Canadian-American Brendan Fallis knows how to move a crowd. He’s become one of the most sought after open-format DJs, known for his taste in music and his style, and his skill has taken him all over the world.
Over the last few years, he has provided music for some of the most high-profile events and campaigns around the globe for clients in a wide variety of brand categories such as Absolut, Balmain, Chanel, GQ, Louis Vuitton, Redbull, Taco Bell, and Viacom, among others. He was also included in “Best Dressed” lists for Vanity Fair and Mr. Porter, and was named one of the “15 Hottest Men to Follow on Instagram” by MSN. But it’s his insight into the public psyche and what people want to hear, that ultimately pay the bills.
We spoke to Fallis about his approach to moving the crowd, DJ culture, what inspires him, and why listening to his audience matters. The conversation has been edited for length and clarity.
How did you get into DJ-ing?
I started DJing as a way to eat a free meal or two. Sounds crazy, but I moved to NY for a very small salary and couldn’t afford to do too much. My friend managed a restaurant so I would bring my computer and we’d teach ourselves how to DJ during dinner as it wasn’t busy on Monday nights. That led me to start playing more and more as I quickly became obsessed with it. Next thing I knew, the owner of the restaurant moved me to Friday night weekly. From there, it was just building the awareness that this was something I was doing.
When you DJ, what surprises you the most about how the public responds? What have you learned about the public that you didn’t know before you got into this?
Good question! I’ve learned a lot about people in general through this job, but one thing that I have really learned is that although your taste matters so much, you also have to be selfless and play things you don’t necessarily want to. The job is reading the crowd so you need to understand that the crowd might vibe with something you didn’t expect. I think that’s what surprises me most – seeing people respond to a sound you never thought they’d enjoy, which is also super fulfilling. If that theory goes the opposite way, and people don’t respond to your sound, well you learn a lot incredibly fast.
Where was your coolest and most memorable gig and why?
Hmmm, been a bunch, but as of late, I’d have to say the Hugo Boss gig I did in Sri Lanka. I’m obsessed with traveling to new places and this is a place I never thought I’d make it to in this lifetime. I was blown away by the people, culture and the food! I got to spend 4 days there and play a massive outdoor party, which was incredible. To fly across the world and play music, get a great response and experience something you never dreamt possible is incredible.
Other people’s taste allow you to find everything you need, but just need to have an ear to the sound at all times.
Why do you think DJs and DJ culture are resonating so much right now?
I think there are a couple reasons. We’ve moved into an era of digital production, that being said, DJs understand simple format music that doesn’t sound like big band music. Things that mix well together. They’re also able to move quickly with the trending sounds while maintaining their sound and having guest appearances on their tracks or remixing current tracks. That gives them a huge upside to move quickly in the music industry. From a business perspective, it’s so much more affordable to tour as a DJ because it’s just one person and a tour manager versus full band; guitar, bass, drummer and all equipment. So it’s a no brainer for running a lean business, which means it is easier to book those artists if you have a festival, etc. Then from a party perspective, you can play a playlist or mix for days, but having the energy of a live DJ just adds to the party. It suddenly looks more legit and the energy can change as the party escalates. But all in all, it’s just fun music for our time and the shows are always something fun and energetic.
How do you stay relevant to the public in a world where music is constantly changing? Where something that is popular today could be irrelevant tomorrow?
Music is so disposable these days which is both fortunate and unfortunate. With the tools to make music at your fingertips for good prices, it allows creativity to come from many more people, but because of that, there’s a huge surplus of music and the longevity of songs has definitely become shorter. To stay on top, you need to be listening constantly and everywhere. Soundcloud and Hype Machine are my go-to places along with tons of playlists on Spotify. Besides that, using Shazam when out and about is super helpful and can open up a full new world. Long and short of it, other people’s taste allow you to find everything you need, but just need to have an ear to the sound at all times.