Catch the German-based dance music producer, multi-instrumentalist, and dreamy vocalist, Roosevelt, for a late night party at the Brooklyn Bazaar (150 Greenpoint Ave) this Friday, June 2nd following his performance at Governors Ball on Randall’s Island.
For those of you familiar with Roosevelt, it might come to you as a surprise to see the DJ with a four-piece band this time around. He’s amping up his live shows, and just added a new keyboardist to complete their summer tour (Brooklyn is just one of the three stops in the US—Governors Ball NYC, Philly and DC—are also on the list, before trekking back to Europe).
“This is the first time for people to see it as a four piece. A lot of things came from the laptop before, but now everything is live… So that’s exciting for me right now because so many things can go wrong because there’s actually a band. That’s quite a special thing because it’s the first time we’re playing together.”
We sat down with Roosevelt before he dipped into a 5-hour-long rehearsal session in Brooklyn to discuss his new Remixed EP, touring with a girl, and what he means by “the European way.”
Greepointers: What have you been up in New York?
Roosevelt: Yesterday we had quite a touristic day of just getting out of the hotel. We took the ferry to the Wall Street pier and then just walked around. We went to Ground Zero, which is quite an impressive memorial. Then we walked around TriBeca. In my crew there are two people who haven’t been to the States at all and they just couldn’t believe what they were seeing. They felt, like, really dizzy walking around because it was so impressive. Even if you’re from the States and live in like, Dallas or something, you’re used to these big buildings and in Europe it’s just not there… or not at this scale. So it’s quite overwhelming with the size of everything. Even stuff like this [he holds up his iced tea] everything is [super sized] which is great for a few days or a few weeks to experience all this. I guess I’m so attached to the European way of living that some things are still really weird to me here. But I really enjoy it- to be here for a few weeks.
GP: What exactly do you mean by ‘the European way?’
Roosevelt: I live in Cologne, and the city doesn’t really change. But, like I was in SoHo a couple years ago, and when we came back it has changed completely. There were a few shops we went into and we wanted to go into again, and they just disappeared. And it’s just weird for someone from Cologne, because Cologne didn’t change for the last ten years or so. I’ve been there for the last eight years, and it’s the same city – exactly. And there’s some gentrification happening, but not at this scale.
London is the same thing, and it always confuses me when I’m there, because when I’m there half a year later everything kind of changes. The club that used to be the cool new spot, is now like – you don’t go there anymore, or it’s closed already. I just feel quite comfortable in a city that doesn’t change that much… that’s what I mean, I guess.
GP: Have you spent much time in Brooklyn?
Roosevelt: A bit. We played at Baby’s All Right in 2015- that was my first proper show in New York.
GP: How did the Brooklyn Bazaar show come about?
Roosevelt: First the festival [Governor’s Ball] suggested we play a late night show… Even though we have a live band, it’s still a dance, electronic project. Sometimes I’m DJ’ing the same night I play a festival, so it’s great that it worked out that we have another live show in the same night.
We have a new girl playing keyboards on this trip, playing with us for the first time. So we are a four piece band for the first time ever.
GP: How has that been going?
This rehearsal later today is the first time we play as a four piece, but I know her, and I know she can play the stuff. But yeah, we’ve been a three piece for four years now- like a drum and a bass player, and I do guitar and vocals. I’m constantly changing stuff, and I wanted to just bring it on a different level with a new member to make it even more live and dynamic.
GP: …Especially with a female up there.
Yeah. Yeah, it’s quite…we’re not used to it- touring with a girl. I mean we all know her, so it’s not like we’re ‘Oh. It’s a girl…!’ But it’s kinda good to not just have only males…just boys on the bus… you can’t get quite as crazy.
GP: So you’re more toned down with her there?
Roosevelt: I guess a bit. But in a good way.
GP: Will it be the four of you guys throughout the whole tour?
Roosevelt: Yeah. I thought about just doing it for some shows, but I wanted to do all of them. So she’s joining us now, but doing all the shows. I’m DJ’ing less and less. In the beginning it used to be almost 50/50. But right now I’m pretty much just playing live with the band, there’s no DJ sets at all. I’m doing two DJ sets this summer for some special, secret things in Cologne. But I want when people see the name Roosevelt, for people to know that it’s a live thing.
GP: You just released your new remixed EP on May 12th. Can you tell me about that?
