Named one of our top 40 acts to watch in 2017, PRXZM has held up to the name with a plethora of announcements to make this their top year yet. From releasing hit after hit, to receiving major support from the likes of names like The Chainsmokers, Virtual Riot, Wuki and many more, PRXZM has taken this year to build into a full package duo while finishing their college education all at the same time. For those who may not know, PRXZM features members Nick Ortega and Emma Maidenberg who combine their musical talents for a full package sound that is distinct and pristine.
Combining Maidenberg’s haunting yet utterly beautiful vocal qualities with Ortega’s production prowess and a combination of each individual’s knack for musicality, they have created high energy bangers to emotional swells of bliss with their unique take on dance music mixed with indie influence. From tracks like “Haze” and “Royalty” which feature emotional ballads coupled with intricate future melodic inspired production, to covers of tracks like “Sea of Voices” by Porter Robinson and Post Malone’s “White Iverson” which work to showcase Maidenberg’s vast vocal range, this rising talent has continued to stun with their later releases like “DTLA ‘92” alongside Gladiator, “In My Head” with Virtual Riot and their latest hit track “Can You Tell Me.”
Gearing up for their debut headlining tour and kicking off with their first ever Red Rocks performance at Trapfest alongside Marshmello, Jai Wolf and more, we sat with PRXZM to chat about their year in review, their upcoming tour and music and so much more.
So first off, I always like to ask, how does it feel being here and playing Red Rocks?
Nick: I’ve never even see Red Rocks in person, I’ve literally only seen pictures and it’s the most incredible thing. Like I couldn’t really take it in beforehand because I was just super nervous but afterwards, just seeing everything and seeing what we played to, this has been the most incredible experience ever. Very honored to be here.
Emma: Yeah, I think this whole week we were a little numb thinking about it. We hadn’t been here and hadn’t checked it out yet and we knew that the second we got on stage it would all hit us and it did. It was amazing, we’re really grateful we got the opportunity.
You guys have put out a bunch of collabs in the past twelve months alongside your original. Working in a duo, how does collabing with another producer usually work? What’s your workflow?
Emma: So typically the other artist we’re working with will send an idea for an instrumental or they’ll just ask me for a vocal they can use and we’ll record something, put together a chord progression and create something. We’ll do a bit of the production usually, help out with the vocal chops, that’s what happened with the Wuki track.
Nick: Yeah, a lot of the collaborations though we’re actually with them in the studio. So like the Gladiator one, the Virtual Riot one, those are the two big main ones but we actually got to sit down in a studio. It was a very hands on experience.
Emma: We’d spend hours just sitting in the studio and talking with them about where we wanted the collab to go. Whereas our first collab with Borgore, my first big feature, was all done over e-mail. We usually skyped a couple times but being in the studio and working on these collabs with these guys has been really cool.
Are there any other names that you’d like to collab with before 2017 is over?
Nick: I mean I could name a bunch we wanna collab, but realistically… *laughing* I mean a dream collab would be Porter Robinson, obviously. I mean, I think what we want to do right now is a bit different though.
Emma: We definitely want to look into working with artists like CHVRCHES and more.
Nick: Yeah more outside of the electronic scene for sure, because we’re heading into more of a live direction and collabs outside of that would definitely be a good indication for fans of where we’re trying to go.
Emma: But yeah, The XX, CHVRCHES, Oh Wonder…
Nick: Halsey would be dope.
Emma: A bunch of big names in pop we’d love to work with as well.
You guys obviously bring a variety of influence into your music between original vocals and dance heavy production. Who are some of your biggest inspirations right now?
Nick: I mean, again I’m gonna have to say Porter Robinson. I feel like that’ll be a common theme for all of these answers. *laughing* No, Porter Robinson definitely, Madeon… They’re very big influences for us, especially in terms of the whole live thing. Watching them do live sets is just the most incredible thing ever.
Emma: Yeah we’ve seen the Worlds Tour like four times and we saw the Shelter tour.
Nick: It’s incredible. I mean, outside of electronic music though I really draw a lot of my inspiration from classical artists. I really like Mozart and Beethoven. I took classical piano lessons for about 12 years and I did a bunch of recitals and I can still from memory play like Moonlight Sonata and Sonata in C Major and the theory I learned from that really inspires me and helps me build new progressions.
