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Saturday, May 20th, 2017

Barker Hangar, Santa Monica, California

Musicians

The Knocks

The Knocks are a New York story through and through. They met as 19-year-old college students, late one night in a studio at the New School. Ben Ruttner, known as “B-Roc,” DJed clubs as a PM day job, and James Patterson, known as “JPatt,” played the organ at a church outside the city. Both in need of roommates, they moved into an apartment on Avenue C in The East Village that—in the DIY style that would go on to define their work in the industry—the two of them soon turned into a bootleg studio where rappers and bright-eyed vocalists came in to cut tracks. It was a tiny place, with walls as thin as the bugs were plenty. Their neighbors started banging brooms floor to ceiling, cracking knuckles on the walls. When the music got loudest, B-Roc and JPatt would go into each other rooms and say, “I just got the knocks.”

The newly christened duo soon started gaining attention online. Working out of their bedrooms, The Knocks remixed Jay-Z’s entire American Gangster album in two days, calling it American G-Funk. They put it up in the early days of music virality, and got 60,000 downloads in a week. With remixes for Katy Perry and Passion Pit soon following, the Knocks were declared one of the "20 hottest producers in music" by NME and quickly became synonymous with a certain warm, retro-future, disco-kissed touch. Their remixes filtered every artist’s energy through a late night on the Lower East Side: whatever they made at the studio, they’d test out at the club, translating the heat of underground dance music to the mainstream. Their alchemy worked the other way around, too: future stars like Ellie Goulding and Icona Pop took note of the Knocks, asking them to produce for their own projects.

In 2008, JPatt and B-Roc took out a loan and opened the HeavyRoc studio at 55 Chrystie, in the same broken-down building where the Beastie Boys used to rehearse. From there, in a dance music ecosystem increasingly dominated by reticent bedroom producers or big-tent corporate names, the Knocks stayed on a certain downtown grind. They put our their first big hit in 2010 with the filter-house party anthem “Dancing With the DJ.” The classic New York open-format DJ style suffused every record: this music could work a crowd from all angles, full of pre-dawn tenacity and the energy of a dance-floor crush. Their unerring instinct took the Knocks global: they toured the UK with Sleigh Bells and DJ Shadow, and started playing all around the world.

At the studio, the Knocks developed and managed artists on their own label at the same time that they pushed their musical projects forward. Opening for Ellie Goulding on her US debut tour in 2011 and playing the main stage at Ultra in 2012, B-Roc and JPatt were a bridge between the indie dance world and the mainstream market; they threw parties, booked their own talent, and opened up new territory for their artists that often led to a record deal. Bringing Mandy Lee, now of Misterwives, to their smash 2012 remix for M83’s “Midnight City” and St. Lucia’s Jean-Philip Grobler to 2013’s heater “Modern Hearts,” the Knocks built steady credibility as producers with an ear for up-and-coming talent and party auteurs to boot.

Now, B-Roc and JPatt have moved past being known as ideal collaborators to developing a sound that’s distinctly their own. In 2014, they hit a touchstone with “Classic,” a seductive track that whips up the sun-drenched sense of endless celebration. Fetty Wap jumped on for a guest verse, as befits the way the Knocks style synthesizes anything with energy: hip-hop, soul, house, disco and pop. It's a combination of nostalgia and forward propulsion: every song seems to belong to a late night of alchemical proportions, the rush of an anonymous day in New York.

Their debut album 55 is a triumph, a resolutely DIY dance album that pulses with the heart of the city. It’s a love letter to the old-school way of making music, and to that classic story of two kids who came to NYC to make it big. The album features a star-studded cast; a diverse list of musical styles and artistic approaches, from New York’s hip hop legend Cam’ron to pop-sensation Carly Rae Jepsen. Idolator has called it “pop perfection”, Pop Crush adding that “they’re [The Knocks] coming for an early best album of the year”. SPIN Magazine gave 55 an 8 out 10 album review and declaring it one of their top 66 albums of 2016. The album twists and turns with unexpected guests and genre-bending flavor. Artists like GRAMMY winner Wycelf Jean, X Ambassadors, Fetty Wap, and Walk The Moon each provide an unparalleled gusto best described by VICE’s NOISEY as “bombastic, funk-finagled, and fun”.

2016 has proven to be a breakout year on the stage for The Knocks. Praised as “15 Best Things We Saw During NYC Fest Weekend” by Rolling Stone and “Best of Bonnaroo 2016” by Billboard, The Knocks have had a busy summer wowing the crowds at festivals across the country and bringing unparalleled energy to the stage in support of A-level talent including Justin Bieber, Ellie Goulding, The 1975, and Bruno Mars.

Despite their increasingly busy schedules, The Knocks are continuing to cook up new material, with new originals and remixes from the duo on the way as well as executive producing Wyclef Jean’s Carnival 3. As The Huffington Post most recently lauded, “The Knocks are one of the best bets for what’s next in pop music, as their eventual ascension to superstardom is all but secured. There is no production duo crafting catchier, stickier, or, to put it bluntly, better pop tunes in business today…”