The saying goes that two heads are better than one – and DJ duo Angel + Dren are out to prove that fact. The identical twins are native New Yorkers, forming their sound in the bustling city in which they grew up in. Commencing their mixing career whilst studying at Dartmouth College, since graduating in 2013 the pair have been making waves in the worlds of music and fashion, catching the attention of publications, music moguls, and fans all across the world from their standout sets and edgy style. Playing at events hosted by huge names such as MoMA, Nylon, and InStyle, and being featured in fitnesswear campaigns like Nike and Bandier, it’s clear that these two are a formidable force, navigating through the circles of producers of fashion and music with a momentum that isn’t slowing down anytime soon. Amidst their skyrocketing presence, the sisters sat down with IDOL to talk about their roots, how they ended up turn-tabling, and what it’s like working as siblings in the unpredictable yet exciting landscape of the music industry.
How would you describe your sound in three words?
Dren: I would say upbeat, edgy, and… what else, Angel?
Has your sound changed over the years, from when you first started?
A: Well, I think just naturally, it changes with our experience, so as we’re exposed to new places, new people, we’re always going out and listening to new music and new sound and new ways to hear music, so over the years it just changes with that. We’ll get deeper into genres, we’ll discover more. We went to Brazil, and opened our eyes to some Brazilian sounds: some samba, some funk, some other sounds like that, and now it’s mixing with more bass here in the US. It’s kind of cool how as we grow and learn, our music kind of changes too.
So would you say your inspiration generally depends on where you find yourselves?
D: It changes depending on where we find ourselves sometimes, but it also changes on what music is coming out right now, or what makes us move the most at the time.
When did you discover music was the path you wanted to pursue and what made you decide to work together as a duo?
A: Well, we’re accustomed to doing a lot together, and over the years we found ourselves working together a lot, since we spend so much time together. I actually started becoming a DJ after a friend let me play on his equipment, and I told Dren that we have to do this, even though we’ve never DJ’ed before, and she didn’t ask me any questions and said yeah. It’s one of those jump-trust things.
D: And we just bought equipment.
A: We bought equipment the next week – music has always made sense to us, and I think DJ’ing as a kind of medium was something that we had to start together.
Did you have any set backs or difficulties when you first started?
A: Yes, [laughs].
D: Well, first of all, we didn’t know how to DJ. So we had to learn how to DJ, get equipment, and also we were doing completely different things. I was working at a media company at the time, and it was like my whole career trajectory was just ‘other’. But, I think when you find something that you really love, life just finds a way to make it happen, or you make life for it to happen.
A: It’s kind of been like tunnel vision ever since that day, and I think that a lot of times, sometimes things don’t stick, because it’s not what’s right. I think this is one of the only things that really stuck and that it made sense consistently. Definitely for us, it was: ‘how are we going to get gigs? Or, how do we start? How do we do this? It’s also nice when you don’t have to do that a lot. I think that’s what made it feel like less of a setback, and more kind of like a fun challenge.
If you hadn’t pursued the path of DJ’ing, what would you have envisioned yourself doing, and do you think you’d still be working together?
A: We talk about this all the time – like I actually don’t know.
D: I would be lost in the world.
A : I would be lost because – we actually have this conversation maybe once every two weeks – and I don’t think anything else has made sense the way this makes sense.
D: I can’t see myself doing anything else.
A: Yeah, I think we would have been trying out other things, probably, but I don’t think anything else would have felt as real, or as right.
Being native New Yorkers, how has the city fed into your artistic growth?
D: The thing is that we’ve been going out in the city since we were in high school, so it’s not only that that we’ve seen the music change, and the dynamics of clubs versus parties versus events, the landscape of just going out, change in the nightlife of New York City. But it’s also that, I mean –
A: It’s also interesting seeing how culture plays into it too – we grew up in the Bronx, and there are genres of music that’s specific to that place, and then you have a lot of hip-hop and other types of music that come specifically from Brooklyn locally, so that was interesting growing up. And then, also just seeing that transition in nightlife – we watched it happen over years. I’ve been listening to and seeing how things have changed. It’s still changing.
Where is the most exciting place you have travelled to perform?
