Named one our , PRXZM has held up to the name with a plethora announcements to make this their top year yet. From releasing hit after hit, to receiving major support from the likes names like The Chainsmokers, Virtual Riot, Wuki and many more, PRXZM has taken this year to build into a full package duo while finishing their college education all at the same time. For those who may not know, PRXZM features members Nick Ortega and Emma Maidenberg who combine their musical talents for a full package sound that is distinct and pristine.
Combining Maidenbergâs haunting yet utterly beautiful vocal qualities with Ortegaâs production prowess and a combination each individualâs knack for musicality, they have created high energy bangers to emotional swells bliss with their unique take on dance music mixed with indie influence. From tracks like âHazeâ and âRoyaltyâ which feature emotional ballads coupled with intricate future melodic inspired production, to covers tracks like âSea Voicesâ by Porter Robinson and Post Maloneâs âWhite Iversonâ which work to showcase Maidenbergâs vast vocal range, this rising talent has continued to stun with their later releases like âDTLA â92â alongside Gladiator, âIn My Headâ with Virtual Riot and their latest hit track âCan You Tell Me.â
Gearing up for their debut headlining tour and kicking f with their first ever Red Rocks performance at Trapfest alongside Marshmello, Jai Wolf and more, we sat with PRXZM to chat about their year in review, their upcoming tour and music and so much more.
So first f, I always like to ask, how does it feel being here and playing Red Rocks?
Nick: Iâve never even see Red Rocks in person, Iâve literally only seen pictures and itâs the most incredible thing. Like I couldnât really take it in beforehand because I was just super nervous but afterwards, just seeing everything and seeing what we played to, this has been the most incredible experience ever. Very honored to be here.
Emma: Yeah, I think this whole week we were a little numb thinking about it. We hadnât been here and hadnât checked it out yet and we knew that the second we got on stage it would all hit us and it did. It was amazing, weâre really grateful we got the opportunity.
You guys have put out a bunch collabs in the past twelve months alongside your original. Working in a duo, how does collabing with another producer usually work? Whatâs your workflow?
Emma: So typically the other artist weâre working with will send an idea for an instrumental or theyâll just ask me for a vocal they can use and weâll record something, put together a chord progression and create something. Weâll do a bit the production usually, help out with the vocal chops, thatâs what happened with the Wuki track.
Nick: Yeah, a lot the collaborations though weâre actually with them in the studio. So like the Gladiator one, the Virtual Riot one, those are the two big main ones but we actually got to sit down in a studio. It was a very hands on experience.
Emma: Weâd spend hours just sitting in the studio and talking with them about where we wanted the collab to go. Whereas our first collab with Borgore, my first big feature, was all done over e-mail. We usually skyped a couple times but being in the studio and working on these collabs with these guys has been really cool.
Are there any other names that youâd like to collab with before 2017 is over?
Nick: I mean I could name a bunch we wanna collab, but realisticallyâ¦ *laughing* I mean a dream collab would be Porter Robinson, obviously. I mean, I think what we want to do right now is a bit different though.
Emma: We definitely want to look into working with artists like CHVRCHES and more.
Nick: Yeah more outside the electronic scene for sure, because weâre heading into more a live direction and collabs outside that would definitely be a good indication for fans where weâre trying to go.
Emma: But yeah, The XX, CHVRCHES, Oh Wonderâ¦
Nick: Halsey would be dope.
Emma: A bunch big names in pop weâd love to work with as well.
You guys obviously bring a variety influence into your music between original vocals and dance heavy production. Who are some your biggest inspirations right now?
Nick: I mean, again Iâm gonna have to say Porter Robinson. I feel like thatâll be a common theme for all these answers. *laughing* No, Porter Robinson definitely, Madeonâ¦ Theyâre very big influences for us, especially in terms the whole live thing. Watching them do live sets is just the most incredible thing ever.
Emma: Yeah weâve seen the Worlds Tour like four times and we saw the Shelter tour.
Nick: Itâs incredible. I mean, outside electronic music though I really draw a lot my inspiration from classical artists. I really like Mozart and Beethoven. I took classical piano lessons for about 12 years and I did a bunch recitals and I can still from memory play like Moonlight Sonata and Sonata in C Major and the theory I learned from that really inspires me and helps me build new progressions.
