“We’re always in our studio,” says DiRTY RADiO member Waspy. “We’re here every day, non-stop. We wouldn’t have it any other way.”
This obsessive dedication to songwriting explains the leaps and bounds the Vancouver trio has made in recent years. DiRTY RADiO began as a glorified solo vehicle for singer/keyboardist/percussionist Shadi, who released the album Debut in 2010. As the project evolved, it quickly took the shape of a three-piece live band, including Waspy (drums/keyboards/production) and Tonez (keyboards/mixing).
Shadi is a prolific top liner and multi-instrumentalist who grew up studying jazz and has a background in soul and R&B, Waspy grew up playing drums in punk and metal bands before becoming obsessed with hip hop and electronic music, and Tonez is a classically trained pianist and technically savvy production whiz. Together, the three members split songwriting duties democratically, resulting in a glittering, futuristic R&B sound that mixes soulful hooks with widescreen synth swells and thudding dance beats.
Waspy explains, “We self-produce all of the music collectively, we all play on everything, we all have input into every single aspect of the recording process and writing process.”
On the strength of the 2012 full-length Cassette and the 2013 EP Lick 1.0, the trio won a 2013 Western Canadian Music Award for Urban Recording of the Year, garnered airplay on BBC Radio 1 Extra, and shared stages with the likes of Dragonette, Miami Horror, k-os, Lights and more.
DiRTY RADiO initially intended to release another LP, but when label shake-ups got in the way, they shifted their focus to a series of DIY vocal remixes. This quickly gained the attention of bloggers and tastemakers, as the group reworked beats from Kaytranada, Calvin Harris, Sam Gellaitry and more.
“Our favourite beatmakers were posting their songs for free download on SoundCloud,” remembers Shadi “Just as a way for us to keep busy, I started freestyling on them and then we’d all write lyrics and flip the song as an unofficial bootleg or remix. It was us putting our own spin on it.
Since 2015, DiRTY RADiO have continued to build momentum by releasing a series of stand-alone digital singles as well as a series of collaborations. “Numbers” is a funky club banger that has earned almost 3.5 million plays on Spotify, the addictive “Drop Your Love” is a danceable Young Franco collaboration that has topped a million plays on Spotify, and “Distant Future” is a Sleepy Tom team-up for Diplo’s Mad Decent label.
These singles are part of an unpredictable sonic journey that explores progressive soul, electronic dance music and pop while retaining a style that is entirely unique to DiRTY RADiO. Songs have been arriving every couple of months, and more singles are on the way soon.
“It’s as organic as you can possibly get,” reflects Waspy. “We’re making music out of our own studio, by ourselves, and we’re performing it ourselves. We just want to write incredible songs and try to change the sound of music.”