Sandwiched in lineups of predominately male DJs, you'll often find a four letter word: Mija.
She's recruited by contemporaries to be featured on the hottest tracks, and positioned at the forefront of Skrillex's pool of protegées (in fact, she once booked him herself during her time as a teen promoter). Mija's remixes of Top 40 bangers are slowly becoming as successful as the originals, and with her 2018 EP, How To Measure The Distance Between Lovers, It's become clear that although Amber Giles' moniker translates to "daughter," Mija is nobody's subordinate.
Nor is she taking cues to conform, but the 25-year-old former wedding DJ is the first to admit her quick rise initially threw her off. Her music today is described as genre-less — a blend of happy hardcore and dubstep-infused alt-house — but when she found herself on larger stages and receiving bigger checks, Mija began altering her set to anticipate what she thought the crowd wanted to hear: music they recognized, rather than playing to her own taste.
It didn't take long for the Phoenix-raised DJ to realize her fans weren't feeling it ("they could tell I wasn't into it"), and after a brief hiatus she returned with a bang, entirely on her own terms. Now Mija's reverted to creating music inspired by what she loved well before she began DJing, and advises all up-and-comers to "stay true to yourself at all costs."
With this mentality, Mija now tackles every obstacle in the industry head-on. Admittedly, It never occurred to her that the oft-decried gender discrimination of DJs might affect her own career. She has teamed up with some of the most powerful men in dance music, and still assures that she's never allowed rampant sexism to slow her down.
For so long, Mija says women didn't feel like they could voice an appreciation for music, let alone infiltrate the scene themselves, but now, "we're waking up." She says, "I definitely think things are shifting. I know so many incredible female DJs that are taking over. It's like we're just realizing that we can participate in things we weren't meant to like."
While the mainstream has largely shifted from dance music, the invasion of women is among the reasons Mija doesn't fear the genre's demise. Whereas her days as an underground DJ in Arizona saw her isolated from potential collaborators, Mija has since found Los Angeles to be a dynamic melting pot of talent, packed with players committed to keep electronica evolving.
The artist herself has made sure she constantly expands her own talents, exploring drum and bass among other niche genres she initially found intimidating. "[Dance music] is never going to die, it's always cyclical," she says. "And unless you're committed to dominating your particular genre, you're going to want to keep moving forward."
As for the rise in DJ-influencers, who're booked exclusively for their follow-count, Mija couldn't care less. "As long as you're doing it for your friends and for fun it's fine," she says. "I never set out to do this as a career, it just kind of happened." Though she does admit there's no such thing as "making it," rather, a constant ladder of goals, that keeps extending when you reach the next wrung. "I'm just going to keep going, you know, [because] that's why I'm here." Here, she certainly is.
Stream Mija's How To Measure the Difference Between Lovers EP, below.
Photography: Ryan Farber