Emma: Yeah Nick and I both have classical training, which has been really cool to work with. Mine is in voice, his is in piano. But yeah, a lot of the inspiration I’ve been getting lately… I’ve been listening to a lot of people I’ve seen live and really enjoyed their sets, so like Maggie Rogers, The XX, CHVRCHES, Ella Vos is really cool… Odesza are amazing. I like to listen to instrumentals as well, like an artist called Tomppabeats, and I write to his music a lot. I just write lyrics and melodies to his instrumentals and then we’ll kinda like make it work in one of our songs. It’s a really cool music sheet to write on though.
Which artists did you grow up listening to that got you into music originally?
Nick: I’ve always been really into music. I’ve actually gone through a lot of weird musical phases.
Emma: Nick knows every word to every Eminem song.
Nick: Oh yeah, I can flawlessly rap every Eminem track. My Band is my favorite one, even though it’s D12 it’s technically still Eminem.
Emma: Nick do it right now.
Nick: I 100% will.
*Emma and Nick both flawlessly start rapping My Band by D12*
Nick: I could go on and on. *laughing* Rap is like my guilty pleasure, like I really enjoy rap, hip hop, RnB, but also in 8th grade I was super into heavy metal. Like, the more I could not understand the words because they were just screaming them, the better. What really got me into electronic music though was Skrillex. I mean, he gets everyone into electronic music, but I heard him my junior year of high school, Scary Monsters and Nice Sprites EP, and I had never heard anything like it before because it was such a new thing in the United States. That really got me to start producing and I tried to emulate that at first because you don’t really have an original direction when you first start learning. So I was trying to emulate that and emulate the sounds he would do, and I did that junior and senior year of high school and then freshman year of college, that’s where I met Emma and that’s where we really got serious about producing music and learning. I’m still learning to this day.
Emma: Well for me, my first intro to electronic was Bassnectar. *laughing* Went out and saw him in San Francisco when I was like… 16, and that was my first really big show. I listened to Skrillex too though, I loved Scary Monsters and Nice Sprites. Had it on my iPod. *laughing* But growing up, it was a lot different. A lot more vocal heavy stuff, I loved Taylor Swift.
Nick: She still does. *laughing*
Emma: I still do, I still know every single song. Love The Shins, a bunch of indie rock bands. Lorde, love Lorde. I really did always listen to Taylor Swift and then Lorde and I don’t know… All American Rejects? *laughing*
Nick: Oh yeah, the classic emo middle school bands! Bowling for Soup. I only know one song by them, I have like 1985 Radio on my Pandora and I go so hard.
Emma: Nick and I always listen to the Pop2k Sirius XM station when we drive to shows. We just rock out! *laughing*
You guys are planning on heading out on your first headlining tour! How does it feel getting to this point?
Nick: It’s so rewarding to see, and honestly some parts of it still don’t seem real, because we’re making this music literally in my bedroom. So it’s kinda funny to make something in my bedroom and then fly out halfway across the United States and then play what we made and have it resonate with people. Just seeing that is incredible.
Emma: Just watching the audiences grow and just the diversity of that is incredible. It really used to be just people that wanted really heavy electronic music and now it’s more people who are listening to the lyrics and singing along and sending us messages about what the lyrics mean to them, how they relate to a song. It’s a much more personal feel now. These shows on the tour are also all going to be smaller capacity, intimate rooms since we’re headlining and still kinda small, but we’re super excited to share these intimate venues with new audiences all across the country just to see how it resonates with everyone and to see how receptive they are. So far for our summer shows it has been really great, we’ve gotten a lot of new fans and connected with a lot of people and it’s been really cool to share all our work. It is definitely rewarding. It’s still so much work though, like planning a tour we had no idea what goes into it.
Nick: Yeah seriously, like even being on the music side and being more behind the scenes, up until we started planning this tour and making executive decisions like renting vans and spending a bunch of money, we had no clue how much really goes into it.
Emma: We were like oh you just hop in a car and go right?
Nick: Yeah, but it’s such an incredible learning experience too. Like there’s still so much that we can learn and how to grow.
Emma: We’re growing and growing into the career and learning and changing from this being more than just a hobby. It’s a big jump for us!
Are there any special guests or surprises you plan on bringing along?
Emma: We have a duo called Papa Ya coming with us.
Nick: They’re really new, really cool. Signed to Sony.
Emma: They’re this cool pop blend of electronic music and they’re out of LA and we’re stoked to spend some time with them and do the shows with them. We have a couple secret shows on the tour we’re gonna announce last minute. Besides that…
Nick: I have a really good high school friend coming on the road with us to take photos so I’m super excited on that.
Emma: Besides that, we’ll be performing songs off our upcoming EP and we’ll be releasing a new song while on tour called “Lowline,” which is coming out on AiA. So yeah, that’ll be really exciting during the tour. That will be the first track to come out and the rest of the EP will be coming out in the fall. Very excited to show everyone our new stuff.
