August 12th, 2013
On July 31st, California DJ’s Mike Lisanti and Philip Scully of Charity Strike released their first own EP. Followers and supporters of the group finally have the chance to purchase the finalized EP, which was produced and written by themselves. As Charity Strike got excited for the release of The Mantra, we had a chance to catch up and talk about their rise to fame. The EP, which features two songs, Mantra and No Heart, also features two remixes by Daav One and Jason Risk. Over the past year, Charity Strike continues to grow, as future songs and tours are coming their way. Their unique and individualistic sounds will give any producer and DJ a run for their money.
We got the chance to speak with the two very energetic and passionate producers who have a deep love for the music industry they are in. Their uplifting charisma has me excited to see where their future musical talents will take them. During the interview, they explained to me the ways they give back to charities, creating a factory out of producing, future projects, and how working with Club Cartel Records has made a lasting impression on them.
Who is Charity Strike? And how was the name Charity Strike created?
Mike – The name Charity Strike was collectively decided because we are good people and we like to give back. The name just naturally came to us that way. We met in Santa Barbra, we were both going to school out there and doing our own DJ thing, and we just instantly clicked. We started making tracks like crazy and we decided – hey let’s become a duo – it was great. That started up April 2012.
Philip – And just up until recently we were giving almost all of our music away for free. Like he said, we clicked, and just started making music, giving music away for free, so we ran with it.
Electro has become huge and competition is tough. What makes the EP to be different than other electro house sounds?
P – Both songs, Mantra and No Heart, are similar in their own respect, but both have a different energy to them. The Mantra is really dark, and No Heart is going to be a little brighter but still has this heavy, dark energy. I think that was the biggest thing for us, to create a really heavy dark energy, but it being positive in its own.
M – There is definitely that. It really pans out, especially in No Heart with the vocals. The lyrics are bitter sweet. You can take them in two different directions – it’s definitely very cool.
P – Yeah, the lyrics sounds like an anthem, a positive thing, when she’s talking about sweat is dripping from his face. The concept of that song is actually about a bank robbery heist. She’s telling a story of a man, who you know, is robbing a bank, and it’s through the eyes of a girl working in the bank. And nobody knows that.
M – At the beginning it kind of sounds like they’re at a music festival because there’s so much going on, but no one can really see the DJ, it’s pretty cool.
P – It really works two different worlds like Mike said, it’s a little bittersweet.
So did you guys write the lyrics for Mantra?
M- Actually the lyrics were written and sung by Glenna Bree, a very talent artist. We did all the production, the music, and we wrote the melody.
When producing the EP, what was the overall vision for the sound? Did it start with a certain genre and eventually grow into electro, or were you aware that you were going to produce an electro EP?
P – For sure there was a vision. Both songs were written at two different periods of our career, so that was kind of interesting. But, I think they both came together when we were working on the full EP together when we were mixing it and mastering everything. They really started to tie together a little bit, and I think through all the music it always has Charity Strike energy to it.
With that being said, can we expect strictly electro-house from the EP? Or would you consider it another genre?
M – For the most part. We have one upcoming release, it’s coming out very soon and it’s a remix. We jump into glitch hop actually. It starts with house, and then we go down to 100 bpm, that makes the whole glitch hop sound, and then it goes back up into house, we’ve never heard that done before. And we did it.
P – We want to brand a sound so that people are familiar with our music, but it is also important for us to push our boundaries and try new things, but for the most part we’re going to have that high energy, 128 bpm sound but we will be experimenting, and pushing our sound farther.
M – It will fall into the house category, even if there is a slash mark, but home is the electro.
P – We were definitely finding ourselves with this EP, I think that was the biggest part – find our sound, finding ourselves, and getting out there and branding it.
Was Mantra influenced by certain sounds, DJs or, songs?
M – We won the Sander van Doorn remix contest, and No Heart was influenced by some Van Doorn, but we also kind took into account when we made the track that the electro sound would be mixed in with the rolling baseline and then the hard style synths would also be mixed together. So yeah, Sander van Doorn is a huge influence.
P – Yeah he is a huge influence. I also think we’re really aware of what people are listening to and what’s popular so we try to incorporate that to identify with as many listeners as possible, and I think when we write our music we are just trying to produce good music, and then we incorporate other elements from other artists and stuff that we hear, like and take interest. We try to give a little of what people have heard, but always keeping it fresh and new.
What equipment, computer programs, synths, mixer, and instruments are used to create your songs?
