Oakland Duo Smoakland Talks Love for Bud, Dirty Bass, & Taking it the Next Level [Interview]
This story was originally written in September of 2020.
As of late, Oakland-grown duo Smoakland has appeared to be destined for the limelight. After four sold-out shows in Denver and back-to-back sets at the Lunar Landing Drive-In shows in AL last Fall, the duo spoke with MP3DU about their recent success, origins and motivations.
Anthony, 27, and Harry, 28, are the musicians behind the Smoakland project. The duo met as athletes attending Boise State and shortly thereafter, Harry introduced Anthony to the EDM scene. They were originally into “dirty dutch,” a European genre of music that utilizes an afro jack style, which eventually inspired Anthony to begin mixing and making music in 2014. Harry left school after his first year, but the two would occasionally meet up back in the Bay area.
“I would go visit Anthony up there and his music would get a little bit better every time,” explained Harry, who caught up with MP3DU via a Zoom call. In 2018, inspired by Anthony’s obvious and growing talent, Harry began to learn how to produce as well. Despite only taking to CDJs within the last year, the sounds the two create impressively hit hard and flow fluidly. When asked about the source of their motivation, emotions run high between the two.
For Harry, his inspiration stems from the few months he spent in jail and what he learned upon getting out. “I had zero production knowledge, zero music theory [knowledge]. When I got out, I would take a Lyft to wash dishes 45 minutes away and I would find myself staring in the dish pit thinking, ‘What the fuck am I going to do with my life?’ I never want to live that way again. Basically, Smoakland saved my life.”
Anthony also pulls from strong inspiration but in a different way. A few years ago, he lost one of his best friends, Alberto, after being shot by a police officer. “That was the first time I lost someone really close to me,” said Anthony, who opted to go to Burning Man that same year. “I was at the temple burn, writing Alberto a letter, and saying I didn’t know what to do with my life. I wrote him this long letter and watched it burn up towards the sky. I left and [later] got this phone call from Harry, which was so weird because there is no service out there, saying he had an opportunity for us to start making music together.” He continued, “I got chills down my spine because when I wrote that letter, I was asking for a sign. When I got that call from Harry, I said that’s my sign right there.”
Since then, the two have blossomed into Smoakland. In 2018, they booked their first big gig by opening for Pushloop and The Widdler, before booking 30 more shows the following year. This—along with releases with The Untz and Spicy Bois—put the duo on the map and gave them room for opportunity to evolve their brand.
Recently, Smoakland signed with Mind Warp Management, which is home to dynamic talent such as Mersiv, Mystic Grizzly, KyralxBanko, Angelic Root and more. Going from “organically grown” and running their own marketing to being on a label has presented the duo new means to evolve their music.
When Smoakland first started producing, they didn’t have any professionally mastered tracks. With the resources to do that and more, they’re riding a new wave of confidence up to the decks. They have such a trust in each other’s music taste and talent that they plug in their USB of 500 songs and just flow. Every set you get is 100% freestyle, even their recent performances at the Blackbox, which was the first time they performed together in over eight months. Their confidence and trust in each other is almost tangible and their sets are just pure rhythm and flow.
Last September, the duo released their latest EP, Cinderella 99, a three-track project that includes a collaboration with Brooklyn-artist, Tsimba. The name of the EP comes from the pair’s favorite strain of weed, the hybrid Cinderella99, which the two shared on Anthony’s family farm one summer. “I ended up staying on Anthony’s couch for over a month and we just smoked this entire jar of Cinderella 99. It’s a genuine memory we share between us. Have I smoked that strain since? Probably not, but it’s the memories with it that make it our favorite.”
After taking advantage of the year and gaining all their recent successes, it is apparent that the duo are living their best lives. “Being able to share my story, showing people that you can literally rewrite your life at any given time. This is something I hold very deep to my heart,” says Harry. And his words ring true. People far too often let one slip up or one mistake define them for the rest of their lives, but the Smoakland project is a testament to keep going.