Angel & Dren Are the Twin DJs Taking It Back to the Bronx

Angel & Dren Are the Twin DJs Taking It Back to the Bronx

We talk to the twin DJ's about quitting jobs for dreams, how they create together, and Pharrell, who else?

We talk to the twin DJ's about quitting jobs for dreams, how they create together, and Pharrell, who else?

Photography: Andrew Sokolow

Text: Cara Hessels

How many people can say they’ve quit their desk jockey jobs in order to pursue passions and follow their dreams? Answer: Very few. The fear of the great unknown often outweighs the desire to do what we love, thus leaving us with many "what if?"’s.

Enter Angel + Dren, the identical twin sisters with a vision beyond the traditional 9-to-5. After studying at Dartmouth College together, both sisters graduated with office jobs that left them wanting more. “We were always into music, but we didn’t actually find DJing until after college," Angel notes. What started as a hobby for the pair quickly became a lifestyle. Together, the two fully understand that time is money, and they are dedicated to spending it wisely.

Growing up in the Bronx, the duo finds themselves most heavily influenced by their roots, pulling from reggae and Caribbean themes as well as hip-hop and R&B beats to curate their sound. After DJing multiple nightclubs and dancehalls throughout NYC, Angel and Dren landed themselves gigs at several of this year’s Fashion Week events, including V’s very own Maybelline Mansion. Now, it’s safe to say these sisters have successfully spun their way into our hearts with no signs of stopping. We sat down with the girls in a Times Square studio to talk inspirations, Pharrell, and what’s next for the duo. 

So, let’s start with the easy stuff, tell me about yourselves. You grew up in New York?

Angel: We did. We’re from the Bronx originally, but now we live in Harlem.

When did you start making music together? Or was it something you always did as kids?

Angel: No, we were always into music, but we didn’t actually find DJing until after college. We love DJing and the energy that we can get from other people when we spin.

What kind of venues did you first start DJing?

Angel: Our first gig… I cold-called this bar on the Lower East Side and I made this whole thing up about how I had an event in mind, and then I was like, ‘Do you need a DJ?’ They said yes, but it was a five-hour gig. I did think it was bizarre that they said yes without hearing us DJ, but we were just happy to get paid. We had been practicing a year before we actually went out and spun for anybody else. It was just us and our one other friend.

Five hours is a long time to DJ...

Angel: A long time, for our first gig for people. So we were in an incubator prior to that. You don’t even factor in what it really means to DJ until you do it in front of people. It’s one thing to learn how to DJ, like how to mix songs. It’s another to learn how to entertain a crowd.

Yeah, it can’t be easy to keep the people in front of you dancing, engaged, happy at all times.

Angel: Right, keep them dancing but also respond to them. You don’t realize how many people are trying to get your attention; they’re tapping you on the shoulder, they’re asking you about your zodiac sign and, you’re like, ‘That’s not what I’m here for…’ It’s so much multitasking. It was still fun, and we’ve just kept going from there.

How did you get your name out after an event like that?

Angel: Well, we’ve been lucky. I feel like from gigs we’ll get more things. Somebody will see us, we’ll end up talking to them, and we’ll end up working with them. I feel like we’ve worked with really cool people and we’ve had fun parties. Then our friend, who later became our manager, would be like, “Hey, I know a friend who has an event, you guys want to DJ?” It kind of just turned into us working together long term.

That’s awesome. It sounds like it all happened really organically. If you weren’t pursuing music, what do you think you would be doing right now?

Angel: Well, we graduated from Dartmouth in Roman studies. I studied Spanish and Portuguese, so I was 100% ready to work at the UN. We spent a year in Brazil studying.  I didn’t know what I was going to do, but I got a full-time marketing job after school at the Apollo Theatre. 

Dren: I worked at iHeartMedia in sales… I quit my job six months ago.

Oh, really? Good for you! You went to full-time DJ then?

Dren: Yeah, and Angel quit her job, what, like, a year and a half ago? I don’t even remember ever working anywhere, but Angel was running herself into the ground. It was the last thing that was tying her to a schedule, a routine.