P – We use Ableton and Logic for creation, and we do our mix work in Pro Tools, so we focus strictly on Creative, Logic, Ableton, and we jump back and forth between the two. When we mix, we take Creativity out of it, the song is completely done, and move to Pro Tools, which essentially locks us into place and we just focus on quality sounds, and bringing them out as much as possible. When we spin live we’re on CDJs and flash drives, no laptop. And Mike has a really cool music past, he’s played guitar for a long time…
M- Yeah, I’ve done all that. I’m trained in multiple different styles of guitars and have been doing that since I was very, very young.
How do you guys feed off of each other when creating ? Is there a process you go by? Do you talk about it before you start producing?
M- Yeah, we actually like to think of ourselves as a factory. We usually start with Ableton, and go on Logic, and move back and forth. Philip on one, and I’m on the other. Philip is trained in sound engineering, he went to SAE in Los Angeles, he’s a very talented engineer, so if he’s doing post work on a track, I’ll be starting on a new one. So we’ve created the “factory” from that, it’s cool.
P – Yeah we switch off doing break downs, and drops, so one person will do the drop once, and the other person will do the breakdown for the other so we both get to immerse ourselves into what we’re working with in a hole.
M – It’s like a big jam session.
So how does your synergy in the studio translate into your live performances?
P – When we’re in the studio, like Mike said, it’s a lot of fun. We get so hyped about what we’re doing, what we’re doing, and we put so much positive energy into what we’re doing that we write something and we jump and say listen to this. So I think when we’re playing, we have that positive high energy, really into what we’re doing. There’s never a dull moment, we’re never down. We’re always thinking business, we’re always thinking music, we’re always thinking, there is never any personal stuff involved, it’s always music. That’s it.
When did you begin recording the album and roughly how long did it take you?
M – Wow, ummm.. what do you think?
P – I think we finished this ages ago. It takes so long to produce the music. I think the total process was… ummm…
M – Let’s think total. It was a few months of living in the studio, tracking, all that stuff.
Have you worked with any other DJs and artist for the EP?
M – Aside from Glenna Bree, the recording vocalist, we got Daav One out of Poland, doing a remix on Mantra, and we have Jason Risk remixing, who is a really awesome Australian producer that’s up and coming. He’s got the Melbourne sound branded; he’s really good with that. That is the affiliations with Club Cartel Records, who are releasing the EP.
P – As far as production goes, it was all self-made. We don’t look for too much help from producers on original music. As far as collaborations with Charity Strike and beyond the EP, we are doing stuff with Big Chocolate, who are out of Los Angeles.
M – We’re working on a lot, and we’ve got a lot coming out. We’re go through a mastering company called Finality Mastering, they’re really awesome.
P – We had a really great mix and recording engineer, Max Georis, and he helped us track the vocals for No Heart.
M – He was a huge help for that song. He has an amazing recording studio in his apartment, which is incredibly nice, and we were like – “Thank you.”
P – Yeah, that helped us achieve a lot of clarity and professional vocal sounds.
Do you hope to work with any certain artists/DJs?
M – Someone I’d really like to work with, especially right now, is MAKJ. Our newer sound that’s coming out, is similar with his electro.
P – We share the same PR Agency, so hoping we will be working with him.
What shows and events are you guys playing soon?
P- So, we’re doing an album release party in Santa Barbara, and like Mike said, we both got our start there. We both started DJing, and pushing out our sound there. It’s cool we’re going back there because we’re going to bring our following and support group. That will be at the Savoy.
M – It’s going to be a really awesome release party, we have a cool cult following out there. It will be nice to share with them our first EP release. There’s going to be a lot of good energy that night. We’re both really excited for it.
How does it feel to see how big Charity Strike has evolved?
M – Um, from when we were making dubstep and putting out free tracks? Ha-ha. I would say we have evolved a lot, yeah. And, the way we have grown as people over the last year has really come out a lot in our music. There’s lots of togetherness as human beings and sound.
P – It’s a great feeling.
Your favourite track on the EP?
M – I really, really, really like Mantra. I really enjoy Mantra. I think that track is, it’s heavy.
P – Yeah, same thing, same thing. Mantra just captures our energy. It was just the song that we weren’t really trying to be anything. We just wanted to make a big heavy song and we just went with our feeling.
Ok, let’s take it away from the EP a little bit and let’s talk about places you like to play.
P – Lure in Hollywood is probably my favorite spot on Thursdays. In Hollywood, a lot of the clubs that sort of cater to everyone and they play all kinds of music which is cool, but on Thursday’s they actually get amazing talent. We also had the luxury of being able to play there, and they get amazing new talent that’s strictly EDM. So, on Thursdays they do strictly dance music and it’s the number one place to party Thursday in Los Angeles, and it’s a really successful thing that they’re doing. And it’s cool because a lot of places in LA aren’t just focusing on dance music. Another one is Dim Mak…
M – Yeah, we go to Dim Mak Tuesdays all the time.
