Riley Bunce was in grade 10 when he deleted all the rap songs off his phone. One afternoon his brother introduced him to house music and a DJ controller to match. Shortly after, Bunce attended Veld, fell in love with the music, and hasn’t looked back since.
A new aspiration grew from his love for house music, and DJ RLLY B was born.
“A dream of mine is to DJ professionally and tour around the world,” says Bunce.
This wasn’t always what Bunce saw for his future. Originally from Guelph, Bunce left home to attend Wilfrid Laurier University for economics. After his first year of study, he learned his current major wasn’t satisfying him, so he transferred to Carleton University’s School of Sprott to studying entrepreneurship. One career transition later, Bunce’s dream is to be a professional DJ, travelling the world to play his music to international crowds.
DJ RLLY B’s controller. Photo by Sherlyn Assam. Jan. 11, 2020.
To Bunce, it is the shows that make the music come alive. He has had more than one friend listen to a song, unimpressed, only to love the music after he’s convinced them to attend a show with him.
“If you listen to it off your phone, you’re not getting the right experience.”
Speakers, he says, is an important part of the music, but venues and feeding off the crowd is another avenue to enjoy the song.
Besides the difference between listening in a bedroom instead of a club, Bunce acknowledges that the popular house music may not grab everyone right away. Bunce has since strayed from the first tracks he heard, having adopted an appreciation for deep house, minimal house, and melodic house.
“When you go to a club and you’re surrounded by it, hearing it in the right environment it’s supposed to be played at, you’re gonna have a different experience than just sitting here,” says Bunce.
According to Bunce, this type of music is more underground in Canada, compared to shows one would catch on the mainstage at festivals. They have more disco and jazz elements to it compared to the electro house music playing on the radio and in clubs.
“They try to make the music sound more beautiful.”
While Bunce says he’s always thought jazz was cool, he did not have much experience with disco. To him, enjoying the alternative music choice of his genre comes with refining his music tastes and being open to new sounds.
Bunce and his friends frequently bounce their music off each other to experiment with sounds and become better at their craft. To Bunce, the best way to become a better DJ is to keep practicing, and produce your own music.
DJ RLLY B’s work station. Photo by Sherlyn Assam. Jan. 11, 2020.
“You can put on my DJ set but it’s not really the same thing,” says Bunce. “To grow your name and brand, you have to produce.”
Bunce says having your own track to play will help your name get passed along when event planners and fans alike are considering your music.
Over the past summer, Bunce produced 30 songs, but says he would wait a year until he was comfortable enough to release the polished versions to the public. To improve, Bunce watches DJs spin on Youtube videos and at shows. He practices between five and 10 hours a week, sometimes reaching 15 hours.
“The more you play, the better DJ you’ll be,” says Bunce.
But it’s not all work and no play. Friday and Saturdays can usually expect spinning with friends before a night out to some clubs, or playing at local parties. Though he has been watching and producing since high school, he did not play at a club until his fourth year in the game.
“I’m not saying you need to wait four years,” says Bunce. “But for me, I try to make my mixes the best quality possible and try to compare them to other DJs I really like to set myself to a great standard and to not do a poor job.”
In October 2019, Bunce reaped the fruit of his discipline by getting the opportunity to open for Niko Schwind, a DJ for Berlin, whom he admires.
Networking, Bunce says, is a big part of landing more gigs. Bunce has experienced periods in the past where club managers and event promoters decline his talent, so he took it upon himself to create his own events.
Founder and president of the Carleton House and Techno Club, Bunce says he knew there were people who wanted a club like this, so he decided to be the one to start it.
“I just wanted to connect people and start a scene.”
With 75 members since starting in September, Bunce has made a home for house fanatics and DJs alike. He hosts events, plans the DJs who will play, and create graphics for promotion.
“Stuff like that has been stressful but I’m happy that I did it because it provided new opportunities for me to DJ and network and spin at clubs I’ve seen some of my favourite DJs at,” says Bunce.
For Bunce, the goal is for the club to grow and bring new people into a thriving scene in Ottawa.
“I wanted to help try and give young DJs the opportunity to DJ at events they wouldn’t normally get to DJ at.”
It turns out Bunce has benefited from giving back. He has found more people recognize him and his music because of the events he throws and the new, younger people he is bringing into the community to fill events.
Never short of determination, Bunce continues to promote himself to get in as much playing time as possible.
DJ RLLY B producing. Photo by Sherlyn Assam. Jan 11, 2020.
“Venues will book you,” Bunce says. “You just have to reach out.”
Bunce’s plans for the future? He’s finishing school in summer 2020 but will continue to make music, hoping to land a residency in Ottawa before eventually moving to Montreal.
Residencies are scheduled shows DJs play at clubs every weekend, rather than headlining at events every month.
“Small steps,” says Bune. “Just continue to throw events, network, meet cool people, have fun… Make as much music as possible because that’s the only way to get good and the goal is to make good music.”