GTA stands for Good Times Ahead, which is exactly what you can expect at HARD Summer 2019. Comprised of Julio Mejia and Matt Toth, the dance music DJ/producer duo hail from Miami but now call Los Angeles their home. Both grew up surrounded by music in the household at all times, producing music individually before joining forces.
It was 10 years ago when they were introduced through a mutual friend (a DJ in Miami) via Facebook. Following the initial hangout and quickly finding common musical interests, their bond has remained strong ever since. It was in 2011 when they received a cosign from Laidback Luke, eventually catching the ears of Diplo. Fast forward to 2019, they’re now signed to his Mad Decent imprint.
While dance music comes in all shapes and forms, GTA pride themselves in making “cool music.” There’s a certain energy behind it, bringing a slew of different emotions with each record they release.
L.A. Weekly caught up with GTA to chat about their upcoming GTA & Friends set at HARD Summer, where they will be simultaneously announcing their new label Good Times Bad Times Records.
L.A. WEEKLY: What’s the dynamic between you guys?
MATT TOTH: I usually do a bit more of the technical things, as far as mixing and mastering. I’m still also very creative, we both take on that. Julio’s a bit more melodic.
JULIO MEJIA: I like to sample the food. We both bring a lot of ideas to the table. It’s mutual synergy, we bounce off of each other’s ideas. Through that, we come up with this little final plan/final product.
At what point did you realize this music thing was for real?
TOTH: It’d probably be the Rihanna tour. Six years ago, we’d been producing music and doing the initial thing, but nothing big was happening. One day, we get a phone call, they’re like “oh hey, you guys are going on tour with Rihanna.” The Diamonds Tour, we opened direct support for 65 or 70 shows.
MEJIA: All through Europe and the rest of the world actually. Australia, Asia…
TOTH: On top of the fact that’s our first time really touring, it was with her. That was even crazier on its own. The smaller shows we’re doing was 15K people, the biggest one she had was 90K people. We got to meet with her a bunch of times. She knew us by name, which is crazy.
What was the best memory from that tour?
MEJIA: It was really a whole experience in itself. Before that, we played to maybe 200 people at most in a room. Went from that to every night being a different experience of energies. Us being able to go to places we’ve never been before, playing our songs and seeing how people react to it. All of it was a blur because it was so much, but it was amazing. I loved it. Six months of traveling the world, experiencing a whole different crowd every other night, seeing how each of our songs were different. Which ones work, which ones didn’t work. Really opened my mind.
TOTH: They weren’t even there for us, but for Rih. Just a pretty incredible experience.
Were you excited? Were you nervous?
TOTH: Oh yeah. After that, I don’t want to say desensitized, but we’re like “OK this is what it is.” We’re used to it but we still get nervous when we play shows. That was definitely like “holy crap, this is crazy.” The first night we drank half a bottle of Jack before we got on because we’re so nervous. I remember shaking, it was insane.
MEJIA: It was really scary.
What was the biggest lesson you learned?
MEJIA: As far as being DJs, just adapting to the crowds. Every crowd was different. Especially in Europe, there’s no similarities between any countries. One thing will work here, like nobody’s ever heard this song before here. Learning how to read the crowd. Especially on those larger scales, you learn how to move and communicate with the crowds better.
TOTH: Song selection as well. We noticed in a Rihanna crowd, there’s obviously a lot of young people and kids. Their parents would be there, so we’d try to incorporate something their parents would like as well. We played a Pink Floyd song, all the dads are like “yeah!” Learning and adapting like that.
Talk about being dance music and opening for Rih, who’s R&B.
MEJIA: At that time, 2013 was a really great year in America for dance music. For us being off that hype and making relationships online with other DJs, we learned that Europe was ahead of the game already in electronic music. We got a bit of schooling playing for those completely different crowds. Pop crowds, they wanted to hear the stuff that’s been on that radio then. Definitely a learning experience. Definitely got a lot of bad reactions sometimes, but we learned from it and came out pretty solid.
You guys moved here in 2015. How important is it to move to L.A. as an up in coming artist?
TOTH: It’s pretty important. Everyone’s here, all the labels are here. There are so many people here who are hungry and wanting to work. I will say we came here already having something established, that definitely helped a lot. Because we already knew people and had a lot going on. I’ve talked to a lot of people who haven’t had that, moved here chasing that dream which is great, but it really takes a lot to be able to do that. A lot of people aren’t successful in doing that. It’s important, but also…
MEJIA: It can be detrimental to your career.
TOTH: A lot of people could have spent that time making their sound and music better, but they end up being so stressed about trying to pay rent, etc. Especially now with the internet being the way it is, you can get yourself out there. You can get around and make yourself known, work with people just being online and not need to have that stress — as amazing as it is being here.
Favorite part about the West Coast?
