How SOS will save our souls with quirkiness. Time Out makes it its business to find out why for you.
Don’t be confused by their name; SOS are most definitely not sinking. If anything, the London-based, three-man DJing collective are now at the highest point in their careers to date, having wowed audiences across the world with their frenetic live shows, which see them simultaneously performing ad-libbed DJ sets.
But this success has only come after four years of hard – if fun – graft, as member Desyn Masiello explains. ‘SOS is formed from myself and Omid 16B – we’re from SexonWax records – and Demi, who runs Deeper Substance records. We spent the last 15-20 years in the rave and club scene in the UK and we were the kind of hardcore dance fans and DJs who wouldn’t let the spirit die out. So four years ago, after going to all the events around the UK, we decided to hold our own party in London – and that’s where we kind of stumbled into forming SOS.
‘We’re all artists in our own respects and we’d all been doing our own thing for a while, so when we came together we were all individuals. But over time we started teaching each other the skills we’d developed, and started sharing our records – which collectively come to about 40 years of record collecting – and all of this started opening our minds more to new music and new ways of DJing. So when we came together, it was like three different DJs plaing but over time a new kind of sound started to emerge which a lot of people are now telling us that we have an SOS sound. We’re kind of throwing everything into one giant brain and seeing what comes out.’
And while Desyn can’t put what comes out into words – ‘you have to hear it for yourself,’ he says, sounding like he’s genuinely lost for words, rather than throwing out a cheeky PR soundbite – it certainly seems to have caught on all over the world. So what will the people of Dubai have to look forward to when SOS step up on that desert stage? ‘It’s kind of a band,’ explains Desyn. ’We three DJs play simultaneously, with live percussion, drums and effects. It’s kind of more of a live experience now than the simple DJ sets we started out with.
‘We have six CDJs – two each – and our own mixers so you’re literally hearing three DJs at once. It’s kind of like a live jam, so it’s completely different and completely unique every time. I can be mixing two tracks together while Omid 16B is doing effects and Desi’s doing live drum loops on the drum equipment that we’ve got, or doing live a cappellas. But we try to not to do too much at the same time – there’s an art to making it sound good and we’re always working on it.’
The result is, he says, that even gigs performed near each other will sound very different, and although they will work out roughly what kind of music they want to play in each hour, the details of which tracks and sounds they’ll throw out there are completely ad-libbed. ‘It’s quite an insane experience, because anything can happen when you’re doing things on the fly, feeding off the energy of the crowd.’
But isn’t that a bit risky? What happens if someone pulls out a completely unexpected record so that you’re racing to catch up? ‘That does happen in pretty much every set,’ he laughs. ‘It’s nice to surprise them, and we’ve got to keep ourselves on our toes. And we’re doing maybe four shows a week, so we want to keep it interesting. There have been gigs where someone’s made a mistake, but in four years of playing together that’s bound to happen at some point, and we’ve got to the stage where we don’t really make mistakes like that much any more. That’s the good thing about the three of us working together for so long – we’ve learned each other’s styles and know how we all think.’
And of course they keep in contact during the set, too. ‘We communicate as much as possible; we’ve got different ways of communicating, like hand signals. Also, we’re sponsored by Pioneer and we’re working with them on a new gadget that will help that kind of communication. But we can’t say too much about that in case someone else steals the idea!’
But their talents aren’t restricted to the stage; this year also sees the release of SOS’s first album, which comes on an impressive three CDs. ‘It’s very eclectic,’ says Desyn enthusiastically, ‘the album goes from ambient music to more unusual stuff – we have edits of The Cure and Bryan Ferry as well as tribal, progressive, breakbeat and all kinds of uplifting dance.’ Not that the Dubai gig is going to be too weird, he emphasises. What we’ll be doing in Dubai will be pretty upfront dance stuff – tribal, progressive, breakbeat, techno, tech house… we don’t really do anything specific, just whatever sounds good at the time.’
And what about the longer term? Does he miss for the days when he was just doing his own thing and DJing solo? Apparently not. ‘Right now it’s all SOS for the foreseeable future,’ he concludes. ‘We’re always doing solo stuff as well, but the main focus at the moment is SOS all the way.’
SOS play at Alpha Tours Camp in the desert on May 30.