Name: Idil Carla Frayman aka Carlita
Occupation: DJ, producer
Recent release: Carlita's remix of RÜFÜS DU SOL's "Surrender" is out via Rose Ave/Reprise and Warner Records. The release also features contributions by Dom Dolla, Innellea, Monkey Safari, Solomun, Adana Twins, Adriatique, and Luke Alessi. On September 9th 2022, Carlita will also host her NYFW party Senza Fine.
Recommendations: The artist's way by Julia Cameron; Phillip Glass Satyagraha: "Evening Song" - Douglas Perry
[Read our Innellea interview]
[Read our Monkey Safari interview]
[Read our Adana Twins interview]
If you enjoyed this interview with Carlita and would like to find out more about her work, visit her on Instagram.
Can you talk a bit about your interest in or fascination for DJing? Which DJs, clubs or experiences captured your imagination in the beginning?
My fascination with DJing came to me whilst studying in Boston. I always had a very strong interest in music and was classically trained to play to cello from a young age. In college I started preparing a playlist for the people I love, after that I started recording those playlists in the order I want and the way the tracks worked together in that order.
The owner of Bijou was Turkish and he offered to teach me DJing with CDJs. That led me to become a resident for them and this is really when my love for DJing started to expand.
I didn't see a lot of clubs or have experiences by then except being in Boston because I was underage and the US was pretty strict about getting into clubs. I was going to NYC every halloween and always wanted to play for Circoloco as their parties were amazing.
Bedouin - he (Tamer) was also a resident in Bijou just before my time - and Acid Pauli were both artists that really captured my imagination with the music that they played.
[Read our Acid Pauli interview]
What made it appealing to you to DJ yourself? What was it that you wanted to express and what did you feel, did you have to add artistically?
I wanted to DJ first because I was preparing playlists in order. I wanted to make one audio of it to tell a story.
On soundcloud I listened many times when I was almost only DJing for Bijou or myself. I realised how much I love showing emotions and saw that DJing was an amazing chance for me to be able to do this. I got super excited and happy every time I digged for new songs and found a record that I was looking for for a while (still that feeling is there and stronger than ever).
It made me realise connecting people all over the world with only one language: music, I felt like I could bring a genre that not really exists, jumping between musical genres and making a story by that.
What, would you say, are the key ideas behind your approach to DJing? Do you see yourself as part of a certain tradition or lineage?
Always be open to what you feel in the moment and trust yourself to express yourself.
I never felt part of a tradition but I got a lot of influences from many traditions and communities at every stage of my life. I had a good amount of time to explore communities, genres, clubs, starting age 8 with classical music at a conservatory in Turkey as a cello player. That led me to play in rock bands in highschool as a bass player, and then hanging out with a lot of people from everywhere in college in boston especially Latino people.
Further influences include going to “Dancing On The Charles Parties,” seeing crew love parties, learning production from David Marston and being exposed to his influence in music taste, going to Burning Man for the first time at the age of 20, spending a lot of time in Mexico.
These last 2 years, DJ Tennis has been a big influence and help me expand.
Clubs are still the natural home for DJing. What makes the club experience unique? Which clubs you've played or danced at are perfect for realising your vision – and why?
Bijou is like a home to me, and where the whole journey started. I always love going back there to play. The club scene is unfortunately fading at the moment which is very sad to see, more and more clubs are being forced to close.
There are still some clubs that are going strong and are very key to me. Bijou in Boston is the first club that I felt a connection with. I went from working there as a promoter to becoming a resident and really started to feel part of the “scene” there and to understand more about the underground culture of DJing and clubbing.
Clubbing is unique in many ways. It’s a time when usually a group of friends all come together with the same focus or thing in mind and that is to go and listen to great music and feel free and away from the stresses of day to day life. Clubbing really is a great way to release and not everyone understands this, it really can be a great cause of happiness.
Space Miami has recently become a special to me and I have been able to realise a lot of things about myself whilst playing here.
There is a long tradition of cross-pollination between DJing and producing. Can you talk a bit about how this manifests itself in your own work?
I feel like DJing influences your production and productions influences your DJ sets. When I produce I like to look at things that I may have been missing in my previous sets and also things which I have seen work well and then I will try and put that into my productions so I know they will work for my DJ sets.
Especially some fillers and edits. I love classic songs and love making my own versions of edits.
What role does digging for music still play for your work as a DJ? Tell me a bit about what kind of music you will look for and the balance between picking material which a) excites you, b) which will please the audience and c) fulfil certain functions within your DJ set?
Digging is one of my biggest passions and so important to help make my DJ sets unique.
