Aug 11, 2023
Ana Monroy Yglesias
11 min read
After eight years riding the ups and downs of a promising DJ/producer, Dateless, born Xavier Smulovitz in Los Angeles, was thinking about giving up on his dream of making funky dance music. He made a vow to make 10 tracks and decided if none of them made an impact, it was time to pursue another career path.
Rather serendipitously, Jamie Jones selected one of those tunes, "Geekin," to debut on his brand-new imprint, Paradise Records. Dateless has hit a new career high from the buzz and support the sassy track has received, gifting him the necessary inspiration and motivation to keep following the groove. And he doesn’t take one bit of it for granted.
In fact, his initial reaction to finding out his track would launch Jamie's new label was one of pure joy.
"I was absolutely ecstatic. At that moment, I was quite down on my luck and wanting to give up and whatnot. And once 'Geekin' got signed to Jamie's label, that was just such a surprise. It revitalized my whole thing, it reenergized me. [I felt like] 'Let's go, let's do this again,'" he shares excitedly from his home studio. "From that moment, I've been quite energetic about my career and I'm looking at everything very gratefully. I'm just very happy it happened."
During our lively hour-long video chat, his energy is palpable and infectious—he stands the whole time, sipping on iced mate from the traditional gourd and bombilla (a.k.a. stainless-steel straw) setup, speaking passionately about house music, his production techniques and much more.
When asked what having Jamie's support means to him, Dateless answers enthusiastically and emphatically; "Everything, absolutely everything. [Laughs.]"
This isn't Dateless' first release with Jamie—the British tastemaker has had his eye and ears on Dateless for a while now. The Bee EP was Hot Creations' first release of 2021 and the Shoes On EP dropped on Hottrax back in 2018.
"If I didn't receive that kind of support early on, I would have been second-guessing myself much more. But since I've always had him kind of paying attention to what I'm doing and giving me the nod, that definitely gave me a confidence that is needed. It's kind of necessary if you're going to be an artist because, in my opinion, an artist is a visionary. So, you gotta be confident in your vision."
"Geekin" was made with a lot of care—he spent a week perfecting just the drums, playing with "literally every volume control you could possibly think of"—resulting in what was "probably the most attentive [he's] ever been on a record." Once he had the infectious drumbeat locked in, he layered in a bassline and two different punchy kicks, then turned to a sample pack for the missing touch of funk.
"I went looking through a disco-inspired sample pack that I've had for probably eight years now. I went through the basslines and nothing really [caught my attention]. And then while I'm looking at it towards the end, I came across the live bass guitar that you hear in 'Geekin' and it immediately glued into the record."
The final touch was the sassy vocals—which are his! "I've been fucking 'round" crossed his mind when he finished the instrumental and guided the rest of the lyrics. He then car- and road-tested the track for a month, fine-tuning it along the way.
"It would be difficult to produce a record like 'Geekin' when you're on tour… I'm in the 'pump out club records' mentality now," he explains. He's doing this by taking a more sample-based approach, further mining his sample packs for inspiring sounds instead of crafting them all himself in his DAWs. But the more intensive, D.I.Y. approach will always be a part of his overall creative approach.
"Music-making from scratch is meditative for me. I need it. It feels so good," he adds.
He is particularly inspired by the care and attention to detail that Jamie brings to everything he does, to the art he commissions for the releases on all his successful labels, and the captivating design at his Paradise Ibiza parties. (Dateless played Paradise Miami in March and will be trekking to Ibiza for their massive season closer on October 4.) It also blows Dateless' mind that the British heavy-hitter listens to every demo he's sent: "It's crazy. I don't understand how he does it. He's an alien and I love him."
Dateless' recent success and busy summer on the road have made him contemplate his vision and intention as he moves forward and upward. It's important to him to stay underground-minded and as far as possible from the superficial elements of DJ culture, because he's really just here for the music.
"I'm here for dance music. My intention is [to make] timeless dance music," he reflects.
But of course, "Geekin" is just the beginning of a new era for him. He has some hot remixes on the way, along with an upbeat scorcher called "Mysteries Of The House," an original tune featuring a captivating "dah dah dah dah!" sample from the same disco sample pack he used on "Geekin." He aptly calls it a disco-inspired track "for the terraces of the world."
Both tracks also use his voice, along with most of his tracks with vocals, actually. He first started making tracks with his voice on it back when he was writing and recording raps using Garage Band at 16. His approach today still has influence from his early rap days—when working on vocals for a tune, he usually starts by freestyling until he finds a cadence that clicks, then he sits down and writes out lyrics.
