By Tiffany Lam
On May 2nd, we caught up with 23-year-old DJ/producer Justin Blau, or better known as 3LAU (pronounced Blau, not three lau) just before his set at UNIUN Nightclub in Toronto. We chatted about college, cars, Katy Perry and more. Read the full interview below!
So Justin, you’ve been around in music for quite a few years. When did things really start kicking off for you… in college?
JB: Well it started out with basically just me making mashups, and then I came out with my first big track, “Escape”, and that was about a year and a half ago. And then since then I’ve been working on a bunch of new stuff that I’m rolling out right now. So for two years I kind of did the college mashup thing, and during that time, I was learning how to do my own thing and then I finally came out with my first one and then it took a year to finish the rest, and now I’m coming out with a ton of new originals.
I saw a throwback photo you posted yesterday, which was your high school yearbook grad photo, and your “life goal” caption was “To revolutionize the music industry“. Would you care to elaborate on how and what you mean by this?
JB: Yeah, so it’s interesting, I’ve always loved all kinds of music, but didn’t really like dance music back in the day… kind of just fell into it and now I’ve come to absolutely love it. For me, I’ve always wanted to revolutionize music and revolutionize the industry behind music. My personal goal was to revolutionize the industry first, and then start making music on my own when I was 40 or something and I could do whatever I want. Luckily, it didn’t have to work out that way. I’ve always had lots of different ideas, I think there are lots of problems on the industry side of music, I was a finance major, I was a business student, so having that background I wanted to spearhead some project to turn it on its head; I think Spotify’s in the process of doing a little bit of that right now. But it turned out to work the opposite way and I get to do music before the industry stuff.
Recently you did something like a massive college tour, and I heard the shows and everything got really crazy wild. What are a couple things that were absolutely ridiculous that you couldn’t believe would ever happen?
JB: Well, absolutely ridiculous were cliff jumping and monkey suits, and crowd surfing from a second story. We picked up some random girls along the way to film for the music video – yeah, my girlfriend didn’t like that – but we were traveling by car everywhere constantly doing different things in monkey suits. It was exhausting because we were playing shows and filming all at once; we barely slept at all but it was a phenomenal experience and totally worth it.
And the filming was all of this was for a music video?
JB: Right, it’s the music video for the bootleg version of one of my new singles.
So lately, what has been the average 3LAU kind of day?
JB: Lately it’s hotel to airport, airport to airport somewhere else, to hotel, to work at the desk for a couple hours, to playing a show, and then repeat.
JB: Ehh, a couple hours in there. I sleep as much as I can. My average is 5-6 hours, which is really not bad, but when you do 5 and a half hours day after day after day…
And basically playing a high energy show every night.
JB: Exactly, and doing that day after day, you’re not getting your 8, and you do that for three weeks… you miss those few hours every day and you start to feel it. And then there’s some nights where there’s little [sleep], if any.
Now, on more of a serious/softer note… Your involvement with Pencils of Promise. I saw there was a video where you went to Guatemala a while back for the completion of the school classroom you helped fundraise for. Can you tell us a bit more about that?
JB:Yeah, so I’ve been working with Pencils of Promise for almost two years now. We built the first school, it was a phenomenal success, I kind of wanted to wait until I got a bit bigger as an artist to start doing more work with them, and now we have so many big plans with them for the future. We’re almost done with the fundraising for the second school, but it’s my goal to have 5 schools by the end of 2015, so that’s the goal! We’ll see if it happens.
So how exactly does the fundraising come together?
JB: So one school is 25,000$, and fundraising can come from a lot of different directions. We sell bracelets with Electric Family, I’ll donate a portion of proceeds from music sometimes, we’re going to be doing more show stuff. We haven’t done that much yet, cause when you do philanthropy with shows, to make it really effective you have to bring in a lot of sponsorship and then you can raise hundreds of thousands if you do it the right way, so I’d rather do it right and wait until I’m big enough to execute it and for it to be well done.
Alright now for a couple general questions. What’s your favourite track to play right now, or really fun to drop?
JB: My new single “How You Love Me” is always really fun to drop, there’s a new remix that I just got back that I’ve been playing. Otherwise, “Mammoth” by Moguai is still to this day one of the biggest songs you can play live. It’s old but everyone knows it and sings along to it.
Favourite aspect of being on the road?
JB: My favourite thing is also my least favourite thing. Being on the road forces you to be a minimalist, which sometimes is really taxing because you don’t have everything available, but it also can enable you to focus more on your immediate surroundings cause you only have the stuff that’s with you and you can be a little bit more task-oriented. If there are things internet-wise, you can just sit on the computer cause you don’t have to clean around you or do anything else, you just have to eat and work. So it’s the best and worst part about touring, just being a minimalist.
What’s your proudest moment so far as 3LAU?
JB: I think that’ll be happening this June. This June will be my proudest moment as 3LAU. So far it’s been the release of HYLM, a project I’ve been working on for a year and a half, but this June I’m playing my dream festival and on the mainstage; I’m really pumped.
*Update: 3LAU will be playing EDC Las Vegas happening June 21-23!
Favourite artist right now, or an underrated artist we should know about?
JB: I’d have to say Botnek, who I just released a track with called “Vikings”, and they just make some crazy stuff, very unique. No one’s doing stuff like they are, they’ll be really big soon.
Biggest music guilty pleasure?
JB: I love Katy Perry, she kills it.
Yeah, I’d have to agree, she’s great.
JB: Yeah, exactly! I mean, is it really a guilty pleasure?
I guess it’s cause she’s really mainstream pop so we tend to categorize her in something like that.
JB: Yeah, but she’s one of the most respectable mainstream artists. I mean, I wouldn’t tell you Taylor Swift is a guilty pleasure cause I don’t listen to T-Swift, but Katy Perry kills it!
Biggest Pet Peeve?
JB: When people tell you they can help you in some way, shape or form, when they really can’t. So if someone’s like, “Oh yeah, this is such a great opportunity for you working with us…” That’s not what you want to tell me, haha, I don’t want to hear that, sorry.
What’s a private thing you’ll admit about yourself, or something that people would be surprised to know about you?
JB: I most recently told the world I can sing, and I’m singing on one of my future records, so I’m really excited for that.
What would your mom describe you as?
JB: Probably really hard working, because she hates the fact that I give her no time. I also don’t do anything but this. I don’t watch television, I don’t really drink that much anymore, I don’t really hang out with my friends that much. Literally, girlfriend… music… family… music… that’s it.
Well that’s good you can make time for your girlfriend too at least! And so how would your friends describe you as? Any differently?
JB: Probably the same. Everyone would probably say I don’t really leave my desk and I’m always constantly doing something – even when you came, you know, busy with a makeshift meeting right before.
If you ever found yourself running from the cops, it would most likely be for…
JB: Drugs. Nah. Hmm, tax evasion… who knows. Nah, that’s a stupid answer. If I was running from the cops… it would be for stealing a car. Hell yeah, that’s what I would definitely do.
And last question, any interesting plans for the rest of summer – besides that huge festival you’re playing at?
JB: Basically working on finishing my album in June and July. It’s an EP so not a full album, but a 5-track album that I’m really excited about.