Stylish Anthony Velez (above left) was a fan of dancer Lucas Parada (above right) from afar for some time, but it wasn’t until long after they finally met in person at an epic party that hot new DJ duo VELEZ&PARADA was born!
Thotyssey: Hello V&P, thanks so much for chatting today! So March is almost over, how did the month treat you?
VELEZ: March was a doozy, and she ain’t over yet! A lot of networking opportunities came to fruition this month, which leaves much to look forward to and be excited about.
PARADA: It’s been the best month of the year so far, lol! January and February were great, but March has had this spring energy that feels refreshed and lifted. I feel like you can hear that in the kind of music we’ve been playing the last couple weeks.
So how do you two know each other, and when did you begin DJing as a pair?
VELEZ: Well, I had actually known of Lucas for years prior to us meeting. When I was a dancer years ago, I’d watch videos of Lucas dancing at Millennium Dance Complex in LA on YouTube, and aspire to move like that boy.
PARADA: I first saw Ant at a Pride party in 2021. I distinctly remember the fierce full torso black harness he was wearing, I love a man with style.
VELEZ: I had just moved to New York City and was at my first NYC Pride party as a resident. Amid the dancing and the music and the strobing lights, he and I shared a moment of locked eyes, and proceeded to find each other on the dancefloor. Not even a few minutes into the interaction, I revealed to him that he was a prior idol of mine, and that I couldn’t believe I was sharing that moment on the dancefloor with him.
PARADA: I still find that part to be very funny and equally amazing, because he has a knowledge of where I come from that most people in NYC don’t.
VELEZ: We coincidentally ended up at every subsequent party together that weekend, and rapidly bonded over philosophical talks about life, love, queerness, and the overwhelming resurgence of community all around us following the pandemic.
PARADA: We weaved in and out of each others paths over the course of the summer, but it was the day after Pines Party that year we shared a transformative and spiritual moment where we both fell in love with house music at the same time. It was a beautiful day party that Alexis Tucci was playing. It’s hard to put into words… as a dancer, I’d always had special relationships with various genres of music, but on this day at this party I / we discovered and simultaneously fell deeply in love with disco, funk, and jackin’ house. It lit a fire in my soul, the kind of passion that honestly I don’t think I’ve felt since I first discovered dance when I was 14.
VELEZ: We danced together on tables, the pool deck, and in the pool like everyone was watching — a moment in time when I felt most liberated and beautiful. It was some time during the fall when we both expressed the desire to not only learn how to DJ, but to do it together. Lucas got his first beginner board in November, and I got mine a few weeks later for Christmas.
PARADA: We dove in, doing lots of research and lots of listening. We messed up in front of each other so many times, but when either of us would have a cool moment we both would shriek and jump around with excitement. We solidified a sort of “let’s mess up in front of one another a lot” culture early on, which I think helped us grow when things didn’t go perfectly.
VELEZ: We spent almost every night together at each other’s apartments teaching ourselves from scratch and dreaming really big.
PARADA: We played a “soft debut” in my apartment on February 4, 2022. We rearranged my whole apartment, left letters under my neighbors’ doors stating that we were gonna be loud for a couple hours on a Friday (and they were amazing about it, thank God) and played our intro set for 40+ sardine humans who were generous enough to squeeze into my apartment to come listen to us. It went really well — and we both knew we had something real.
Where are you both from, and was music always a part of your lives?
VELEZ: I am of Puerto Rican and Italian descent. I was born in New York, but my birth was the last thing my parents and grandparents were waiting for before packing up everything and moving to Tampa Bay, FL, where I was raised. I’m blessed to say that music has always been a big part of my life. My earliest memories of song and band consist of Fleetwood Mac and our church’s choir. I wanted to be like my older brother Joey, who picked up the clarinet in middle school, so upon entering the 6th grade, I picked up the violin. I took it very seriously as a projected life path, and worked my ass off to be First Chair. Still trying to emulate my brother’s accolades, I then picked up the saxophone shortly after in preparation to join him in the high school marching band — wooden instruments outdoors are a no-go!
