ARMNHMR: From the Underground to the Main Stage
Dance music is known for its passionate, welcoming community where people are united from all walks of life. The possibilities of creating new relationships are endless, whether you make a new friend at a festival, bond with another fan over the internet, or even find your future DJ partner.
Joseph Chung and Joseph Abella of ARMNHMR have one of those heartfelt stories where their passion for dance music sparked a new friendship, one that turned into becoming full-time DJs. From ravers to festival performers, their story serves as a reminder of how powerful this community really is.
After a few years of attending raves together, they decided to try the music thing out themselves. Abella tells us he had “a little bit of experience in music production, but not a lot.” They both learned from each other, and thus, the first chapter of ARMNHMR’s story was written.
Growing up in California provided them both with a flourishing dance music scene that they used to their advantage.
“California was the hotspot of EDM at the time. A lot of our friends who are big acts now all started in LA. All the underground shows were naturally in LA. So growing up in our careers with all our friends, I mean I could name handfuls of them, they all had their start in LA. It was really nice because it felt like we were all building something in LA together.”
Although they played dance music’s biggest festival mainstage for the first time at EDC Las Vegas this year, every artist has to start somewhere. Just under ten years ago, they played their first gig together at a small dive bar called K Town.
“We probably only had 10 People in the bar and seven of them were our friends. We got paid with drink tickets. It was humble beginnings. I think all artists have to put in their time. Just see how it was before so you can appreciate the bigger shows.”
On top of their similar interests and a strong passion for dance music, both Chung and Abella are of Asian-American descent. Their culture certainly made an impact on their musical journey and overall development as artists.
“There’s not many of us in this scene in general. And starting out, there wasn’t many role models to follow. It gave us a little bit of fuel like, ‘Oh, we’re pioneering something.’ At least as small as it is, we’re pioneering a lifestyle for artistic, Asian-Americans who don’t want to do the engineering thing, who don’t want to do the doctor thing. It’s more fuel than anything.”
Diversity plays a role in not only their cultural background but also their musical style. With a sound that’s melodic at the core, their music weaves in and out of the fabrics of various EDM subgenres such as future bass, trance, and dubstep.
“A lot of our music we intentionally try to bring people on an experience. We want to be heard from start to finish. And a lot of our backgrounds didn’t come from EDM, like I came from a rock background, more of a screamo background. Joe came from a hip hop, R&B background…But at the core is just the experience of listening to it and connecting with it. We’re just fans of EDM in general and music in general, so we don’t really see genres.”
At their live shows, they have one goal in mind: to make their audience “feel.”
“Music does everything, makes you feel happy, makes you feel up. But there’s a lot of music out there that doesn’t really make you feel like on a deep level and that’s our goal. If we can just make you even spark up something that you’ve been holding back and then just let it go. That’s the goal overall for every song.”
Abella adds, “I like to say that EDM and live events are the closest thing to a utopia we can get. Just different walks of life, everyone watching and listening to the same song on the same beat. And that’s why we try to be eclectic with our sets and sounds.”
ARMNHMR is having one of the most successful years of their career, and it’s only halfway over. They recently wrapped up their Waiting For Love North American tour, which had 15 sold-out shows and attracted over 30,000 fans, marking a record high for them.
On May 17th, ARMNHMR joined forces with melodic producer Nurko and singer-songwriter Micah Martin for the bass-meets-emo crossover track, “Won’t Make a Sound.” This isn’t the first time they’ve worked with Micah, but it does mark the first collaboration they have with Nurko.
“I think Nurko’s the same as us, just going for an emotional impact. And we’re just like, ‘He hits us with his own music, so maybe we can do something really deep together.’ It was just really natural. We sometimes will send things back and forth to other artists, try to mold it, sculpt it. But the first idea we sent, he sent something back and we’re like, ‘Oh, this is it.’ Easy peasy.”
“Won’t Make A Sound” showcases ARMNHMR’s talents in a new light as it steps away from their classic uplifting, tear-jerking sound. Instead, we hear somber tones that reflect loss and pain as they build up to powerful, dominating drops. Micah’s vulnerability as a lyricist is on full display as he reflects on self-worth and letting go when we’re undervalued. Every artist on this track had something different to bring to the table, in turn creating a musical masterpiece.
“Micah brought his beautiful pipes, that alone is good enough. The drops are very stylistically Nurko because we love the airiness of what he did with the track. Me and Joe, we like to play real instruments. So a lot of the pianos and a lot of the guitars are just us. We wanted to accentuate what everyone was good at. Nurko is great with the strings, ambiances, and his textures are second to none. We just tried to combine everything we could.”
Micah’s lyrics, along with Nurko and ARMNHMR’s heartfelt production skills, manifest in a compelling message for listeners.
“We were going for something that was universal. A universal message for a lot of people. Because when we write music, we have a message but we want it to be open enough that people can make their own connections with it…For us, it was like the industry was beating us down. We felt like we were putting so much work in and getting taken advantage of not. Not from our own labels or anything, just in general. It’s a really cutthroat industry.”
No matter who you are or what your background may be, the underlying theme behind this track can resonate with anyone.
“I think anyone has that moment in life where they felt like they’ve been built up by someone only to be thrown away. So a lot of the message centers around that.”
Looking to the near future of ARMNHMR, they’ll be hitting the road again over the next few months with 20 stops across the US, plus major festivals like Global Dance and Electric Zoo. Be sure to pencil in ARMNHMR on your musical calendar this summer!