When you think about minimal techno some places come to mind: Berlin, Detroit… hell, all of Europe. Los Angeles, not so much. Yes, John Tejada and Cytrax hail from here, but promoting techno in the land of plastic surgery and palm trees has always been an uphill battle. Which explains why the founders of Droid Behavior had to trick Southern Californians into joining their fledgling motorik movement. “We printed business cards with the words ‘Eat Sleep Shit Techno’ and an email address, and passed these out at record stores, clubs, and parties to see who would bite,” writes the trio in a group email. “Once we had enough positive and inquisitive emails it was time to start sending out the first newsletters; once we had developed enough momentum we produced our first events.”
Not long after, Droid Behavior–which consists of brothers Vidal and Vangelis Vargas (who record as Acid Circus) and Mohamed “Moe” Espinosa (a.k.a. Drumcell)–dropped their first label release at the Detroit Electronic Music Festival in 2003. Inspired by labels like Minus, Axis, Warp, and Raster-Noton–plus the guerrilla marketing tactics of Shepard Fairey–the crew developed an instantly recognizable robot aesthetic; it’s been used on releases, flyers for their bi-monthly Interface event, and the Droid stickers that blanket every bus stop, bathroom, and record store they pass.
Among Droid’s biggest inspirations are “scummy, rat-ridden warehouses” and the parties therein. The Vargas brothers grew up in East L.A. (“Plenty of lowriders and Jaime Escalante-style after-school programs.”) and Espinosa in nearby Hacienda Heights–all three were heavily influenced by the city’s rave scene of the mid-’90s. “In the summer [before] my freshman year in high school I was in a backyard punk band and our drummer was always going to undergrounds,” recalls Espinosa. “Eventually he started taking me with him and we would exchange mixtapes. I was already experimenting with various multi-track recorders and drum machines, so making electronic music was the next obvious step.”
“Frankie Bones, Jeff Mills, Surgeon, and Richie Hawtin were influential,” concur the Brothers Vargas. “[Their music] was different from a lot of the trance and house that L.A. was exposed to throughout the ’90s. This led us to dig deeper into early Detroit techno and its European counterparts.”
The trio originally met at a house party where Vidal and Vangelis were performing on 350 MHz desktops, and they “pretty much clicked instantly.” They would go on to release EPs like Acid Circus’ Reduxtion and Drumcell’s System Error, exploring various facets of minimal, from spacious and clicky numbers to pounding, loopy robot rockers.
Though weekly annoyances include “flaky promoters, mega-clubs that don’t know what they’re doing, band-wagoners, being overlooked as artists, and dealing with people’s egos,” the Droids say they wouldn’t leave the City of Lost Angels for anything. “We have all done our fair share of traveling,” says Espinosa. “Although I know how important it is to taste other parts of the world, to me there is something special about L.A. that lays thick inside me.”