I ended up ditching all of that halfway through high school to train as a ballet and modern dancer, but my understanding of music theory followed then by training my body to move to music has proven to be a huge advantage in what I create and share now as a DJ.
PARADA: I’m a half Chilean, half European mutt. I was born in Chicago and lived there until I was 6, but I primarily grew up on Cape Cod, MA where I was from 6 until 18. Music has been in my life since I was incepted fortunately. My earliest memories were spent dancing with my mom to Donna Summer, and weirdly but iconically the track “YMCA.” I played guitar, saxophone, and piano a bit — but quit before high school because my heart wasn’t in it. What I wanted to do was sing and dance.
Most of my musical understanding comes from years of intense training as a dancer primarily, but also from a few years of training as a classical vocalist. I almost actually went to college to be a vocalist, but ultimately chose to pursue dance instead. My goal with dance was to work behind artists; I was not as into the concert / Broadway scene. And I succeeded to a certain degree–I found myself dancing for Katy Perry at 20 years-old. But I fell out of love with the industry, and chose to move to NYC where I truly found myself for the first time. I found the clubs, I found community, I found house music culture and I found happiness.
How do you like your nights to sound, as far as played artists, genres, energy, etc?
PARADA: For me, the answer to this question depends entirely on the night. What’s the vibe, who’s producing, who’s attending, is it in NYC, where in the city is it, what day of the week is it, what time of day is it? These are just a few of the factors that inform our choices. The other two major factors are where each of us are in our personal music journey, and how aligned we are on the style we want to play. V&P’s sound has become much more distinct, but it is very versatile in where it can go depending on the situation. For me that’s really cool; as an audience member you come for V&P–you can trust there will something to sink your teeth into, but you don’t know what flavor you’re going to get!
VELEZ: We consider ourselves to be “storytelling” DJs. We go into every gig with the intention to create an arc(s) for our audience that takes them on a journey they can strap into, only to ultimately get lost in it. Our range of artists, genres, energy levels, and sounds covers a pretty vast space, so we game-plan together before every gig to align specifically on what we want to pull for the particular party. At current, Minimal Tech House has a fierce chokehold on our hearts, and we’ve been fortunate to explore that heavily with the residency we just finished up.
PARADA: That gritty low swinging bass makes my hips want to swang and that sound has been perfect for our development of “Warrior.” But I will say… I feel summer coming and I’m starting to crave a disco sound again.
VELEZ: Summertime will always bring out our Disco-prevalent sound, and we’re genuinely looking forward to stepping back into that fantasy again. Nevertheless, we pride ourselves on toeing the line between music that is familiar enough to hook you in, but different or underground enough to make sure you leave with your own repertoire expanded.
We chatted up Joey with the Mustache a while ago, who mentioned you two as great up-and-comers that he was mentoring! What other DJs in the city or elsewhere were people you looked up to, or gave you mentorship?
VELEZ: Thanks for the shoutout Joey! And speaking of Joey, we share a similar muse in Alexis Tucci. We were both in the room the first time she played in Fire Island, revealing to us a newfound investment in DJs and the dancefloor — the rest is history (in the making)!
PARADA: Alexis Tucci was hugely inspirational in our origin, as was Honey Dijon (I literally poured over YouTube videos of her sets for hours before I ever got to see her live).
VELEZ: Expanding on mentorship, Drew Baker was a very formative figure in our roots, frequently lending valuable equipment to us and offering personal jam sessions at his apartment with a full, advanced setup. He helped us believe we were worthy and capable of diving in head-first, and we are so fortunate to continuously get to collaborate with him to this day (coming up soon, in fact!).
PARADA: Our girl Joey and Drew Baker were really good to us as we were coming up, giving us lots of pointers, encouragement, and bookings. Both were at our soft-debut in my apartment, Joey even lent us his big speakers and Drew lent us his monitors. It was a family collaboration!
