La Fleur and B.Traits Bring the Heat to Miami Music Week | An Interview with the DJs
Miami Music Week is a whirl of heat, beats, and picturesque pool parties that give way into those long moonlit nights. This year marks the twentieth anniversary of the esteemed gathering of all things auditory, and to celebrate we spoke to Canadian producer B.Traits and sweet Swedish DJ La Fleur, who served back to back sets at the 'All Gone Pete Tong' party at The Surfcomber, an oceanfront beauty and the perfect backdrop for a poolside party in the thick of the South Beach scene.
Top-40 charting DJ B.Traits is a much-loved fixture on BBC’s Radio 1 Friday night block, with a keen ear that keeps her at the forefront of underground music culture. A drug awareness and safety champion, she produced the documentary How Safe Are My Drugs? for BBC. La Fleur, resident DJ of one of Berlin’s most respected nightclubs, is a label owner of Power Plant Records, a resident of Ibiza’s sensational Pacha, and has produced for Cocoon and Sasha’s Last Night on Earth.
After studying pharmaceutical science, what drew you into a world of full-time DJ'ing? Did that feel like huge risk at the time or just the natural progression?
It was a natural progression, working full-time as a pharmacist and full-time at night as a DJ got exhausting and I came to a point where I had to choose. But of course it also felt like a big challenge but in a good way!
What is the difference in electronic scenes from Stockholm to Berlin? How did each place define your sound?
The Stockholm club scene has never been big, with Sweden being a rock and pop country and not having a big clubbing culture. Having said that, the Stockholm club scene has grown over the years and I am very happy to see it flourish at the moment. Berlin, on the other hand, has a strong club culture and are very proud of their minimal sound. When I started out I was playing more soulful house and US garage and then more electro. My move to Berlin definitely encouraged me to discover my more techno side and therefore Stockholm and Berlin definitely made my sound to what it is today, which is both house and techno.
What defines a La Fleur DJ set?
I love to dance myself so I definitely try to play for the dance floor.
What qualities do you look for in artists signed to Power Plant Records? How would you define the Power Plant family?
The music really has to strike a deep chord in me. The first artist doing so was Danish Jesper Ryom, with his "Nature Boy" and "Godt Begyndt" tracks that ended up as his first EP for Power Plant. The music is at the core but the visual aspect is also very important to me. Power Plant is a breeding ground for myself and artists within different fields of creativity. Power Plant has branches in music, art, and fashion.
Your fashion line, Power Plant Elements, is both distinctly Scandinavian but also highly influenced by the street style in Berlin. How did your creative vision translate from music to clothing?
Power Plant is a breeding ground for different creative expressions, and for me they feed off and nourish each other. I really enjoy exploring other creative avenues and there is more coming soon!
What's next for La Fleur?
My new EP on Watergate drops in April which comes with a remix from Tuff City Kids, who really delivered! And then after that, my collaboration with Sasha should be finished any day now and that will be my next release on Last Night On Earth. There is also a remix I just delivered for Damian Lazarus And The Ancient Moons that I am super-proud of, look out for details of that one dropping shortly. And of course I will be returning to Pacha as a resident for Labyrinth in this summer in Ibiza. Looks like the summer will be magic!
You moved to Vancouver at 18 to pursue music. Can you talk a bit about this move, what it was like for you to arrive on the scene, how you tried to make a name for yourself? Was your family supportive?
B.Traits: It was always my intention to move away from my small hometown of Nelson to the big city as soon as I graduated form High School. I moved literally in the same week as my ceremony. I was DJ'ing, but didn’t really have any real gigs yet, so once I moved to Vancouver, I spent a lot of time in the local record shops and at club nights getting to know the scene. I made friends with some of the residents at the premier jungle night called Automatic, it was kind of a gateway for me, I got to see loads of my favorite UK DJs play there. Soon, I was playing gigs around the city and had a residency in Whistler, the local Ski town near Vancouver.
