your track around that. We now had the freedom to put out releases when we wanted. Reaching out to our friends and upcoming producers, we invited them to help push the Latin tech house style of music on Terms & Conditions. At first, we planned for one release a month, but we got so many great submissions that we decided on one release a week. We want Terms & Conditions to forge a sense of community that people can be a part of.
Hidden Jams started out as a compilation for upcoming producers or established ones that wanted to put out an experimental sound. We wanted them to grow as artists and bring attention to these innovative styles. There were a huge amount of these artists out there so we made Hidden Jams into a label to help rising producers build their followings.
Tom: Hidden Jams has featured artists that barely have a profile or it is literally their first release. Terms & Conditions encompasses artists that tend to have a bigger profile as well as more releases and experience. With the combination of the labels, there is an opportunity for both groups.
One of the goals of Terms & Conditions was not only to shed light on up-and-coming Latin American producers but to create an entertainment scene. Through the label, we book parties in Mexico City, Acapulco, and Tulum. We usually play, have a big headliner, and spots for rising DJs and ones that have signed music to our label. This further supports them, allowing these DJs to get booked for gigs, promote their music, and make content for their social media followers. We plan on expanding a heavier influence in the U.S., Europe, and South America. For our upcoming release, we have partnered with thrive music so that they can promote the track in the U.S. while Terms & Conditions pushes it in Latin America.
iEDM: The artwork throughout Terms & Conditions is mesmerizing. What inspired the psychedelic graphics and overall theme of a head being manipulated into different imaginative designs? What is each of your favorite Term & Conditions tracks?
Tom: A lot of people don’t know that I love the artistic design side of things when it comes to music. Since Tom & Collins started, I did the whole logo and used work on the flyers, helping to curate the project visually. For Terms & Conditions, I created the concept design and initial face graphic. We teamed up with a Mexican designer who came up with the idea of having that same face and putting it in different scenarios. Our supporters really enjoy the aesthetic of Terms & Conditions, on top of the music. After receiving such an awesome reaction from our audience, we began using the designs for our parties and even in our live visuals. I really enjoy listening to “Coso del Cosito” by Hugo Alba. It’s more of a relaxing daytime vibe, perfect for hanging at the beach. A lot of the tracks I am really excited about right now are unreleased.
Collins: Andruss is an artist we have featured on Terms & Conditions who is killing the tech house scene right now!
iEDM: Your new single “Se Va” is packed with colorful drums and a catchy bassline. Can you describe the production techniques you use to give the track a tropical and Latin vibe?
Collins: We have our go-to vocalist who is Columbian. They record just the vocals and percussion which can be a little tricky because it is not necessarily the same chords and structure that a house song would have. We tried a lot of different stuff with “Se Va” and are proud of the powerful bassline that comes in. The strings during the big break in the track carry it through the buildup.
Tom: Since the vocal is already very ethnic and Latin, we tried to balance it out with a techier instrumental. This was a ton of trial and error but we are very happy with the result. When playing “Se Va” live, even before its release, the crowd felt like they either already knew the song or wanted to Shazam it.
iEDM: Why do you think Cumbiafrica’s style and vocals fit so perfectly with the instrumental in “Se Va”? What was your favorite part about working with them?
Collins: Cumbiafrica has become big in the scene for their vocals. There are two branches of ethnic Columbian songs: the iconic older chants that everyone knows and the catchy modern Latin house tracks. Cumbiafrica is very captivating because they write original songs that sound like the historic chants in a way. They showed us an unfinished version of “Se Va” and we instantly wanted to work on the instrumental for it. We dissected certain elements of the original and pieced them back together with the instrumental to create its overall vibe.
iEDM: Your recent release “Spooky” embodies a more minimal feel than your usual style. What inspired this shift in production?
Collins: The original song was at a tempo which didn’t really fit with our tracks’ typical bpm, which are in the low and mid 120s. We had to get our instrumental closer to 140 bpm for it to sound more natural and not forced. Settling on 128 bpm, we tried to incorporate a minimal feel to “Spooky”, while spicing things up with percussion and Latin tech elements.
Tom: When we play live, we incorporate tech house and some minimal tracks that are a bit faster. Since minimal has less percussion and is a higher bpm it doesn’t clash with the tech house. We let the original version that we based “Spooky” off of guide us in the right direction. Sometimes when sampling a track or vocal, you need to listen to what it’s asking. This means to not push a sound that doesn’t feel organic and to aim for a sound that blends smoothly with the song.
iEDM: What was the process behind creating the final buildup in “Spooky”?
Tom: The break and big buildup wasn’t in the first version of the track. At first, it was more of a song that you would play in the car and not during a DJ set. So we decided to add a surprise element to “Spooky” by putting in the extended buildup. Making the vocal more epic and repetitive allowed the second break to build energy for the drop.
Collins: The beauty of playing unreleased tracks in your sets is you can gauge by the crowd’s reaction if a song needs a little extra kick to it. We noticed this with “Spooky” and implemented the second buildup.
iEDM: What are some of the things you really enjoyed in regard to Hollaphonic’s sound design in your “Honey” release? What initially sparked the collaboration and how did you balance this duo’s style with your own?
Collins: We started collaborating with Hollaphonic through our management. They had a stack of ideas and vocals sent over to us. Listening through them, the vocal for “Honey” was a no-brainer when we heard it. The process was a lot of back and forth, and we love the result.
Tom: Initially when Hollaphonic sent over the track it was more aggressive and a heavier banger. We wanted to bring it to more of a refined type of sound. Taking some of their elements, we added our style to the single and it made for a perfect combination.
iEDM: How did you find and incorporate the vocal in “Hagüe”? What is your usual procedure for looking through samples and what makes a sample stick out as something you would want to center a track around?
Tom & Collins: We have a friend who knows a bunch of great Columbian vocalists. There was one gifted artist who did a studio session with our friend and we loved it. He had tried to do four or five other versions of the track with the vocal and they didn’t come out the way he wanted it to. This vocalist was kind enough to let us use the vocal, so we really brought out the Afro and Latin vibes in the track. We gave “Hagüe” a groovy bassline that meshed extremely well with the ethnic vocals throughout it.
iEDM: What is each of your favorite club or festival memories and why? If you had to pick one, which venue in Mexico City would you choose to perform at?
Tom: There are two particular venues that we are happy to have the opportunity to play at frequently. One is Lulu, which is a club that we actually helped to start. The other is called Phonique and we have a residency there right now. Phonique has a really cool atmosphere; it is a vibe every time we perform there. Mexico as a whole, we love playing at Bar Américas.
Collins: For other performances, we would definitely have to mention playing on the main stage at Tomorrowland this past summer. We were honored to have such a big Mexican presence in attendance. They were turning up the entire set! Another artist’s flights got delayed so we got to play a second set as well. We played the sunset slot at EDC Mexico and it was incredible!
iEDM: What future projects and upcoming performance surprises can you hint at for your fans to get pumped up about?
Tom & Collins: “Tambores” is our track coming this month. It is super Latin but also more melodic-driven. We love to experiment and try to keep our sound fresh, allowing us to channel our creativity. Also, we just announced our Glitch Tour for next year. More than half of the dates are in the U.S. and we are thrilled for it! Working with U.S. labels like Insomniac Records and Thrive opened a lot of gates for us so we are excited to bring our sound to that market. We are doing two big shows: one in San Diego and one in Vegas. There has been a ton of Latin support for us throughout the U.S. and it's amazing to be part of that!
Photos courtesy of Tom & Collins
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