Nightfreq Co-Founder Al Cardenas Is Blending Fashion & Music Culture

As the electronic music scene in Salt Lake grows quickly, more and more event companies and artist collectives pop up each month. One of the first to make waves in the city was Nightfreq, a collective of artists heavily influenced by countercultures in Los Angeles and the house and techno industries around the US and Japan. Merging street fashion and music, Nightfreq have established a brand within the streets of Salt Lake that’s become recognizable by nearly everyone.

At the center of this collective you’ll find Al Cardenas, aka Devareaux, who—along with a group of friends—formed Nightfreq with the idea of expanding and sharing the experiences and art they loved most about going to other places. It’s no secret that techno, hip hop and fashion go well together either—just watch the latest Yeezy Season show—and Cardenas realized this earlier than many. If you share a love for fashion, Cardenas is one of the best to spark conversation with on the topic, having co-designed his own line for the collective. Though Cardenas is busy with the expansion of Nightfreq and their recurring show, Recess Club, with Live Nite Events, we were able to sit down and talk about the brand.

EDM Utah: What got you into DJ’ing?
Devareaux: My friend Yokchi [Chang] and I  went to L.A. to this event called HARD back in the day and we were jealous of the caliber of music that was played there. We wanted to bring the same sound to SLC because we did not have that kind of music yet. We saw an opportunity to bring good music to Utah.

EDM Utah: Was there a certain style of music you were originally drawn to?
Devareaux: Indie-disco was my jam back in the day and still currently is. Bands like Designer Drugs, Autoerotique and early Justice.

EDM Utah: Do you produce as well?

Devareaux: I do produce. I [also] have a side project with my friend Josh Holyoak called Turbo & Ozone.

EDM Utah: What sparked you to create something like NIGHTFREQ?
Devareaux: I kept trying to get gigs at nightclubs and nobody would give me a chance so I pulled a Jay-Z and started NIGHTFREQ with my main dude Yokchi Chang. Our first party was at a club called The Manhattan. I remember people were getting so annoyed [with how much we were] promoting and they would tell us to stop, but we didn’t and 300 people showed up and our  headliner was Muscle Hawk.

EDM Utah: How has it changed since its inception?
Devareaux: We’re a lot smarter now in how we promote our events. We have a formula that we have figured out that works every time and we use that—I wish I could tell you but what’s the fun in that. Also NIGHTFREQ will start delving into clothing, we teamed up with Live Nite Events to bring Recess Club and we’re also working with a group called Catalyst on future underground parties. 

EDM Utah: You seem to be passionate about fashion as well, did you design the NIGHTFREQ shirts?
Devareaux: Yokchi and I have designed all of the shirts that you see on the streets. We’re very proud of them but we only do limited runs for now. This will all change because we have an investor that wants to take the brand and [expand it] so we’re excited about that. I have been kind of a nerd lately when it comes to fashion, but my homie Gregory Siratsamay is the main homie that gives me a lot of influences and shows me what is really good in the high fashion world.

EDM Utah: What influenced your taste in fashion?
Devareaux: The influences that I have right now for the clothing are Fear of God, 10 Deep, Black Scale and tall and boxy shirt silhouettes. I really like the short cut off shirt with a long line shirt underneath it. Distressed clothes are my new favorite jam right now. They’re perfect for summer.

EDM Utah: I see a lot of similarities between nightfreq and LA based collectives like Moving Castle, are you inspired by music scenes in other cities?
Devareaux:You see the similarities because we have a lot of friends that do parties in L.A. and we are constantly in L.A. checking stuff out and making sure we bring that new, new to Salt Lake City. My friend Trevor a.k.a Bones was one of the first people that we got out here to dj one of our Nightfreq parties. He is one of the founders of the Gotta Dance Dirty blog and now he’s a resident at Sound Nightclub and is a part of the Night Bass collective, so you can see where we get our influences from.

EDM Utah: Through Nightfreq you started recess club, what are some of the challenges you faced in the event planning side of the music industry that you didn’t expect?
Devareaux: Planning a weekly is one of the toughest things. You have some really good weeks and then you have some really bad weeks. People get tired of the promotion which is the part that can suck, but the challenge is something you learn and grow from. Anything and everything will happen that you didn’t expect, so expect for that!

EDM Utah: Do you lend a large hand in curating the artists that are booked for those shows?
Devareaux: For the most part you can sense when Nightfreq is behind a Recess Club booking. We work really close with Joey Traum and Vaughn Carrick [of Live Nite Events] in making sure that we try and book the best acts for the week and supporting DJ’s. We work as a team but we like to nudge toward certain artists at times.

EDM Utah: What other shows are you a part of throughout the valley?
Devareaux: Right now we have collaborated with Smoke Siignals for the Zeke Beats show at Urban Lounge. I’m always excited to team up with other crews and see what both parties can bring to the table. Nightfreq and Catalyst wanted to get involved with the Lost River Disco festival but we could not get it to work in time. We have a good friend Nicole Jaatoul playing that event, also our first Recess Club booking—Pilo from Boys Noize Records is playing that event too.

EDM Utah: Do you foresee taking Nightfreq to something bigger like a festival?
Devareaux: My dream is to get our name big enough to do a block party and eventually a mini festival at Gallivan Plaza. I think Salt Lake is ready to have a mini electronic music festival in the city—I know I am.

EDM Utah: What do you see changing about the local music scene in the coming years?
Devareaux: I think that we’ll start collaborating more with each other and that’s when we will break the bubble and really put Salt Lake on the map. Things just take time, and I have nothing but time.

Nightfreq is currently co-hosting Recess Club with Live Nite Events, and their latest installment with Rezz on July 28 at Elevate is sure to be one of the hottest shows of the summer.  –Julia Sachs

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