It can be a happy surprise to see a different side of a favorite actor, musician or close friend. Our first experience with DJ Just was seeing him show off his San Francisco style and turntable skills as part of Designer Deejays. They were making the ladies swoon for a packed house at The Parlour. No really, we thought we might have to throw cold water on somebody. Since then, DJ Just moved to LA and is half of the indie electronic duo Solar Heist. We had questions.
What prompted your move to LA? How is the scene out there?
Jason: I’ve been in LA for 3 years now. I came here from Lake Tahoe, where I was a ski instructor for a season, with my partner Sara Mancuso to record an EP, titled The West December. Then I was a hired guitarists for some LA based artists. One thing led to another and now I’m focusing on my own music, writing, recording, performing. The scene here is great, really competitive, which I think helps artists push their boundaries and make bolder moves.
Justin: A lot of things prompted the move but it was mainly to take the next step in my career as a DJ / Producer. San Francisco is an amazing place to live and it will always be home for me but LA is a much larger market when it comes to music and entertainment, there is more people and more opportunity- I felt like it was the right move. The scene here is great! Musically, there is something here for everyone.
After 22 years of knowing each other is this the first time you’ve collaborated?
Justin went through a hip-hop phase in middle-school and we tried to collaborate with me playing guitar, and him rapping, but it didn’t seem to work out so well!…. So yes! We’ve always talked about making music together throughout our childhood but never got around to it until a couple years ago when we wrote ‘Searchin’. We have definitely collaborated in other ways though i.e. we once had the building department called on us for building a 3 story fort :/
Where did you get the name Solar Heist?
We’ve always have been big space nerds, and knew we wanted a name that was original and powerful. After asking a million people and throwing things together, we were about to just go with some ordinary name out of desperation, but while on the phone across the US the name popped up miraculously and we both agreed that was it.
How did the Flex Watches commercial come about?
Jason went to college with one of the owners/ creators of Flex Watches. After we had collaborated for the first time and recorded ‘Searchin’, we were stoked about the sound and started sending it out to friends to get some feedback. Everyone loved it, including Flex, and asked us if we wanted ‘Searchin’ to be used for their commercial. We had no idea how big the brand and commercial were about to go. Our friends and family started reaching out saying they heard our song on TV but we still didn’t even have a name for the project.
I liked the theme of the video . What’s the worst day job you ever had?
Justin: Probably would have to say being a bagger at the local Safeway when I was about 15. I ended up getting fired for riding the shopping carts down the slanted parking lot. Oops.
Jason: When I was living and going to school in San Diego I worked at a local Deli. I was told by some that I was one of the best sandwich makers in all of San Diego. However, my boss didn’t think so. He liked to smoke a ton of weed and then come to the deli and tell me I was doing it all wrong… “Lettuce first, and then tomatos!” That job only last so long.
Who did the vocals?
Jason is the vocalist on all of our tracks on the EP. On our track,’Thru the Window’ our good friend Gray Bashew sang some parts and we also have our friend Erika Czach is also singing some background vocals and harmonies.
You have very diverse influences…’Spanish Affair’ is very Latin, ‘Searching’ is more ‘Bob Sinclar-esque’ happy whistling, acoustic guitar, and other tracks have rock & breakbeat influences. Are you intentionally trying to defy categorization or define your stylistic range?
We come from very different musical backgrounds. Jason comes from more of a rock and singer/songwriter background, and Justin as a DJ, more electronic and deep house background. We wanted to bring together those worlds to create something new and unique. As a production duo, we definitely aim to be different and show our range.
We reached out to DJ Spider who was touring in Toronto, about working with them. What was it like to work with them on ‘Keep On Pretending’? How did it come about?
It was great working with Solar Heist. Jason is such a good vocalist, guitar player and songwriter, while DJ Just uses his sensibilities as a DJ to help make a soulful and good product. I met Just in San Francisco with his DJ partner Dan at a DJ gig and we kept in touch. Just eventually introduced me to Jason when he was down in LA. They brought me the original track, I added my original elements and arrangement, then they put the finishing touches on it.
What does the future look like for ‘Solar Heist’?
Justin and Jason: We are excited to get back in the studio and put out new music and keep collaborating with new artists. We are currently putting together a live set, and working on some new music videos for other tracks from the EP. We also have a lot of DJ’s and producers who have reached out and are currently working on some remixes of our music. There is a lot to look forward to!