Josh Butler has been making music since he was 11 years old. At age 25, that means he’s been producing for the better part of 15 years. Although the North England native’s major breakthrough didn’t come until 2012, both his music and his live sets reflect a maturity that is a result of all those years spent listening and learning. Josh’s Ibiza residency at Sankeys for Magna Carta, recent appearance at Amnesia with Bontan, tour with the legendary Nile Rodgers and sets at Europe’s biggest festivals all underscore his growing success.
This year alone, his work has been released on Avotre, Lost Records, Viva Music, Ultra, Madtech and Noir Music. Veterans like Noir and Santé have snapped up Josh’s original productions for good reason: while his sound sits nicely in the tech house underground, his music remains highly accessible, defined by catchy, shuffle-inducing basslines, perfectly placed synths and unique percussion patterns that combine to create irresistible grooves. But nothing speaks more to Josh Butler’s appeal than his instinctual ability to work a floor.
On a breezy October evening in South Beach, we find Josh playing at Do Not Sit On The Furniture, a tiny, 100 person max capacity space owned by acclaimed DJ/producer Behrouz that sits just off of Washington Avenue, quietly tucked behind a nondescript door. It’s a difficult room to play, easy as it is to see who’s enjoying the music as who’s not. The crowd that frequents the venue is a musically educated one in search of solid sound, and it is apparent as they mill about at the start of the night that they’re evaluating the talent, cocking their heads and nodding every so often as a new beat piques their interest. The venue’s sound system is top notch, reminiscent of the clubs from New York City’s house music heydays; EQ’d for that perfect balance of heavy grit and clean definition.
With an unassuming smile, Josh peers at the crowd from behind his black-rimmed glasses. He takes the temperature of the space, easing the floor into his own groove with a few jazz-imbued selections and guiding the audience towards funkier tracks while saving the heavy bass for later. It pays off. Despite the small number of bodies, the energy of the room expands as the crowd responds to each build with whistles and shouts. At one point, midway through Josh’s two-hour set, a shuffler wearing sunglasses turns to his friend and yells over the beat: “Holy fuck, bro! THIS is house music!” The bro claps his hands to the beat and throws his head back with a smile as someone else jumps up to excitedly reply, “Vamos!” … and with a true Miami welcome, away we go.
We meet up with Josh for brunch the following morning, quickly knocking back coffee before he heads to the airport to catch a flight home to Manchester. While he laments not staying in the warm, sunny city for another day, he has no regrets about the less-than-24-hour turnaround time. “It was so worth it,” he smiles. “That vibe last night was just wicked!” We wholeheartedly agree and assume that the occurrence wasn’t an aberration. If his most recent releases are any indication, the music world has a lot more to look forward to from this young artist. Take a listen to Josh Butler’s new ‘Snake Skin’ EP on Avotre to meet your daily head-bopping quota.
If its funky percussion and thick, rolling basslines don’t get you moving, we’re honestly not sure what will.