You guys have been really building a live element to your shows and tracks. Can we hope to see more live instrumentation as time goes on?
Nick: Absolutely, I think it would be super cool honestly for like… Maybe a really big show, not all the time but it would be awesome to have someone play a drum kit, Emma can sing the whole time, I can be doing keys the whole time.
Emma: That’s our goal for when we play Lollapalooza.
Nick: Yeah, when we play Lolla, we are gonna have a drummer with a full kit. I mean, we’ve honestly been continually introducing new elements with each show too. The next couple shows, Emma is going to have a drum pad/sample pad that she can play while she sings too, and I would love to go as live as possible while keeping that electronic feel. Get some giant synthesizers maybe, I don’t know. Something like that would be really cool.
What has been the phase of shifting from DJ sets to more live shows?
Emma: So our first show ever was at a high school in Michigan. *Nick groaning in corner while Emma laughs* So we played there and it was just a dance.
Nick: It was like their winter formal or something.
Emma: They were wearing jeans too, so not sure how formal it really was. *laughing* But we were super excited because we were DJing and our first time playing out like that and we drove 5 hours there and they all were crying, like literally crying, because they didn’t know how to dance to it and they all sat on the floor and they wouldn’t pay us. *laughing* It was like a total nightmare. So then we played at the Backdoor in Bloomington. We were really doing DJ sets up until like October of last year, so really only 6 months of live sets. In October we did a show with Adventure Club in Minneapolis and we did all originals, like that was our first time filling a whole set with me singing.
Nick: At that point it was still me on turntables just playing the instrumental while Emma sang. Then, the first time we introduced any real live elements was South by South West in March and at that point it was just like, I’d play the song and would only take out a couple parts, like only a little bit of the drums, because I was still really afraid. There was only like two parts in each song that I’d really push buttons, and at that point it wasn’t a drum pad it was just a launch pad with the buttons. Since then, when we got comfortable with that we would always be like “Okay let’s make me do more,” so we’d take out more of the songs and make me do vocal chops and the drums, and then when we were comfortable with that we were like okay let’s add in a keyboard and drum pad.
Emma: The first time we had all this equipment and like, a travelling case for all of it, was last show, like two weeks ago in Omaha so this was our second time ever playing out like this. I have a drum pad too, but I didn’t use it tonight because I just got it yesterday. *laughing*
Nick: It’s been a really fast transition, but it all has been really natural because this is what we want to do so it doesn’t feel like oh, should we do this. It’s just like let’s do this and this and this and we keep adding things that are natural for us. It feels really good.
Which instrument would you say you’re the most comfortable playing?
Nick: I’m most comfortable with piano for sure, it’s my favorite instrument in the whole world. Sometimes if I can’t sleep at like two in the morning I just play the piano and make pretty piano things and it puts me to sleep. It’s very therapeutic for sure.
Emma: Besides singing I’d say drums, I play drums too. I’m probably not going to play a full kit on stage. I don’t know, I’d consider it once, maybe to try it out. I say that now. *laughing*
Nick: It’s on the record so you have to do it. *laughing* She is her teacher’s favorite student and he says it all the time.
Emma: He tweet quotes. He’s always tweeting and saying “My favorite student is a rock star.” *laughing*
You guys were both studying while balancing a rising artist career. How did you find that balance between school and music and touring?
Emma: School was always… It was never really a huge challenge, it was just a way it was.
Nick: Yeah that’s how it was really from the beginning since we started this our freshman year. Even though we weren’t like playing shows or anything like that when we first started, the passion was still there to create something and we developed time management habits early on. Like, we’d separate the days into class time and music time. This past year though, like senior year, I didn’t really have much of a social life because I’m very awkward in front of people, so I don’t like to go out in general, but it was nice. After school, we would just both focus on music, so we’d both write two or three or four times in the week for five hours or we’d have meetings and knock out all the business stuff.
Emma: That was the other thing too for sure, was when a whole new element was introduced with the business side. So we’d have calls with Max (agent) a couple times a week or calls with Jacob our day-to-day manager, we also have a group chat and we’re always talking, like almost every single day. There’s so many things planned for the tour, and even the one off shows we’d always have to plan in the past. Like maybe we’d have a show on a Sunday and then we were back in class on a Monday.
Nick: Also, we had it set up pretty nice. Oh, well Emma also graduated a semester early so the past few months she has been much more free. But we both didn’t have Friday classes, so that made it easier if there was a weekend that we needed to go away. Although we definitely had times that we missed classes. We definitely missed a lot of classes but we were definitely motivated to finish.
