In case you haven't already been told by absolutely everyone, EDM has exploded. It's the new pop. (For now.) But what's grown alongside it is a certain snobbishness among some DJs — those who spent years bemoaning mainstream America's disinterest in club culture and now eye-roll over its commercial appeal.
NYC-based Jeffrey Tonnesen isn't among them. Raised on '90s raves, he started out by spinning bands like the Clash and the Kinks at hipster rock bars on the Lower East Side; now he plays international fashion shows for Prada and DVF. Tonnesen has experienced the full spectrum of the scene, hence his pretense-free approach — he hath no shame in sliding Top 40 tunes right up against underground records. For a taste, party with Tonnesen on Saturday, January 19, at The Estate; then continue the party on Sunday at GEM, where he'll lead the Brunch Club, the restaurant's new monthly party brunch, which runs from 1 pm to 7 pm. We caught up with the DJ before his double shift.
Do you visit Boston often? My uncle David is a metal sculptor in Cambridge. I've been visiting him since I was a kid. Boston is fucking cold! And it's a college town, which is not a critique. As much as I love New York, people can be a little uptight. Boston and the Estate are amazing. I go on, pound it out for a couple hours — and when you have to close at two, you're always closing to a full room. They have to peel people out.
How are Boston crowds different? New York audiences can be particular. Indie records cross over into the New York club scene, but not as quickly into Boston. On the other hand, radio hits work in Boston. And I don't have a problem with that. Yes, I really like some Katy Perry records. I think Benny Blanco and Dr. Luke are producing great songs. That's the thing about a college-town vibe; it's an opportunity to get loose and let go, no restrictions. I like being able to play my favorite Britney song without worrying about whether people think it's cool or not cool.
So, whatisyour favorite Britney song? "I Wanna Go." That song's awesome.
What do you think about the mainstream EDM explosion? I'm totally fine with it. I was in all-ages clubs at 13. I went to raves in the '90s. My roots in real raves can connect over to the current stuff. I don't want to paint myself as cheese-ball by saying I like some Britney Spears. It's about being selective. There are bad pop records; there are good pop records. My job is to identify them.
It takes craft to read a crowd and give them what works. There's a way to play guilty pleasures without selling out, without making certain compromises. For instance, I'll never play dubstep. I don't own a single Skrillex record. Nothing against him; it's just my decision not to play it. Anyway, I don't really need to. Dubstep has come and gone, I think. Trap is more relevant now.
What are you feeling for 2013? Funky hard house. I'm looking forward to things evolving beyond strictly European vocal house.
Suggested hangover cure for brunch? Me — I bring the party! Also, quarts of mojitos.