P – We had a song released on Dim Mak not too long ago, and we just recently got some support from Steve Aoki from Ministry of Sound radio for a track of ours that they had released under New Noise Compilation. So on Tuesdays they just do EDM, a little more underground. We love that place, they treat us really well and it’s just a fun place to go to. It’s 5 dollars so anyone who wants to go can, it’s great.
Best event you’ve ever put on?
P – Lure was good. It was a new crowd, positive response and everyone wanted us to continue playing. It was really cool. That was 3,000 people.
M – I really enjoyed playing WinterSalt in San Francisco that had a lot of big names on it. It was a full blown Music festival. Zedd, Diplo, etc. And then we did a really good slot on the night of Swat Swing Break.
P – That was for sure the best – that was fucking nuts. We got to play for 5,000 people just kids who wanted to party and come to Arizona to have a good time. It was sort of a College party, so we got to play for some of the coolest cities and colleges.
M- Yeah, and we got to go right after the headliners so we just go up there and the crowd is nuts, just so good. Even on more challenging material, they just ate everything up. It was great. That was a really good show.
How do you please your crowd?
M – For the challenging material, we have some wants where it’s like “Oh my god – yeah I really want to play this hard style track and lets hope to God everyone’s loving it… let’s just hope there’s a right time to drop this track.”
P – And let’s also put out there, we always walk into shows with a set list and we never ever stick to it. We always end up on the fly, reading the crowd. It’s all about energy for us. If the energy is not there, we’re hurting. So I mean, when the energy is there we feed off of it so when the set is so much better and connected.
Plans on doing work or shows in Canada?
M- We want to!
P – Canada is awesome. We would like to.
M – I really enjoy Canada, I have been before. I visited Vancouver once, it was great.
What would you like to see happen to the dance music industry?
P – I would really like to see producers and DJs just keep pushing their material. There’s a faze right now where things have gotten really, really big and we’re into that. I think I would just like to see artist push themselves and further their sounds.
M – Experiment, as much as possible. See what hits. Everyone should just keep doing what they are doing, I’m pretty happy with the scene right now.
P – It’s like a pendulum, it’s swinging back and forth, but like Mike said, I’m happy to see where it’s going.
Can you give any advice to upcoming DJs?
M – Stick with it.
P – Perfecting your craft. Being more specific, just study what you love to do, and the biggest thing I can suggest is studying what the blogs are putting out, and see what magazines are talking about, see what TV is putting out, see what the labels are reaping. Basically finding your sound and not being fixated with what’s happening just right now. If you have a love for music see what you love about it. Stay on top of the ball. See what blogs are putting out, and see what people are reacting to and take that energy and try to feed off of it.
What can we expect on future work and tours?
M – We always have shows lined up. Right now, it’s like a constant mini-tour. We’re leaving for Texas tomorrow, we just travel. No set tour. Hopefully sometime in the future.
P – The music will for sure dictate how we will be able to tour. We want to be able to do it the right way. We have so much music that’s signed and just waiting to come out now, it’s all about the waiting game. It’s a joke that goes around the studio, it’s like, “hurry up and then wait.” We set up these guidelines for ourselves and then they never work out as we plan, ha ha. So we could be waiting up to 9 months for the next song.
M – We’ve done some remixes for major label stuff and they’ve only given us 7 days to master and mix the track.
P – That was a track you could only do overseas, and it charted number 50 in pop-rock. That was also a collaboration we did with Jochum Gerrard, a really awesome producer that has made music for just about everyone. So he gave us a really cool opportunity to chart a song in Europe. United States will be announced.
Last but not least, where and when will fans be able to purchase the Mantra EP?
M – July 31st, that is a Wednesday, with Club Cartel Records. Jay Trick owns the label so it is out of Sydney, Australia. It’s going to be a big package, and we’re really excited about it.
P – We’re also launching a deal with a headphone company that will be cross promoting a deal with the EP. We will be giving all proceeds of the headphones to charity. So, we got these special limited edition headphones by Orange Audio. They are custom, black, and all the proceeds are going to a non-profit organization in LA, called Create Now. It’s like home for us. For more info, you can go to www.createnow.org. This charity focuses on music mentoring and spreading under privileged and troubled kids to music.
M – As a duo, we’re getting more involved in charities. An old hobby of mine was getting up at about 5 a.m, hopping on the subway, going to skid row, and helping one of my friends and go serve food to homeless people at the midnight mission.
The Mantra will catch any house lover’s attention. Being a DJ is one thing, but to have your own music produced is another. The duo has already left their mark on dance music, but their trajectory is only upward and you don’t want to miss out on these two future superstars.
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