The pandemic hasn’t slowed Niles Shepard down and they’ve dropped by to discuss their history, recent releases, and future plans.
There’s something special brewing over in Minnesota and it has to do with Jim Brenk and Cameron Windsor. Of course, these two are better known in the scene as Niles Shepard and they have house music flooding through every inch of their being. Their rise to fame began when they made the fateful choice to enter Insomniac’s Discovery Project for Electric Forest. They would ultimately claim the grand prize, releasing “Moon, Man” on the imprint and deliver career-changing performances at festivals moving forward.
With life looking bright, Niles Shepard hit the ground running releasing dance floor fire starters like Astoria / Blackout and “Sumthin,” a track that landed on IN / ROTATION’s Rotate Vol. 2. Even sloth master Sacha Robotti has come down with Niles Shepard fever and welcomed them to Slothacid with Follow Me, a collaboration with MISS DRE. Most recently, they found themselves landing on NV’D Records Family & Friends Vol. 2 with the infectious stylings of “Show Off” alongside Kasto and DANI. As you can see, the demand is very real and the path before them is filled with opportunity!
In just two years Niles Shepard has achieved a special glow under the limelight and after landing on our radar as an artist to watch, we jumped at the chance to reach out and have a chat with them. Check out their exclusive mix below, which features a slew of unreleased IDs produced over the last year, and continue on for the interview!
Stream EDMID Guest Mix 262 || Niles Shepard on SoundCloud:
Hi guys! Thank you so much for taking some time out to chat with us today! To get started can you tell us what initially drew you to the house music realm? Who were some of your earliest influences?
Jim: Back in high school, my friends and I used to listen to lots of different music while skateboarding. We were mostly into metal, but also early 2000s techno and ’90s house, basically anything with extremely high energy. Fast forward a few years later to my college days and the electronic music world was really exploding. Deadmau5, Skrillex, CVS, all were conquering my ears, but I was really drawn to the emotions all these tunes were making me feel. It opened my eyes to how much of a language music is and it made me want to find my own voice within it. Some of my biggest early influences are Gorgon City, Justin Martin, and Kerri Chandler.
Cam: In 2009 my friend asked me if I wanted to go to a Tiesto concert and I responded, “why would we do that?” Sure enough 12 years later here we are. Some of my earliest influences over the years include Green Velvet, Tommy Trash, Alex Metric, Bloody Beetroots, and Maceo Plex.
Can you go in-depth about your experience with the Discovery Project and how have your lives changed since winning the competition?
The Discovery Project has literally been life-changing for us in more ways than one. Honestly, when we entered the Electric Forest casting call we didn’t expect to win, like at all. I had seen a post on Instagram saying that submissions were due that night, sent it to Cam, and asked if we should submit and he replied “why not!?” We figured it would be a good opportunity just to get our name in front of some of the folks at Insomniac, not realizing the potential it actually held for us.
A month or so later, we got word that we had been selected as a winner, giving us a time slot at Electric Forest 2019 on the Tripolee Stage. That day cemented one of the most important moments of this project. Winning the Discovery Project not only helped us break out into the larger electronic music scene, but solidified our minds; Together we were doing something special. This boost of confidence has been the most important piece for us as artists, deepening our trust in each other and how we see our art.
Beyond that, the Discovery Project has helped us establish some very important connections, both to Insomniac and the entire performance world as well. We got to meet other artists, tour managers, VJ and visual fx artists, stage managers, hospitality and artist relations coordinators, and more. We can’t thank Insomniac and the Discovery Project enough for helping us open the door and now we’re running through it.
As a DJ/producer duo what are some of the benefits that come along with working as a team? And how do you work through the times that you may not see eye to eye?
Jim: We are big believers in the old saying “two heads are better than one” and constantly proving it. I am a bit more of a dreamer, thinking of big ideas and goals, where Cam’s a bit more practical and grounded. It’s Yin and Yang. This has proved to be a big strength for us time and time again. Everything from musical content, social media handling, promotion, shopping out tunes, booking shows, even just daily attitudes or motivation-there is so much for any artist to handle; we are super fortunate to have such a strong trust and cohesive vision for Niles Shepard.
When looking at your discography, what are three tracks that you would tell a brand new fan to check out first and foremost? And why those three specifically?
“Follow Me”, “Let It Go” from our first Slothacid EP and “Man Overboard” with Kasto on Box of Cats. In a very competitive and creative space, these songs have our favorite sound design elements of anything we’ve put out so far. Music to us is about the exploration of boundaries while evoking some kind of response, whether that’s dancing, a fist pump, or a good old-fashioned stank face.
