Brenmar’s a hustle-a-holic
Urban bass producer Brenmar’s work ethic is paying off.
Bill Salas is constantly on the go. The Chicago native moved to New York in 2008, but he’s only been there for two months this year. He spent the remainder in L.A., where he’s been hard at work raising his West Coast profile as Brenmar, the urban-electronic production alias the 26-year-old has dedicated himself to for the better part of the 2000s.
Of course, he’s not sitting still for our interview either. When I reach him by phone ahead of a homecoming DJ set at Sovereign, a Chicago-centric music night at Primary on Saturday 15, he’s just exited the subway on New York’s lower east side.
“The fact that I DJ and produce, I can ostensibly do that anywhere—anywhere that I have access to electricity basically,” he jokes. “You can be hot shit in New York and that doesn’t necessarily translate to anything in LA. and vice versa. I’m just trying to get it from both places.”
He may divide his time repping for both coastal meccas, but right now, the name Brenmar is hot just about everywhere. His sound, which incorporates hip-hop, R&B, house and U.K. bass is also heavily indebted to the Chicago musical landscape of his youth, meaning the juke sounds of artists like Slugo and Gant-Man. “Chicago’s the reason I talk the way I talk and think the way I think, and essentially play what I play and make what I make,” Salas boasts. “I’d be lying if I said otherwise.”
Growing up in the Logan Square and Portage Park neighborhoods, Salas was hitting house parties in no time. “By 12, I was on the street hanging out all day with my friends, getting fucked up, trying to hit on girls, doing whatever you do as a kid on the street in Chicago,” he says. “That was like late ’90s, early 2000s and juke was all the rage. You’d go to house parties and it was all juke.”
Boyishly handsome with slick black hair, scattered tattoos and boundless energy, Salas is finding himself in the right place at the right time with his music. In this respect, at least, he plans to stay put. Over the past two years, urban Chicago sounds have become an international draw. More recently, the dubstep scene has expanded, working in sounds like trap rave, a mix of crunk beats, heavy bass and a hip-hop swagger. Brenmar is a perfect storm of all these things, but he’s no trend surfer.
That wasn’t always the case. Tired of making electronic music, it was the offer to be in post-punk noise band These Are Powers that first brought him to New York. “I went through years of listening to all sorts of music. I had hipster friends who put me up on all this indie stuff. I just went through all these phases,” Salas says.
“You purposefully have to box yourself in, but make sure that the box is big enough for you to turn around and sleep in comfortably,” he says of his work philosophy now. “Dance music trends come and go so fast, and producers come and go with them. I’m not really trying to fuck with that.”
His ear for knowing what fans want from Brenmar takes him a long way, but Salas’s reputation as a workaholic precedes him. “I think it’s the Virgo in me or something. When I was 10, I got into skateboarding and for two and a half or three years, all I did was skateboard. After that it was break dancing,” Salas says with a laugh. “I don’t know where the passion comes from, but I’ve never had to question myself. It’s good when your obsession turns out to be good for you.”
Brenmar spins for his hometown crowd at Primary on Saturday 15.