Most trance fans will have first heard of Cerf, Mitiska & Jaren back in 2007 when Armin van Buuren opened his A State of Trance compilation with their beautiful “Light The Skies” track. Five years on, the LA-affiliated trio of Matt Cerf, Shawn Mitiska, and Jaren Cerf have had three IDMA nominations, peaked at #3 in the Dutch dance charts, collaborated with the likes of Rank 1 and Dash Berlin, and have just released their debut artist album, Give Me A Sound, which we currently have for you exclusively through Armada Music. Here we check in with the crew to get all the gritty details.
How did it feel when you first heard Armin van Buuren play your first hit, “Light The Skies”?
Matt: It felt amazing! It’s great to see that many people reacting to your music!
Jaren: I didn’t know who Armin was, actually. At that point, I had just been introduced to dance music by Matt. In fact, we were at the Winter Music Conference in Miami together in 2007, and Matt and Shawn introduced me to Armin at one of his shows and I was like, “who is this guy?” Of course, as soon as I read about him online and really saw what he was about, I was star-struck and kicking myself!
Your debut album features collaborations with Rank 1 and Dash Berlin. How did that come about?
Shawn: Typically, we’d reach out to the artists that we respected and got along with the most. In the case of Dash Berlin, they actually contacted us over MySpace to possibly work on a remix, and that remix was ”You Never Said.” After the success of our release, the collaboration was just a natural progression.
The album’s taken quite a while to come. Was there any particular reason for that?
Shawn: All three of us had life-changing circumstances that took place. I actually had multiple health issues spanning over two years, which made it very difficult to work on music. It wasn’t only that, though, I also think over the span of those five years, our production level grew and we had to re-do a lot of the older material.
Matt: As you may have heard, it took a total of five years to put it together, so it wasn’t an easy job. It was a very long and steep journey, but very enlightening. Coming up with the concepts of each song was quite easy, but finishing them the way we wanted wasn’t! I’m a perfectionist, so it needed to be right. These days, a lot of albums only have a few good singles on them—the rest are filler songs—but in this case, I needed each song to be the best, and for each one to have the potential of being a single.
You took some time out to focus on solo projects, but do you prefer working on your own or as part of a trio?
Shawn: The obvious answer here is solo, but honestly, I don’t really mind either way. When you have three people working on a track, there are good and bad aspects.
Matt: It’s always great to work with someone else, because it opens new horizons, but it also limits your vision sometimes, so it is good to focus on solo stuff, too.
Does Jaren write all of your lyrics, or do you all play a part?
Jaren: I write all the lyrics and vocal melodies. Sometimes Matt will suggest something different. I always run it by the boys, though, because we want to make sure we’re on the same page.
Where do you get your inspiration from?
Shawn: Personally, I take inspiration from our EDM scene. Just listening to other guys’ tracks and not necessarily doing exactly what they do, but taking the coolest ideas and re-working them in my own way.
Matt: I take my inspiration from all genres of music that I loved along the years: rock, pop, hip-hop, classical, and jazz, mixed with a lot of new great electronic music, like trance and house.
Jaren: I grew up listening to artists like Tori Amos, Patsy Cline, Juice Newton, and bluegrass like Alison Krauss. So it varies. I love just about everything.
Shawn: Not really. I try to work on music for myself, not the artist I’m remixing.
Matt: It’s always a challenge to make a remix for something big, and to make sure they like it. Moreover, it’s important for the fans to like it. I have received some remixes of our songs I didn’t like, but sometimes, those songs were popular with the fans! And that’s what counts in the end.
Who’s your favorite artist currently?
Shawn: Without hesitation, Eric Prydz—he’s a true musical genius.
Matt: This changes all the time, so it’s very hard to say. I have a collection of favorite artists including Daft Punk, Michael Jackson, Eric Prydz, and too many trance artists!
Jaren: Honestly, I have a tough time answering this. I have ADD when it comes to music, and I swear it changes on a weekly basis!
Do you have an all-time favorite tune? Or a tune that marks a pivotal time in your life?
Shawn: I don’t think I have a favorite. I’ve been listening to EDM for so long, all of it influences me in a pivotal way.
Matt: I must say there is a period of my life that made me decide to become a dance-music producer, and it was because of songs like Energy 52’s ”Cafe Del Mar” and albums like Oakenfold’s Tranceport.
Jaren: I don’t have a favorite artist, but for many years the pivotal moments in my life revolved around Desyn Masiello sets.
What’s been the highlight of your careers so far?
Shawn: Finally releasing this album.
Matt: Playing on New Year’s Eve in Vietnam in front of 300,000 people.
Jaren: Probably the success that’s come from working with Armin and this album.
And finally, what’s your ultimate career goal?
Shawn: Being happy with myself and the music I produce. That’s it.
Matt: To become the #1 DJ in the world, tour the world, produce the best music out there, and help people through my music.