Whistler gets a lot of international people who come to Canada to work for the ski season, and soon I was making a name for myself in the UK. Kids from England would hear me DJ'ing at their local club in Whistler, and that’s how my name started to spread in Europe. My family didn’t really have a say in what I did, I was very headstrong, I knew what I wanted to do and was determined and driven to do so. They weren’t so happy when I decided to move to London though, as it is much farther away! I don’t get to see them too often, only once or twice a year if I’m lucky, but we keep in touch online and I try to keep as close to them as I can.
Where do you go to discover new voices? What are you looking for when you're listening to new musicians? How do you know when you want to highlight someone on your show?
I spend most of my time searching the internet via Soundcloud or YouTube, listening to different new artists and researching different sounds. I listen to a lot of other DJ’s DJ mixes online. I also get sent a considerable amount of brand new music to my music promo email! Having a radio show keeps me up to date with new artists and young producers trying to get recognition. Generally, I don’t have any specific rules when I am searching for new music or artists, because I’m a firm believer in keeping an open mind and that music and genres will forever evolve and morph into something different than what it was categorized before.
I am an eclectic DJ, I play a pretty broad spectrum of different styles of dance music, so for a new track to grab my attention, it just needs to have a groove and an element that stands out. I do a lot of research before I feature someone on my show, especially for the Future12 feature. These are artists who I feel are going to have a big year ahead, people who I am tipping for exciting things in the future. Sometimes, it won’t even be a new artist, it might be someone who has actually been around for a while, but who I feel is just starting to make some serious waves, either in what I hear in their production or their mixes.
What are the differences and similarities between Djing for radio and Djing for a club?
For radio, my show is 90% brand new music every single week, and it's presented to my listeners as a track I am feeling and would like to share. I talk about the record, who it's by, the label its on, release date, and more. I still mix the tracks I include in my show so its kind of similar to a DJ set, but that’s only to transition from track to track. I like it to sound seamless. It’s on from 1am - 4am, and at that time I think its nice to hear music continuously, rather than stopping, chatting, and starting the next record. The show is more about the music than the radio chat.
For DJ sets, I approach these completely differently than radio. A DJ set is how I feel an artist should present themselves to the crowd in front of them. I like to consider taking my listener on a journey, so I'll start with something to set the tone, and gently climb to a peak, then drop it back down, maybe play something unexpected like a jungle record, and build it back up and then down again. The set length will depend on how many times I do this peak and drop. I think a good example of me doing this is in my recent Essential Mix, which I approached differently than my regular radio show. It's a complete journey of my past, present, and future.
Electronic music is constantly evolving. As an artist is it ever difficult to keep up with the changes in the genre, vs. as a radio host? Is that something you worry about?
Not really, to be honest. Radio 1 has put their trust in me to showcase whatever my heart desires, which I believe is rather rare for a radio show on the BBC. I believe as an artist it is important to let your music taste forever evolve and grow, be honest about it and whatever you create will reflect that passion. I love so many different genres, and I'll be the first to admit that my tastes have changed over the years, but I believe that is part of me growing as an artist, producer, DJ, and presenter.
You've worked to spread awareness about drug safety with the BBC. What drew you to that cause? Is it something you feel is becoming safer, or are there new challenges that come with a new generation of music lovers?
I presented a documentary for BBC 3 in 2014 entitled How Safe Are My Drugs. At first, it was a subject I was interested in because I am in a rave every weekend for gigs, and it's ignorant for anyone to consider that people don’t take recreational substances at these events. Once the documentary aired, I experienced a very scary scenario involving my youngest brother overdosing on MDMA. He is fine now but it was very scary at the time. You never think something like that can happen to you directly!
From that point on I made the decision to make sure I had a loud voice in the conversation of harm reduction. I now work closely with The Loop, a not for profit Community Interest Company which specializes in safety drug testing, welfare, and harm reduction services at events across the UK. The UK is still very far behind many other forward-thinking European cities, but we are making progress. Its a long, hard, battle, but we are slowly making advances.