They coin themselves the world’s most energetic DJ duo. They are Sunnery James and Ryan Marciano, the Dutch pairing whose drum-heavy, tribal sound has driven thousands to Governor’s Island on a New York summer Saturday. Behind their tall stature, dark complexion, and signature locks, we’re not sure we’d argue with anything they have to say.
A ferry docks on the shore of the island, and Sunnery and Ryan take in the scene. “I think that the whole world is connecting with the music now” Sunnery says, eyes on the masses arriving in waves. “It’s crazy to see how it’s changing. It’s the one part where everyone is in sync, you know?”
We do know. And the name of the game on this day is Sexy By Nature, Sunnery and Ryan’s radio-show-turned-live production. The concept has catapulted their brand in the past few years, providing a platform for fans and artists to connect around a mutual love of music. All in the name, of course, of sexy beats.
Keeping fans involved since day one, Sunnery and Ryan took to their social media channels to seek help developing the brand. “We were reading comments that people wrote describing our sounds. Everyone’s like ‘sexy beats,’ ‘natural feelings,’ and that’s how we came to call it Sexy by Nature,” Sunnery explains.
With that the radio show was born, and it wasn’t long before the two began throwing parties under its namesake. The events drew support from the likes of Steve Angello and Fedde Le Grande, from Miami to Ibiza and everywhere in between.
But it’s not just the heavy hitters that Sunnery and Ryan align themselves with. “We are building a platform for young artists as well,” Sunnery says. “Exactly,” Ryan agrees. “We are trying to combine young, fresh artists with the artists we really love."
Looking at their lineup for the New York iteration, it’s clear the two are keeping the vibe dynamic, diverse, and in tune with their musical values. Chocolate Puma, Tom Staar, and Sultan and Ned Shepard are among the few providing support around the duo’s three hour set. With each performance touting its own style, the day’s range of subgenres speak to Sunnery and Ryan’s taste. Though they’re known for their tribal, drum-heavy sound, they also have productions in their arsenal from the melodic, progressive side of the spectrum.
“Our passion is tribal to the drive,” Sunnery explains. “But the way we produce is, we think about what kinds of tracks we need for our DJ sets. Sometimes we play bigger shows that need more heavier, banging tracks. But sometimes we’ll make a club track because we’ve been playing a track for like three years, and we want a new one for our set.” Ryan sums it up: “Even in the studio, we are still DJs!”
It’s this mentality that’s bolstered their career, from the early days collaborating in Holland to their now-mainstream success. Growing up amidst a culture of DJs, we wonder how the competition had impeded or encouraged their trajectory - a notion that, until the recent EDM boom, Americans haven't really faced.
“It’s not that we like competing in a bad way, it’s more that it’s fun, you know?” Ryan notes. “You always have to show your best. It’s nice to have good competition around you, otherwise you are never going to get better.”
Right before they’re slotted to take the decks, they take one last look around the scene. The sun is setting over the East River, and they’re buzzing for the double header that’s in store. With a 3 hour set on the island and after hours at Pacha ahead, they're happy to be in the presence of a New York crowd. Ryan’s last words set the tone for the night: “We know New York loves the beats. And honestly...we’re not sure three hours is enough.”
To that we can only say - we’ll see you at Pacha.
#StayBad | @kassyruimy
All photos courtesy of ScottyHawk Photography.