Behind The Music: Our Interview With Sunnery James & Ryan Marciano

It was the evening after Snowpocalypse 2017: NYC received 10 inches of snow earlier in the morning and the streets were now ridden with sludge. The outside world was at an all-time gross and I hadn’t left the apartment all day. To be frank, the odds of me actually braving the cold were completely against me, but I knew I couldn’t miss this exclusive SiriusBPM Armada takeover event as well as the opportunity to interview Sunnery James & Ryan Marciano.

Taking place at Dream Downtown, the event was surprisingly intimate and the audience really enjoyed themselves ( it helped that we were just feet away from Armin van Buuren and later Sunnery James & Ryan Marciano). Needless to say, I took many, many pictures before collecting my cool and going over my interview questions in my head. When the actual interview came around, my nerves vanished in front of SJRM’s naturally fun and easy to talk to personalities, feeling zero intimidation about sitting next to top DJs. Although I definitely said a few too many “like” and laughed more obnoxiously than necessary, I enjoyed myself in the brief 10 minutes I had to interview SJRM, who now have gained one more big fan.

20something: Awesome set tonight guys.

Sunnery James & Ryan Marciano: Thank you.

How do you think tonight went?

SJ: It was fun to do these kinda of thing for Sirius radio. We are good friends with Sirius so it was a kind of small thing to get close to the people. We always get big love from New York City so it’s fun. We had a lot of problems with travel so we came straight from the plane…so that’s our excuse is that we are little bit late.

SJ: But it was fun, we got a lot energy out of it.


What kind of shows do you guys like playing the most?

SJ: Wow, to be honest I like shows with a roof. So if it’s big or small, I like shows with a roof because you get that sweaty energy.

RM: He’s just scared to get cold or hot.

So you just prefer indoor than outdoors?

SJ: I think so. I love festivals…don’t get me wrong, but I think the energy you can create indoors is much heavier than outside. Energy-wise.

What about playing in a tent? At a festival, that’s kind of like an indoor feeling.

SJ: Yeah exactly.


Do you guys have any pre-game rituals before you play a set?

RM: Well when we have a big show we always do this. (intricate handshake)
So you’ve been doing that since you first started?

SJ: Yeah! Even before we were DJs. But it was for different purposes. (laughter). Next question!


How did you guys start out?

RM: Well we met at a sports store a long, long time ago. I needed an internship and [James] was working there, and then he hired me.

He was your boss?

RM: Only for 10 minutes.

SJ: And after 11 minutes we were fired probably. (laughter) Yeah, and then it all started. But it wasn’t about music…it was just about hanging out and then we found out after that we had the same interests music-wise. We started throwing parties and playing our shows. We didn’t want to book DJs because they were asking for a lot of money.

RM: You know how DJ’s promote themselves. (laughter)

SJ: A friend of mine actually called us one day. I was at a festival and he didn’t have money to pay big DJs for the party going on at his new club Escape.

And then he called me like, ‘I need you, I know you have all the records. Come play with your friend.’

I was like, ‘No, I only collect music, I’m not playing.’

And he said, ‘No, just come play, I’ll give you 50 bucks.’

I played the whole night and it happened that this party became one of the hottest parties in Amsterdam. So all the big promoters started being like “Who are these two guys?”

Amsterdam has a lot of cool people coming out of the music scene like you guys.

SJ: New York as well and LA too.


Could you talk about the new music you have coming out? You released a single earlier this year.

SJ: We released it five to six weeks ago off our new label and the funny thing is we went back where we started from…more down tempo and tribal beats…and it worked right away. It was a dance smash in Amsterdam and we have half a million plays now on hopefully Spotify picks it up and it goes to 2, 3, 4 million.

What was the inspiration behind this track?

SJ: We were hitting cross-over music and reading complaints…so we thought: ‘What should we do?’ We listened to all these sets with Black Coffee, you know he plays more deep-house tribal like what we were playing 10 years ago. We started making beats, drums in LA — that’s where it all started.


I heard about your underwater DJ set.

RM: Yeah we played in a submarine and it was quite fun. I was scared because I’m not a water person. I’m okay with takeoffs…but to go down is different.

SJ: Actually, it’s really small. Like what you see in movies, it’s all small rooms. But it was fun.

RM: You get to see the entire submarine as well. It was quite big.

How many people were at the show?

SJ: Sixty people fit in the submarine.

RM: And there were like 50 people at the show.

SJ: The most impressive thing was the stories of the people on the submarine. How do you call them, the soldiers of the submarine?

RM: The submariners!

SJ: Yeah, for six months they stay underwater and don’t see light. It’s crazy.


So you guys are playing Tomorrowland in Belgium?

SJ: Two weekends on the MainStage, really really happy with that. What we’re really proud of is on the 28 of July…Tomorrowland is gonna host our Sexy by Nature tent. That’s really exciting.

What are some of your favorite cities to play?

RM: Definitely Miami, Amsterdam, New York. We have some spots in Brazil as well.

SJ: We love LA. To choose one is really difficult… but New York is definitely top 3. Feels like home. Also when we first started playing New York, we were like: ‘What the fuck, there’s people partying here.’ New Yorkers, they go crazy.


Who are some artists you want to collaborate with?

SJ: Out of the box I say Kanye West. The reason is this guy is so crazy that he’s unique. He doesn’t see any boundaries, he just goes in and he just makes what he feels. Music-wise, I think we could do some nice stuff. Who knows?


Any more plans for NYC coming up?

SJ: We play at Lavo and then go to Philly. We’re gonna attend some shows for New York Fashion Week too.

RM: Avoiding the snow, that’s number one.

Plans for the rest of the year?

SJ: We’re really excited about this year…it’s one of our biggest.

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