TOTH: Well it’s the best coast.
MEJIA: I like the weather for sure.
TOTH: The weather, the food, the people are super dope. There’s so much to do. I love hiking, just going out for a hike. Out in Miami, there are no mountains until you get to Georgia and Florida pretty much, that sucks. The mountain are incredible, beach is super nice too. There’s so much to it.
MEJIA: I say ‘gnarly’ all the time.
Favorite food spot in LA?
TOTH: There are so many.
MEJIA: Tacos 1986 that just opened down the street from my crib downtown. Brand new taco place on 6th and Spring, it’s so fire.
TOTH: There are so many. I live in Koreatown, there’s so much KBBQ. It’s fucking awesome.
You guys just unleashed “FK IT.” What was your mindset creating this one?
TOTH: We made “FK IT” about two years ago as a new intro song for us to play, because we’re about to play Ultra in Miami. We wanted something new and crazy. What really inspired us was a lot of 2008-2009 electro blockhouse sounds, like Crookers or Justice where they use random sounds like a power drill or a vacuum and try to make a cool beat out of it. That’s what we wanted to do but newer in a more trap sound. We try to incorporate sounds that a lot of people would normally use in the main parts of a song, use them in different ways and have other things be the main focus. That’s why we called it “FK it” because it’s such a random song. We’re like “alright, fuck it.”
What do you want fans to get from your story?
TOTH: That as long as you really have a passion, really love good dope music and come from a good place, you can really do a lot. You don’t have to sell out or cater to this or that. As long as you’re yourself, really love what you’re doing and push that forward, you can make It and inspire many other people as well.
What are some goals for yourself as an artist at this point in your career?
MEJIA: Definitely wanna go to an award show at one point, like the Grammys or Nickelodeon Kids Choice Awards.
TOTH: That’s what we’re shooting for, the Choice Awards.
Who are you guys bumping most on your phone?
MEJIA: The new J Balvin, Bad Bunny album.
TOTH: OASIS is really dope.
MEJIA: Flying Lotus’ new album. the new DJ Mustard album, the new Tyler, The Creator album. A lot of good music right now.
HARD Summer, what can we expect?
TOTH: We’re doing a GTA & Friends set. I believe it’s going to be 2 hours, so we’re going in. We wanted to go through and play all of our music, our own GTA songs. With that, having a lot of our friends — which we’ve collabed a lot of people — come out and play a few tracks with us. Have a literal GTA set, take it over for the rest of the night.
MEJIA: It’s going to be fun. Our whole vibe is just having good times with everyone we’ve collaborated with over the last nine years of us making music together. The list goes on and on. It’s any genre you can think of, it’s going to be dope.
TOTH: On top of that too, we’re actually starting our own label called Good Times Bad Times Records. Our first release will come out the same time as HARD, we’re debuting everything at the festival. In collaboration with HARD and Insomniac, so super dope. Super big. A bunch of new music, some old music we’ve been playing for awhile that people have been asking for. Some new things with other artists playing the festival as well, it’s going to be a giant party within a party. [chuckles]
What’s your vision with the label?
TOTH: I’m Cuban, Julio’s Honduran. We’re trying to put on for the Latin community, especially the EDM vector. It’s a really big central place where Latin producers and Latin music are in dance music. We’ve been really focused on that a lot lately. We’ve done it our whole career because that’s always what we loved, but now we feel we can really do that justice.
MEJIA: We also know a lot of people who can do it justice too. Other young producers from around the world we mess with, we want to put them on too. Be able to show people what our version of good music is.
Is it hard to coordinate bringing people out?
TOTH: We have a massive list and only a certain amount of people are able to make it out. Some people we’d love to have but they’re halfway across the world. But we definitely have a ton of people. A bunch of really good friends and DJs, it’s going to be awesome.
Can we get a sneak peak of who?
TOTH: I mean, there’s already a few of them playing the festival. Some of those, some others who aren’t playing the festival. Dillon Francis is coming, Flosstradamus. They’re on the festival so they’ll make it out. Other special guests too.
Besides your own set, what else are you excited for with hard summer?
TOTH: They have a bunch of really dope rappers we don’t really get to see, like Gunna, JPEGMAFIA, Tory Lanez. On top of all the DJs too it’s pretty dope. That’s what we’ve always loved about HARD, the mix of artists.
I used to rave…
MEJIA: I used to go all the time.
TOTH: I think 2009, I literally made a Deadmau5 helmet and went to go see Deadmau5.
Is there anything else you wanna let us know?
TOTH: You can check out all of our social media @WeAreGTA. Check out our clothing company we started, Good Times Ahead. We’re always coming out with new stuff: women stuff, guys stuff, hopefully dog stuff soon.
GTA and Friends performs at HARD Summer on Saturday, August 3.