Exclusive Interview: Pumpkin, Upcoming Northern Nights Festival DJ
Pumpkin is a Los Angeles-based DJ with a flair for the funky, groovy, and sentimental. One of the favorites of The Do Lab family, you might have caught his set on the Woogie stage at Lightning in a Bottle.
He is also one of the DJ’s representing Southern California at Northern Nights festival outside of Humboldt next week. We got the chance to chat with him about his musical style, current projects, and what he’s most looking forward to at Northern Nights.
Neon Vision: So you’ve played Lightning in a Bottle, Raindance, Firefly Gathering, Sonic Bloom, Soultruistic, 5 Points Gathering, Astral Harvest Gathering all in the past two months- your festival season has been pretty busy so far! Which shows or experiences have stood out the most for you this summer?
Pumpkin: Well, Lightning in A Bottle is always a really great experience; I get really spoiled there. I have the highest attendance at the Woogie Stage all weekend, and this year was just over the top! So many people come out and make signs and blow bubbles and there are smiles everywhere. So Lighting in a Bottle is one that always stands out, and The Do Lab has always supported me. I’ve known them for 10 years. The first time I played Lightning in a Bottle was in 2010, and I think I’m one of the only people who have gotten to play 5 years in a row. The set I played in 2010 – they really pushed that recording online so in 2011 a couple thousand people showed up to my set, which was the first time something like that had happened. And it’s been going like that ever since!
NV: You have played larger festivals like Coachella and LiB, but also take the time to support local, boutique festivals and play for small crowds. Which do you prefer?
Pumpkin: Well, you can have a couple thousand people come out and the vibe could still be garbage – it’s more dependent upon the people. When I played at Soultruistic, I played a sunrise set and there were maybe only 20 people on the dance floor because it was a much smaller event and I was paying on the first night. But the vibe was so beautiful, so I loved it.
NV: You mostly play groovy rhythms that are easy to have a good time to – social music, and positive sounds. How would you personally describe your style, and why do you think you are drawn to it?
Pumpkin: What I tell people is that I play remixes mostly – remixes of familiar songs, or indie songs, most of them are love songs. I’m really a heart-based guy and I felt like that type of music wasn’t really being done, so I kind of just fell into it. It was at that first LiB, I played a really early set during the day and there weren’t a lot of people, so I just decided to play more sappy love songs and whatever I wanted. It was all songs with vocals and remixes of popular songs, and the response was amazing! I had such a good time doing it. It’s so easy to smile when you’re playing music that’s really positive and really speaks to you. Before I got into electronic music I was playing in bands. I played in a bunch of bands from the time I was twelve to the time I was 22. My band played on the Sunset Strip when I was 15, so I got to do all the rock n’ roll stuff. And that’s a lot more song-based, which is why I’m drawn to the remixes and vocal stuff more.
NV: Where do you draw your inspiration from?
Pumpkin: From reminiscence and sentimentality, really. That’s why I remixed The Muppet song s- because I would put them up there with some of my favorite songs. The Frog Song is probably one of my favorite songs of all time, and especially the stuff from when I was young. I think a lot of people do that – long for those days and remember them fondly. If I play a rock song, or a classic 80s song from back in the day, people are going to connect with that. I usually play at sunrise or sunset, because that’s when I feel people are the most pliable.
NV: What is your main motivation for DJing, besides making music? Starting a record label? Creating a festival? Travelling?
Pumpkin: I just want to keep making music, and especially sharing music – which is what drew me to DJing. Playing other people’s music is what really drew me to DJing 10 years ago when I went to my first proper underground party. When I found the underground community I really saw what DJs could do: play songs they love and make people dance. It was right after my last band had broken up and it seemed like a refreshing change from writing music. I mean, having to collaborate with five other musicians can be really challenging. DJing was something I could do by myself and just share music that I love and hopefully people will respond. And even if they don’t it’s still so fulfilling.
What I’d like to get more into now is really creating music and writing music. I’d like to see where that will take me. Pretty much all of the stuff I’ve done are remixes, which are a lot of fun too, but I want to get into creating a bit more.
NV: What’s next for you in terms of releases or other projects?
Pumpkin: I’m writing my first original EP now. The first song is going to be released here pretty soon with Kyrstyn Pixton. She and I collaborated on the track, she’s a singer/songwriter from Portland, and she’s just absolutely incredible. I also have some more remixes in the pipeline that I’m working on for some friends of mine. I want to make a record, probably just an EP, where every on song I’m collaborating with a new singer/songwriter on every track. I’m not sure how far off playing a “live” set will be – playing all my own music – because I really do love DJing so much and sharing songs that I love.
NV: Have you been to Northern Nights Festival before? What are you most looking forward to?
Pumpkin: The setting is definitely the big draw for me. Getting to be among big, ancient trees, and any festival with a water element is absolutely great. The lineup is really eclectic – which is super important to me. I mean it’s so easy for whoever’s booking artists at a festival to just book whatever they like – which, even if they have good taste, will make it all generally the same. I think they did a good job of making a nice rounded-out lineup, so that’s going to be great. My friends Fort Knox Five and some others are on the lineup, and it’s always good to see them. When it’s festival season, we’re all travelling around we don’t get to see each other. There are some artists that I haven’t seen yet that I’m excited to see like Viceroy and Plastic Plates.
I still have the frame of mind that I’ve always had when I’ve gone to festivals, which is that I always had the most fun just wandering around and exploring. If you end up trying to chase who you want to see, you’re just going to stress yourself out. If you just go with the flow you might come across something that you didn’t even know was there, or a new DJ, or someone who’s just coming up. That’s really what excites me the most about any festival, but for this one what’s standing out is the setting. It’s going to be beautiful! I’m really excited to be a part of this event.