Tyler Hallock and Stephen Granger founded Groove On in 2015 while living in Colorado Springs and navigating Denver's creative scene from afar. As they developed their skills independently as DJs and photographers, they wanted to establish deeper roots in Denver's creative community. So what began as a catchphrase, "Groove on," soon became the name of their collective.
We caught up with Hallock and Granger ahead of a show they're putting on at the 715 Club on Saturday, February 10, to talk about how Groove On formed and discuss their work with the collective.
Westword: You both are DJs and photographers. Is that how Groove On started?
Tyler Hallock: We started rapping together when I was nineteen, [Granger] was eighteen. We’re both from Colorado Springs and went to the same high school, but we didn’t know each other really in high school. We started rapping together, and he needed a place to crash a couple years later. Then my music taste grew and evolved. I wasn’t so much into rap anymore. I started to find more eclectic sounds, more… I try to put a pin on the genre, but there really isn’t a genre — it’s just everything. But I expanded my horizons, and that led to deejaying.
I’ve always been a curator. I’ve always loved showing people new music, and that was just the easiest way. From there, it evolved into me and him putting together those weekly mixes, the Groove On Sessions, showcasing that music that we’re finding and digging up, trying to broaden other people’s horizons. There is so much more out there. So many people are locked into top 100 iTunes and top 100 playlists on Spotify, and there’s so much more. The photography, he was the one that started that. I picked up film photography about a year and a half ago. That’s my niche, and I stick within that. He’s 80 percent of the photography. I sneak in and do my own thing here and there.
How do you connect with artists?
Stephen Granger: By branding ourselves as a collective. Of course we love the opportunity to do what we do with any artist. Sometimes I record other artists, or they will come to my studio and I’ll help produce their album any way I can. I love that one-to-one. Honestly, the strength that we’ve gained is from connecting artists with other artists. At the end of the day, Kayla [Rae Jackson] — she was able to get more shine because of one of our videographers. ... I’d been working with him and known him for a while, Johnathan Nicholas. He’s super-talented and lives in Denver. I linked them together: “He makes videos; you need a music video.” Little things like that.
It seems simple, but there is not as strong of a network as one would think. We’re still getting our feet wet as artists, and we still tend to act that way. You can branch out; there are a lot more people around you than you might think. Even with me, I didn’t know…I kind of needed more of a voice or identity to connect with other people. People hire us for different things. We shoot at events and do portrait photography; I even started directing music videos and things like that. The general goal is connecting people with other people the best way that we can.
By meeting other artists, do you think that’s helped you evolve creatively?
Hallock: Me, 110 percent. I was a total recluse, introvert. So taking that next step and that push to meet more people and be more connected with the culture up here was huge. So now, being around all the other creatives, seeing how they operate, seeing how consistent they are, it has given me drive to maintain consistency. Even if you don’t want to be out, sometimes you gotta be out. If anything, it has taught me to be consistent and push others to be consistent. Sometimes artists can get pretty lackadaisical, so to give them that push. Even if it’s just an ego boost, “Look, man, you’re killing it. Keep going.” I think that’s something else we’ve been able to provide. “Trust us: You’re doing good things. You just need to keep doing it. People are watching you, even if you don’t feel it in that moment. Even if you don’t feel it this month or this week, people are watching you.”
Granger: It feeds into the synergy of things. I think the brand, like he said, we’re kind of reclusive or [keep] to ourselves a lot. I’m always on my own wave sometimes, in my own world, and I think Groove On helps keep me more grounded. So meeting other artists, it keeps me grounded. I’m still an arrogant artist in my way with some things, but I would not be anywhere I am now if I hadn’t listened to one of Milky.Wav’s tracks or hearing CRL CRRL, hearing him mix and thinking, “Oh I’m definitely gonna do that.” There’s definitely growth, feeding off of other people.
What has surprised you most about connecting and working with other artists?
Granger: We were surprised at the overall disconnect there was between other creatives. There’s a vivid community, but there were and still are pockets of similar artists hanging exclusively with each other when we first started Groove On. Poets with poets, producers with producers. Groove On has been fortunate enough to break through those cliques and barriers while staying true to our brand. We were also shocked to see how well everyone has received our presence and vision. It’s easy for artists to be protective and egotistical about their craft, but once other artists understand that Groove On only wants to support them in their grind, people open up and give us a ton of respect and love.
What do you enjoy most about connecting artists and your work as Groove On?
Granger: The reciprocity. Seeing people appreciate what we’re doing and then taking that energy to do something amazing themselves — that’s why we do it. We love seeing people flourish and grow in their craft, especially when we all deal with so much on a daily basis. We just love to see people get in the groove!
No Special Occasion with Milky.Wav, Tyler Wyatt and Hex Kitten, 9 p.m. Saturday, February 10, 715 Club, 715 East 26th Avenue, 303-295-8927.