Playing your first New York gig when not many people there know your music is a right of passage for up-and-coming artists. Mexico’s David Oranday aka Teen Flirt was in those shoes recently, when he traveled to the city to play his first shows – but there was a twist: he’d been booked for Ricardo Seco’s NYFW presentation at the New Museum, so he had a packed house of cool kids thirsting for Seco’s huichol-inspired New Balances, and primed to hear new sounds.
Oranday met Ricardo Seco just a few months ago, but the designer was already familiar with the Teen Flirt sound – a hybrid of tropical bass and chillwave filtered through current trends, like R&B/trap. In an era where electronic genres are here today, gone tomorrow, incorporating the latest into your own sound can be tricky. Teen Flirt really gets the vibe, and Seco didn’t think twice about inviting the producer to play his Fashion Week show.
“The last time I was in New York was two years ago and I didn’t expect it to be this cold, but besides that it’s been awesome, ” he told us. “I’ve been working with some friends, working in different studios, showing my music around, getting feedback and stuff, so that’s probably the best that you can do, just like take advantage of time.”
There’s plenty of opportunities to take advantage of. He’s working on an EP (that will hopefully become an album) of pure collaborations, and if we’re judging from his most recent collab with Hello Seahorse!’s Denise Gutiérrez, then our expectations are high.
The work is a transition from his days playing club gigs, which is how he got his start: “I started as a DJ and it was a shitty ass job… that was terrible stuff, they made me mix with Denons, but that was like learning to drive in a vocho rather than in a Mercedes.” He remembers his boss telling him to use R&B and hip hop sounds in his sets, forcing him to get an education in everything from T Pain to DJ Sliink – and you can hear this in his stuff. By the time he was experimenting with different music software (DAWs), he was bring up a bass line here, and muting a synth there like an orchestral conductor. “It reminded me of my time as a kid playing saxophone and oboe in an orchestra… Ableton and Logic [DAWs], they should be selling these at Toys ‘R’ Us or something. They are so easy to use and accessible. But anyways, that was a big step for me: having the chance to just tell the instruments to shut up in an orchestra. You feel like a director.”
Oranday decided to stop DJing, instead spending hours and days in front of his computer while working at different studios, including that of production wizard Toy Selectah. That’s where he met Laredo rapper MLKMN: “We would hang at Toy’s studio all the time. I learned from MLKMN that even in an artistic process you need to be disciplined; that guy is a workaholic.” But he also learned more than that. “You have to be disciplined but also you have to understand the sociology that’s behind each song. Why are you making a pop song and why is it a pop song? I started to dig into what’s behind music and songs’ structures, where are we heading to, and so on.”
This hunger to dig deeper is also reflected in how Oranday chooses collaborators. “If you want to work with me, you gotta teach me something,” he says. “It doesn’t matter if it’s a pendejadita. That’s the only thing I need.”
As for what he’s learned transitioning between Mexican and US audiences, he tells us “I’ve had a good welcoming from the US audience, but the way they get music and listen to it is different from how Mexican audience does. In Mexico people consume the music until they dry it out. People in Mexico don’t go to a club because of the music, but here they do. Here, people go to places because they like the music they play there, not because they just want to go and see who they’re going to get in bed with. In Mexico it’s different.”
Catch Teen Flirt next at SXSW, where he’ll be playing the Remezcla x House Party showcase, alongside Toy Selectah, MLKMN, & more.
Photo: María Fernanda Molins