Both “Follow Me” and “Let It Go” were the first tracks we made after we came home from EDC Orlando and Home Bass and looking back today it seems obvious how inspired we were. Coming home after that festival we were flying high on all kinds of emotions and inspiration was overflowing. Both of those songs have a big vibe and are super powerful. These were released last summer so we still have yet to properly play them out and it’s something we are really looking forward to doing when in-person shows are back in full force.
“Man Overboard” with our good friend Kasto is another example of pushing our boundaries. This track doesn’t include any vocal but still gives off massive energy on its own. We went absolutely wild with our synths aiming to evoke the feeling of a ship being tossed around at sea. Ultimately if we can evoke any kind of a response from our listeners, we feel good about it and if you want to hear what we’ve been making for the last year make sure to check out the mix- heaps of unreleased goodies in there.
Besides the ones that you have releases on, what are some other record labels that you would love to land on and why? And for the up and comer who isn’t sure how to get their music outthere, what is some specific advice you would give?
We hope our sound continues to grow, the quality as well as content, and we would love to land on labels such as Solotoko, Dirtybird, Realm, Repopulate Mars, and Simma Black just to name a few. We love playing tracks from all of these labels and would love to be a part of their rosters in the future!
For any up-and-coming artists, we would recommend paying attention to what separates one label from another. Some labels are easier to pin-point what makes their sound inherent to them. For instance, if a label has very dark and heavy releases you wouldn’t want to send something bright and cheerful. Ultimately, we only sign our tunes to labels who get as excited as we do about our music.
We are now a year into the pandemic and good mental health needs to stay at the forefront. What are some things that you guys do to keep mentally fit through it all and if you have struggled, can you talk about it with us?
It’s been hard. Both of us have continued to work full time throughout the past year, which has been a blessing and curse. We’re very thankful to have an income, but we were hoping that 2020 was the year we began to tour more extensively and make the leap from our current employment. We just try to take things as they come, and not worry about the future, we can’t control it anyway.
This also harkens back to the question about being a duo, we’re able to pick each other up when the other is feeling down. I (Jim) really value the time I spend with my dog. She’s one of my biggest motivations in all aspects of my life, especially when it comes to mental health. And for me (Cam), I’ve been using physical activity as a means to stay positive and push through everything. A nice workout or run in the morning starts the day off right.
Last year changed the face of the industry, forcing everyone to move to livestreaming platforms. Can you talk about your experience in the digital realm? What is one of your most memorable livestream experiences and why?
Yeah at first I think we were like a lot of people thinking that it was just gonna be a short period before full events were back so it took us a little longer to dip our toes. But once we got in we really enjoyed it. It’s amazing to connect with fans in real-time while playing, something that hasn’t really existed until now. At a show, someone could be getting down to your new track, but there’s no way for them to even know it.
Now when people ask for ID’s we can tell them. We’ve grown our audience to many new corners of the world because of streams as well. On the Insomniac Virtual Raveathon, we gained new fans from Puerto Rico, Argentina, Canada, and Australia. It’s also been a great tool for testing out new music. Justin Martin played an early version of “Follow Me” before anyone else had even heard it and that ultimately led to it getting signed with Sacha Robotti’s label Slothacid. Within new spaces is a plethora of opportunities.
What’s next up on your plate studio wise? In addition, in what ways has your creativity evolved since the pandemic has allowed for more focused studio time?
Later this month we have an EP on Kino Village, another Slothacid EP in April, and a whole bunch of collaborations that we’re very excited about too. We’ve included a bunch of these in our mix. Quarantine has had a direct impact on our music and if you listen closely you’re sure to hear it.
Between the lyrics and tonality, you can hear how our mood has evolved over the past year. One of the only major benefits of the past year has been spending so much time in our studio. We’ve been sharpening our skills like crazy and are very excited to start sharing what we’ve been making.
Before we go, I just have to ask… What is one silly thing that your fans may not know about you? Any unusual hobbies or wacky habits?
Every now and then I (Jim) call Cam, “Pope Dog”… So Cam used to go by DJ Big Dog in college and we were in Chicago for Spring Awakening 2014 and at three in the morning Cam decided to put a pillow on his head, the bed runner around his neck, took the Bible, and stood on a chair holding an ironing board proclaiming the gospel according to Big Dog. Head on over to our Instagram for visual proof… you’ll be scrolling for a minute, it’s an older post!