“I felt like I was the only one.”
This is how Christian Ramos, whose artist name is CRVTE (pronounced “Crate”), describes the experience of growing up as an EDM fan and DJ in the hip hop/rap bastion of San Jose, CA. But the line could just as easily describe what it felt like to be raised in a family openly hoping for a son with a more traditional passion and career dreams.
Together, those experiences might be enough to put another artist on a different path. For CRVTE, it sparked the internal fire to seek out collaborations, spread the EDM gospel, start a company for EDM artists, and push unrelentingly to better his own artistry. Now a sophomore at Foothill College in California majoring in music technology, CRVTE recently won Quadio’s Fall Production Club Track Face-Off.
A notable achievement, but hardly a surprise. CRVTE taught himself to DJ at 11 and produced his first song at 13. His early influences included EDM OGs such as David Guetta, Skrillex, and Calvin Harris, but he’s now forging his own sound, a seamless mix of hard-hitting drops, melodic chords, and unabashedly emotional lyrics. After years of smaller shows, in the pre-Covid world of 2019, CRVTE started appearing in shows alongside the likes of EDM stars Crankdat and JVNA. Riding that wave, and with growing family and community support, he’ll tell you he’s just getting started.
You literally got your start in a garage, right?
When I was 11, I heard David Guetta and Calvin Harris on the radio and fell in love with their sound. I was like, "How do they make music?" and "How are they performing?" When I learned they were DJing, I remembered that my dad used to DJ. I went to our garage and I looked for his old controller, a super small retro little square. I found it and connected it to the computer. I figured out how to run VirtualDJ software and started practicing. I literally had to teach myself how to use the DJ equipment and FL Studio. I think I still have some of my first mixes on my computer, and they're terrible. But because I started so young, it definitely boosted my confidence in experimenting and trying new things in my music.
San Jose is not exactly known as an EDM hotspot.
Yeah, I felt like I was the only one for a while. High school was a bit hard when I’d share my music––I wasn’t told nice things. I actually think this motivated me to work a bit harder and network with other more advanced artists to learn from and collaborate with.
It seems like you’re a part of a large dance music community these days, both online and in-person. Tell us about that journey.
In junior high, I started Soundclash Events and later had multiple shows with the help of a friend. I started it to give artists with similar interests as me a space where everyone can network and share their music. Even though we closed Soundclash Events down in 2019 when I started college, it opened a lot of doors for myself and other artists locally. I've thought about bringing it back, but I'm just focusing on my own music now.
In your SoundCloud bio, you write, "Trying to convince my mom I can make a living off of this." Has your family been supportive?
That’s been a process. Before high school, soccer was my whole life. I practiced every day, I went to tournaments, I won nationals, I was die-hard. At one point I couldn’t see myself doing it for much longer, so I decided to commit fully to music. My dad didn't take it that well in the beginning, and I know a lot of my family don't really like EDM. But now he sees me going places. He saw me win Quadio’s Fall Production Club contest and they were proud of me. Every time I release a song, my parents show their support, and they always come into my room to check what I'm working on. Especially with DJing, my dad's especially supportive of that since he used to DJ. Sometimes he comes in my room and he plugs in his computer without me knowing, and I come home, and I see my cables are not how I left them, and I'm like, "Who was in here?" And my dad was in there practicing DJing his favorite songs.
What draws you to EDM?
For older folks, EDM can be considered bad or “druggie” music. But the music talks a lot for itself; there’s emotion and happiness. When you listen to EDM, you feel the melodies and the drop, and it draws you in and keeps you on your feet the whole time, either crying or jumping. I love that about it.
EDM hasn’t always been seen as music with a social conscience, but with the rise of Black Lives Matter, do you see EDM becoming a more inclusive space?
Definitely. A lot of EDM artists are collabing now with big rappers. Skrillex is making music with Ty Dolla $ign and Kanye West. EDM is about PLUR -- peace, love, unity and respect. I feel like the EDM community is pretty good at kicking out people who are racist or abusive. For example, it came out that some well-known DJs were physically abusive to minors, and the EDM community just bashed them and kicked them out hard. Everyone was like, "Guys, whoever is doing these things, please just stay home. Please just behave and let's enjoy the music.”
How do you usually find people to collaborate with?
Social media such as Instagram and just reaching out to people through DM. That is how I have met some collaborators in the past and several that I am currently working with. I'm in Lockbox's Discord community and his community has definitely been really helpful in finding collaborators and getting feedback on music. And Quadio too, the Quadio community has definitely helped me a lot. I wish I would've known about you guys earlier because you guys have helped me meet a lot of people to collaborate with and give a lot of opportunities. I've already met some of my new best friends and we’ll play Call of Duty or FIFA online.
How did you come up with the artist name CRVTE?
One day I was in class with a new teacher and she asked us all to say an adjective that goes with the first letter of our name. So I thought, "Creative Christian." And I kept using that for all my other classes because it’s the truth, since I make music and I DJ, so I've got to be creative to do these things. So when I needed a new artist name, I figured out a way to mash those two words into one, so I came up with CRVTE, with the “A” being upside down. I'm pretty proud of it.
How did your music change during the pandemic?
Before the pandemic, everything I listened to was dubstep. Now I've started listening to more future bass, and started to incorporate drums that are hip hop based, but it's all electronic. I'm not making that much melodic dubstep anymore, I'm making more trappy future bass things. But more than that -- the pandemic really helped me sit down and think about what I want to do with my music, and what I want my sound to be. Nowadays, some of my producer friends can tell my music by the effects I use, like the white noises and the impacts. Recently I started to come up with a lead sound that will be in a lot of my upcoming songs. For most of my upcoming music, my girlfriend is writing the lyrics and I am composing and producing the instrumentals depending if the track is a solo or a collaboration.
Do any non-EDM artists inspire your music?
Michael Jackson. It’s the way that he approached music. He was a perfectionist, and this mentality has inspired me a lot to make the music I want. Also Paramore. A lot of my newer stuff is influenced by the way they make their music by their mixing and mastering and energy. They’re really good at showing how a sad song can be happy, sometimes too. Paramore really sucks you in in the best way, and I take that inspiration from that.