Channel Tres’ brand of soulful house has made him LA’s new dance king

There are few people we’d trust to know more about the science of partying than Channel Tres. If his scorching debut EP ‘Channel Tres’ wasn’t proof enough, the LA musician tells me that he goes out for pleasure, but it often turns into a research exercise. “If there’s a DJ I like, then I’ll watch how they do their thing – I just love the science behind it all,” he says. “I party hard, bro”.

His EP, out on cult label Godmode [Yaeji, Shamir], is a razor-sharp and thrilling explosion through house, R&B and funk, all topped off with that undeniably breezy West Coast coolness. ‘Controller’, for one, is a smooth poolside jam, while ‘Topdown’ showcases a deeper side of the dancefloor.

At his live shows, Tres combines the feel-good anthems with his findings of what a crowd wants. Accompanied by two dancers, Tres and his squad glide through a set that’s intimate, hella fun and packed to the brim with dancefloor pleasers. He’s putting that research to good work, clearly.

When Tres came to the UK in October, we caught up with one of the scene’s most intriguing new artists, to find how he went from folk beginnings to getting FaceTime-d by Elton John, via a little bit of homework.

Who was the first artist you really connected with and wanted to emulate?

“Andre 3000, for real. When ‘Speakerboxx/Love Below’ [Outkast’s fifth album] came out in 2003, that album really fucking inspired me. It was him and Kanye West with the ‘College Dropout’ and ‘Late Registration’. Those were two guys I could connect with, because I wasn’t a hard, gang-banging type of guy. Like, I’m hood, but I wasn’t aggressive. So it was good to see people in music that looked like me and they didn’t have to be all hard to make good music, they were just regular dope dudes.”

What was your early musical output like?

“I made folk songs. I was into Animal Collective, Toro Y Moi, Bon Iver – it was like chillwave mixed with indie. Being in Oklahoma, which I moved to when I was 20, inspired a lot of my early stuff. There was country, folk and all that shit, so a lot of music that I produced early on was really influenced by that.”

Why did you leave Los Angeles for Oklahoma?

“I just needed something different. The mind-set where I grew up was very limited and it was hard to get out of the bubble I was in. I knew I needed to go to where nobody knew me and that I had a different type of mind and I wasn’t around a lot of people that could accept that and it wasn’t very encouraging. I wanted to study and make music but it needed to be somewhere new.”

Do you look back fondly on that time?

“Most of my time there was spent on my own, so it was a fairly lonely time. I’m so happy I made that decision though, as I could run my own show and not have anyone tell me what to do. It was just my thoughts and I and knew what I had to do. My goal was: I’m not leaving here till I fucking finish studying and learning how to be the best artist I can be.”

How did you go from that sound to where you are now?

“Those songwriting elements and influences are still in there, I just learned how to tighten it up more how to use the microphone to do different things with my voice. A lot of my early songs it was all over the place.”

“Nobody knows me now, I think, but at least I’m on the ladder”– Channel Tres

Who in the dance scene do you look for inspiration from?

“From the dance scene, there’s LCD Soundsystem, Disclosure, Kirk Franklin and more from that world. Then there are hip hop guys too – like Lil Uzi Vert, Travis Scott – who influence me – it’s a lot.”

How did you get on Godmode’s radar?

“I would put all these little EPs out on Soundcloud, that’s how Godmode found me – they really didn’t gain much attention. I took them down after we started working on this because I knew that when I was going to put out this EP it was going to be a completely different moment for me. This EP felt more special than something that I’d been working on in my bedroom and throwing it on Soundcloud. I just took that stuff down so I could start over because nobody knew me. I mean nobody knows me now, I think, but at least I’m on the ladder.”

Judging by the EP, the club is where you feel comfortable?

“I party hard, bro. I like going out, learning and seeing how people are moving to certain grooves. If there’s a DJ I like, then I’ll watch how they do their thing – I just love the science behind it all.

“I wanted to emulate those experiences when I play live, so it’s just me, two dancers and a Moog synth – but most importantly it is all about working the crowd. I’ve been in dance classes for the past four weeks for 6 hours a day and understanding the relationship with my body to work out how to do that.”

It’s landed you some big fans, right?

“Elton John FaceTime-d me about ‘Controller’, bro – he just hit me up. Elton was telling me I was different and a professional and he sees big things for me. Iggy Pop played it on his show – those are my two guys. That was an unreal thing to hear from those two.”

Channel Tres’ debut EP is out now.