Emma: Yeah Nick and I both have classical training, which has been really cool to work with. Mine is in voice, his is in piano. But yeah, a lot the inspiration Iâve been getting latelyâ¦ Iâve been listening to a lot people Iâve seen live and really enjoyed their sets, so like Maggie Rogers, The XX, CHVRCHES, Ella Vos is really coolâ¦ Odesza are amazing. I like to listen to instrumentals as well, like an artist called Tomppabeats, and I write to his music a lot. I just write lyrics and melodies to his instrumentals and then weâll kinda like make it work in one our songs. Itâs a really cool music sheet to write on though.
Which artists did you grow up listening to that got you into music originally?
Nick: Iâve always been really into music. Iâve actually gone through a lot weird musical phases.
Emma: Nick knows every word to every Eminem song.
Nick: Oh yeah, I can flawlessly rap every Eminem track. My Band is my favorite one, even though itâs D12 itâs technically still Eminem.
Emma: Nick do it right now.
Nick: I 100% will.
*Emma and Nick both flawlessly start rapping My Band by D12*
Nick: I could go on and on. *laughing* Rap is like my guilty pleasure, like I really enjoy rap, hip hop, RnB, but also in 8th grade I was super into heavy metal. Like, the more I could not understand the words because they were just screaming them, the better. What really got me into electronic music though was Skrillex. I mean, he gets everyone into electronic music, but I heard him my junior year high school, Scary Monsters and Nice Sprites EP, and I had never heard anything like it before because it was such a new thing in the United States. That really got me to start producing and I tried to emulate that at first because you donât really have an original direction when you first start learning. So I was trying to emulate that and emulate the sounds he would do, and I did that junior and senior year high school and then freshman year college, thatâs where I met Emma and thatâs where we really got serious about producing music and learning. Iâm still learning to this day.
Emma: Well for me, my first intro to electronic was Bassnectar. *laughing* Went out and saw him in San Francisco when I was likeâ¦ 16, and that was my first really big show. I listened to Skrillex too though, I loved Scary Monsters and Nice Sprites. Had it on my iPod. *laughing* But growing up, it was a lot different. A lot more vocal heavy stuff, I loved Taylor Swift.
Nick: She still does. *laughing*
Emma: I still do, I still know every single song. Love The Shins, a bunch indie rock bands. Lorde, love Lorde. I really did always listen to Taylor Swift and then Lorde and I donât knowâ¦ All American Rejects? *laughing*
Nick: Oh yeah, the classic emo middle school bands! Bowling for Soup. I only know one song by them, I have like 1985 Radio on my Pandora and I go so hard.
Emma: Nick and I always listen to the Pop2k Sirius XM station when we drive to shows. We just rock out! *laughing*
You guys are planning on heading out on your first headlining tour! How does it feel getting to this point?
Nick: Itâs so rewarding to see, and honestly some parts it still donât seem real, because weâre making this music literally in my bedroom. So itâs kinda funny to make something in my bedroom and then fly out halfway across the United States and then play what we made and have it resonate with people. Just seeing that is incredible.
Emma: Just watching the audiences grow and just the diversity that is incredible. It really used to be just people that wanted really heavy electronic music and now itâs more people who are listening to the lyrics and singing along and sending us messages about what the lyrics mean to them, how they relate to a song. Itâs a much more personal feel now. These shows on the tour are also all going to be smaller capacity, intimate rooms since weâre headlining and still kinda small, but weâre super excited to share these intimate venues with new audiences all across the country just to see how it resonates with everyone and to see how receptive they are. So far for our summer shows it has been really great, weâve gotten a lot new fans and connected with a lot people and itâs been really cool to share all our work. It is definitely rewarding. Itâs still so much work though, like planning a tour we had no idea what goes into it.
Nick: Yeah seriously, like even being on the music side and being more behind the scenes, up until we started planning this tour and making executive decisions like renting vans and spending a bunch money, we had no clue how much really goes into it.
Emma: We were like oh you just hop in a car and go right?
Nick: Yeah, but itâs such an incredible learning experience too. Like thereâs still so much that we can learn and how to grow.
Emma: Weâre growing and growing into the career and learning and changing from this being more than just a hobby. Itâs a big jump for us!
AreÂ there any special guests or surprises you plan on bringing along?
Emma: We have a duo called Papa Ya coming with us.
Nick: Theyâre really new, really cool. Signed to Sony.
Emma: Theyâre this cool pop blend electronic music and theyâre out LA and weâre stoked to spend some time with them and do the shows with them. We have a couple secret shows on the tour weâre gonna announce last minute. Besides thatâ¦
Nick: I have a really good high school friend coming on the road with us to take photos so Iâm super excited on that.
