Whether in London or Syracuse, Troyce Pitones knows how to energize a crowd

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Before Khari Brandes filled venues like the Ministry of Sound in London and The Cage at Syracuse University with his DJ sets, he had humble beginnings: his father’s band’s San Diego recording studio. . When his father was an active member of the Kush & Jah Blood Fiyah Angels, Brandes used to play the band’s decks in their studio when he was little.

“It all comes when my father left,” Brandes said. “And then it was more catalyzed by my desire to do (music).”

Before Brandes, known professionally as Troyce Pitones, became a DJ, he started learning the basics of drums around the age of 7 and took up bass guitar soon after.

Even though Sean Brandes, Brandes’ father, played bass for Kush & Jah Blood Fiyah Angels, he remembers his son being independent when it came to learning the instrument.

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“He basically learned to play bass,” Sean said.

In addition to the time he spent in the recording studio of his father’s band, Brandes also gained first-hand experience of the music of three of his mother’s brothers when he moved to live in the UK with her. at the age of nine.

From Dominique’s music like reggae and soca to tofu decorated with spices, Brandes, who has a white father from San Diego and a black mother from the UK, said his time in London l ‘had helped connect with his Caribbean heritage.

“It really helped me grow as a person and understand my culture,” Brandes said.

Valerie Brandes, Brandes’ mother, was equally happy that her son was able to spend time with his parents Dominique in the UK. Because his brothers had their own sound systems and actively performed at parties, Brandes would sometimes play small sets with his uncles. .

“Because we have such a strong family structure and culture, he was really able to take advantage of it,” said Valérie. “And that automatically broadened his interest in music and the way he wanted to play music.”

In 2019, Brandes got the chance to open for Koffee and DUCKWRTH, his two favorite artists at the time, in Bandersnatch.
Corey Henry | Senior photographer

Even though he has only visited Dominica once, Brandes takes great pride in his Dominican culture. In 2017, during his only trip to the island, Brandes got his stage name. As he watched the Three Pitons, a mountain range, the DJ said he jokingly called the site “Troyce Pitones”, and he and his cousin agreed that sounded like a name.

It was also in London that Brandes got some of his biggest concerts as a DJ. After Brandes turned 18, he started DJing at various clubs. As a student at London Sound Academy, Brandes performed a set at Egg, a major nightclub in London. Brandes and other DJs played music for a room full of late-night revelers until 6 a.m. Brandes recalled this ensemble as the first time he learned to step out of his comfort zone and change his sound while playing.

“The energy was just crazy. As if everything was perfect, ”he said. “It was literally five in the morning and it was still wall to wall.”

One of the highlights of Brandes’ time as a DJ on campus was at The Cage, located in the backcountry of 604 Walnut Ave. As the evenings first started out with just him and his friends, before they knew it the room was filled with people shouting words out of their lungs. Whether Brandes played to top the charts or lesser-known songs from artists like Skepta, he said he was able to keep audiences in tune as the music exploded from the speakers.

“If you can mix songs well, it doesn’t matter if people know them,” he said.

However, Brandes’ time as a DJ on campus hasn’t always been filled with positive moments. Police were often called in to stop Brandes’ sets before they could even begin. Brandes said his craziest experience with the police happened in 2019, when he was performing for a friend’s birthday party. He said officers came and argued with Brandes and other organizers, and later that same night people circled people whipping guns at parties around campus, including that of Brandes.

When the same police officers who had an argument with Brandes returned to the house, they filed a report that glossed over some details, including the extent of injuries to those who were whipped. The producer said the ordeal, along with other similar incidents, had sparked protests across the league over the DPS ‘failure to protect students of color.

“It was really scary because we didn’t know if they were going to do anything more,” Brandes said. “And it was a really uneven memory because it was so scary.”

In 2019, Brandes produced his first episode for 11th Street Radio – a radio show that mixes a variety of music from The Marías to Travis Scott – after being invited by his friend Miles Franklyn in 2018. Franklyn originally created the show in 2017 with his high school friend, but he passed away after he quit mixing. Once Franklyn found out that Brandes could DJ, the founder of 11th Street Radio saw it as fate as he happened to be looking for a DJ for the show.

“Khari is the best DJ I have ever seen in person,” Franklyn said. “Have you seen him DJ?” He goes into this trance and looks like a mad scientist controlling the minds of everyone in the room.

Brandes considers the work he does at 11th Street Radio to be a time capsule, as it allows him to follow his growth as a DJ with every episode he releases. Ahead of the radio show’s relaunch in 2022, Brandes said they were looking to bring more DJs to the show to allow more people to share their musical tastes.

One of Brandes’ inspirations for the curations he creates for and outside of 11th Street Radio is Virgil Abloh. Brandes said he saw Abloh play about four or five times, and each set was different from the last. In 2018, he saw the late DJ and fashion designer perform at Camp Flog Gnaw and contextualize Frank Ocean’s “Nights” from a dark song to a track the crowd could play on, which Brandes admitted is not. not an easy feat.

“It was really inspiring for me,” Brandes said. “If it was a less skilled DJ… it could ruin the mood.”

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Brandes is now finishing his final semester at SU as an intern for APG, a Los Angeles label. Although he still takes classes, he is also looking for producers and songwriters to pass on to his bosses.

Brandes is currently a student in SU’s Bandier program, a program that allows students to gain hands-on experience to prepare for careers in the music world, and was in the same Bandier class as notable musicians like Clairo and Claud. . Despite the popularity of other members of his class, Brandes insists that it is his passion that keeps him where he is now.

“A lot of what gets you into Bandier isn’t skill, but it’s how much you show you want to be there,” he said. “It reflects how badly you want it. “

Contact Siron: [email protected] | @sironthomas



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