Roosevelt: The album [Elliot] came out last August, and I thought that I never asked people to remix me, they were always originals. And I had so many electronic influences on the album, that I just asked people to focus on the the more electronic side. And I had like seven minute versions of tracks – ready for the dance floor, stripped down, more house, techno stuff. And I just asked a lot of friends and people I really admire – who I really love as DJ’s and producers. And yeah I think it’s really good collection of people.
GP: How did you get in touch with Joe Goddard [of Hot Chip]?
Roosevelt: He signed me on his label like five years ago. He just found me on the internet. I don’t know how. I put out one track as Roosevelt on YouTube, and they had a team of 5 or 6 people, and I think the intern at the time found my video.
GP: The ‘Sea’ video?
GP: And you made that yourself. What kind of camera did you use?
Roosevelt: A friend had an old VHS recorder.
GP: Oh, I thought you made it look like that in post.
Roosevelt: I should have. It was so complicated to get it on digital.
GP: How did you get your start in music?
I think I was thirteen, fourteen. It was hip to like play guitar in my school, and I kind of just bought a guitar and went with it, and didn’t really know much about it. Then I realized that somehow I could just play some chords- listen to tracks and know how to play it. So I kind of just discovered my talent for it, without really thinking about it before.
And a lot of people in my class stopped it, because it wasn’t hip anymore, and I just kept doing it, and started bands with different people in the city. And I just played with lots of people in lots of combinations in my hometown and yeah, it was different styles of music- rock stuff, guitar based, typically rock.
Then I went from guitar to drums, and played bass in one band. So then I could play all the instruments that were needed in a band so I just tried to record my own stuff. That’s how I started producing my own music. I just tried things out. I think Sea was the first one I tried by myself. There wasn’t anything before that.
GP: Was there a moment when you decided to make the transition to more dance-based music?
Roosevelt: I think it was because I played in so many bands, but at the same time started DJ’ing in Cologne. But I knew from my own music that I wanted to combine these two styles a bit. It was natural for me to still play real instruments, but with having DJ’ed- and I DJ’ed quite techno-heavy music… I guess, when I started producing my own music both worlds inspired me, so that’s how the mix came about.
GP: Do you have any crazy tour stories?
Roosevelt: I get asked that a lot. And the only crazy one was when we were meant to play in Brazil, and it was as a two piece. And he [the bassist] came from Berlin to Frankfurt on a night train so we could have a flight in the morning from Frankfurt to Brazil. And his train, halfway from Berlin and Frankfurt caught completely on fire. Like he woke up and from the train and called me as was like, ‘I think my train is completely on fire.’ They didn’t wake him up. So he ran out and there were police and they all asked him why he was still at the train. But no one woke him up. So, that’s the first thing- he almost died on a train.
But then [they weren’t allowed to leave- the cops were holding them. So he and some others ran away, and ended up running through a farm, and got a ride from a farmer to Frankfurt, which ended up costing 500 Euro]. And during all that I had to go to the airport with all the equipment- like three huge cases. And then I was literally standing at the gate at like 7, and they wanted to close it and then [the guy from Berlin] made it the very last second, like came running around the corner, everything was dirty- I think he fell down in the field. And then we made the flight! We went to Lisbon and then to Brazil.
And then once in Brazil, it was like paradise, and there was a big swimming pool, and we took a glass of champagne, and I jumped in the pool, and when I thought the day couldn’t get any worse, there was this tile that was really sharp, and I jumped in, and my foot was [cut] completely open. And I didn’t realize the pain because I was in the water but then I went out again, and it was like pouring blood down my feet. So I went to wake up the hotel person, it was a really small hotel, and they came with a bottle of I think was just pure alcohol, and they didn’t even ask me- and they just poured it on my feet, and that was the worst pain I’ve ever had. But that stopped the bleeding, and then I had to go to the hospital for two nights or so, and then I went with like a huge bandage to the show, and played the show. And that was great. And after that, everything went well.
GP: What’s your fan base like here?
Roosevelt: In New York it’s really mixed. Which I really like. Because in Berlin, there’s normally just like 20-30 year-olds, hip, young people. And especially the [previous] show in Manhattan it was mixed, it was so mixed. When you play a show in Berlin that doesn’t really happen. So it’s really great to bring people together I think. It’s always great to see people in a crowd that maybe wouldn’t have normally met [outside of] that night, and you bring them together with your music. I think that’s always a really nice thing. Especially the age- there’s now like 12-year-old girls to like 60-year-old music nerd dads. And one reviewer…tried to make that a negative thing, but I think that’s like the thing to achieve.