B2B: Octo Octa and Eris Drew

B2B: Octo Octa and Eris Drew

Its no secret that love can bloom on the dancefloor. The right time, right place and a perfect song is sometimes all it takes to spark a romance for the ages but what about the selectors behind the booth? What happens when you music partner is also, well, your partner? B2B is a new series for June Pride celebrating queer couples in the world of dance and electronic music whose love brings their work to another level.

If the world of underground house music had such a thing as a DJ power couple, it would undoubtedly be Octo Octa and Eris Drew. Both legendary DJ/ producers in their own rights with decades of experience under their belts, together they've become a formidable force known for marathon sets that can span everything from acid to breaks to rave, disco, techno and more. Watching their first ever b2b set on The Lot Radio you can clearly see sparks fly. From the giddy looks they exchange while combing through stacks of vinyl to their infectious dance moves, there is a palpable magic and joy the pair bring to every dancefloor they grace.

Since that fateful set in 2018, Octo Octa and Eris Drew have gone on to tour the world together and found their own label T4T LUV NRG. Their split EP, Devotion, released that same year was lauded by critics and fans alike with its impeccable blend of rave nostalgia and house heroism.

To kick off the first installment of B2B, we caught up with Octo Octa and Eris Drew as they quarantine with their partner, Q, in their cabin in the woods to dive into how the two met, impressing each other with turntable tricks and what they think the ultimate queer love song is.

How did you first meet?

Eris Drew: Before I started touring, I was a hospitality driver for Smart Bar in Chicago. I had heard Octo Octa was coming to town so I asked for the job of taking care of her for the weekend. We connected immediately because we were going through a lot of the same things at the same time in our personal lives, and also had a deep love of the same house and hardcore techno. I also thought she was really hot.

Maya Bouldry-Morisson (Octo Octa): Eris picked me up in Chicago at a friend's house where I was recording a small video talking about a recent record I had produced. When she walked through the door I was immediately attracted to her and that attraction only strengthened over the course of the day as she drove me around and we got to learn about each other. She played me music I didn't think anyone but me loved, she pulled records for me at Gramaphone that I adored and we shared our lives with each other. All I wanted at the end of that day was to kiss her.

Give us a snapshot of what your relationship is like.

Eris: Maya and I are soulmates and love to spend our time together, including touring. Our days are spent laughing, talking about music and listening to each others' music productions in process. Since we have been home, when we are not in our separate studios, we work on our record label T4T LUV NRG and do projects around the cabin in the woods we share with our loving partner, Q. Together, we all like to cook and take nature walks in the beautiful wilderness which surrounds us here in the Seacoast. We have a deep intimate friendship and a magical love life.

Maya: We're building a life. Our days are spent intimately being together. Eating, sleeping, working, exploring, listening, loving, crying and healing. We all work on our art and talk to each other constantly about ideas and methods to create. We help each other out. We go to the grocery store every few days. We sit in the living room late at night talking with our sweet partner Q about our day and plan where to hike the coming weekend. We're at home in the woods. You can hear the birds sing all day and the frogs chorus all night. It's beautiful really.

How did you decide to get into bed musically with one another, so to speak?

Maya: Eris is my favorite DJ. She plays in a way that I find incomparable to anyone. So as our relationship developed I wanted to figure out a way for us to play together. We had been put on line-ups together, but I wanted to play with her. At the time I had a residency called "Frendzone!" with Kellam Matthews at Good Room in Brooklyn. I asked him if he wouldn't mind Eris and I playing an all-night b2b set for one of the parties. The day of the party we went on The Lot Radio for a two-hour set before heading to the club. Those two hours (which you can watch online) were the very first time the two of us DJed together (we were too busy being with each other to play music before then). Those magical two hours and the following beautiful seven hour set that night solidified what I already thought, that she was the perfect music partner for me. I wouldn't be where I am now without that night two years ago.

Eris: I wanted to play with her right away because she is a spitfire of a DJ. But I was nervous because our love and connection was so pure and new. I had been touring internationally for less than a year when we played our first b2b ever on Lot Radio. The seven-hour b2b at Good Room later that night was one of the most incredible nights I have experienced at a club. Within weeks, the b2b radio stream blew-up. I believe that a series of chance operations and synchronicities creates our fate. So after that first night mixing together — we never practiced before the Lot Radio slot — I knew it was our destiny to DJ b2b and make transformative art together.

