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Spinning Acoustic Jams Into EDM Gold at a House in the Hills

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Tim Wu, aka Elephante

Tucked inside Nichols Canyon, the Los Angeles Patch House has art-covered walls and a hillside view that might make you forget that you’re only a few minutes away from Hollywood Boulevard. Bags of Sour Patch Kids are everywhere, and the outline of the tangy treats infiltrates everything from art to pillows. If you’ve ever dreamed about going to a party in the Hollywood Hills (and eating lots of really sour candy while you were there), the location would likely be a place like this — spacious, luxe and secluded. In the early afternoon on a Tuesday, though, there is no raging here. Most of the action is happening around a grand piano decked out in stars and stripes.

Tim Wu, aka Elephante, tinkers on the keys as I ring the doorbell. He’s the latest guest here, an up-and-coming EDM producer with a few high-profile remixes to his credit (Lorde, Jack Ü featuring Justin Bieber, Zedd featuring Selena Gomez) and a couple singles out through Armada, the label co-founded by veteran DJ Armin van Buuren. He’s on the second day of his work-week stay at the Patch House — a brick-and-mortar marketing campaign, with outposts in Brooklyn, Austin and L.A., that invites musicians to stay and work while participating in social media promotional events.

Outside of Wu’s manager, I’m the first to arrive. Soon after, we’re joined by Alex Seaver of Mako and Peter Hanna of Rumors, as well as a few other folks from the industry side. Today’s goal is for Wu, Seaver and Hanna to jam and maybe come up with the bones for a new track. All three are smitten with the piano — the last thing you would expect from EDM guys.

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Elephante with a friend

Hanna studied music composition in college and is now one half of Rumors, who collaborated with Wu on Elephante’s breakout single “I Want You.” The duo have also collaborated with Grammy-nominated DJ/producer and Wynn Las Vegas resident Audien. Seaver, who was a French horn player at Juilliard, is half of Mako, a pop-dance duo signed to Ultra. They appear to be on the cusp of hitting it big with their recent single “Smoke Filled Room.” Wu, who has been friends with Seaver for a while now, provided a remix for the track.

Right now, they’re all just trying to get to know each other a little better, as Wu and Hanna had not met in person before today. They pull out cell phones and play new tracks for each other. Seaver has a near-ballad with big drums. He says it’s going to be Mako’s next single. Hanna plays a song and the group discusses pop singers who could do it justice. They pause when Blake Coppleson, from the popular new music YouTube channel Proximity, asks them to do a Snapchat bit for him. That was weird for Wu, the producer says later. “Doing a lot of social media and stuff isn’t super natural to me,” he says, adding, “it kind of comes with the territory.”

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Seaver, Hanna and Elephante (left to right)

Hanna sits at the piano, playing it mellow, maybe a little jazzy. Seaver starts singing spontaneously. If there are actual words coming out of his mouth, they’re inaudible. Wu takes out his acoustic guitar, tapping against it as he asks for something “bouncy.”

The three work together until late in the evening. The following day, Wu reports that they ended up with two feasible ideas out of the session, one of which was more fleshed out than the other. In the end, Wu says, this project isn’t about taking songs to completion; it’s about getting together the ideas that could become something big. But even then, there’s a chance that the material may never leave his desktop.

“We all have these folders full of demos like this,” he says. “ We’ll definitely try to circle back to it and keep it going.”

Wu thinks of the creative process: There’s the idea portion, where he does often work away from the computer, then the sound design and mixing portion of the project. This week was to focus on the former, and he says that the Patch House has been good for that. “It was more about getting to know each other,” he says of the day spent with Seaver and Hanna, “trying out some different stuff and having some fun.”

And fun has its benefits. He says, “That’s always when my best stuff happens.”

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Elephante, Hanna and Seaver (left to right)

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