If you lived through 2006, you may still be able to pick out the melody for Cassie’s briefly ubiquitous “Me & U.” It’s also simple enough to be chopped into isolated, reworked components, and that’s exactly what American DJ producer Le Youth did back in 2013.
The track, released on Soundcloud then, received over 200,000 listens in a relatively short time and turned into a U.K. hit, which he then followed with “Dance with Me.”
Born Wes James in Ohio, Le Youth now operates out of Los Angeles, crafting dance tracks that mix R&B and ‘90s house music with today’s more minimal bounce and deep house sounds.
Although he started off on drums and played in multiple bands as a teenager, his interest in music gravitated toward songwriting and production during high school.
Following the success of “Cool,” he continued releasing new tracks, including Spotify hit “Clap Your Hands,” featuring Ava Max, and last year’s “Stay,” and even hosted his own Capital Xtra radio show.
For 2019, new single “Selfish” dropped in May, almost anticipating the summer festival season with its positive, uptempo vibes and resonant, off-the-beat synth line. We had a chance to ask him about his latest effort and plans for the upcoming months.
Le Youth is Quizzed on His Art
Your new single “Selfish” came out in May. What inspired you to create this track?
Musically, I’ve been going through some changes. I’ve been listening to deeper stuff lately, full of warm, detuned, analog sounds – things that wouldn’t have fit into earlier Le Youth songs. I wanted to explore new sounds and use more hardware synthesizers in my music. “Selfish” is the result.
As a follow-up to last year’s “Stay,” “Selfish” has a different vibe – almost old school. Did you intentionally strive for a different sound?
Yes, exactly. But, that’s always what I’m trying to do. For “Selfish,” I actually thought I would have to release it as a new project, under a different name. I didn’t know if people would get it. I still don’t.
In general, how would you describe your sound?
Depending on who’s asking, I like to just describe it as dance music. If they want more, I’ll say sexy dance music. I would be lying if I said a specific genre of dance music because my sound is always changing. I only get asked that question when I do interviews and on flights. It’s literally the toughest question to answer.
How did you get started as a DJ and producer?
I grew up playing drums and some other instruments. When I graduated high school and moved out of my parents’ house into an apartment, I had to ditch the drums (for obvious reasons), so naturally, I got into electronic music. But, I don’t think of myself as a DJ or producer. In my head, I’m an artist who sometimes DJs.
From “Cool” through “Selfish,” how would you say your sound evolved?
The sound has changed a lot, but it’s still grounded by my love for pop music.
When I made “COOL,” I didn’t really know what I was doing. Dance music was so new to me at the time. I also had no clue it would become as successful as it did – I was just having fun. When you have a milestone in your career, like “COOL” was for me, it’s easy to start measuring everything to that. Everything is either “bigger than COOL” or “not as big as COOL”.
Over time, I learned to settle into my craft, trust my instinct, and create music I love.
As a producer, where would you like to see your career go?
Ultimately, I want to be able to do this for as long as possible. Although I feel so lucky to be where I am right now in my life and career, the truth is, I want to be so much more. That’s probably a personality trait…or flaw, but it’s become my life purpose. It’s all I think about.
What’s been your process for selecting vocalists? Is there anyone you’d like to work with in the future?
My process of working with a singer is different every time. Sometimes I’m in the same room writing with them, sometimes I send them an idea I already wrote, and sometimes the singer sends me a vocal because they think I’ll like it. I prefer the latter.
I would love to work with Ellie Goulding. She has such a unique voice and impeccable taste.
Festival season has already started. What are your plans for this coming summer?
Lots of DJ sets. A few festivals. Looking at a worldwide live tour in the fall, but have a lot more music to get out first.
Whether you’re traveling or touring, what are your most essential products – music, grooming, and anything else?
I’m a minimalist, so I like to travel light, but my essentials include earplugs, an eye mask for sleeping on flights, a laptop, a change of clothes, a passport, at least 2 pairs of earbuds, and healthy snacks (it can be very difficult to eat healthy on the road, so better to pack my own).
What should we expect as the follow up to “Selfish”? What other plans do you have for the near future?
I have a lot of music teed up and ready to go, so I need to get it out while I have people’s attention. I’ll also be on the road, playing a lot of shows. As for non-music plans, I’m moving back to the beach after a year living on the east side of Los Angeles. It was cool at first, but I’m over it.