Over the past year, the up-and-coming genre-spanning dance-music duo SIDEPIECE, a collaboration between producers Ricky Mears, aka Nitti Gritti, and Dylan Ragland, aka Party Favor, has dropped a slew of charting singles. In the mix: the Grammy-nominated collaboration with 100 million streams on Spotify “On My Mind,” with Diplo, and “Temptation,” a track that debuted in March and has racked up more than two million streams and placed in the top 25 in Beatport’s Top 100 chart.
The two also earned a Grammy nomination for Best Dance Record. Although the significant achievement came and went without much fanfare since tours weren’t happening during the pandemic, they're still celebrating the recognition. The band is fresh off the release of "Acrobatic," with Insomniac Records.
All that success has earned SIDEPIECE an opening slot at Red Rocks for Diplo’s headlining shows on May 12 and 13.
Westword caught up with Mears and Ragland to chat about their sound, their experiences during the pandemic, and whether they're as naughty as the sounds they create.
Turns out…they are.
Westword: You are called SIDEPIECE. The single “Temptation” sounds sordid. “Falling for You” gives off a little bit of a forbidden vibe. “On My Mind” might even be sly. Your monikers are Nitti Gritti and Party Favor. So, would you describe yourselves as being a bit naughty?
Ricky Mears: [Laughs.] That’s the best question I think we've ever had! Love that question! Yes, we are 100 percent naughty!
Dylan Ragland: That’s so funny. When you mentioned all of those song names, I had never noticed or thought about it from that perspective. Maybe apparently we do naughty things without realizing?
We’re on to you.
Mears: Well, shit. I think SIDEPIECE is a little bit of a personality let-out for me. We do love this very simple, mysterious, sexy thing. And we’re not trying to be arrogant. We’re just two dudes that are…
Ragland: Yeah, naughty!
Mears: Not to say that we’re not in this 100 percent, but it is actually fun to “play that character” as just the “artist”...but when I’m on the stage and creating that music, that’s the part I like.
Denver is a city with a huge community of musicians and artists, and like many places, it was flattened during the shutdown. With many of the fans attending this show being musicians and producers in their own right, they might like to know: What did you gain artistically during the lockdown?
Mears: Oh, that’s another good one. Everything kind of crashed during that time. Everything went down, and everyone started wanting to learn stuff, even the stock market and crypto. It’s actually just astronomical, but we knew, “It’ll come back eventually,” and we just made music the whole time. It was the only thing there was to do.
Ragland: For me, it was a huge flip. Like Ricky as well, I’ve been going nonstop for years now, without stopping and without ever saying no to shows or anything. I was losing track of who I was as a person, and my mental health was deteriorating, you know? And as bad as this shutdown was, you know, bad in so many ways, it was a blessing, because it got me personally a chance to find myself again. And it might sound kinda cheesy, but I got to really just refresh and reset myself. [Now] we have this arsenal of music ready to go when we go back on stage that people haven’t even heard.
Mears: It’s kind of a joke, but at least when everything happened with "On My Mind," and we focused so much on music, I could see that, well, at least we’re not going to be a one-hit wonder. Like Milli Vanilli!
Ragland: We both love performing. Music is such a cathartic experience. And we all have a memory that was made to music or a special moment with it. Whether it's a dance at your wedding or something you listen to on your friggin' deathbed, music is such a transcendent experience. It's so important for everyone's mental health. I always joke that I hate people, but I’ve surprisingly found myself wanting to be around a bunch of people more because of [it], and that’s awesome.
It’s a big step back out into the limelight. What are you going to be wearing?
Mears: Ha! There’s this kid that has a vintage store, and he actually lives in Denver. He was showing me all these dope Led Zeppelin tees and jackets. Maybe we can hang with him for the day and pick some vintage stuff up. Oh, we can wear our Led Zeppelin T-shirts and take our picture next to Led Zeppelin’s signatures on the wall.
Ragland: That’s fire! We’ll channel Jimmy and Robert and everyone.
SIDEPIECE performs with Diplo at 7 p.m. on Wednesday, May 12, and Thursday, May 13. Capacity is limited. For more information, go to the Red Rocks website.
Keep Westword Free... Since we started Westword, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Denver, and we would like to keep it that way. Offering our readers free access to incisive coverage of local news, food and culture. Producing stories on everything from political scandals to the hottest new bands, with gutsy reporting, stylish writing, and staffers who've won everything from the Society of Professional Journalists' Sigma Delta Chi feature-writing award to the Casey Medal for Meritorious Journalism. But with local journalism's existence under siege and advertising revenue setbacks having a larger impact, it is important now more than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" membership program, allowing us to keep covering Denver with no paywalls.