It’s not often you meet someone working on two sides of the music industry with such rapid success and a clear trajectory as producer, composer, and DJ Tony Quattro. With sync placements for Samsung and Adidas, releases on Skrillex’s OWSLA label, and composition work for Broad City and Difficult People, Quattro is fully using what his dad calls his greatest gift: his ears. His latest project is a collaboration with Portlandia and Sleater-Kinney star Carrie Brownstein, composing the score for a star-filled short film she created for fashion house Kenzo.
(Full disclosure: This is the second time I’ve interviewed Tony Quattro. A few years ago, as a driven and polite young man, he applied for a job at a music company I was working for and did everything right: he showed passion for the work, interest in learning more, humility, and smarts. We didn’t hire him. To Tony and the rest of the music-loving world, I’d like to say: “You’re welcome.”)
The Realest Real
“The Realest Real” is a fashion-meets-future short film written and directed by Brownstein with an all-star cast and threads to match. Kenzo produced and styled the film, which had a big influence on Quattro’s score. Tony came to the project through his longtime friend Matt FX (music supervisor for the above-mentioned Broad City and Difficult People). The film opens with Abby, played by Laura Harrier, being led to a room followed by her “followers,” who drop off without warning. She’s advised by her leader not to give it too much thought, because she’ll never know why they’ve stopped following her. It’s a hilarious and pointed mockery of our connection to social media and the fickleness of the internet. The irony isn’t lost on Quattro.
“It’s all about inserting yourself into the life of someone you idolize, via technology,” Quattro reflects. “I’m a super fan of Carrie and, in a way, I was doing just that by making the music with technology — not even meeting her — and then sending it. It’s this weird kind of meta thing, where it’s literally all about ‘notice me, let me be a part of your life.’ And I just got to do that.”
The film’s credits site Quattro as the Music Composer and Matt FX as the music supervisor which, in this instance, meant Quattro handled sound and Matt handled logistics and communication. “Matt had some thoughts, but it was mostly me and Carrie going back and forth,” says Quattro. “Working in TV is cool because you have these confines where someone is like, ‘Do this for this scene’ and, ‘You cannot do this.’ Sometimes the freedom of beat making is almost a little much for me. It’s nice to have a little direction. It’s more like being in a band — you’re working with the actors; you’re working with all these other people. I like that collaborative process a lot.”
“There was one instance where they took a sound I made and then and inserted it into another section,” he continues. “It’s a small thing, but it kind of felt like we were jamming from far away. That’s probably the closest I’ll get to jamming with Carrie Brownstein, and to me, that was so cool. There was a good amount of direction coming from her too, so it definitely felt collaborative.”
Spend five minutes talking to Tony and it’s clear he’s had solid guidance. “My dad always encouraged me to do what I want in terms of making career choices,” he explains. “He gave me the advice to pick the thing I want to do the most and then go a few degrees outside if need be. Like, if you can’t do that exact thing, find other things that are really close that would also make you really happy.”
Adidas ad featuring Tony Quattro’s “Keep it Movin (feat. Rell Rock)”
The combination of a supportive parent and some close family members involved with music helped Quattro to realize that music could be a viable career path. But it wasn’t always people shouting encouraging words; he heard from the jaded folks too. “A lot of those early mentors were actually telling me to not do music, but the early influence of my dad’s work ethic won. He kept trying to encourage me to think of other ways to use my ears, in terms of getting a job out of college. He’s always said, ‘Your ears, that’s your gift, so use them.’ I think, really, he’s probably the number one mentor.
NYC vs LA
Tony Quattro’s move to LA this year completes the triangle of major musical cities that he’s lived in. The young producer grew up outside of New York City moved to London for high school, then back to New York State for college. “I had really, really gotten into club music at that point,” he recalls.
The motivation to move to LA was also musical. “For the music I’m making, New York started to feel a little tapped out,” says Quattro. “The label I was working with ended last April, which was a bummer, and it just felt like there are more people out here doing the sort of music I’m into — less boundaries. New York clubs are either about house music or bottle service, and there’s not too much in between. There’s more open mindedness out here.”
Samsung ad featuring Quattro’s remix of “The Vibe (feat. Scrufizzer)” by Motez
When asked if the move is long-term, he responds, “The only thing you can do in music is just max out every day and then kind of hope for the best. Definitely plan, but I guess the main driver to be in LA is to get more opportunities in film and TV. I don’t know where EDM is going and I’m not going to ever be in charge of that. It would just be cool to have music as a vocation, be involved, make money, be creative, and be on this other platform where I don’t have to promote myself or just make dance music all the time. It’s something that I’m working toward, definitely.”
Check out Tony Quattro’s music, including “Young Paula Abdul” featuring Gnucci, his remix of Weird Together’s “Ready for This,” and more on his Soundcloud page. You can pre-order the Broad City soundtrack featuring Quattro’s work here.