When dreamcastmoe (real name Davon Bryant) was a young child in Washington, D.C – too young remember an exact age, but probably three-years-old – he discovered he has rhythm. Going to church with his family, there he would find percussion instruments, sometimes roughly his size, but also sometimes far bigger than him, and he would start hitting them and making rhythms.
“I just sort of fell in love with it,” Davon says. “Being able to beat on drums at an early age was very fun for me.”
Two decades later, with music being an ever-present pursuit having played in bands at school and learned the piano (by ear), Davon decided he wanted to make music on his own and “invest in myself”, going out and purchasing his first drum machine – a Native Instruments 'Maschine Komplete' controller. Banging around on it and generally having fun like he did when he was a child in church, it would be his entry point into track production.
He’s now built a full-time musical career as dreamcastmoe, recently releasing a hefty LP project, 'Sound is Like Water' via Ghostly International’s Spectral Sound imprint, as well as embarking upon a European tour, wowing crowds from London to Amsterdam.
To celebrate, Davon created a mix for Mixmag, recorded in San Francisco while warming the floor of Public Works for the night’s headliner Jayda G, on the evening that the LP dropped (November 4). The hour-long set is a genre-agnostic, groovy affair and in his typical style – full of fun moments of jumping on the microphone and chatting (even singing) to the crowd. Listen and read our Q&A below.
What would you say were your biggest musical influences
I always give a lot of credit to those artists that came before me. Someone who I first heard singing who I found out was from the area, and I was like: “Damn, I really love his voice” was Raheem DeVaughn. He had a really amazing first album called ‘The Love Experience’.
I used to walk around singing this album in my head, and I was like: ‘This album is really cool’. It came out in June 2005, and I really loved some of the sounds that were coming out of it – that inspired me to try to make some of my own music.
What’s the music scene like in DC?
The music scene in DC is filled with so many styles. There’s a lot of different influences for people here because we have a prominent punk scene. So hip hop, R&B and jazz aren’t always the biggest thing, because you have that punk scene. There’s different sides of the hip hop scene as well. One of the GOATs of hip hop in DC is this guy called ANKHLEJOHN, and he’s like a figurehead here because he’s respected in other hip hop scenes up and down the East Coast and out West. And you have the other side of hip hop like Oddisee who’s pretty damn big – but that’s just within hip hop.
The influences that come through DC are so vast that there are all these different pockets. One thing that I wish happened more was more of an overlap. I wish we were all just sitting in a studio together making things together?
Would you say your music’s shaped by all these different influences and genres in the city?
100%. At high school I was always the kid that enjoyed hanging out with everybody. I wasn’t a cliquey guy, I thought everybody was cool in their own way. I thought the kids who were emo were cool in their own way, I would play soccer with the soccer kids at lunch – but then I would also talk shit with basketball players in the morning on the way to school. That’s not just how I would describe not just my musical influences, but also my influences as a person. I was able to see a lot of different shit growing up.
You’ve said before that your music is for the Black kids in DC, can you tell me a bit about that? What’s it like growing up as a Black kid in DC?
I think I made a statement in a previous interview where I said: “There are a lot of Black children who don’t get to this point,” who don’t get to the point of reaching their full potential. Here’s the thing: there’s an unfortunate side where there are children who are left behind by the education system, and their situation economically as well. There’s also the other side where some people may have a little bit more money than the average kid. That is the spectrum of where I live, and it’s like that in any large city.
My music is for the everyday person – people who are just going through everyday things, and I hope that resonates in that way. I’m not trying to go over anybody’s heads or make statements that people who have less won’t understand because I have seen and lived both sides.
Are there any moments that you see as being particularly formative in your musical path?
Absolutely. Being able to see Roy Ayers live in D.C. I saw him live at Blues Alley with his band. At the time he was still in his 60s I think and he killed the show, even did an encore and then made the time for people to come upstairs and talk to him.
And did you talk to him?