I would say my biggest teacher and mentor has been Michael Cignarale. I cannot say enough good things about that human, a.k.a. Mom. He has really showed us compassion and kindness in moments of frustration, celebrated us in moments of success, and spent tons of time with us just jamming out and vibing.
VELEZ: Mom agreed to open his wings to us as an exhilarated and awe-struck beginner approached him after his Good Room set in February of 2022 to share praise for how impactful the experience was. Ciggy facilitated our first PirateStudios session, which is also something that set a standard of excellence for the ways in which we would hone our craft. This one, too, is an honor to get to now collaborate with side-by-side, and we may or may not have something in the works for y’all very soon.
PARADA: Beyond that I’ve often discovered my biggest teachers just by going out, not knowing who the DJ will be, and getting lost in the music. I’ve truly had so many incredible nights like that. I’ve met so many DJs and also non-DJ music lovers who knowingly or unknowingly have profoundly impacted how I play and the kind of music I want to play. I love stumbling into inspiration accidentally like that; it’s one of the most exciting parts of being a DJ. Music transcends boundaries.
VELEZ: As far as other inspiration goes, I lean heavily into DJs and producers like Rimarkable, Octo Octa, Eris Drew, Harry Cross, Folamour, Hot Since 82, Ralf GUM, Honey Dijon, Mark Knight, and Oden & Fatzo to name a few of very many.
PARADA: I also have to give credit to The Carry Nation, whom Anthony and I look up to and respect in many ways. They have modeled for us what it looks to be queer producers who facilitate safe and liberated environments, elevate talent in the community, and take us on musical journeys that we never knew we needed. They are legends to me.
What have been some of your favorite gigs that you’ve played?
PARADA: There have been a lot, so it’s hard to pick. Each gig means something different to me and marks a different point in the evolution of our journey. If I really had to pick one, I think I would pick 2022 Otis & Finn Pride. We played that gig at this really cool warehouse in Queens. The setup had this festival-esque feel to me. It was an earlier gig, for us and one of the first where V&P got to play a harder club sound. We played a lot of music that we had never had the opportunity to play publicly before which was a treat. Ant and I were in sync that night. One song rolled into the next with ease and we were dancing so hard on the DJ platform, which was elevated and lit in such a way that it felt like we were playing a stadium. It was one of the first gigs where we really got to feel the crowd hooping and hollering as they danced to our music. The gig made me feel like V&P was some famous European Defected DJ Megastar who had been flown into the play that day and went straight from the airport to the gig. I was living.
I would say a close second was playing “Very That” in Chicago this past New Year’s Day. The Chicago dolls have a very special place in my heart, and every time we play in Chi-Town the energy pops off beyond. Ugh! I love them.
VELEZ: Being asked to play Hydrate Nightclub in Chicago as our very first club gig was a daunting but riveting proposition. I remember feeling pretty nervous in a familiar way to my days on the stage, and preparing far more intensely and extensively than we do now. It was our first 6-hour set, comprised of both B2B and extended solo stretches between the two of us, and you could feel the electricity in that packed out club. I remember feeling incredibly proud of us, and kind of in disbelief at the same time.
V&P getting to play together in the Pines last summer for the first time was a very special full-circle moment for me, as it was where I both found my love for House music and secured a lifelong partnership with Lucas.
There’s just something about Le Bain and its unobstructed, elevated views of the city and beyond. Sharing our music there felt like we were playing through the glass windows to the entire concrete jungle–it felt very peak NYC.
And truthfully, there have been quite a few nights from our previous Rebar residency that have felt like some next-level magic. We really got to experiment and push boundaries there, and to see it be received with such open arms and ears was gratifying as hell.
And do you have a “this is the craziest thing I’ve seen at a gig” stories?
VELEZ: Only the lucky ones were there, but a Fire Island house party got so overpopulated last June that the second floor wooden deck of the house collapsed. One of the house tenants came running up to us and yelled, “Stop the music immediately, the deck fell!” Unfortunately the party had to get cut short, about an hour early, but it did indeed feel iconic.