Dateless is known for his funky rhythms and heavy grooves with a healthy dose of Latin influence. (It's no surprise that Jamie Jones is a big fan of his music.) He was born-and-raised in Southern California to parents of Peruvian and Argentinian descent, with musica en Español and hip-hop aplenty. Although the Latin influence on house music isn't always acknowledged, it's always been present, dating back to the live congas and percussion in disco. That sonic connection is obvious too Dateless, so he naturally channeling it in his energetic productions and DJ sets.
"Even if you took out the bongos and all the Latin percussion, house music still sounds like a sexy Latin beat to me, if it's done right. Because it's just so groovy, you know?" he muses.
Another one of Dateless' "magic touches" to his records is his "imperfect" approach to digital production. Even though all of his production happens "in the box," with a keyboard connected to his computer, it's important to him to make sure it sounds organic, as if made on real instruments.
"I was never into records that sound overly digital," he shares.
"What I don't think people recognize is that how important velocity is, which is only something that you'll be able to get when you're playing on a keyboard or recording a live instrument. If you're playing a beat or a baseline on your actual keyboard, I would hope that you're going into edit the velocity later, because otherwise it starts to sound a little bit too robotic. By playing it in, you're gonna get a much more fluid—it's almost like air."
The "Cuando Mueves" producer was 17 when he first was introduced to and fell in love with dance music, in a large part due to his older brother—who you may know as Lucati—starting to DJ. His brother showed him artists like Deadmau5—"Strobe" really captivated him—and his friends introduced him to "old-school" dubstep like AC Slater and Rusko.
Soon enough, his brother's electro house duo was taking off in Los Angeles, so he too was thrown head-first into the local rave scene—without ever having to pay for a ticket! By the time he started the Dateless project, his brother had put DJing and producing aside, and he encouraged him to get back into it, giving way to the Lucati project.
They've remained close over the years, with what Dateless calls (mostly) healthy dose of brotherly competition. As they both love fast-tempo, "sexy" dance music, they share music with each other, and root each other on, while engaging in hilarious banter together on social media. They've also collabed together over the years, although their most recent joint release was the Life Sentence EP on Lucati's Kȯlmē Records imprint in late 2018.
"My brother and I have we both share the same DNA and talent, it just comes out in different ways, of course, because of our personalities. It's awesome to have a sibling that I'm so close with, in the same field of work as me. Now, you'd think that we'd be working more together, but that's in the hands of agents and management teams. If you guys want to see us together, go to the politicians of house music to make it happen," he implores with a laugh.
Dateless' DJ journey began in 2015 with his first releases, a string of collabs with Dillion Nathaniel. Quite amazingly, his first official DJ gig was a pretty major one, at Dirtybird BBQ Detroit in 2016. As he puts it, he started at the top—at a young age at that—and it's been a rollercoaster ever since.
"I was battling a lot of ego at the time. I'm just so glad that ego phase is so dead to me. I already had my ego death and I'm so glad—ego is a nightmare. In the beginning, I felt, 'Oh my god, I'm about to blow up,' but it never happened. I felt like I was working so hard, and then it continuously just wouldn't happen. And obviously, now, we've we're at a turning point."
He's been channeling the boundless energy and excitement he's felt recently into his productions, and still feels bummed when his some of his tracks get passed over. However, he also understands that most labels, especially the bigger independent ones, receive an astonishing number of demos. So, just because a track doesn't get picked up, doesn't mean it isn't good. And he's in a good place. He has tunes slated for some big underground labels, is getting booked across the country, and has his own label, Thanks For Sending, to showcase up-and-comers he's stoked on.
"I have a soft spot for all the new people trying to break through in the industry now, oh my god, it must feel impossible. I definitely feel for them. That's why I'm doing Thanks For Sending. It's my opportunity to build the future, to gather a roster of the artists of the future," he posits.
As for the up-and-coming artists he's super stoked on and excited to see where they go, that includes Mene from Serbia, Nacho Scoppa from Argentina and Gustaff from Spain. And stay tuned to Thanks for Sending for tips on more of the house up-and-comers he's keen on, along with heaters from the main man himself.
As for where he sees himself headed from here, he just wants to keep moving forward and expanding his platform to share the grooves that move him.
"I'm hoping that everything that's happening now continues and grows in a natural way. If you're asking where I see myself in five years, I envision myself throwing parties on the coast of Chile somewhere, in hopes to kind of curate a new, booming underground culture, kinda like a new a new Ibiza or Tulum. I'm hoping to discover a new spot where we can all gather and vibe," he concludes with a laugh.
See you there! And until then, you can catch Dateless and his funky rhythms and pure energy in New York City when he opens for Wax Motif at the Knockdown Center on August 25.