Vernon Bara and Massimo Dacosta have come a long way together. First bonding over their love of funk, soul and disco, the due progressed into a succesful electronic duo, first as Vernon&DaCosta and then relaunching as Raw District in order to focus on the more raw, sample free side of house music.
Support has come in thick and fast for the duo from the likes of of Jamie Jones, Ricardo Villalobos and Luciano, with the pair recently achieving a breakthrough with their standout track 'From The Inside' hand-picked for Innervisions by label bosses Dixon and Âme themselves.
We caught up with the guys to find out more about the men behind the hype.
What were your early influences growing up in Belgium? How did it compare to the rest of Europe?
VERNON : I was lucky to have very eclectic parents. In (belgium) électro / alternative music in the broad sense of the term began with bands like Front242, Minimal Compact, Snowy Red. In terms of clubbing, Cherry Moon and Fuse Club were the big ones in the mid 90's. They were the only clubs to regularly offer artists like Garnier, Jeff Mills,Bandulu ect.
I dont really remember how it was in Europe. Without internet and press it was difficult to be in the loop and I was too young to traveling.
MASSIMO : Belgium, especially Brussels was always a part of the European cultural melting pot. More than half of the city's population has origins extending beyond Belgium's borders.
Since the eighties we have an amazing and clubbing scene which always help to promote emerging electronic music.
As solo artists what brought you together as a duo?
VERNON : Our influences of funk, hip hop were more present on the beginning. Now I think that like all artists who understand the inner working of the electronic music industry, we moved away from that sound and had to fight a lot to get lucky and release our music for the last 20 years.
MASSIMO : Its true. Our first productions were based on a lot of samples of old funk, soul and disco tunes. At the very beginning I think Vernon was more into techno music. I think the mix up between our influences brought something special we still trying to keep.
Momentum has continued to grow since you’ve come together. How has the Raw District style and sound developed over the past four years?
VERNON : In my opinion the project evolves constantly. We have been working together for many years and RD has four years. Style will continue to change. This is precisely what we call a musical journey.
You must have seen a real transformation of the electronic music scene over the years, what are your views?
VERNON : Technically and musically, it has never been so rich. There are enormous events, and the communication channels have multiplied.
MASSIMO : That’s a really interesting question. Although I agree with Vernon about all that quantity of easily reachable music I admit that I feel like we lost something on our way to this kind of high music accessability.
I really miss that time where once a week we used to meet each other at the record stores.
Today you can just shop the last tunes from the top releases of the week on Beatport or some others digi online shop, put it to Rekordbox, grab your usb key and go to your gig. Total needed timing : 6 minutes !
On the production side, the good thing is that producers have to play now to earn money, developing popularity and being front of the scene. The time when you can live from your music production, hidden away in a wood is over.
What has the experience of releasing on prominent labels such as Innervisions, Moon Harbour, Bedrock Crosstown Rebels, DFTD and others been like?
VERNON : Very motivating. We've appreciated these labels for quite a long time; not only for the music but also by their structures and their ways of working.
MASSIMO : It's hard to describe. We feel really lucky and it just pushes us to work further and harder on our music to make those people and labels proud of us.
You’ve released four EPs on Crosstown Rebels in the last two years, gaining support from label boss Damian’s Lazarus. How did you find Damian and the label?
MASSIMO : Like the usual way I guess. Through a friend of a friend I got in contact with the A&R with Damian for Rebellion and Crosstown Rebels. We were working on a few new tunes we thought would fit the labels. I sent an email and 5 months later they came back to me saying that Damian would reach out to me about the tunes. He did and we had a Skype of one hours talking about everything : life, parents, cultures, music of course … the day after he confirmed the release and the name of the remixer of one of the tunes : Josh Wink.
Critically acclaimed artists such as Luciano, Ricardo Villalobos and Jamie Jones have appreciated your work. How much respect do you have for these names?
VERNON : Regarding Jamies I already had the opportunity to work with him during a previous project on Hot Creations. Honestly, It is very flattering and that really pushes me.
MASSIMO : The guys have been following us since our first releases on Robsoul. As a dj and producer nothing can be more motivating and flattering to get support from those people.
Your new remix of Mark Jenkyns ft. Mizbee - ‘Reach For Me’ is out this month on Suara. Is this remix further insight into your deep, darker style of sound?
VERNON : We did something close of what we feel at the moment. Maybe the next one will be different because we don't have a specific style. That depends of our mood.
What are the top 3 festivals or clubs you’ve played at?
VERNON : Dour Festival, DGTL and Extrema
MASSIMO : same response. Wecandance in Belgium is aswell one of our highlight during the summer.
How do you both like to unwind when you’re not in the studio or performing?
VERNON : It's very simple for me. Spending time with my family. Seeing my son growing up and chilling with my lovely girlfriend.
MASSIMO : I spend all my time with Vernon. Ha ha … I'm kidding. Family, friends, reading, restaurants, … balance is the key.