By: Magdalena Petrova
For the next few hours, Serik Slobodskoy and Robert Palliser will shed their individual personas and transform into Hyperbits, a DJ duo that has, as of late, garnered much attention in New York City’s electronic dance scene. From their elevated position in the DJ booth, Palliser and Slobodskoy have a panoramic view of Cielo, one of the city’s most exclusive night clubs, although as of 10 p.m. it is still fairly empty. The brightly colored LED lights on the Pioneer CDJ-2000, a digital turntable and one of the best in the business, provide about the only illumination in the booth. To an untrained eye, the setup may seem intimidating, like the controls in an airplane cockpit, but Slobodskoy and Palliser appear completely at home as they gently finger various knobs and switches into place without ever so much as brushing elbows.
Although Hyperbits – a pseudonym that alludes to Palliser’s vivacious personality and the binary digits of ones and zeros that the duo depends on to produce their music – was born only a year and a half ago, Slobodskoy’s and Palliser’s history goes back much earlier. Growing up in Glen Head, Long Island, the two met in middle school and remained in touch throughout college. After graduating from Fairfield University with a degree in international studies and economics, Slobodskoy tried his hand at the corporate business doing marketing for a pharmaceutical company, but the job left him unfulfilled.
“At the end of the day I was sitting in a cubicle, I wasn’t mentally stimulated or challenged or passionate at all about what I was doing. So I left my job and decided to pursue music.”
Around the same time that Slobodskoy decided to leave his corporate job, Palliser began clubbing regularly and was immediately drawn to the complex rhythms and synthesized orchestrations of electronic music, a genre that, back in 2004, was still rather obscure in the United States. As Palliser’s passion for the music grew, he began deejaying at friends’ parties and even managed to convince Slobodskoy, who originally dismissed the genre as repetitive, of the many details and intricacies that go into the composition of a quality dance piece. After that, Slobodskoy was hooked and began producing his own tracks. Combining Palliser’s experience as a DJ, mixing tracks, with Slobodskoy’s knowledge of music production, the two friends entered a music competition where they remixed a popular song by Tiësto, a highly respected Dutch musician. Their entry piece garnered so much attention on online blogs that the duo decided that is was time to devise a name: they settled on Hyperbits.
By 1 a.m., the club has filled to capacity making the temperature inside the club suddenly feel about ten degrees hotter. Inside the DJ booth, Palliser and Slobodskoy bob to the beat of the music occasionally raising their hands in the air to further invigorate the crowd right before a major drop – a series of tempo-shifted noises that are the apex of most EDM (electronic dance music) tracks. This is enough to tip the crowd over the edge as people scream out in ecstasy on the dance floor below. White smoke permeates the room as the large disco ball spins hypnotically overhead. Several club guests meander to the front to shake hands with the DJs and offer their praise. Although tonight Hyperbits are only headlining – preparing the crowd for the main attraction of the night, they are “killing it.” High praise for a young group such as Hyperbits.
Deejaying used to be simpler. To considered a DJ in the 1980’s, all one had to do was to stand behind a turntable for hours on end spinning and mixing vinyl records of another artist’s original tracks. In the good old days, DJs had a single job: to make people dance. However, the digitization of the music industry and the introduction of audio production software, such as Garage Band, for the first time made it possible for any teenager with a laptop to mix his own tracks. If DJs were to remain relevant, they needed to step up to the plate. As DJ scholars Bill Brewster and Frank Broughton explain in their book, Last Night a DJ Saved My Life, the DJ was forced to become a jack-of-all-trades.
“Most successful DJs now carry the the job title DJ/producer/remixer. Making their own records, or reconstructing those made by others, is a natural extension of the club DJ’s trade, a way to put his creative stamp on the world. It’s a way of distilling the particular sound he favors in his club performances into a more tangible form and, more importantly, its how a DJ can most convincingly claim artist status.”
As a part of this new generation of DJs, Hyperbits have been quick to recognize the importance of producing their own tracks. According to Palliser, the hardest part of music production is finding a formula that people will react to. The process is often long, exhausting, and sometimes frustrating. In short: its hard work.
“You have to really love music if you are going to be in this business because there are many easier ways to make money or be successful. If you are doing this for the fame or money, you will not get very far because there is going to be a long and difficult process to get to the top in this field,” Slobodskoy said.
For Hyperbits, the process of producing an original track usually begins with a bit of inspiration, often in the form of a catchy melody. After this initial spark, Slobodskoy and Palliser proceed to develop the nature of the track in their heads before going into the studio and actually recording the song. In the studio, the track becomes a sort of musical collage as Slobodskoy and Palliser add drums, percussion, bass, and other effects to the piece. The finished track takes a couple of weeks to complete and contains anywhere from 60-80 layers of sound!
Luckily, the duo seems to have found “the formula.” The release of their song “Close Your Eyes” in February of this year landed Hyperbits in the number eighteen spot on the Beatport Top 100 Trance charts, a website that according, to Business Wire, “is the industry barometer for what tracks are currently jumping in the clubs before crossing over into the mainstream.” The fact that their music isn’t considered “mainstream” is a point of pride for Hyperbits; a fact that the duo feels sets them apart from other DJs in the business. Although Hyperbits welcomes fans and is thrilled to get their name noticed, Slobodskoy and Palliser want to make it on their own terms.
“To me, genre is another word for prison and once you get stuck making one specific type of music, well I don’t see the fun in that. I like the idea of being able to constantly push yourself, constantly surprise yourself, and I think that as a result your fans will also be surprised,” Slobodskoy says.
According to Palliser, playing unconventional music is also a way for Hyperbits to stimulate their listeners. “Rather than go out there and play stuff that people already know, we want to take our listeners on a journey and kind of challenge them being like, ‘Hey we are gonna play things you don’t know, but just open your mind and open your ears and tell is what you feel.’”
While Hyperbits’ music may not be mainstream, the electronic dance scene as a whole has gained tremendous popularity in the United States over the past couple of years. As reported in the Huffington Post and the International Music Summer Report of 2012 (IMS), “EDM is the fastest growing mainstream genre in the United States,” racking in approximately $4 billion annually. Much of this revenue can be attributed to ticket sales from the some of the genre’s biggest festivals. In fact, the demand for electronic dance music in the United States has become so great, that earlier this year, Tomorrow Land – one of the biggest dance music festivals in the world – announced that they will, for the first time, cross over to North America to hold a three day festival in Georgia.
Slobodskoy believes that EDM’s huge spike in popularity in the United States can partially be explained by the slowing of the music’s tempo from 140 bmp (beats per minute) to about 128 bpm. “Slowing down the tempo allowed dance music to resonate with listeners and made the genre more acceptable; it was no longer so intense and obnoxious,” Slobodskoy said. Palliser also credits David Guetta, a French DJ and producer, for popularizing EDM in North America. “Once I heard ‘Sexy Bitch’ on the radio, I remember thinking, ‘This is it, this is the beginning,’” Palliser said.
With a new single due out in late May or early June, and with the EDM scene bigger than ever, Adam Katz, the duo’s booking agent of a little over a year, believes that Hyperbits has a bright future ahead. “They work hard, enjoy each other, love the music and most of all are good people. They are easy to deal with, no ego and give the fans what they want with every show,” Katz said.
Despite Hyperbits’ recent success, Slobodskoy and Palliser remain focused on the future instead of dwelling on their past accomplishments. “I don’t like to pat myself on the back too much. I’m a believer that the best is still to come and I believe that the music currently sitting on my laptop is by far the best thing yet,” Slobodskoy said.