I definitely did. I went and sat next to him, he was like: “Yeah man, you’re thicc man – you’re big,” and we laughed about that. He was cool and it gave me a lot of inspiration in that moment to keep going, because I saw him going. But he was 100% himself and he’s still doing it – that type of work ethic is an inspiration.
How was your European tour?
Oh it was all love. I had some amazing moments for sure. I played at NT’s Loft [in London] I had a good time, it was packed – it was a beautiful experience. I found out when I was in there that some people had come from different countries to see that show and I was like: “Really? Are you serious right now?”
Major highlight for me was my work wife Shy One. We just have too much fun on the road together – honestly some of the best times I’ve had in a while. Just hanging out and having someone who knows what that kind of schedule is like. It’s a big deal for me seeing familiar faces, because when you’re travelling you can get a little lonely. Seeing her so much over the course of two months made me smile a lot – good energy and you know you’re going to have a good time.
Can you tell me about your ‘Sound Is Like Water’ LP?
I’d been sitting on music for a while. I had a year where I hadn’t put out any music and it was time to put out a project. It was an LP comprised of two EPs that in many ways were fluid because the sounds ranged, which worked out perfectly on my behalf. As artists we tend to talk at people through our music and I’ve been looking for ways to share space with people through music. And that’s what I got out of the project – sound is like water, and it carries us in a way.
Let’s talk about the mix – love that you speak over it and chat with the crowd, can you tell me the thinking behind it?
In my club music a lot of it is just me talking – just me being myself – because that’s what I got from hearing like Ron Hardy and these great late ‘80s, early ‘90s club bangers is these guys were just talking shit. That’s just who I am and I’m not trying to push a message down someone’s throat – it’s just me being me.
It’s me interacting with the crowd because that’s what club culture was. I heard that in tapes that my mum would bring me. She had tapes from this club called Track that she worked at years ago, and these DJs could go really deep into a mix, but they were also talking shit – like shouting out people who’s birthday it was. That was club culture – you knew who the MC and the DJ were and that was part of what the night was. When people book me they should expect that – I never overdo it, there’s a thin line – but I’m just having a drink and having a good time too.
What about your DJing style, there’s all sorts of different kinds of genres and influences, what is your thought process when you’re mixing?
Man honestly it’s just what have I been rocking out to recently. Also often when I’m coming to a show I’m coming from a plane or a hotel and I’m just thinking what drops and sounds do I want to hear? It ranges for me, I can go from playing housier shit to some more breaks-heavy stuff, funk. Or bringing in tracks with just drums and just letting people dance. That’s my style of DJing. I just want people to dance, and bigger than that I just want people to have a good time with somebody.
Sexy, fun, we’re here to have a good time.
And what was the idea behind your mix?
I wanted to capture what it was like to see me live. I set Jayda up, made sure she felt good getting up on stage – sang the last song to the crowd. I wanted something that was a look into what it is to hang out with me when I’m performing live – everybody has a good time, everybody feels safe and loved, you know what I’m saying?
Like when I go to a show, it’s turnt. I had a bottle of Casamigos, I had a bottle of apple juice. I was living my life to the fullest for sure. It just felt right – it was honest, nothing was practiced, it happened in the moment. When I was playing it was packed and it was a humbling experience to open up for someone I had never met before.
''Sound Is Like Water' is out now, get it here
Isaac Muk is Mixmag's Digital Intern, follow him on Twitter
Benedek - Jak Moves
Kenny Bobien - Special Day
Protect-U - World Music
Moodyman - I Got Werk pt.3
Sasac - On My Way To Your Place
Circuitry feat. Electro Wayne - Last Day of Cybotron
CEEOFUNK - Yourself
Circuitry feat. Electro Wayne - She's Just The Type Of Girl
Rhythm Based Lovers - Frequency Illusions
Protect-U - Top Hat
Benedek feat. dreamcastmoe - Peace Of Mind
Dolo Percussion - Dolo 4
Kyle Hall - In Ya Mind
dreamcastmoe prod. Shungu - Make Your Move