GTA only recently released its debut full-length, Good Times Ahead, but these are no newcomers to the dance music world. Matthew Toth, 26, and Julio Mejia, 25, have been making jams together since the Miami natives met through Facebook about six years ago. Their bombastic style smashes together everything from EDM to hip-hop to various Latin American dance music forms. (Toth’s heritage is Cuban and Mejia’s is Honduran.) They even dropped the blistering System of a Down track “B.Y.O.B.” in their 2015 mix Death to Genres Vol. 2.
In fact, “Death to genres” has become a motto for GTA, whose latest album ricochets from the chill R&B of “True Romance” and “Pressure” to the bassy bounce of “Little Bit of This,” which features rapper Vince Staples on vocals. “We’ve always been trying to do everything, as far as genres go,” says Mejia.
We caught up with Toth and Mejia by phone shortly before their set at the Mid Chicago last week. Read on for the duo’s thoughts on Miami vs. Los Angeles, the importance of openness and the joys of metal.
Why to do you think genres should be eradicated?
TOTH: I don’t necessarily think that they should be eradicated. The whole “death of genres” mantra is more about not pigeonholing ourselves to one thing. Most artists, they’ll make one song, get known for one song and then people just want to hear that same song over and over again. As we were getting into this scene, we really kind of hated that. We love listening to and making all of these different kinds of sounds and songs and stuff, and we didn’t want to limit ourselves to just one thing. Even when we play our sets, we’re always trying to introduce new things, cross all these different genres together. It’s more about being open-minded to any kind of sound, as long as it’s good and makes you move.
MEIJA: We were listening to System of a Down the first time we met and, literally, pointed out everything about every song that we loved. It wasn’t even like we were trying to meet up to be like System of a Down or to start a band that has anything to do with rock. It was just a love for music and the vibe that we get from it. Everything that we do, as far as music, we want to emulate that feeling—being able to have a good time and not think about what exactly it is.
System of a Down are, for lack of a better term, metal, but they also have a strong groove to a lot of their stuff. What did you notice when you listened to them?
MEIJA: A lot of the rhythm. The riffs. The drum patterns. Those things, they’re all blends of different genres. I think I was watching an interview one time with Rick Rubin, who discovered them, and he was describing all of these different influences that he got from listening to them live for the first time. A lot of them came from the drum patterns.
What was it like for you to come from a city that has a dance scene to Los Angeles? How is L.A. different from Miami?
TOTH: We were born and raised in Miami, so we were able to experience pretty much the entire city. We know it like the back of our hand. Whereas we’ve been touring heavily since we moved, so we haven’t been able to spend as much time in L.A. as we have in Miami. Obviously L.A. has a huge, huge music scene and pretty much every single person that works in the music industry is out there, so it’s a bit different in that sense. Where, in Miami, you’re a bit more isolated, and I want to say that you’re not bothered as much because there are less people there.
MEIJA: Just the fact that the whole music industry is out in L.A. and everybody is just kind of hustle and bustle.
TOTH: In Miami, there’s a much bigger Latino scene. Just in general, there are a lot more Latinos in Miami, the overall population. Latino music is huge, and it’s everywhere and there are all different kinds. It’s a much, much bigger influence in Miami than it is in L.A. There are a lot more different types. In L.A., it’s mostly ranchero and corrido—kind of Mexican music, band kind of stuff. In Miami they have that, they have salsa, they have merengue, they have reggaeton. They have a ton of different stuff, like Spanish rock bands and stuff. Miami is a huge melting pot of all these different South American and Caribbean cultures. You go down there and you’re greeted in Spanish, no matter where you go. It is pretty awesome.
Has that influenced the music you make?
MEIJA: Yeah, definitely. A lot of our drums and a lot of our rhythms in general are very Latin-influenced. That comes with growing up and listening to all different kinds of music. Like how Matt was saying, a lot of Latin music—especially when we were younger, our parents would play them all the time around the house. I used to play in some salsa bands when I was in high school and college. I used to play trumpet in bands. A lot of the percussion players and the drum players would play all of these rhythms and I would learn them, and I learned to appreciate them just from listening when we were young. Definitely a huge influence. Latin culture in general, not just music, inspires GTA for sure.
TOTH: It’s kind of in our blood. We can’t help it.
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