Amirali Shahrestani, recently an unknown to the world of electronic music, has shown considerable ingenuity as one of Crosstown Rebels’ newest rising stars. His spellbinding style caught the attention of Crosstown Rebels boss Damian Lazarus, who quickly signed the Iranian expatriate for an artist album. The product of that arrangement, In Time, successfully lives up to the label’s underground and alternative modus operandi, striking a sophisticated balance between moody synths, dance-pop sensibility, and deep house grooves.
I caught up with Amirali before his DC debut at U Street Music Hall. Here are his thoughts on touring, design and outer space:
Thanks for taking the time to speak with us! How are you? How has touring been?
I’m very good; Taking a short break in Playa Del Carmen soaking up the sunshine and treating myself with great mexican food and drinks here. As far as the touring goes, it’s been fantastic so far; I played for Superclub Aniversario last Saturday in Lima along with Luca Bacchetti and Russ Yallop. By far it was one of the best shows I’ve done this year, and tomorrow night I’m playing here at club La Santanera which I’m really looking forward to.
You and Danny Daze are playing together tonight. Will this be your first time playing together? Besides music, have the two of you bonded over anything in particular?
Danny is a wicked guy, we’ve hung out together a few times. We did two gigs in Australia earlier this year and also Get Lost in Miami which was great fun. I was actually supposed to take him to a Persian restaurant in D.C but unfortunately I’m getting there pretty late on Friday night so we won’t have time for that.
I take it that this is your first North American tour. What have been some of the highlights of touring around the Americas and abroad?
There have been so many great and magical moments since I started my tour earlier this year; playing in Fabric Room 1 as a live act and Panorama Bar in Berlin really made my year special. I’ve also played in a few great festivals in the UK this summer, such as LoveBox in London and Love Saves The Day in Bristol, both of which were quite amazing. Although every gig I have played so far has had its own unique vibe and crowd and I have enjoyed every bit of it. The gigs I’ve played around the Americas have been fantastic so far and I’ve been getting amazing feedback.
How do you like to spend free time in a new city?
The first thing I would definitely do is to try their food, I’m a food fanatic and I always love to try new dishes. Then I would go explore the city and get to know their cultures.
You moved to Toronto from Iran as a teenager and then from Toronto to London for university. Which do you consider most like home?
Definitely Toronto, because I grew up in my formative years in there and most of my good friends are still living there. I consider Tehran as my hometown too, because I love my country and I have so many great memories when I was living there.
I read that you’re classically trained in piano. What was the catalyst to make music on the electronic end?
It all started when my family and I moved to Toronto; I was about sixteen and that’s where I began to taste the excitement of night-time clubbing culture and felt my passion in making electronic music and Djing. I remember I always had problems getting into clubs because I was underage, so I had to use fake IDs. I was about the same age when I started collecting vinyl and started to DJ. After a while I bought a drum machine and a synth and one of the early versions of ‘Reason’ wiring to Cubase and started making music.
Also In my early teens, I was exposed to the raw electronic sounds of Depeche Mode, Chemical Brothers, Massive Attack, Portishead and I was kind of captivated by their music.
You recently graduated with a degree in architecture (congrats!). Have you found that your knowledge of architecture has enriched your scope of music (or vise versa) ? How so?
Of course, I believe that there is definitely a connection between music and architecture, in my mind in both fields you are trying to create something that invokes emotions in an audience which both require bringing your imagination to life; It’s amazing.
Having a background in design, how involved were you in creating the artwork for In Time?
My job was very simple, I wrote on a piece of paper how I felt about making this album and what does this album say about me. I basically tried to express my feelings about my album on that piece of paper then I sent it to the designer, Ash and he came up with this amazing design which I was totally blown away by.
When I first listened to In Time, I was enchanted by how graceful and stunning it was, all while having these gloomy overtones. Even the tracks that are more upbeat have this mysterious air to them. Is that the direction you initially went for? With what kind of mood or inspiration did you approach In Time?
My move to London felt like a new fresh start for me and I tried to use the same feeling in the approach to my album — thinking outside the box, stepping out of my comfort zone and pushing myself towards a new direction musically. Making this album was a period of self-discovery in which I got to know myself on a deeper level. Each track has a different story to tell and is a reflection of my past. I’m letting the listener take a peek at my soul.
If any, what is the meaning of the title, In Time, for you?
I think each track represents a particular time of my life; I felt that’s where all the inspirations came from, so I decided to name the album ‘In Time’.
If you could visit or revisit any time that you have or have not experienced, what would it be?
I would definitely want to go to another time in another planet like our own earth where there’s life and to actually realise that there are also other humans like us or even aliens living. It always amazes me and gives me the chills when I think about these stuff; space is actually one of my greatest passions.
Musically, who or what inspires you most at the moment?
My surroundings always inspire me the most, the places I visit, the people I meet and even the conversations I have with people could be very inspirational.
What’s coming up next for you in second half of the year?
More touring, but I’m definitely going to take a break to have some proper studio sessions. I’m also working on gathering a band for my next album, that will be my next big mission.
I’m really looking forward to seeing you perform tonight. Could you indulge the readers with some details about what we might hear and see at your DC debut?
I have prepared a live set in which I play some tracks from my album mixed with other unreleased materials. I sing all my tracks live, play keys, add extra effects and loops and re-edit my tracks. That’s the kind of process I’m undertaking at the moment for the live shows. I want to provide deep, thrilling emotional experiences in the human mind.
Catch Amirali and Danny Daze tonight at U Street Music Hall, 1115 U St NW. 10 PM, 21+ free before 11 PM/ $10 after. Ages 18-20 by presale only.