Alex Sonata & TheRio discussed upcoming releases and dropped off an Anjunabeats Classics mix to prepare us for Group Therapy Weekender.
Fraser Shaw and Riccardo Derio, known by their stage name Alex Sonata & TheRio have been making their presence known in the trance scene. Hailing from Scotland and Italy, the duo made it official in 2020 after years of collaborating and have since gained the attention of Armin van Buuren, Above & Beyond, Gareth Emery, Cosmic Gate, Sander Van Doorn, and other trance titans.
Most recently, Alex Sonata & TheRio have found a home on Anjunabeats, having been featured on numerous Group Therapy radio shows, the Anjunabeats Rising Residency, and various label compilations. Their single “Mantra” lands on the label later this week, and things continue to heat up this July as the duo head to The Gorge for their debut performance at the Group Therapy Weekender.
To prepare for another wonderful weekend ahead, Alex Sonata & TheRio chatted with us about all of the exciting things they have coming up including the single and The Gorge. They also spun up an exclusive Anjunabeats Classics mix to get us ready for the festivities. Press play on their Anjunabeats Classics Mix, and continue reading on for our interview.
Stream Alex Sonata & TheRio – Anjunabeats Classics Mix on SoundCloud:
You’ve shared with fans that Fraser first fell in love with trance through Judge Jules’ radio show and through vinyl, and Riccardo was inspired by video game music and sounds. After having been fans of one another for a while, what was the catalyst to start working together and forming the duo?
Fraser: So the weird thing about this is, I had actually only just heard Riccardo’s track “Ion,” which I was a huge fan of, on ABGT. Then literally three days later, I received a message from him asking if I wanted to do a collaboration. I always found it super strange that I had just discovered him, and then he reached out!
Riccardo: Yeah, the week before I messaged Fraser, I had heard his track “Meraki” and thought the melody was amazing, and almost instantly knew that we could do something cool together. So I decided to send him a message and see if he was up for it, which, thankfully, he was!
The decision we made to produce as an official duo pretty much came about after we had collaborated on several tracks and realised that we worked really well together and that our music had a more interesting style by combining both of our influences. By that point, it was a no-brainer!
Can you tell us about your collaborative process and how you complement one another in terms of ideation, producing, and working together as a duo?
Because we live in separate countries, a lot of our studio sessions exist over Zoom. Unfortunately, we don’t even use the same setup or programs, so it can be very time-consuming bouncing files back and forth. We certainly don’t make it easy for ourselves, but somehow we’ve always managed to make it work!
Our process, 90% of the time, usually starts with the main melody idea, and then we’ll start constructing some sort of rough arrangement to get the track fleshed out. Usually, we’ll focus on first trying to get the main drop of the track done, to an extent. Once we’re happy with the direction, we usually get stuck into some serious refinement, which normally leads to us changing up some sounds or mixing up the arrangement to try and make it less generic, even if that means just adding in that extra “ear candy.” Admittedly, we’re both really bad at being “perfectionists,” so this part can take us a while!
Your latest single, “Mantra,” comes out soon. What is the story behind this track?
F: So I had written the breakdown for “Mantra,” thinking about the old-school trance influences I had. I was trying to get something down that gave you those “goosebumps” moments that I remembered getting all those years ago. And the funny thing with this one was I was really nervous to send this idea over to Riccardo because it was more “trance” than what we’d been doing up until that point on Anjuna. It honestly took me about three weeks to work up the courage to send him the idea!
R: Honestly, I don’t know why Fraser was so nervous to send me this. As soon as I heard the idea, I immediately got inspired to work on it, and I remember feeling like we had something quite special on our hands. Almost instantly, I had ideas for the track.
We’re super proud of this one, and we definitely feel it’s one of the biggest tracks we’ve done. Having Above & Beyond debut it at their Printworks closing show earlier this year and then continue to play it in their big festival sets like EDC Las Vegas has been incredibly rewarding for us!
You’ll be performing at the Group Therapy Weekender in just a few weeks. Walk us through how you’re feeling as you’re preparing for your set.
That lovely combination of nervousness and excitement! In all seriousness, playing at The Gorge is a dream come true for us. We have so much new music that we’re super excited to test out at such an amazing location. This will be one to remember, that’s for sure.
You celebrated being announced on the lineup with a beer on FaceTime. How will you continue the celebration once you’re at The Gorge? Will you be stopping by the camp to play music or joining in on some sessions throughout the weekend?
[Laughs] Yeah, that’s the only way we can grab a beer together most of the time, unfortunately. We want to make the most of everything the weekend has to offer, so we’ll try to get involved in as much as possible. We’re also playing the Weekender pre-party in Seattle that Thursday, so very much looking forward to that one as well. We’ll definitely be around the full weekend to enjoy the music and to meet and hang with people, so come say hey!
You’ve also spun up an Anjunabeats Classic mix to prep for The Gorge. With such an impressive catalog, how did you choose which tracks to include?
Yeah, this one was so difficult, like what do you not include? [Laughs] “Classics” is very subjective, so we just tried to look back over the years and see what the tracks were that really stood out to us. But we also wanted to get the whole Anjunafamily involved to help us out, so we did a little Instagram story asking for everyone’s favorites over the years. Honestly, though, it just made things even harder as every suggestion was just huge tune after huge tune! In the end, we kept it a reasonable length, like this could be a mix that could go on forever!
Looking toward the future of Anjunabeats, you’ve been featured on their Rising Residency series. How does it feel to find a home on Anjuna and be part of the newest class of artists to help shape the identity of the label?
It feels amazing to be part of the Anjunafamily. It’s unlike anything we’ve experienced being part of before. Our main goal, when we first started out together, was to land on Anjunabeats as “Alex Sonata & TheRio.” We worked extremely hard over the years to make that dream possible, and we’re super proud to say we’re finally a firm fixture in the family.
Looking forward to the rest of 2023, which is already shaping up to be a massive year for you, what can fans expect? What are you both most excited about?
So we have the release of “Mantra,” which we’re super excited about, and a couple of collaborations with familiar names, including the one and only Giuseppe Ottaviani. Of course, we’re playing at The Gorge and in Seattle, and we’re really looking forward to playing in Montreal in August at the Anjunabeats Outdoors event. We’ve also just announced an Anjunabeats Rising rooftop event that Riccardo is manning in London on August 11. There’s more exciting news to come later in the year, but for now, we’re remaining tight-lipped on that one!