Emma: Besides that, weâll be performing songs f our upcoming EP and weâll be releasing a new song while on tour called âLowline,â which is coming out on AiA. So yeah, thatâll be really exciting during the tour. That will be the first track to come out and the rest the EP will be coming out in the fall. Very excited to show everyone our new stuff.
You guys have been really building a live element to your shows and tracks. Can we hope to see more live instrumentation as time goes on?
Nick: Absolutely, I think it would be super cool honestly for likeâ¦ Maybe a really big show, not all the time but it would be awesome to have someone play a drum kit, Emma can sing the whole time, I can be doing keys the whole time.
Emma: Thatâs our goal for when we play Lollapalooza.
Nick: Yeah, when we play Lolla, we are gonna have a drummer with a full kit. I mean, weâve honestly been continually introducing new elements with each show too. The next couple shows, Emma is going to have a drum pad/sample pad that she can play while she sings too, and I would love to go as live as possible while keeping that electronic feel. Get some giant synthesizers maybe, I donât know. Something like that would be really cool.
What has been the phase shifting from DJ sets to more live shows?
Emma: So our first show ever was at a high school in Michigan. *Nick groaning in corner while Emma laughs* So we played there and it was just a dance.
Nick: It was like their winter formal or something.
Emma: They were wearing jeans too, so not sure how formal it really was. *laughing* But we were super excited because we were DJing and our first time playing out like that and we drove 5 hours there and they all were crying, like literally crying, because they didnât know how to dance to it and they all sat on the floor and they wouldnât pay us. *laughing* It was like a total nightmare. So then we played at the Backdoor in Bloomington. We were really doing DJ sets up until like October last year, so really only 6 months live sets. In October we did a show with Adventure Club in Minneapolis and we did all originals, like that was our first time filling a whole set with me singing.
Nick: At that point it was still me on turntables just playing the instrumental while Emma sang. Then, the first time we introduced any real live elements was South by South West in March and at that point it was just like, Iâd play the song and would only take out a couple parts, like only a little bit the drums, because I was still really afraid. There was only like two parts in each song that Iâd really push buttons, and at that point it wasnât a drum pad it was just a launch pad with the buttons. Since then, when we got comfortable with that we would always be like âOkay letâs make me do more,â so weâd take out more the songs and make me do vocal chops and the drums, and then when we were comfortable with that we were like okay letâs add in a keyboard and drum pad.
Emma: The first time we had all this equipment and like, a travelling case for all it, was last show, like two weeks ago in Omaha so this was our second time ever playing out like this. I have a drum pad too, but I didnât use it tonight because I just got it yesterday. *laughing*
Nick: Itâs been a really fast transition, but it all has been really natural because this is what we want to do so it doesnât feel like oh, should we do this. Itâs just like letâs do this and this and this and we keep adding things that are natural for us. It feels really good.
Which instrument would you say youâre the most comfortable playing?
Nick: Iâm most comfortable with piano for sure, itâs my favorite instrument in the whole world. Sometimes if I canât sleep at like two in the morning I just play the piano and make pretty piano things and it puts me to sleep. Itâs very therapeutic for sure.
Emma: Besides singing Iâd say drums, I play drums too. Iâm probably not going to play a full kit on stage. I donât know, Iâd consider it once, maybe to try it out. I say that now. *laughing*
Nick: Itâs on the record so you have to do it. *laughing* She is her teacherâs favorite student and he says it all the time.
Emma: He tweet quotes. Heâs always tweeting and saying âMy favorite student is a rock star.â *laughing*
You guys were both studying while balancing a rising artist career. How did you find that balance between school and music and touring?
Emma: School was alwaysâ¦ It was never really a huge challenge, it was just a way it was.
Nick: Yeah thatâs how it was really from the beginning since we started this our freshman year. Even though we werenât like playing shows or anything like that when we first started, the passion was still there to create something and we developed time management habits early on. Like, weâd separate the days into class time and music time. This past year though, like senior year, I didnât really have much a social life because Iâm very awkward in front people, so I donât like to go out in general, but it was nice. After school, we would just both focus on music, so weâd both write two or three or four times in the week for five hours or weâd have meetings and knock out all the business stuff.
Emma: That was the other thing too for sure, was when a whole new element was introduced with the business side. So weâd have calls with Max (agent) a couple times a week or calls with Jacob our day-to-day manager, we also have a group chat and weâre always talking, like almost every single day. Thereâs so many things planned for the tour, and even the one f shows weâd always have to plan in the past. Like maybe weâd have a show on a Sunday and then we were back in class on a Monday.