Emma: Neither of us ever considered stopping school.
Nick: We both like to see things through and that kind of shows. Also our parents. *laughing*
Emma: Our parents have been nothing but supportive though, it’s been really cool. It was a tough balance but it was all we knew.
Nick: It was tough but we both knew it’d pay off in the end honestly.
What advice would you give to any producers who are pursuing both college and music careers?
Emma: Remember that school is only a few years, and you should definitely do it and finish strong.
Nick: Yeah definitely finishing school is big, you have the rest of your life to do whatever you want.
Emma: Whatever you put into one thing is what you put into everything too, so if you’re putting your everything into music you have to give school that attention too. If you’re not doing that well in school then you’re probably not doing that well with music necessarily. Like Nick and I both got really good grades while doing all of this and it’s just because we worked hard at all of it.
Nick: I also think the more you have to do, the more you’ll end up getting done. When I had full weeks of classes and projects but we also have deadlines to meet it really makes you prioritize and manage your time. I think the passion has to be there too. You have to be fully in it and do both things equally, they have to want to make music but also have to have that drive to finish school.
Emma: There’s a lot that goes into it too, it turns into not really a hobby and you turn your hobby into a job.
Nick: You turn your hobby into a jobby.
Emma: *laughing* Yeah it’s your jobby. And as awesome as it is it demands a lot of your time and dedication and you gain a whole new love for it. You realize it’s not what you thought it was and you develop a whole new love for it, you have to want to do all those things.
How do you spend your free time while at home or on the road, outside of working on music?
Emma: I’m a barista.
Nick: She kills, she gives me free smoothies sometimes.
Emma: Awe thanks. *laughing* No I work like 30 hours a week doing that too.
Nick: She’s grinding so hard. I actually live with my roommates and they’re like my best friends. *Emma glaring* Okay you’re obviously my best friend too, but apart from music, he said apart from music. *laughing* But we play like racquetball like four or five times a week, we love racquetball. Oh, also, recently I picked up golf and we went to the golf course and I did okay.
Emma: Did you wear a helmet?
Nick: Yes I did wear a helmet.
Jacob (Manager): Did you actually wear a helmet while you played golf? *laughing*
Nick: *sarcastically* Yeah dude… No why would I wear a helmet?
Emma: You told me you wore a helmet. *laughing*
Nick: No I didn’t but I wore sunscreen. *laughing* No but I don’t know, just recently it’s been us goofing off for the last little bit we have together. One of them is getting married which is insane so we’re just trying to blow off as much adolescent steam as possible before we go do our own thing.
Emma: You call it adolescent steam? *laughing*
Nick: Okay sorry, adolescent steam, I tried to come up with a better word. *laughing*
Emma: That’s our new name, we’re changing our name from PRXZM to Adolescent Steam. *laughing* I also take drum lessons, I climb a lot.
What can we expect to see out of PRXZM as we head into 2018?
Nick: 2018… Holy crap this year is almost over.
Emma: We’re closer to 2018 than we are to 2016 right now… *joking* In this interview, PRXZM has an existential crisis.
Nick: We couldn’t finish the interview because we both ran out of Red Rocks, panicking. *laughing* We could make that the exclusive, it’s just us like sobbing on the ground. *laughing* Definitely a lot more live things. I mean obviously we play live now but we haven’t really released anything that shows off our transition to more of the live elements.
Emma: Definitely people have seen like little clips of it, we’ve been posting little teasers of clips of it online for our fans. But yeah, it’s definitely more personal now, we’ve gotten more personally invested in our music.
Nick: Definitely a big focus on music, an EP/album coming in the Fall, a lot more shows coming. We’re hoping a bigger tour next year, maybe a bigger support tour next year, just putting in a lot of work I think. Also getting our social media game up, that’s going to be a big push for 2018.
Well thanks so much for talking guys, enjoy the rest of the night!
Nick: Yeah thanks so much for talking with us.
Emma: Thank you!
You can catch PRXZM as they head out on their debut headline tour this Fall, and make sure to keep an eye on this rising synth pop duo as they continue to stun with their prowess for musical ingenuity and blending emotional ballads with upbeat dance heavy tracks. Check out the recap of the night below featuring Marshmello, Jai Wolf, PRXZM, Sikdope and special guest Slushii!
Thank you marshmello, Jai Wolf, Slushii, Sikdope, and PRXZM for making Red Rocks a reality. 🔥The countdown for next year begins now…
Posted by TRAPFEST on Tuesday, June 13, 2017