Well, typically, DJing is a late-night thing, and then you’d have to go to work the next day?

Angel: It’s a late night thing, and I would have to go to work the next day and have no patience for anything, but I think it was bigger than that. Quitting was more important, not even for being tired, I feel like I’m still tired, but we use our time in different ways now. I’m still spending it [time], but the thing is, especially now that we’re focusing on producing music, I feel like there’s a level of time you need to actually be creative. When you don’t give yourself one hour of free time in a day and you’re like, ‘Ok, I have to create in this hour’… that’s not a good environment. I feel like you don’t actually allow yourself to actually feel things. Some days we sit at home all day isolating ourselves, making music in a fun way. Our friend asked us to dinner the other day, and it was the first time I hadn’t been wearing sweatpants to go down the street in a whole week…

Dren: Yeah, but we have this influx of ideas just because we’re actually letting it come to us. We’re just doing it.

So, tell me about that. What’s the process of making your music?

Angel: We bounce energy off each other a lot. Sometimes I’ll have an idea, and she’ll [Dren] run with it and vice versa. She’s been unearthing beats that I made a year and a half ago that I told her, ‘I hate this beat. Do not take a look at this beat, it’s done, it’s dead, I killed it.’ She’s like, ‘but I really believe in it, I think you need to bring it back, revive it, revitalize it,’ all of that stuff.

That kind of support between you too has to be really crucial, right? To believe in each other when you don’t believe in yourself.

Dren: Yeah, I’ve actually created better beats based on second drafts of things that I’ve done in the past where I was like, ‘I hate it, I never want to see it again’…

Angel: Momentum is also important. I think before we weren’t creating in such a focused way, but recently, when you feel a certain momentum, I feel like you have to ride it. So now, if we don’t have to do something, we’re at home and we’re making stuff. And even some days we don’t actually end up finishing something, but I feel like the process is important to be able to revisit the next day and have more perspective. The process of actually working through things is important.

Absolutely. What other musicians would you say are influencing your music right now? What did you grow up listening to, what do you pull inspiration from?

Angel: We grew up on a lot of reggae and dancehall. Our family’s from Jamaica, and we grew up in a really Jamaican part of the Bronx. I feel like if you’re from New York and you say you’re Jamaican, then you probably lived there or Brooklyn. So, it’s a lot of reggae but then it’s second generation, so it’s a lot of hip-hop and R&B. Then we traveled during school a lot. We went to Brazil and Costa Rica, we learned Portuguese… So I think we’ve drawn influence from places that we’ve been, but it’s still always brought back to how we grew up. It’s our interpretation of Reggae and Hip Hop and that sound in a newer way.

Who are you guys listening to now?

Angel: That’s a big question…We consume music for sport. I feel like the people I look up to are more so the Kanye’s, the Frank Ocean’s…

Dren: Janet Jackson for me, Michael Jackson.

Angel: Pharrell is my hero. I also really like Danielle Caesar.

Dren: I still listen to a lot of dancehall. We DJ a lot in the Caribbean, so I feel like I stay sharp on what’s going on there too.

Being from New York, do you guys have a dream venue where you’d love to perform here?

Angel: I want to do something big in the Bronx just to bring it all home, but you know I’m just waiting for the right time and space. Just going to put that ominous energy out there. Vague, but it’s going to happen.

How about someone you’d love to collaborate with?

Dren: Oh, there’s so many people. Rae Sremmurd, I love their music. They’re such good writers.

Angel: If Pharrell would just let me be his mentee and sit in the corner of the studio… I would be a sponge and consume and learn. I would do that, literally be a fly on the wall if he would let me. He’s really talented in the way that he makes music. He’s just an innovator in the way he creates concepts. He’s a designer. It’s literally like seeing sounds.

You hear that, Pharrell? What projects do you have coming up?

Angel: We are trying to put an EP out in the spring, so we’re working tirelessly on that. We just taught ourselves to write, and we’re trying to connect with more artists.

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