I follow and understand trends and don’t exclude any forms of music. Obviously every DJ set is different, meaning I need to have all sorts of tracks that can help me in any situation and be able to bridge from genre to genre. It always depends which time and which location I am performing.
I like to prepare some ‘fillers’. I call them fillers because it fills the sets, it's not bangers or it's not starting. I like to find cool edits of the tracks that not many people have, people love hearing new versions of classics that they know well.
I've always wondered: How is it possible for DJs to memorise so many tracks? How do you store tracks in your mind – traditionally as grooves + melodies + harmonies or as colours, energy levels, shapes?
For me, if I listen to a track and love it, then I always remember the name of the track. To most people this seems like the hardest way to do it but it has always been the way my brain works when it comes to DJing.
Using your very latest DJ set as an example, what does your approach look like, from selecting the material and preparing for and opening a set? What were some of the transitions that really worked looking back?
I love using percussion, and when switching genres I use filler tracks which help bridge between-moments in the set.
For an opening a set I would usually never start with a banger, I would try and find a song that brings out emotion and gets people interested in the journey that is about to begin. I will try and play a song that fits with my mood and build the set around this. I always try to feel the crowd and the place I am playing and build my set in the moment.
I feel like you can never properly prepare a set. You need to feel it in the exact time and place.
How does the decision making process work during a gig with regards to wanting to play certain records, the next transition and where you want the set to go? How far do you tend to plan ahead during a set?
I normally never plan more than 2 tracks ahead. Reason being because I like to feel the mood of the crowd and build the energy with them so I am reactive to them and will only ever plan 2 tracks in advance.
However I like to plan my last track. The ending for me is pretty important because it will leave a strong feeling in peoples' mind and they will leave on a really high note.
As a DJ, you can compose a set of many short tracks or play them out in full, get involved with mixing or keep the tunes as the producer intended them, create fluent seagues or tension. Tell me about your personal preferences in this regard, please.
I usually like to play the tracks in full, however I like to add layers to the tracks wherever possible. This creates a new track over a track, and sometimes if I really like what happened I'll go to the studio and make my own mash up.
I have a lot of percussion samples and acapellas on my usb.
Pieces can sound entirely different as part of a DJ set compared to playing them on their own. How do you explain this? Which tracks from your collection don't seem like much outside of a DJ set but are incredibly effective and versatile on a gig?
For me the DJ creates a journey. Similar to cooking you can have the same ingredients many times but always end up with a different end product and this is very similar to DJing in that aspect.
Take a tomato for example, on it’s own it’s pretty plain and boring. But if you add some salt, pepper and olive oil then you’ve got something completely different and exciting, this is very similar to certain songs. On their own they may seem simple and boring but when mixed with other songs which have different elements which combine really well it brings them to life.
Also every track sounds different at different speeds and will have different effects on the crowds.
In terms of the overall architecture of a DJ set, how do you work with energy levels, peaks and troughs and the experience of time?
Normally I try to give a steady beginning so people get into the groove. Then, when I win the trust of the crowd, that’s when I start to explore, try new things and try to take them on a journey.
I am always into exploring and try to give people an experience that they never had before my DJ sets.
Online DJ mixes, created in the studio as a solitary event, have become ubiquitous. From your experience with the format, what changes when it comes to the way you DJ – and to the experience as a whole - when you subtract the audience?
When you approach DJ sets it’s as a listening experience and not just a dancing session. Online mixes are more what you have in your head and don’t work with the same situations / scenarios or when you are with a crowd.
Obviously during the pandemic online DJ mixes and live mixes were very, very popular as people weren’t able to go out clubbing or to festivals so during this time it was a way for people to enjoy music in a way they hadn’t done before.
If I am doing an online mix then I will usually prepare this mix as it will be songs that I want to hear. However when there is an audience it’s a completely different feeling because you need to make these people happy and give them a memorable experience.
Advances in AI-supported DJing look set to transform the trade. For the future, where do you see the role of humans in DJing versus that of technology?
For me the use of technology is very minimal in any of my DJ sets.
Technology is definitely becoming more and more apparent in music and events now and the production in some shows is absolutely mind blowing. For me though I am a traditionalist and the DJ will always come first.
People go out to see the DJ because they feel a connection with them and like to be taken on a journey through their musical tastes. I feel that sometimes too much production or AI can take away from what you’ve really come for. And that is to see the DJ. 99% of the time it should be for the love of the music.
Let's imagine you lost all your music for one night and all there is left at the venue is a crate of records containing a random selection of music. How would you approach this set?
So far I’ve been lucky enough to not find myself in this situation.
However if it does occur, then I would approach this very open minded and embrace the challenge and hopefully find some amazing new records along the way which I otherwise would never have known about.