DJ Dodger Stadium's debut album begins with a familiar refrain muttered over a cinematic swell of strings: "There are five million stories in the big city; this is one." Expect plot twists, however. For one thing, DJ Dodger Stadium isn't one person, but two: Jerome Potter and Sam Griesemer, better known as Jerome LOL and Samo Sound Boy, respectively. And while the original version of that quote comes from the 1948 film The Naked City, shot on location in New York City, their album Friend of Mine takes its inspiration from John Fante's 1939 novel Ask the Dust, a landmark of Los Angeles noir. "Living in Los Angeles and reading that book for, like, a third time recently, it struck a chord with me," says Potter via Skype from Downtown L.A., while Griesemer joins the call from his own apartment a few miles away. "Once we started creating the album, that kind of noir feeling was emerging, this soulful but lost-soul feeling that really reminded me of Ask the Dust. And, bizarrely enough, John Fante used to live on Samo's block in Koreatown."
It's easy to trace a line from the mournful vocal loops of Friend of Mine back to Fante's Dust Bowl-era existential drifters, but otherwise, their music doesn't necessarily scream "Los Angeles." Like the majority of releases on their Body High imprint, the album is indebted to the skeletal outlines of Chicago house as well as the rough-and-tumble rush of Baltimore and Jersey club styles. When the two transplants first met, four years ago — Potter grew up in Chicago and Griesemer in New York and New Hampshire — they immediately bonded over a shared fondness for regional club music. "For a lot of producers in the U.S.," says Griesemer, "the Baltimore club sound was such a link from what we grew up listening to, which was mostly hip-hop." Potter agrees: "You grow up thinking that dance music is this European, foreign thing. There needed to be an initial link, and club music, for a lot of us, was that link. And then, one you learn about club music, then it's like, 'OK, now I'm obsessed, I want to learn everything about house, and Chicago house, and Detroit techno."
Los Angeles is central to the mood and spirit of the project, however — beginning, of course, with the name, which they came up with after a summer working out of Griesemer's old apartment, located on the edge of the Dodger Stadium parking lot. "To me, the city is a huge part of it," says Griesemer. There are their warehouse parties, which he describes as "like the physical version of the label" — a key IRL component of an outfit that has its roots in online culture. (Prior to DJ Dodger Stadium, Potter was one half of the LOL Boys, a long-distance collaboration with Montreal's Markus Garcia, and Body High was until recently a digital-only enterprise.) Putting on their own warehouse parties has the added benefit of allowing them to sidestep the "sorry state" of L.A. club culture and its bottle-service vibes. Or, as Potter puts it, "playing music without having outside forces dictate the way we want to present it." (Many of their parties are "technically illegal," concedes Griesemer, adding, "I feel like I've seen so much more sketchy behavior and bad shit at real clubs.")
The duo's current studio is in MacArthur Park, smack in the middle between their individual apartments. The graphic designer Max Martin, a childhood friend of Griesemer's who is responsible for all of Body High's visual design, shares a room at the space. "He's working closely with us," says Potter, "and we're running ideas off each other. That's definitely an integral part of it. The studio itself is such a cool place to work. It's nothing special at all, really, but I feel like if we were in New York City or something, it would be so hard to even find that space for what we pay for it."
"And there would be no palm trees outside my window," adds Griesemer.
While they worked on the album, they met daily for several weeks — "I think 11 was usually our call time," says Griesemer, nodding to Hollywood with his subconscious film-set jargon — and the album developed in unusually frictionless fashion. "There's ten tracks on the album, and I think we wrote 11, so there's only one we didn't use," he continues. "Everything was just coming very, very naturally, and there wasn't any deliberation. Later, we were like, all right, where is all this coming from? I think the feelings on the album are very reflected a sense of place — where we are and where we walk to go to the studio, what we see on the streets."
"The whole album is like this chorus of voices and feelings that are just kind of all around you in the city, all the time," says Potter. And while their beats are clearly made for sweating it out in a room full of a few hundred of your closest friends, a melancholy feeling prevails, one expressed in soulful choruses cut free from their original contexts and unleashed in waves above stern, stabbing bass lines and parched, cracked drums. It's diva house as reimagined for the desert: Ask the dust, and this is the high lonesome sound that comes whistling back.