Introducing: DJs Pareja
While they’ve been a staple of the South American club circuit for two decades, DJs Pareja are finally getting the international recognition they deserve. We get to know more about this trailblazing duo.
It was in 1993, at a club called The Age Of Communication in the Argentinian capital of Buenos Aires, that Diego Irasusta and Mariano Caloso first met. At the time, it was one of the only venues that played underground house and techno, and consequently, the venue attracted counter-culturalists and artists alike. Diego and Mariano quickly became friends, forming an unshakable bond that would breathe life into their intimate partnership as DJs Pareja — a moniker that literally translates to DJs Couple.
“We were club kids, and we made lots of friends in the scene,” Diego says. “We loved going to clubs, checking out various underground bands, and getting involved in the local art scene. It was a combination of all these things that came to influence our sound.”
A week or two after meeting, Diego and Mariano’s friendship turned into a relationship. Soon after, they moved into a modest apartment in the Congreso neighborhood of Buenos Aires, where they still reside. After spending 25 years there together, their roots run deep. But it wasn’t until 1998 that their friends began to implore them to start DJing. Strapped with an ever-growing arsenal of CDs and records, along with a deep-seated knowledge of the latest musical trends, they took their city’s underground by storm. They officially formed as DJs Pareja in 2000 and began producing pop-oriented electronic music under the moniker.
“Since starting as DJs, we were known in Buenos Aires for being super eclectic,” Mariano explains. “We started playing everything from ambient to electroclash, even minimal tracks from labels like Kompakt and Perlon. Meanwhile, we were making more techno-pop albums.”
They released their debut album Versatil in 2004 and soon began to build a reputation as one of Argentina’s most respected electronica duos. At the time, their production process was rudimentary, with Diego collecting vinyl samples on Fruity Loops to construct the tracks and Mariano singing into a headset rather than a microphone. At the time, they didn’t have the means to purchase the equipment they wanted. Regardless, it was a start, and their buoyant sound genuinely resonated with audiences. “We like to convey sensations and emotions with our music,” Diego says. “We never really think about music genres, we’re not purists at all.”
It wasn’t until 2009 that they produced their follow-up album, Marcha. By then, Diego and Mariano’s skills behind the decks had evolved into something more significant, and it was time to retreat from the pop realm and match their heady dancefloor practices with some brisk, galvanizing productions of their own.
This shift started with Cómeme, the internationally acclaimed record label run by Kompakt mainstay Matías Aguayo, that first made a name for itself by uniting talent from around Latin America’s burgeoning electronic music scene under its banner.
“We’ve known Matías for many years,” Diego says. “We were always friends and grew closer when he came to live in Buenos Aires. He created the label while living here and started to ask for music from his friends, and that’s how it all happened. At first, Cómeme was a type of community. There was a SoundCloud where we privately uploaded songs and demos to share with the rest of the musicians involved. Now Cómeme has a very defined identity, but when it started, nobody knew where the label was going.”
DJs Pareja’s first record on Cómeme was a joint EP released with Matías Aguayo in 2009 titled Street Sound, followed shortly after by the Brutal EP on Kahn’s I’m Single imprint, then their three-track effort, Spanish Is Beautiful. By the time they returned to Cómeme in 2012 for their De la Cabeza EP, Diego and Mariano had successfully planted the seed for a new school of Latin American techno that would wholly inspire underground circles throughout their continent and beyond.
When coming out as an openly gay DJ duo in the early 2000s, Diego and Mariano didn’t think much of it. In hindsight, however, they’ve come to realize the decision was groundbreaking. “It was a huge statement at that time, as straight men mainly dominated the dance music scene,” Mariano explains. “We never faced prejudice directly, but sometimes we could feel a certain kind of negative energy coming from other DJs or people involved in the dance scene, especially in mainstream circles.”
It was in 2010 that DJs Pareja began a club night in their native Buenos Aires called Fun Fun — a title inspired by the “fantastic looks and styling” of an ’80s Italo disco project of the same name. For the past 10 years, Fun Fun has been one of their city’s most treasured underground parties, operating as a safe, queer-friendly space that promotes self-expression, hedonistic behavior, and unique blends of electronic music. To Diego and Mariano, however, the perception of their prolific residency as being a full-on “queer-party” is somewhat misinformed.
“We started Fun Fun so we could DJ, invite artists that we found interesting, and be able to create a music scene according to us,” Mariano says. “Fun Fun is not a party aimed only at the LGTB+ community; it is a party where everyone is welcome to have a good time and dance, no matter their sexual orientation. We like the mix of people and never did anything oriented towards a specific group. Much less so now that that’s being used as a marketing strategy.”
With their popularity growing and new sounds brewing in their kitted out studio full of Korg synthesizers, Roland drum machines, Shure microphones, and Ableton (a far cry from their Fruity Loops days), DJs Pareja’s strain of distinctly Spanish techno began to cross into new territories. After being picked up by Glasgow label Huntleys + Palmers for their Steps EP, they made their way to Canada during their 2014 US tour, joining Tiga’s brother Thomas Von Party in the studio to create the Multimedia EP, released on Turbo Recordings. With searing rhythms that run alongside mettlesome synth lines, vicious soundscapes and an occasional spattering of thorny Spanish lyrics, DJs Pareja convey a specialized techno fineness that’s as raw as it is groovy. It’s this excitable sound that’s landed them remixes for acts like Gui Boratto, Steve Lawler, Little Dragon, and more. With a full-throttle on-stage approach and penchant for granular sounds, it’s a style that draws parallels to a duo like Paranoid London, a group that they play out regularly during their DJ sets. They expressed their hopes to work with them one day, saying a collaboration would “be beyond epic.”
2019 was a big year for Diego and Mariano. They dropped two EPs, Tecno Inferno on German imprint Schalen and The After EP on San Francisco’s esteemed Honey Soundsystem Records, further cementing their international reputation. These two records, in addition to an old school hoover and breaks-infused remix of Ibiza Pareo’s “Vos y Yo,” have put DJs Pareja on course for further distinction and visibility in 2020.
While they will always remain as hometown heroes, and maintain that Buenos Aires is still their favorite place to play, Diego and Mariano are clearly eager to share their music with the rest of the world.
“We have been on international tours many times, but always for short periods, usually a month or 40 days,” Mariano explains. “It’s a bit challenging to get attention when your base is as far away as in Argentina, but the good thing is that in the last few years, we’ve released our music on important international labels. We are quite well known in many places throughout South America and Mexico, and that makes it easier for us to conquer the dancers. Sometimes we feel that the Latino public is a bit more effusive than others… but the underground scene was smaller in Buenos Aires when we met, now it is bigger, and somehow more divided. There’s a larger variety of parties and a greater diversity of people. Music-wise, everything is more specific.”
In May and June, DJs Pareja will be embarking on a nine-date tour through Europe, playing cities like Paris, Bucharest, Helsinki, and Berlin, They’re also eager to connect with new DJs and producers while abroad, citing acts like CCL, Jacob Meehan, Ciel, Rachel Noon, Roza Terenzi, Special Request, and Argentinean newcomers Betas and Depuratumba, as some of their biggest inspirations at the moment.
“The best way to maintain yourself as an artist is to feel that you are new all the time, to experiment with new sounds and new styles, not to feel nostalgic about the past or stay stuck,” Diego exclaims. “You have to support young artists and interact with them.”
Cameron Holbrook is a staff writer for Beatportal. Find him on Twitter.