Phoenix-raised, Los Angeles-based producer Amber “Mija” Giles wears her m.o. proudly on posters for her upcoming tour: “Fk a Genre.” The 12-stop traveling dance music circus features some of the biggest heavyweights on the party circuit: A-Trak, Lunice, Anna Lunoe, Justin Martin, Kill the Noise, Boogie, Joey Purp and, as the site claims, “whoever shows up ;)” – playing everything from proper deep house to festival trap. But what you won’t hear, for the most part, is artists playing the sounds for which they’re known.
For her original material, Mija is all about that kind of juxtaposition and surprise. Major-key synths meet rattling snares, cartoonish vocal snippets might float over house or hip-hop beats. The main thread? A true rave-kid’s voracious appetite for the evolution of sounds, starting with the drum’n’bass and house she loved in Phoenix, to the contemporary music she came to love on arrival in L.A. Just see her latest offering for OWSLA, “Getting Better,” a collab with labelmates Vindata that hinges on a happy hardcore sample.
Rolling Stone caught up with the super-promoter to learn about this style-shifting trek.
Where did the original “Fk a Genre” concept come from?
Mija: Initially the concept came from a mixtape I made a couple years ago, basically when I first moved to L.A. and I was submerged into all sorts of music styles and cultures that were different from where I was originally from, Phoenix. I wanted to figure out how to incorporate them into my sets and the shows that I played.
The mixtape ended up being really successful, so I kind of wanted to take this concept and make it bigger, and kind of bring people to parties that wouldn’t necessarily be into that party normally. It gave artists free range to do whatever they wanted to do, and not what their normal fan base expected.
I think that ended up being really successful, and that’s what made it so fun, that people didn’t know what to expect. You’d have Justin Martin playing drum’n’bass. That’s why we turned it into a tour.
What was the most eye-opening scene or sound you discovered when you moved to L.A.?It’s funny, because I grew up initially with rave music like happy hardcore and drum’n’bass and all of that, but as I got older I got really sucked into house music and techno. Moving to L.A., I got really into hip-hop and trap music and basically a lot of the sounds you would maybe normally see in a festival, but for whatever reason, I was so involved in vinyl and house at the time, I didn’t even know that I liked trap. It was probably the opposite for me that it is for most people. [The expansion in musical taste happened] probably the opposite for me that it does for most people.
At one point it wasn’t that uncommon for DJs to play more than one sound in one set, or for multiple genres to be included in one party. Where and why do you think things got segregated, genre-wise?
I don’t think things necessarily got segregated, but I think that when artists build a certain persona and they’re with a certain record label and they’re playing shows with similar artists, it just becomes what the fans expect them to do. When we started the Fk a Genre party we never actually told anybody what the concept was or what they had to do, but everyone kind of had an understanding that they could come in and do whatever they wanted and experiment.
How much resistance did you get from the audience when you first started this out?
The first one we did was in Miami, and I wouldn’t say there was necessarily a resistance, but there was definitely a bit of confusion. I went in wholeheartedly with a house and techno set, which is something that my fan base now didn’t really get to see when I was in the prime of doing that. I even did a big college festival where I did the same thing, and kids were very surprised. For the most part it got very positive feedback, because most people are open-minded, they just don’t know it yet.
How did you translate this into a tour? You have some really big names on there, so in practical terms, how did you get it together?
It was a very long process. I had to play promoter again; I used to be a promoter in Phoenix. But when I was putting together the line-up, I tried to make it as eclectic as possible. I tried to include as many people who inspired my taste in music growing up. Justin Martin is definitely a big one for me; we had him on our Hard Summer Fk a Genre takeover as well. The TekLife crew are super dope. Wuki was one of the first artists I was really into when I first moved to L.A.; we had to work really hard to get him on the lineup.
What are you hoping the tour accomplishes when all is said and done?
I’m hoping that it gives fans all across the country who have seen me and these other people play, a brand new experience. It’s gonna be something that they haven’t seen before. It’s gonna show them sides of artists that they haven’t seen before, and overall they’ll just become more open-minded, I think