PARADA: I honestly can’t say I can really think of too many “crazy” things that have happened during gigs. I definitely second Anthony’s answer, that was crazy. I can think of some fierce and fabulous moments, but crazy? I think breaking an FIP roof is the best we got.
Do your audiences usually let you be you, or do you get tons of song requests at your gigs?
VELEZ: Love this question!
PARADA: Well I think the best way to put that would be it’s a mix of both. Our regulars and the girlies who come out for house sets often know not to ask. They’re there to ride the musical wave that the DJ facilitates — and always seem receptive to the vibe we create.
VELEZ: However, we do inevitably receive requests from time to time — Renaissance was/is a frequent one (which we do play!!) — and they’re almost always from patrons who may not be very seasoned with House and Disco music, or patrons who simply don’t yet understand that DJs carefully curate their collection of vinyl records or MP3 files on a flash drive. The common misconception is that DJs have an unlimited library, like Spotify, at their immediate disposal; when I have the right moment away from a transition, I like to take a second to explain that to them. Additionally, the building of a set is a very thoughtful and intentioned curation for most DJs.
PARADA: We do our best to politely let those people know that we don’t take requests; I definitely understand the instinct, but I think about it like being at an improv dance show: You would never go up to the stage and ask those dancers if they could… dance differently. That wouldn’t make sense and would be rude. But you would hoop and holler if you liked the dancing, and perhaps you would leave if you didn’t. It’s the same principle with our sets and when the opportunity presents itself–I will communicate that to those who make requests.
Is it difficult to navigate love lives or just social lives when you’re a part of the crazy nightlife grind?
VELEZ: I’m really glad we’re touching on this topic, because it’s very much a reality!
PARADA: I’m giggling because it’s a good question and one that I ask myself often. I imagine it differs from person to person and for me, I know it changes overtime. My love life has never really been a struggle to navigate because of DJing, though I suppose my partners have also always been involved with nightlife so it has felt natural. I think my social life overall has fluctuated a bunch, as has my desire to actually be social in the first place.
But the simple answer is there’s room for it all, depending on how you choose to prioritize. DJing actually gives me an excuse to see a lot of the community that I might not see if I weren’t spinning a gig. But on the flip side, we often miss things we’d love to go to because we’re spinning elsewhere. It’s a trade-off, I suppose.
VELEZ: Being booked for certain opportunities does create an inability to be present at other parties or events that we would historically commune with our closest friends at. There have been many periods of time where I’ve had to say to friends, “I’m sorry, but if you wanna see me, come to the gig!” It’s a beautiful problem to have, but nonetheless does constitute an adjustment to how we navigate and experience nightlife differently than when we were just patrons.
You two just finished up a 15-week residency at Rebar Chelsea’s “Warrior Fridays!” What’s that night like?
PARADA: Warrior was a blast! The vibe is darker, housey, sexy, but still manages to feel like family time. I genuinely loved watching the party build week over week, seeing new faces and familiar faces, and feeling our musical expression evolve. The coolest part for me was having the opportunity to lean into new genres and build what I would call our “club sound.” Anthony and I discovered A lot of new music/genres we like to play together, and ultimately landed on a sound that feels really honest and distinctly V&P. I’m proud of the vibe we cultivated and glad we get to go out on a high!
VELEZ: When I first started hearing feedback from friends that coming to see V&P at WARRIOR was their “new Friday night default,” it felt like we were doing something right. The recurring party itself evolved in a really beautiful way over time, and so did our sound in that space. Getting to play each and every week at the same party and venue most definitely was a monumental catalyst for our artistic growth and the honing in of the experience we aim to provide. We wanted to lay a reliable foundation of knowing what you were gonna get each week, while also making every week a little different sonically — I think we succeeded at that. And to get to play some really deep cuts of house and disco music outside of Brooklyn… such a blessing! What was most special to me was seeing both familiar faces and brand new faces every single week, duly noting the diversity in sexuality, gender expression, age, ethnicity, and geographical residence among the audience. It seemed like people felt safe there, and I’m really looking forward to where and what this sets us up to go and do next.
