Being a DJ is largely an exercise in awareness. Leigh Lezark and Geordon Nicol — the individuals behind the ultra-connected DJ collective The Misshapes—are masters at this. They joined us at our Sound of Luxury experience in West Hollywood, California, to speak on how sound has the ability to transport us.
“(As DJs) you have to read the audience,” Geordon starts. “For a great party, it’s always about reading your audience and knowing where you’re at and who you’re playing to. I don’t think we ever really go into a party to DJ with a strict set that says, we’re playing this, no matter what happens. Because as you see people reacting to different songs, that’s going to dictate what direction you’re going in because you’re (connecting) with those people.”
For the pair, though, sound has proven its ability to move them as much physically as it has mentally. Between sound design for films and music sets for runway shows, Leigh and Geordon have had the opportunity to travel most of the world in pursuit of sound, and their job description includes that enviable bit about soaking up as many experiences as possible.
“We just did the score for a film about climate change. It’s shot all over the world, so we tried to source instruments or local styles of music from the specific places and incorporate them in a way that felt natural,” Geordon says. “Everywhere we go, we try to immerse ourselves in whatever city that we’re in. While we were (in Indonesia), we went to dances, tribal experiences and temples, and it’s hard to not take something powerful away from those experiences, whether it’s the sound or the smells or the whole sensory overload.”
“When you do something that you love, it’s really easy for it to be organic.”
But before the international jet-setting, Leigh and Geordon were just two friends who met in high school, dissatisfied with the Manhattan club scene.
“It felt very retro,” Geordon says. “Or it just felt like there was no direction for what we wanted to hear, what we liked. So, we decided to throw a New Year’s Eve party in our apartment. We made a fake invite.”
“We decided we wanted a party that was different than what was going on in New York at the time,” Leigh says. “We wanted new music and there were social media platforms that (gave us) access to all these new music, smaller bands.”
“Yeah, it was a joke for us. Once we did it and word of mouth got out, it was too insane. People in the building, out of the building…”
“Swinging off the rafters.”
Before long, members of those aforementioned small bands heard about what was going on, and they began showing up to the parties themselves. One bar owner was so impressed by the turnout that he asked if the friends could replicate the party within his walls.
“At the time we weren’t DJing,” Geordon says. “We just thought, yeah, why not? So we did it and very quickly learned the importance of a good sound system and a good team around us to organize and to pull off the events. For the first few ones, the (sound system) was pretty bad. Then, as we changed (that), the parties just took off, and a lot of people started coming.”
“When you do something that you love, it’s really easy for it to be organic,” Leigh says. “From there, we started to DJ runway show music. One of the designers that we worked with came to our party, loved it and said, this is what I want for my show.”
But runway shows live in a much more concrete and predetermined place than nights out at the club – the music is a prescription and not a response to the mood of the audience. So the two, known by now as the Misshapes, had to hone their curating skills accordingly.
“When we’re DJing a fashion show, we work with the designer weeks before – sometimes months before, depending on how hard the concept is,” Geordon says. “And we’ll sit down with them and we’ll go through their inspiration, their mood board, what’s the message, what’s the story that’s being told and (we) work together to really bring that to life.”
It was during one of these experiences that the DJs realized sound can also be a vehicle to the past. One designer showed them a home video of her children playing at a beach, and there was a noise in the background that evoked the memory for her.
“We pulled (the sound) out and used it,” Leigh remembers.
“Yeah,” Geordon says, “it evolved and took on a life of its own again… it’s like taking a small, personal moment of her life that this sound reminds her of, a certain place and time, and we translate that into a 15-minute show.”
Being a DJ is largely an exercise in awareness.
When our time together was nearing an end, we asked the Misshapes about the most meaningful lesson they’ve taken from more than a decade of DJing, Leigh and Geordon shared a reflection on the first time they realized the power sound has to unite.
“Getting to go to Singapore, Australia, China, Japan, Argentina, Mexico, everywhere—that experience, that amazing feeling in such a foreign place, of DJing to a crowd—and they have the same reaction to you and your music as they do in New York, where that’s home for you,” Geordon says, “I think when we went to those places the very first time, we never anticipated having that connection with people. I think that also really comes down to the importance of sound and music…”
And that’s when you realize…
You don’t have to learn a new language, because you already speak the same one.
We sat down with The Misshapes while visiting West Hollywood in the Lincoln MKX for our Sound of Luxury Experience.