D: We’ve DJ’ed in Antigua, and we’re both Jamaican, so in general, we love the Caribbean – we love reggae, love soca. In the Bronx, we grew up in this Jamaican enclave, basically everyone is of Caribbean descent, but in New York, so it’s always been a huge part of our music culture, and finding what’s current and what’s new. So every time I’m there I’m literally studying: I Shazam and I’m shameless, I’m literally writing down as many lyrics as I can, because I genuinely love the music, and I’m not there all the time. I am literally so excited to even be around the music, much less to spin.
A: I think that was definitely a highlight, I mean apart from that, to be honest with you, the journey itself for me is more exciting. When we started DJ’ing we didn’t necessarily have a location – so what would happen, or where we would end up playing, or how far we would actually take it. So for me, I respond a lot to just how much we’ve been able to do and see, and the people we’ve met in music are some of the best people I’ve ever met – people have gone out of their way to give us tips as we were learning, they would help us get gigs when they didn’t have to – and so I think it’s been me realising how much of a community music can be, that kind of goes on. Maybe it’s just a music thing, but creating that community is just worth it, and to become part of that community is really special.
D: Also, we’re going to Paris next week, so I’m so excited, and it’s the first time we’re spending time in Paris – I’ve been once – so that’s exciting!
Do you find that audiences in Europe react differently to your music compared to people at home?
D: I’ll update you on that after Paris!
A: Let’s see! I think it’s going to be another one of those things: that you learn what people are listening to out there, maybe their ears are different – it’s exciting to test it out and see where you can go with your stuff.
What’s a song you play to get the crowd amped?
A: We DJ for so many different people, so it’s varied, it changes on a nightly basis.
D: My personal favourite is Fade by Kanye, that’s just me in that space to get hyped, and dance, and turn up.
Do you ever feel a sense of sibling rivalry, either growing up or while working together, and how do you resolve your differences?
A: We fight – all the time. We fight every day, we fight while we’re DJ’ing, while we perform. We are very, very competitive.
D: But what that means, is that what we’re doing – if it was just ‘whatever’ then we wouldn’t be arguing about like, ‘don’t play that song right now’. If we really didn’t care, if every song weren’t a specific choice, then it would really not matter and we wouldn’t get upset over that kind of stuff, but like, every song matters to us, so I think that’s what those differences and fights come from. And honestly, if she’s really that passionate about something, I’m kind of just like, ‘maybe it is good’.
A: I mean, we are competitive, which ends up being a really good thing, because some days maybe I’ll send her a picture of me practicing on the turntables, and maybe I’ll show her something I’m mixing – I’ll get something back the next day that was better, or different, and I think it’s just that competitive energy that makes us better, and it pushes the other one to aim higher, and go back-and-forth so we’re both getting better, so I really don’t see a downside to it.
Is there anything you would change about the music industry?
D: I think things are really social media-dominated nowadays, but I could name people that I listen to – let’s say on Soundcloud, I’ll probably get more attention – but who may not because fewer people know them, so I just wish some people got the light that they deserve, but I think everything change through time also.
Who would you love to collaborate with?
D: Kanye. [Laughs] that sounds so lofty, and grand. Dream big – that’s what I believe!
A: I think it would be cool to collaborate with Diplo.
D: I also like Skepta. I do like grime.
Is fashion an important part of your lives? Are there any up-and-coming designers you’re hyped about?
A: Well, fashion is one of those things that just feels so natural to New York, and I think growing up, like I said, you take things for granted when you’re native to New York. But what I really do appreciate is how much style New Yorkers and those who end up in New York innately have, and so to be part of that community it’s one of those things that grows into our value system, and ends up being something that is paid attention to you. I mean, we just want to make sure that we look good wearing things, if we can.
Final question: what sounds are your really obsessed with right now?
D: I love Frank Ocean – beyond just the music, I actually love his videos. I think I love the videos almost more than the music, because it really gives the music a platform to shine, and it provides context for the music. I’m seeing it in the way that he intended to see it, and I think the best thing for any musical artist is to create the visuals that they want you to understand from their music. From that, I’m just speechless. I can only hope to create anything so amazing one day. It was definitely worth the wait!
A: We’re working on making remixes of our original music, and in thinking about how we present that when we’re ready to put out some of the stuff, I think video is something that would really be worth considering as a way of putting your stuff across.
Photography by Philipp Raheem
Styling by Bianca Arielle Bailey
Hair by Cee Ruzielle