Big stage at Stubb’s packs big meaning for Austin-based Tritonal

tritonalpublicityshotBy Chad Swiatecki, special to the American-Statesman

When Chad Cisneros takes the stage on Friday at Stubb’s with his DJ and music production partner Dave Reed, it won’t mark the duo’s biggest show in terms of size, but the night will still have an “iconic” feeling.

Cisneros talks easily and in a rush about his days as a University of Texas student seeing acts like Thievery Corporation and assorted jam bands at the legendary outdoor club, and how he hoped that one day he and Reed — who have been producing and performing under the name Tritonal since 2008 — would have a big enough following to headline the big stage at Stubb’s.

In terms of dedicated following, Tritonal’s first bow at the Red River Street stronghold could have come years ago; the act has been a festival and large theater draw for a while. But Cisneros said there’s something special about being back home fresh off the release of sophomore album “Painting With Dreams” that hometown audiences will get to hear at torso-rattling volume.

“For me, it’s on a level of the first time we played Red Rocks, because it’s such an iconic place and I remember going to so many amazing shows there through the years,” Cisneros says. “It’s home, and when we first got to go back there and see the picture of Willie (Nelson) on the green room wall felt so special.”

Call it a milestone moment for the pair, who met in 2007 in an online music forum dedicated to learning about a then-new and very buggy synthesizer and started trading clips and songs for collaboration. Reed made the move to Austin from Washington, D.C., in 2008 — “I noticed how (Cisneros) really enjoyed delving deep into creating juicy bass lines that had cool cuts and glitches,” Reed said by text. The pair worked quickly and became prolific at cranking out gleaming, crowd-pleasing trance music.

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Those tracks soon started working their way up dance charts in the U.S. and in other countries, thanks to licensing deals Tritonal struck with overseas labels run by fellow DJs. In eight years they’ve recorded, produced or remixed more than 200 tracks, with licensing deals from majors Sony Music and Universal Music Group to their credit.

The new album shows the songwriting experience and work its creators put in over the course of two years. Cisneros says they’ve moved on from the somewhat rote process of assembling crowd-moving tracks designed for the live environment.

“Club tracks are kind of mindless music… it’s hard to do but we wanted to move forward and make an album of songs that tell a story,” he says before listing off collaborators such as Katy Perry songwriter Bonnie McKee and veteran pop vocalists Emily Warren and Phoebe Ryan.

“We went from Australia to Nashville to L.A. and back to Austin working with those people over two years, and then whittled 58 tracks down to 14, with us writing, producing and mixing everything ourselves.”

Cisneros says he and Reed get the most enjoyment out of that time in the studio. Live shows are a different animal, of course, because of the altogether different task of keeping a crowd of hundreds or thousands moving and tuned in for hours at a time.

But they serve another important purpose for Tritonal: letting the pair see the response to songs they’re still tweaking or remixing.

“We’ve discovered so many things about how people like our own songs or other people’s songs that we play, so the live show and our online and satellite radio shows are the beginning of our filtering process,” Cisneros says. “About 75 percent of a set each night is our original stuff, or remixes we’ve done, and you save big tracks from other people for when you need some different big explosive moments.”

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