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Interview:
Local first-timers ready to take on Movement festival
 

By GARY GRAFF
Digital First Media, @GraffonMusic

» See more SOUND CHECK

Performing at Movement, Detroit's annual electronic festival, is a coup for any of the more than 100 artist on the Memorial Day Weekend bill.

Even Skrillex, who's about as big as they come in the Electronic Dance Music (EDM) world, gushes, "That's a great festival, man, one of the best. That's one I really hope I get to play at again." So you can imagine how stoked Detroit area artists are to be part of the international bill -- especially when it's their first time.

"Obviously it's a huge honor," says Hugh Cleal of the Southfield-based duo Golf Clap, "because not only is it a very well-respected festival around the world but also the biggest thing in our home town. I've been attending Movement since the original DEMF (in 2000). Every year we're there. Every year we see all our friends who travel in from around the world.

"Now they can come support us while we're playing at it."

Gabriel "Gabi" Schwartz of Ferndale feels much the same way. "It was pretty casual, just a call, 'Do you want to play this year?'," says Gabi -- who, like Golf Clap, will play Sunday, May 25, on the festival's Made in Detroit stage. "Even my German grandma is coming to see it. She's never been to anything like this; I'm like, 'Yeah, grandma, you're gonna want to haves some ear plugs..."

The Movement appearances will certainly give both Golf Clap and Gabi a chance to forward their burgeoning careers.

Cleal, a Bloomfield Andover High School graduate, formed Golf Clap in January of 2013 with Indiana transplant Bryan Jones, who had recorded for Cleal's Coyote Cuts record label. Cleal, the son and grandson of music educators, turned onto techno as a teenager and was an established DJ at the Grasshopper Underground in Ferndale and other venues; the onetime Oakland University student also honed his marketing chops working for Scion, Kia and Toyota and also promoted dance parties, but he never lost his enthusiasm for making music, too.

"I was a promoter first and DJ second," he explains, "but I got back into this super seriously when I saw how commercially viable everything is with dance music. I said, 'Hey, I should probably really consider giving this a full run again."

Golf Clap's brand of House music has won a strong following in a short amount of time, and Cleal, 33, is earnestly establishing "a DJ brand and label" that includes the Country Club Disco imprint as well as decking out Golf Clap in golf attire and accoutrements (Cleal plays, Jones doesn't) to give the group a distinctive identity. The real goal now, however, is to get the music in front of as many years as possible -- including this year's Electric Forest festival over the Fourth of July holiday in Rothbury, Mich.

"We have a pretty heavy show schedule, close to 150-plus shows right now," Cleal says. "This year we have a couple of really good nods getting onto Movement and Electric Forest, so we want to really expand that and play more festivals." Also on the docket, he adds, is spending part of the year in London as a base to expand Golf Clap's European presence.

Gabi, meanwhile, has European roots; she was born in Germany to military parents and moved to France and then several U.S. states before the family settled in New Baltimore when she was in grade school. She started playing piano at an early age and later moved to saxophone and "grew up with the crazy dream of wanting to be a pop star and sing and dance and all of that." But the Kraftwerk and Eurythmics albums in her father's record collection introduced her to the electronic realm, and she was Djing herself by the time time she was 16.

"I just kind of discovered the music," says Gabi, 25. "I just thought, 'What the heck, I've never heard this kind of music. This is totally different, totally weird.' The songs themselves were very minimalistic, just all these very weird noise that, when played together in the right way were just a whole new form of art. When I saw that, I was really inspired."

Gabi -- who graduated from Michigan State and now works days as a social worker for the Judson Center -- began making her own music in short order, "playing around with loops and a bunch of computer programs" and using her musical background to embellish the beats. "It's kinda of haphazard and crazy," she says of her process. "There's so many possibilities, but it's worked out well because you never know when the trial-and-error is going to hit on something."

Gabi has performed in clubs both in and out of town and was recently named one of Movement producer Paxahau's resident DJs. She also released an EP last fall on the German Clear Cut Records label and was featured in the Girls Gone Vinyl documentary about female DJs -- which Gabi says can be as challenging as in other parts of the entertainment industry.

"I think there's less women in electronic music than in any other venue," Gabi notes. "In a way that gives me a little bit of an advantage, but you have to be very choosy about that. You have to ask, 'Does this person want to book me because I'm good or are they just looking for a girl?' I don't mind getting some (breaks), but I don't want to feel like I'm selling my soul, either."

The Movement Electronic Music Festival takes place Saturday through Monday, May 24-26, at Hart Plaza in downtown Detroit. A three-day pass is $130, single day passes are $65 and VIP packages are $260. For more information, including schedules and after-parties, visit www.movement.us.

Web Site: www.movement.us

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