Nick: Also, we had it set up pretty nice. Oh, well Emma also graduated a semester early so the past few months she has been much more free. But we both didnât have Friday classes, so that made it easier if there was a weekend that we needed to go away. Although we definitely had times that we missed classes. We definitely missed a lot classes but we were definitely motivated to finish.
Emma: Neither us ever considered stopping school.
Nick: We both like to see things through and that kind shows. Also our parents. *laughing*
Emma: Our parents have been nothing but supportive though, itâs been really cool. It was a tough balance but it was all we knew.
Nick: It was tough but we both knew itâd pay f in the end honestly.
What advice would you give to any producers who are pursuing both college and music careers?
Emma: Remember that school is only a few years, and you should definitely do it and finish strong.
Nick: Yeah definitely finishing school is big, you have the rest your life to do whatever you want.
Emma: Whatever you put into one thing is what you put into everything too, so if youâre putting your everything into music you have to give school that attention too. If youâre not doing that well in school then youâre probably not doing that well with music necessarily. Like Nick and I both got really good grades while doing all this and itâs just because we worked hard at all it.
Nick: I also think the more you have to do, the more youâll end up getting done. When I had full weeks classes and projects but we also have deadlines to meet it really makes you prioritize and manage your time. I think the passion has to be there too. You have to be fully in it and do both things equally, they have to want to make music but also have to have that drive to finish school.
Emma: Thereâs a lot that goes into it too, it turns into not really a hobby and you turn your hobby into a job.
Nick: You turn your hobby into a jobby.
Emma: *laughing* Yeah itâs your jobby. And as awesome as it is it demands a lot your time and dedication and you gain a whole new love for it. You realize itâs not what you thought it was and you develop a whole new love for it, you have to want to do all those things.
How do you spend your free time while at home or on the road, outside working on music?
Emma: Iâm a barista.
Nick: She kills, she gives me free smoothies sometimes.
Emma: Awe thanks. *laughing* No I work like 30 hours a week doing that too.
Nick: Sheâs grinding so hard. I actually live with my roommates and theyâre like my best friends. *Emma glaring* Okay youâre obviously my best friend too, but apart from music, he said apart from music. *laughing* But we play like racquetball like four or five times a week, we love racquetball. Oh, also, recently I picked up golf and we went to the golf course and I did okay.
Emma: Did you wear a helmet?
Nick: Yes I did wear a helmet.
Jacob (Manager): Did you actually wear a helmet while you played golf? *laughing*
Nick: *sarcastically* Yeah dudeâ¦ No why would I wear a helmet?
Emma: You told me you wore a helmet. *laughing*
Nick: No I didnât but I wore sunscreen. *laughing* No but I donât know, just recently itâs been us going f for the last little bit we have together. One them is getting married which is insane so weâre just trying to blow f as much adolescent steam as possible before we go do our own thing.
Emma: You call it adolescent steam? *laughing*
Nick: Okay sorry, adolescent steam, I tried to come up with a better word. *laughing*
Emma: Thatâs our new name, weâre changing our name from PRXZM to Adolescent Steam. *laughing* I also take drum lessons, I climb a lot.
What can we expect to see out PRXZM as we head into 2018?
Nick: 2018â¦ Holy crap this year is almost over.
Emma: Weâre closer to 2018 than we are to 2016 right nowâ¦ *joking* In this interview, PRXZM has an existential crisis.
Nick: We couldnât finish the interview because we both ran out Red Rocks, panicking. *laughing* We could make that the exclusive, itâs just us like sobbing on the ground. *laughing* Definitely a lot more live things. I mean obviously we play live now but we havenât really released anything that shows f our transition to more the live elements.
Emma: Definitely people have seen like little clips it, weâve been posting little teasers clips it online for our fans. But yeah, itâs definitely more personal now, weâve gotten more personally invested in our music.
Nick: Definitely a big focus on music, an EP/album coming in the Fall, a lot more shows coming. Weâre hoping a bigger tour next year, maybe a bigger support tour next year, just putting in a lot work I think. Also getting our social media game up, thatâs going to be a big push for 2018.
Well thanks so much for talking guys, enjoy the rest the night!
Nick: Yeah thanks so much for talking with us.
Emma: Thank you!
You can catch PRXZM as they head out on their debut headline tour this Fall, and make sure to keep an eye on this rising synth pop duo as they continue to stun with their prowess for musical ingenuity and blending emotional ballads with upbeat dance heavy tracks. Check out the recap the night below featuring Marshmello, Jai Wolf, PRXZM, Sikdope and special guest Slushii!