(Original Photo By: Sirup Artist Agency)
I remember the first time I heard Croatia Squad like it was yesterday. It could be due to the fact that it actually was not very long ago or possibly because the style and quality of production was a breath of fresh air to my ears. The latter seems more likely. I had just moved to Los Angeles, and my roommate and I were taking turns picking songs during a leisurely chess match. As he pressed play on the infectiously groovy song “Touch Me”, he said, “Alright, check out this song by Croatia Squad.” Immediately I had to put our game on hold to bust a move and go through my mental process of investigation. “Who is Croatia Squad?” “How many people are in this ‘squad’?” “What is the scene like in Croatia?” Fortunately, my questions did not go unanswered for too long.
The man (that’s right, one man) behind the powerhouse nu-disco brand known as Croatia Squad is the Switzerland-bred Alejandro Torres. So, right off the bat we are clear on two things: the assumed squad is actually a sole pioneer who hails from Switzerland despite the implications of his alias. While the name is derived from an inspirational DJ residency spent in Croatia, there was a time where the thought of manning turntables was a “dream job that was not reachable”, but as life has proven to many of us, a labor of love rewards us sooner or later.
Born and raised in the capital of Switzerland, Bern (or Berne depending on your preference), Alejandro was not unlike many young boys with an insatiable sense of adventure and an endless reserve of energy. “My childhood was characterized by being [somewhat of a] hyperactive child,” he admits. His thirst for constant activity was not always sought after with a chaperone at his side, though. He was always an independent person; the sole captain of his ship. “I felt I had to seek, analyze, and learn on my own,” recalls Torres. Finding who he was on his own terms was important, but of course, no matter how independent a young boy claims to be there are always figures he looks up to and strives to emulate.
Growing up in a traditional Mediterranean family he learned the importance of sticking together, and his grandfather was the one he felt most comfortable with. He seemed to be the only one that could calm him down from his energetic adventures. Up until his passing, they spent nearly everyday together. He served as a great teacher and friend to young Torres while daring him to be himself and find his place in the world. Artistically speaking, his grandfather provided the canvas to which he could apply his creative colors – a foundation to build upon. His father, on the other hand, supplied the paints with his love for music and vast vinyl collection that became Alejandro’s favorite playground.
As a child of the 80’s Torres grew up at the height of Italo Disco, but thanks to radio shows and his father’s diverse collection, his interests transcended many genres. There was a certain mystique to artists like Mick Jagger, David Bowie, and Michael Jackson that was intriguing to him at a young age. “I was fascinated [by] the great variety and limitless possibilities the world of music [offered].” With the age of cassette on the rise he would constantly record his favorite radio shows, which provided early hands-on experiences concerning music and it didn’t matter what was playing. He went through phases of interest in Pop and Hip-Hop as well as Hardcore during the latter years of teenage rebellion. Of course electronic artists also held a fair amount of real estate in his musical interests. The Prodigy made a significant impression on Alejandro with skills in sampling and captivating videos, while Moby spiked his curiosity with his melodic talents. To put it simply, he was hooked. The world of music was special. It embraced those with independent minds and nurtured his sense of adventure. All he had to do was find his place in it.
At a young age he would visit local radio stations where DJs would spin vinyl during off-peak hours. He admired their skills and place in the world as appreciators of music, but the thought of actually becoming a DJ himself seemed farfetched so he settled to aim for a job somewhere in radio. This of course provided a great hurdle to overcome when it came time to focus on schoolwork. “I remember that I never wanted to study for school,” he recalls. “I did not understand why I had to study something that did not have any significance to me.” It is something many of us can relate to. You find something you love and you submerge yourself in it. Despite the adversity presented by his schoolwork, Alejandro chose to go deeper into the waters of his interests and poured his savings into amassing a vinyl collection of his own. This is where he says his “career began.” With a growing knowledge of technology and naturally gifted ear for sound, he started to get slots as an opener for bigger names that would come through town. With a foot in the door, Torres began organizing events of his own as well as putting his production skills to the test. As a means to fund his interests, he worked as an assistant to a private investigator, which did well to provide interesting stories. However, no matter what the day brought, he always found himself at the studio when it ended.
With so many influences bouncing around in his head, it was a challenge at first for the man that would become Croatia Squad to find his own sound. The blending of such a diverse collection of interests can be a challenge to forge into one entity, but eventually he was able to draw a line in the sand. He says, “There is music I like and music I don’t like.” It is a valuable piece of knowledge that can vastly widen your perspective once you get a hold on it. Free of labels and boundaries, today Alejandro is free to make the music that he likes and do so on his own terms.
As an adult he still retains a child-like sense of admiration for the power of music. After playing for different crowds of different cultures he realizes that “music is the common language” and with his music he wants to offer the opportunity to break from the routine. Do not deny your sense of adventure. Be your own squad. “Do what you dig,” as Alejandro puts it, and “you will be rewarded sooner or later.”