“We had playdates. It was tight,” Aseem Mangaokar said in an interview with The Michigan Daily of his early days with childhood friend turned musical collaborator Chris Gavino. Now producing together as DJ duo Hotel Garuda, you could say their playdate activities have progressed beyond swing sets and sandboxes to a playground of nightclub stages and music festivals.

Though living on opposite coasts — in L.A. and D.C., respectively — Mangaokar and Gavino began working together in January 2014. Since then, they’ve made a name for themselves putting out a variety of remixes — of Lana Del Rey’s “Summertime Sadness,” Chromeo’s “Jealous” and Galantis’ “Gold Dust” to name a few — and already have a set at EDC Vegas under their belts (real talk, I didn’t know that until after our interview, which is probably good considering EDC is practically Mecca and I don’t know how to process having talked to someone who’s reached it). Hotel Garuda’s relatively rapid rise has most recently landed them on their first-ever tour with Amtrac, who released his Lost in Motion EP about a month ago. A six-week engagement, the Lost in Motion tour made a stop at Populux last Friday, drawing crowds from the local Detroit area and as far as East Lansing — plus Ann Arbor …*waves*.

Last summer, Gavino temporarily left D.C. to work on music with Mangaokar in L.A., and together they’ve set off on a journey away from remixes and into the world of their own original music. Hotel Garuda’s first single began to take shape in September, after Gavino was already back at school in D.C. Working remotely, they completed the track by January, but as of now it’s still tantalizingly mysterious to most of the world.

“There’s a method to the madness,” Mangaokar said of his agency’s marketing strategy behind new releases. “Now that we’re involved with a label, there’s a lot more that goes into it than us just making a song and putting it up.” Luckily, that means tons of support and industry resources for their work which — combined with undeniable talent, seems to be a recipe for success. The single is set to be officially released on a as of yet undisclosed date in the near future, and I can only imagine it will benefit from the hype coming off the tour.

Of course, it will also benefit from the fact that it’s a total jam. That’s right, the Populux crowd was treated to an early listen of the very first Hotel Garuda original, and I must say my ears felt honored. Imagine an echo-y, liquid tune that quickly opens up to Emily Warren-esque vocals held together by an overall dance vibe that perfectly leaves listeners wanting more, and you’ll have a sense of the song that will (hopefully) hold you over until it you can listen for yourself.

Before Hotel Garuda, local duo Golf Clap warmed up the room with their deep house stylings. Apparently I’m totally out of the loop because they play at Cantina with some regularity and I’m embarrassed to say I’ve never been. They’ve got plenty of upcoming shows scheduled around here—I’m particularly excited for the Hash Bash Official Afterparty at The Blind Pig (who wouldn’t be?). Anyway, the room continued to fill as Hotel Garuda took the stage, and I can only imagine that from an artist’s point of view watching people flock to your music is as promising as watching the sun rise. The set that followed was as refreshing as a Sunday morning, and as energetic as a Friday night in your twenties should be.

Characterized by quick transitions and plenty of opportunities to sing along, Hotel Garuda established a steady flow of house beats mixed with fun samples (not the kind from pop songs that the radio beats to death), creating an environment that buzzed like a great college house party, but with better music and LED lights. Amtrac finished off the night, working the crowd into a frenzy by letting his build-ups simmer until they were good and ready to explode; it really did have something of a detonative quality, like a glitter bomb of music raining down over a happy crowd.  

Perhaps one of the most wonderful things that comes from talking to an artist about their work is the chance to get a sense of their passion behind it. Sure, watching a DJ rock out in the booth is great, but listening to them geek out over their own music and that of their friends is pretty cool, too. Though still in the early stages of his career, Mangaokar seems committed to keep the good times coming.

“Literally all I do is make beats all day,” he said. “It’s a pretty nerdy life, I love it.”

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