On April 1st you’ll be DJing for what looks like a political rally of sorts: “B4Play” at Offsite! Marti Gould Cummings will be speaking there. What’s that about?
VELEZ&PARADA: This particular B4play is a one-time-only re-imagination of the party we created a year ago when we first started publicly spinning. This go around, we are fundraising to donate all proceeds to organizations who are combatting anti-trans and anti-drag legislation. It’s a very confusing and scary thing to watch so many states introduce blatantly targeted and hateful bills that have already had a very real negative impact on the lives of queer people around the country. We are blessed to live in a state that protects queer rights, but sometimes it’s hard to fully grapple with what our community is dealing with one or two states away, and what we can do about it. But when we’re stuck questioning what we can do about injustices happening cities and states away, there’s so much value in starting with the city or community you already coexist in. This is the beginning of our fight back.
Our goal is to leverage the power and strength in our community to make a difference. We are honored to be hosting Marti Cummings, the National LGBTQ Task Force, Enough: Self-Defense, and a number of talented performers to facilitate a fierce community celebration that doubles as an opportunity to put our money where our mouths are. Links to this and all of our events, including a few others of this intention and stature, can be found in our LinkTree via our Instagrams.
And later that night, you’ll be back at VERS for the fifth edition of their “Well-Vers’d” underwear party! Hot!
PARADA: She is hot! I have to say she has surprised me a couple times with just how much the vibe has popped off. It’s truly such a fun party if anybody is in the area I highly recommend coming through! The staff is amazing, the lights are amazing, the energy has been amazing, Ant and I have the best time, it’s a full sexy vibe and is worth a check out.
VELEZ: Quite honestly, this has become one of my favorite parties to play. We knew we definitely wanted to collaborate with our dear friends David and Aidan when they mentioned wanting to throw a ticketed event like this at VERS, but we truthfully hadn’t played a party with this kind of vibe/energy until that point. My initial approach to “Well-VERS’d” was an Eagle-esque sound, but what we’ve found over the course of the last few months is the confirmation of a concept I’ve always believed heavily in — the songs don’t necessarily have to force sexuality, but if you play with an exuding of sensuality, there will be buy-in. We’ve gotten to explore a much wider range of sounds and genres at this party I once thought had to lead with deeper house and techno, and watching a room full of people fall in love and get steamy to “Pearls” by Jessie Ware in their underwear has been such an unexpected treat.
What else is coming up for you, as far as gigs or projects?
VELEZ&PARADA: Looking at the calendar through summer, there’s lots to look forward to, and lots we can’t quite share yet(!), but 2023 will take V&P to more cities and bigger stages. We feel very excited and humbled to have this momentum, and the opportunity to bring our sound and experience to different audiences around the world is a blessing not lost on us. Both of us have big dreams of stepping into the music production world — I think our main, unspoken priority was to enjoy and figure out the navigation of Year 1. But now that we have that under our belts, maybe that’s something you’ll start to see us dabble in soon.
Finally: Miley’s Endless Summer Vacation dropped! Yay or nay?
VELEZ: Ya know… once my job became a constant pursuit of new house and disco music, I kinda completely abandoned pop and mainstream music — and I was somebody who was listening to the Positions album on repeat for a period of time I will not disclose. However, lately I’ve felt led to return back to some of those roots, and it’s been really refreshing to slow down (literally in BPM) and feel some mainstream nostalgia. From what I’ve heard so far, Endless Summer Vacation is a big Yay, and in general I just adore and marvel at Miley Cyrus for the woman she is.
PARADA: Haven’t listened to it…. but I’m sure it’s a slay!
Check Thotyssey’s calendar for VELEZ&PARADA’s upcoming appearances, and follow them on Instagram, Soundcloud and their website. Also follow Anthony Velez’s Instagram and Lucas Parada’s Instagram.