Man at His Best

Interview With DJ Duo BATE

BATE talk music, inspiration, style, and an exciting collaboration with Nike for this year's World Cup.

BY Jayme Teoh Jiah Mae | Jun 27, 2018 | Music

All images courtesy of Nike Malaysia by Bryzoid

Powerhouse DJ Duo Ethan Curzon and Yeoh Wai Hong have certainly made quite the name for themselves. From playing at the hottest clubs and festivals to their hit debut single One I Love (which reached 9 million listens just a couple days ago), BATE is climbing to the top and setting the bar as brilliant DJs worldwide. And now, we can expect more banging tunes and exhilirating drops with the new duo soon releasing new tracks under Capitol Records UK. We were able to ask them a couple questions about their music, as well as their recent collaboration with Nike to showcase the Nike Team Collection.

ESQUIRE: Tell us a little bit about your guys’ work as DJs on the music scene. How did you guys start off getting involved in music?
: I would say it started when I was ten years old, when my brother and sister were in Australia studying. They would bring back the “Ministry of Sound” annual CDs, and the first one I listened to was probably the 2000 one? I was listening to it and was like, (whispers) I love this. Since then, I liked music and that kind of house-y stuff. I got a DJ set for my 21st. My mum asked if I wanted a car in Perth, and I told her I wanted a DJ set instead and she was like what?

WAI HONG: Oh, this is a good one. Since young, I always loved music. I used to learn piano and guitar. After that, I decided to start a band, but I was paired up with people who were really really good and I felt kind of useless. But then again, I’ve always listened to dance music and back then I used to go to clubs that played house music. So, one day, I attended this private party called “Lap Sap” private party and I was like wow okay, is this even possible in Malaysia? That’s when I started exploring this music and bumped into him (Ethan) in clubs. We were just hi-bye friends, but then Ethan decided to take up DJ-ing at Goldsounds Academy and so I decided to join too. When I finished my course, I hit him up through his roommate. I told him to let me know once Ethan was back from Perth because we should throw a party together. And he came back with his entire DJ set. So, we rented this place out and got alcohol from the KK mart downstairs to sell. We would just blast out Facebook events, completely DIY, and it was crazy. Everyone started talking about it, and Goldfish and Blink found out and told us we should play at Zouk. When we played, the room was completely packed out. That was what put us on the market.

ESQ: What inspires your music?
Hm, a lot of things. We’ve changed a lot but currently during our free time, we actually listen to a lot of pop.

EC: What pop was then was Electronic Dance Music, so we grew up in that time where we still had that. We couldn’t really play music like that in the main rooms of clubs, it’s more like the second room kinda stuff, kind of like what techno and tech house is now.

WH: The crowd was really niche, and it so happened to become huge and we were lucky to follow on that wave. It was the new thing and they wanted someone. Festivals and raves were coming up back then and that’s how we got exposed.

EC: So our inspiration probably came from when we were younger. He used to be a big pop guy, like a real ‘90s kid, whereas I grew up very old school listening to things like The Beatles and Billy Joel. So, we had really different styles but it’s good because now, in the pop world, it’s like old school and recent stuff. Right now, we’re doing more dance pop stuff so the inspiration is mostly listening to everyday things around you, more current music.

WH: Yeah, but we’re heavily influenced by Zedd, Marshmello, Calvin Harris.

ESQ: Why the name Brains and the Eye? 
We had a show seven years ago, and we didn’t have our DJ names yet. We needed one for the event poster, if not it was just going be “Ethan and Wai Hong.” We so happened to be at this place, and there was a box which said something like “the brains of Malaysia” and “the eyes of Malaysia.”

WH: Yeah, and we were like hmm brains and eyes... But BAE didn’t really sound good so we just added the ‘T’ to become Brains and the Eyes. We aren’t known as ‘Brains and the Eyes’ anymore though, just B-A-T-E, BATE. It’s just a word now.

ESQ: How did it feel to reach 8 million plays on your debut single, One I Love?
We actually just wanted to hit 1 million – that was our goal. We were just trash talking, and it didn’t go so well the first week. First week was super weak.

WH: We were like gosh, what should we do now? We were thinking of buying up Facebook ads and everything... but then next thing we know, our song just got added into big playlists on Spotify – young, wild, and free, party live, it’s a hit. And then it’s 1 million, 2 million..

EC: The highest we probably had was 2.2 million monthly listeners and it was craaazy. Yeah so, we were just saying oh yeah, the end goal should be 1 million.

WH: The feeling was surreal, almost like a dream. Every day, we were waking up and it was like oh shit, 1 million. Oh shit, 2 million. I was looking through the stats. We really didn’t expect it, because so many local artists don’t gain the traction.

