By: Shayla Lee
Have you ever thought about how privileged we are to have such easy access to music? Even if you don’t fork over $10 a month for a Spotify or Apple Music subscription, with a phone and a decent internet connection you have millions and millions of songs at your fingertips. This makes it easy to take music for granted. But what about people who don’t have access to a device that has music? How do they listen? Unfortunately, they go without.
Oakland-based producer and DJ Aidan Sokol was motivated to change this. With the help of Electric Forest’s Wish Machine, Aidan provided a warm meal by delivering 60 burritos and the gift of music by passing out 60 mp3s with curated music to people in need around the Bay Area. In return for helping his community and sharing his love of music, the Wish Machine granted Aidan’s own wish: to play his own set at Electric Forest.
I was deeply inspired by Aidan’s project and his motivation to share music with those who don’t have access to it. I had the chance to talk with Aidan and get a more in-depth look into the inspiration behind his project, what his experience was like the day he handed out the mp3s and burritos, and what we can expect from his set at Electric Forest Weekend 1.
Femme Riot: Can you tell us a bit about yourself? What inspired you to become a musician?
Aidan Sokol: Hey hey! Here’s a bit about myself: I am 23 years old and living in Oakland, California. I have been attending live shows since I was around 8 years old and got into the electronic music world at the age of 14. Since then, it has been almost a decade of nonstop shows and festivals. Ultimately, I fell in love with house music and all of its sub genres, i.e. tech-house, acid-house, deep-house, bass-house, whatever you wanna label it as! Thus, my flame was sparked and I began pursuing music full time.
Where do you draw inspiration for your music? Do you have any musical influences?
Inspiration for my music comes from everything around me, from the vibrant nightlife of San Francisco to the urban streets of Oakland. I tend to start feeling a certain concept or vibe building up and try to express it through the music I play and make.
I have more musical influences than I can list! Everyone that makes music, no matter the genre, influences me in one way or another. My house music influences started with progressive-house artists and tech-house artists. I learned to appreciate melodic house from german artists such as Stephan Bodzin. I then transferred into tech-house and realized that it was my favorite genre. After seeing Justin Martin and Christian Martin at a festival, I realized that the vibe they brought and the genuine attitudes they provided was something I connected with. It was refreshing to see DJ’s who were there to have fun and weren’t trying to be the “cool guys”.
Everyone that makes music, no matter the genre, influences me in one way or another.
How would you describe your music to someone who hasn’t heard it before?
I’d say it’s bouncy, melodic, and bass-driven house music. I intend for it to make people dance. I like to incorporate serious and melodic moments only to rip them apart by a bouncy track that will get the crowd moving.
I absolutely love your ‘Burritos and Beats’ project you did with Electric Forest Wish Machine. What inspired you to give the gift of music (and burritos) to homeless people in the Bay Area? Can you tell us about the planning and production process for your project and walk us through the day you handed out the burritos and mp3s?
The inspiration started when I was brainstorming on how I could help out the community and give back something special. I wanted to do something that wasn’t already being done. I realized that I was taking music for granted and realized how lucky I am to have access to seeing live shows (constantly), listening to Spotify, and having an iPhone with music on it to listen to when and wherever I want. It then dawned on me that mp3 players have become fairly inexpensive in this futuristic world we live in. I submitted the idea to the Wish Machine program and they were on board!
After scouring the internet for the the best mp3’s that included headphones and chargers, Electric Forest shipped me 60 units. I then hand selected and downloaded about 250 songs spanning the complete genre spectrum. I loaded the mp3’s and was ready to hand them out. I added the burrito side of the project because I wanted to offer food as well, no one should be hungry. The name was then coined, “Burritos and Beats”.
The day I handed out the Burritos and MP3’s was extremely rewarding. I started by going to some of the spots in Oakland where there are large homeless camps (mostly under freeways). I had a backpack full of the mp3’s and would walk up to people and ask if they were into music and if they were hungry. Most would accept the burrito and be stoked, then I would ask if they wanted an mp3 player and there faces would light up. I would hang out and show them how to work it and vibe out for a while.
Most would accept the burrito and be stoked, then I would ask if they wanted an mp3 player and there faces would light up.
What kind of feedback did you receive while you were handing out the burritos and mp3s? Any particular moments that stand out? I’m sure doing this felt amazing!
It did feel amazing! I received incredible feedback and gratitude. Most people explained how much it meant to them that they could be listening to music walking around the streets and how it lifted there spirits and energy. There were a few moments that stood out, but one in particular stood out the most. I connected with an older man who was absolutely ecstatic about the mp3 player. He asked if I could follow him so we could give one to his wife as well. After following him for a bit we approached a tent with a wheelchair on the outside of it. He explained that his wife was bedridden and that she could really use some music to help pass time. After setting up the mp3 and talking with his wife for awhile through the tent wall, they both gave me some of the most rewarding appreciation I received that day.
Electric Forest granted your wish and you will be performing at Weekend 1! How does it feel to be playing at one of the biggest festivals in the country? What can we expect from your set at EF?
Oh boy… it feels like some dreams are starting to come true. I’m beyond excited to play as well as experience the festival for the first time. I’m incredibly grateful for the Wish Machine Program and Electric Forest for making all this happen.
My set time is 8:00-9:30 pm at the Silent Disco stage. This means it will be a sunset transition from day to night. I’ll be playing some fun and bouncy tech house music. I’ll be keeping the dance floor moving and ramping up the energy to get people ready for there long night ahead.
What artists are you most excited to see at EF?
Green Velvet, Fisher, Kyle Watson, Golf Clap, Codes, Omnom, Mija, Maximono, Eprom, and Detlef to name a few.
What songs you are currently listening to?
*checks Spotify and SoundCloud*
These ones as of today!
Drop Top by Chris Lake and Walker & Royce
Robots by Lenny Kiser
Raingurl by Yaeji
4 my PPL by Billy Kenny
Anything we haven’t asked that you want to add?
Hmm, you can check out my Instagram @aidansokol. I’ll be posting a bunch of content/stories during the festival. Also, if you’re reading this and you are going, come say what’s up!!
Thanks for having me Femme Riot!!
I want to thank Aidan for taking the time to chat and for his inspiring act of kindness. If you’re interested in reading about the 13 other wishes that were granted by the Electric Forest Wish Machine, you can read about them all here. If you’re heading to the forest next weekend, you can add Aidan’s set to your schedule by downloading the Electric Forest app. Get ready for Aidan’s set by listening to his music below!