When asked what they look for in a song, their answer was immediate.
“The beat,” Adam Fernandez (MSB ’12), also known by his stage name, Dank, said. Ratchet, or Von’Travis (VT) Crawford (NHS ’12) agreed, as if the words were looped over.
The two Georgetown seniors, who met freshman year living on the fifth floor of Village C West, have long been passionate about music. But only recently have they taken it to the dance floor as DJs, an idea they hatched over Gchat while Ratchet was studying in Spain in spring 2011. Fast forward to this past Halloween weekend, when the DJ duo — now dubbed Ratchet and Dank — landed their first gig at a Georgetown bar, The Guards. It was the first time the student-centric bar had ever opened up their dance floors on a Thursday, putting themselves in Ratchet and Dank’s hands.
By the time I arrived at half-past 12, the place was packed. Faces familiar from weekends misspent lined the tables. The dance floor was a massive throng that you had to slither and shake your hips through just to squeeze in. “I think we found three bras that night,” recalled Adam. “Right, Von?”
“Two, definitely,” he replied. “One was more lingerie.”
It wasn’t just the heat of the dance floor that made those clothes come off. Von’Travis pointed out that while some songs are good, they are not for clubs. “They get the 10-11 slot … the first batch is always girls. That’s when you crank ‘Last Friday Night’ so they can pound their brews in.”
According to VT, the night breaks down in chunks: From 10 p.m. to midnight, they spin remixes and slower songs, and then until 2 a.m. they hold nothing back. Midnight is the axis on which the night spins.
“Not too many songs without lyrics,” Adam advised.
When asked to play a song, Adam pulled up Calvin Harris’s “Feel So Close,” the extended mix, pressing “play” at exactly the 1:18 mark. Dank explained that the earliest he should begin that song is the 1:07 mark. “You don’t want to leave more than 24 seconds for build-up [to the lyrics].”
“Eighteen, man,” Ratchet interjected.
“Unless a song is three minutes, we don’t want to play the whole thing,” Dank concluded.
Even within a song, there’s a method to remixing and interweaving the different genres and beats, from the hook to the fadeout. “Filter out, switch it to the middle, crank it down, blend it out.” VT spat out the instructions like ingredients on a grocery list.
Just how do they do it? “Traktor and genius,” Ratchet said.
“Traktor is a program,” Dank explained to me, referring to the digital turntable and software they use for loading, mixing, and transitioning between songs, manufactured by the sound technology company Native Instruments.
“And genius is us,” Ratchet added.
Each adds his own element to the lineup. Von’Travis handles most of the rap and hip-hop. He cites Wiz Khalifa as an inspiration because he is “the perfect model of versatility,” with songs to chill to and songs to tear the club down to. “I take what I be dummin’ to on the dance floor,” he added, “and replicate. Innovate.”
Meanwhile, Adam draws from festivals, where he marvels at how one person controls the bodies of 20,000 participants swaying to the music. His idols include Daft Punk, a French house duo whose poster hangs in his bedroom alongside Jimi Hendrix, The Beatles, Bob Marley, Jim Morrison and Gorillaz. Adam primarily contributes dubstep and electro-house, though his personal favorites aren’t always what make it into the mix. “It’s all about the crowd having fun, not you listening to your favorite music,” he said.
Catch them at The Guards if you happen to be thirsty this Thursday or the next few. On Dec. 8 the duo will be DJing a White Party for Christmas at The Guards. You will be dummin’ on the dance floor.