EC: And we were super lucky. Spotify regional sent it to Asia. Asia liked it sent it to Global. Global liked it, and that was when it was put into all the main playlists – the viral playlists. We were at number 2 on the U.S. Viral charts, with artists like Calvin Harris and Cardi B below us. We were literally on 20 different countries’ viral charts. We’re still dreaming; still have a lot of things coming up. We just got signed to a big record label – Capitol Records. It’s a very huge thing for an Asian, let’s just put it that way. We just finished 3 tracks yesterday.

ESQ: And what was it like working with other big artists such as Blake Rose and Radio 3000?
It was interesting, because we didn’t actually meet him. Everything was through Skype and voice notes.

WH: Our manager got into touch with Blake and a week after, he showed us our track with the vocals. We were like whoa what on earth is happening? This guy sounds so good. He writes for people like Ryan Tedder and Kid Cudi, and now he’s also helping us write a little.

EC: And as for Radio, we met him before. He’s based in LA, but he’s always travelling back and forth to Malaysia. Even for this, he never really came to the studio.

ESQ: What’s the best gig you’ve done?
I would say college gigs (laughing)... no I’m just joking. They're the most fun though.

WH: The most memorable one has to be Tiësto Club Live. It was our first ever rave gig. It was so massive and we never thought we would actually play on such a big stage.

EC: We opened for him and it was crazy. Do you remember when we were playing? We were looking at each other and wanted to cry. It was so emotional. Definitely Tiësto Club Live.

ESQ: As big football fans, what does the World Cup mean to you?
I’ve always been playing football since I was young, and my family’s a football family. So the World Cup this year is really nice because it’s when I can spend time with my mum. She’ll be asking me which shows we want to watch or telling me not to forget to come back to watch it with her.

WH: Hmm, for me it’s when all my friends gather late at night at a mamak. It’s weird, when World Cup happens everyone wants to watch it together, even if they’re not supporters! The mamak is suddenly so busy. Wherever there’s a TV, people will just stop and watch. 22 fellas chasing a ball around, that’s what it’s all about.

ESQ: Which teams are you rooting for, and how do you show your support for them?
This year, I’m Brazil and France. Actually, it’s every year. Since young, it’s always been Brazil. He’s also a Brazil boy.

WH: For me, it’s Brazil and France too.

EC: I guess to show support, I would just wear their jerseys?

WH: Probably just rock up to the mamak and shout. Just start slamming other teams even though you don’t know anything about them.

ESQ: How does fashion and sportswear influence your style as DJs?
Oh yeah, it definitely influences us heavily. We always feel like especially in Malaysia, DJs don’t really dress up.

WH: And it’s funny, when we first started dressing up in all black, everyone would tell us we looked so cool. But it was just all black – black tees, black shoes. We were known as the DJs who dressed up.

EC: And right now, we’re exploring a little bit more with fashion because it’s important, and appearance matters. People will book you nowadays for how you are. Music is 80%, but the other 20% is appearance.

ESQ: Why did you guys think a collaboration between artists, such as yourself and Nike would be a good idea?
It’s always been a dream, not really an idea. I think it was good because Nike is a lifestyle.

WH: Yeah, I’ve always liked Nike since I was young. Always been a Nike boy. It’s important to work with a brand like Nike. It’s great to work with Nike as we feel the Nike lifestyle is something we can relate to.

ESQ: What is your favourite piece from the forthcoming Nike Team collection (design wise, forget about which teams you support!) and why?
I actually liked how they did the soundwave-like pattern on most of the jerseys.

WH: I really like the Nigerian one. It looks super interesting.

ESQ: People have said that grown men should never wear football jerseys outside of the game. How would you respond to this statement?
False! It’s bullshit. It’s how you rock it.

EC: Yeah, as my clothing brand partner Bryan always tells me, “it’s not about the shoe, it’s how you rock it, yeah.” I mean it’s true, if you can make it look good, why not?

ESQ: Do you have any tips on how to best rock the Nike jerseys?
My style is more tucking it in, slacks, that UK kinda look. That’s some ways I like pairing my clothes nowadays.

WH: Mine’s more layering it with jackets and stuff.

ESQ: Any upcoming performances we should look out for?
Ahhhh, we do actually... but we can’t really announce it.

EC: I mean... we have one in Bali, maybe? One in Melbourne, maybe? One in UK, maybe? We are trying to do an Asia/Australia tour, and then go to the other side. That’s the plan for now.

The Nike Team Collection will be available in these selected stores: TFC Football at Lot 10 and Football Republic at KLCC.