Vancouver DJ Collective Lazy Syrup Orchestra Improvise Their Way to the Top of Their Game

Tuesday 10th, September 2019 / 08:51
By Catalina Briceno 

Lazy Syrup Orchestra | Photo by Hayden Music Media

For Lazy Syrup Orchestra, improvisation is a way of life. It’s how they best know to express themselves and their music, even in structured festival settings. 

The Vancouver-based DJ group started at Bass Coast in 2015 as side-project to Duncan Smith’s glitch-hop crushers, The Funk Hunters, with the goal to write and perform mellow morning music. Alongside Smith, the Lazy Syrup Orchestra lives true to its name, bringing in a handful of collaborators, including DJ Duncan Smith, rapper and MC Soren Thomas Hodne, trumpet player Cole Graham, vocalist and guitarist Mark Woodyard, and DJ and producer Mike Kotek. Together, they set the framework for their chill vibes overtop which each member is free to explore and improvise at their whim.

“I always make sure to freestyle at least once on every set,” says Hodne of the group’s driving vision. “It’s an important piece of the project to not have it all totally rehearsed. That can get a little more nerve-wracking, but I like it and I like feeding off the crowd. I think it all spawns from rhythm, it’s like drumming over the beat, the words will come later.”

Lazy Syrup Orchestra cater to their name. Their signature, mellow, low-tempo beats are ideal to kick back and relax — though they’re not afraid to get a full-on dance party going for those who want to start their days on a higher frequency. Blending together influences as varied as their members, including Latin, jazz, soul, reggae and old school hip hop, the Lazy Syrup Orchestra are big on creating music on a deeply instinctual level that just feels right.

Indeed, their upcoming remix of an Orbital track highlights just how far the Lazy Syrup Orchestra are willing to stretch their imaginations.

“It was on tour, where I came up with a two-step [remix] of the track. When we got back in the studio, we finished it off in two to three hours with the help of Michael Kotek,” says Hodne.

Their willingness to take big risks and put on bigger shows is embedded in the group’s DNA as they perform of continuously growing audiences at renowned festivals like Bass Coast and Shambhala. As both Smith and Hodne explain, this year’s set at Shambhala drew their biggest audience at the massive pilgrimage yet — and it all adds to the supernatural vibe the group is curating.

“It was incredibly humbling to see so many people at our set. This year at Shambhala was one of the most magical shows, I’ve ever been a part of,” says Smith.

Lazy Syrup Orchestra’s improvisational nature will be on full display Friday, Sept. 13 at Station On Jasper (Edmonton), Saturday, Sept. 14 at Circle Carnival (Calgary) and Wicked Woods Music Festival, Sunday, Sept. 15. They are also performing Tuesday, Oct. 15 at the Imperial (Vancouver) and Wednesday, Oct. 16 at the Capitol Ballroom (Victoria).