It’s a good time to be JAUZ.
After all, DJ and producer Sam Vogel is fresh off a Coachella set that broke the EDM corner of the Internet with a remix of the kids’ song “Baby Shark.” (“I still have dust in my nose and throat, but I’ll get over it,” he says.) When he wasn’t actively on stage at the festival, he was canoodling with friends you know better as superstar producers. In Instagram posts from the fest, he shows off matching sneakers with Zedd and mugs with Fisher; in another, he poses for a quick shot with Diplo in head-to-toe millennial pink.
The Westword Music Showcase co-headliner has more to celebrate. He married his longtime girlfriend, Joann Walker, last December. On the beach, no less. He’s finishing new material, somewhat begrudgingly — “I think there are 85 or 90 different versions of the song we were working on last night in my downloads,” he groans — and he’s preparing to release the “Baby Shark” remix that he debuted at Coachella.
For the record, Vogel was not particularly interested in doing a remix of “Baby Shark.” Fans had been asking; after all, it’s a popular song about sharks, his branding is all sharks everything, so, um, where is it? He refused outright, then acquiesced — sort of — by offering to do it under the condition that his fans retweet his offer 20,000 times.
“Part of me believed I definitely wasn’t going to get 20,000 retweets on it, and then the other part of me was like, ‘Well, if I do, then at least I know that people really want it, and I’ll go do it,’” he says. “I think we got 25,000 retweets in, like, an hour or a couple hours.”
Mixing it with Darude’s “Sandstorm” to make the best dance-music in-joke of the year thus far was, by his account, an afterthought. He heard a friend’s in-progress joke remix of the track and suspected it might share a key with “Baby Shark.”
“I was like, ‘There’s no way. That would be way too convenient.’ But I went and re-downloaded ‘Sandstorm’ for probably the 10,000th time, and I checked the key of the song against ‘Baby Shark,’ and they’re literally in the same key,” he remembers. “I was like, ‘There’s no way I can’t do this now that I know that. I have to take it to that extra level of over-the-top cheese.’”
So he did. He more or less confirmed its existence before Coachella with a billboard plastered with his face and the words “THE REAL DADDY SHARK.” The recording of the livestream made the rounds. He shelved it.
Two weeks later, at Together Fest in Myanmar, fellow producer Alison Wonderland asked if he was going to include the remix in his headlining set. He told her no. It’s not her reaction that sticks out in his memory.
“The guys that run the festival and my videographer all looked at me like I was fucking crazy. They were like, ‘Are you serious right now? You’d better fucking play that shit.’”
He ended up playing that shit. And the kids loved that shit.
Well before he was playing that shit, he was a kid in Mill Valley, a small city in Marin County north of San Francisco. His mother (and “number-one fan”) works in commercial real estate. His father left DuPont to start his own technology business, briefly taking over the living room in the process.
“I remember growing up and things being kind of shaky for a while,” says Vogel. “Watching him go through that and come out the other end and create this whole thing on his own — and also be so involved in technology — had a lot to do with how I ended up where I am.”
While he was growing up, his parents would shuttle Vogel to Guitar Center (even after his father bought him a guitar) so he could play using different types of gear. By fifteen, he had delved into producing electronic music, later dropping out of Loyola Marymount University’s film program to pursue it full-time and enroll in the music-production school Icon Collective.
When Vogel’s parents expressed concerns over his path — justifiably, given how he was “barely able to figure out my rent and not even really able to afford food” at the start — he implored them to trust him. They did, and as the shows got bigger, he made good on his promises.
Vogel’s genre-bending blend of trap, bass house and dubstep has since launched him into the EDM stratosphere. He founded his own label-slash-collective, Bite This, in November 2017, releasing singles from rising British bass line producers Holy Goof and ATRIP, future house duo Loge21, and “digital renegade” duo Pixel Terror. He releases his own music on Bite This Too, including debut studio album The Wise and the Wicked, an ambitious pop-facing record peppered with bizarre monologues that err on the side of standard-issue stoner philosophizing and chronicle humanity’s return from some version of the apocalypse.
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Truthfully, Vogel doesn’t perceive any disconnect between sweeping concept albums and mixing “Baby Shark” with “Sandstorm.”
“There are parts of me that want to be that very serious, respected, emotional, yadda-yadda-whatever musician. That’s what my album was all about, finding that balance between me being able to write songs like that and still also write party songs,” he says. “But my purpose, at least at the beginning, was to be the guy who starts the party. Part of that is having fun and being able to laugh at yourself. If you can’t understand the hilarity behind ‘Baby Shark’ going into ‘Sandstorm,’ then maybe you’re not one of my fans.”
In other words, he’ll continue to play that shit.
The 25th Westword Music Showcase will sound off in the Golden Triangle on Saturday, June 29. Find out more about who's playing, vote for your favorite acts in the Westword Music Awards, buy tickets and find more details now at westwordshowcase.com.