What sort of impact do you think being in a relationship has on your music?

Eris: A lot of my songs are about her. What I mean by that is that the emotional feeling-toned component of the song radiates from something we are experiencing together. I wrote "Trans Love Vibration (Eris Goes to Church)" a few weeks before I went to be with her for the first time, although the song is also about the spiritual aspect of trans people sharing their bodies and love with each other. Maya impacts not just the subject of my work but also how I work. I feel supported by Octa without exception, so I am working faster than ever before. She understands me on such a deep level: emotionally, spiritually and musically. She encourages me in a way that feels so natural. We both think symbol manipulation and magic are part of music-making, so I can talk about process with her without having to steer clear of subjects a lot of other producers find uncomfortable or readily dismiss. I trust her to listen to my music when i am in the writing stage and working on engineering my songs. It is wonderful to have her feedback as I work.

Maya: I consider myself an autobiographical artist so Eris being in my life has deeply effected what I have created since we started our relationship. I'm always processing my life with my art and she has brought so much into it. Exploring magic, exploring music and moving through this world together. I look up to her in many ways and push myself more because of who she is. I want to become a better DJ, I want to produce better sounding records, I want to see how far we can take our world view and heal ourselves and others. She makes me a better artist.

What sort of things have you learned from one another over the course of your careers?

Maya: We've both been doing this for a long time. I've been producing for 18 years and it's now been nine years since my first record and tour. She's been DJing and producing for 26 years, which means we have a lot of years between us when it comes to this. Because we've both had such long histories with club music we've also been able now to learn a lot from each other. We both have deep production knowledge so we can talk about the nitty gritty details of production and help each other with problems and learn solutions together. Like I said earlier, she has made me a better artist. We can ask each other for advice and opinions on clubs, festivals, sound systems and promoters. I trust her in a way I haven't trusted many people in the past. We're now working on a career together and looking towards our future.

Eris: Maya's been touring hard since 2013. I learned from Maya something early on that I had already suspected was true: If possible, you tour as hard and as long as you can to build something lasting in music. Because we both play long sets and tour as much as we can, the constant processing of the performances has made us both much more daring and powerful DJs. For example I deeply love trying to delight her with a new turntable trick or mixer move. She does the same. It is kinda like an ongoing DMC battle but with love as the animating principal.

What's a track that you would use to describe your partner?

Maya: Mariah Carey "Dreamlover (Def Club Mix)" — I have played this song in so many sets to evoke her. There have been many times during a b2b set when I've tried to sneak it onto the deck without her noticing so I can see her swoon when it comes on. To be honest she typically catches me in the act but whatever! She's my dreamlover and she knows it.

Eris: When I play the Exposure mix of "Alright to Love" by Hex I remember a time when we first fell in love. Some things best remain between us, but I will say she showed me that morning in Detroit that it was alright to love. I let her into my heart completely and without any reservation. I've been though plenty in this life and her love pierced right though all that.

What's the ultimate queer love song?

Maya and Eris: Friends of Matthew "Out There (Raw Mix)." Eris has been the one who plays this and has incorporated it into sets. She's made every queer person we know and love-cry on a dance floor to it, including our partner Q. "See Me, Feel Me, Hear Me, Love Me, Touch Me, Is Anybody Our There?" What other message so deeply relates to a queer life?

Why is it important to see queer love represented and openly displayed in your music scene?

Maya and Eris: Queer love and especially trans-for-trans love is misunderstood, under-represented and largely untolerated worldwide. The healing power of our relationships is something that should be respected. Fortunately, electronic dance music culture is a natural place for these relationships to be celebrated because the music's longstanding historical connection to marginalized communities. If a queer love isn't represented in the scene it is an injustice to all the life which has already passed through the music.

Our lives as trans people are better for the connection we have together. We are safer being with each other. It has been incredibly empowering to be with someone that intimately understands what we experience in the world. This music is a technology for healing and we want it to be understood that trans love helps power that.

How are you celebrating pride under quarantine?

Maya and Eris: Since we can't be in clubs this coming Pride we will doing a special streamed DJ set from our house in collaboration with some of our friends. Details to come soon.

Photos courtesy of Octo Octa and Eris Drew