In 2014, Amber Giles, who DJ's as Mija, was performing at Bonnaroo when Skrillex joined her onstage for a back-to-back 6 a.m. set. The gig went viral and her audience nearly doubled overnight.
"My career was prematurely launched," Giles, now 25, tells Rolling Stone. "I didn't have a plan."
Before her ascent into the upper echelons of EDM, Giles was a classically trained vocalist who quit the school choir at age 17 to start promoting raves in her hometown of Phoenix. Her mom would often join her – and continues to attend as many of her gigs as she can. "She's the best," says Giles. "She tries to come to all the parties."
Giles has since moved to Los Angeles, toured the world, scored hits like her remix of DJ Snake's "Middle" and originals like "Secrets," and started work on her first EP – a follow-up to the recent multimedia project Time Stops. And though she often works with Skrillex's record label, OWSLA, Giles remains an independent artist.
"It's probably my DIY punk-rock mentality," she says.
Similarly, within minutes of any given Mija set, Giles promptly flips the script on those eager to box her in. Her upcoming EP, which features her vocals for the first time, departs from what fans may expect. "L.A. is such a melting pot," says Giles. "I wanted to experiment and go outside of my boundaries."
She also draws inspiration from every place she passes through on her travels. "Depending on what's happening in the world, what music is coming out, what city I'm in," she explains, "I do some research on a place I'm going to, get a feel for it and maybe do something that would be special for that city."
This innate curiosity fueled her signature musical style, which she calls "Fk a Genre," a marriage of traditional electronic music and contemporary chart-topping sounds. Under the same moniker, she's launched a wildly successful mixtape and tour, featuring acts like A-Trak and Joey Purp. "People want that sort of education," she says. "People want to have a good time, they want to party with their friends, but they also want to learn something."
She fondly recalls a tour stop in Chicago, where she blended turntablism, hip-hop and house, to the great satisfaction of her audience. "To just see them all dancing together – EDM fans, b-boys in the middle of the floor – like all these kids that don't normally get to experience that," she says, "that was really cool."
These days, jumping across timezones and sleeping when she can, Giles can barely find time to do an interview – let alone find a quiet room to do it in. But despite her considerable success, she admits that if she hadn't stumbled into this world she would "probably be playing some sick house music on some turntables at a local bar with all [her] friends, and probably be just as content." As a tattoo on her forearm reads, it seems as if Giles was "born into this, like this" – even if she wasn't planning on it.