During Day Two of Life Is Beautiful, you might be confused when you walk past Insomniac’s Troubadour stage and aren’t bombarded with the typical buildups and drops of EDM.
Don’t be alarmed; it’s all part of the program. You just happened to catch a bit of Giraffage, a.k.a. Charlie Yin. The 25-year-old San Francisco-based producer’s signature brand of lush, dreamy soundscapes laid over a bass-driven hip-hop/R&B core have gotten him nods from numerous music outlets, including Pitchfork and FADER; a cosign from Porter Robinson; festival appearances; and even a spot in an Apple commercial. His music may stick out like a sore thumb when compared with other EDM acts playing the Troubadour stage, but stay awhile and you’ll find the music is (literally) a pleasant surprise.
“I never intended for [music] to be my career,” Yin says. Unlike most DJs, his beginnings in music started with a guitar. “I played guitar throughout high school; it was one of my main instruments.” Take a listen to any of his songs, and you’ll notice that his recurring melodies and infectiously catchy guitar riffs are sprinkled throughout—embodying his experience with the instrument. These dream-pop-esque segments create a unique style of electronic music that includes the familiar lightning-fast hi-hats of trap or pulsating bass of house, but with an added melodic depth. He hasn’t completely abandoned the instrument, though. “I still use [guitar] today, but it’s through a MIDI [keyboard] now,” Yin says.
Eventually, six strings turned into keys. While attending UC Berkeley, Yin’s interest in electronic music began to develop, and he started producing music under the moniker Giraffage. Instead of a lavish studio with soundproof walls, his place of creation was a dark bedroom lit only by a computer’s backlit screen. “It was all a result of me being bored at home, I guess. I got a copy of Reason and just messed around with it throughout college.”
In its infancy, the majority of Giraffage material was sample-based. Yin sampled some big names to give familiar songs fresh facelifts. He took bits from Ready for the World’s “Love You Down” and Keith Sweat’s “Don’t Stop Your Love” for songs on his second album, Needs, which was released in 2013. “I’m a big fan of nostalgia, and I always try to incorporate that feeling into my music,” he says. Yin’s yearning for the past serves as an inspiration. He’s especially fond of songs from his youth. “I’m a ’90s kid. I grew up listening to those kinds of songs, and they really resonate with me. One of my dream collaborations would be R. Kelly.”
However, his latest effort, 2014’s No Reason EP, showed that he isn’t just a one-trick pony; the collection of candy-coated melodies and bumpin’ basslines is completely free of samples—marking a new era for the musician who once heavily relied on them. The new tunes show a more mature side of the producer: “Hello” features layers upon layers of synths, and the slow drums of “Be With You” are the foundation for bouncy piano arpeggios. Yin says his songwriting process evolved right along with his songs. “Sometimes it begins with drums; other times I’ll come up with a cool melody and write chords around it. And at times, it goes right back to sampling. It’s different each time, and that’s what’s really cool about [producing].”
Life Is Beautiful won’t be Yin’s first festival appearance. He recently played the Jay Z-curated Made in America Festival. And after Vegas, he’s heading to Atlanta to spin at TomorrowWorld. “I honestly like doing festivals more,” he says. “I’m infinitely more nervous when the room is smaller—I’d rather play to 5,000 than to 200.”
As for what to do before and after the festival, Yin says he’s not looking for a typical Las Vegas Hangover experience. “I’ve been to Vegas but it was with my parents, so, technically, this is my first real experience there,” he says, and he will make his way to a casino or two. “I’m not much of a gambler, but I’ll hit up a table just ’cause I’m there. I do want to check out Circus Circus, though. I’m coming with my girlfriend, and I want to win her as many stuffed animals as I can.”
Giraffage performs on the Troubadour Stage at 5:55 p.m. Sept. 26.