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Dreaming with Visionquest

by Movement Correspondent Reisa Shanaman

“Visionquest was like my first love, and always will be,” Seth Troxler waxes nostalgic about his time in the DJ supergroup and record label collective. Formed in 2011 with dear friends and fellow Detroiters Ryan Crosson, Lee Curtiss and Shaun Reeves, Troxler left amicably (albeit quietly) to return to a solo career at the tail end of 2013. The three remaining members are spending 2016 celebrating five years of playing, producing and putting out trendsetting music together under the mystical moniker.

To understand the group’s influence and aesthetic, it’s essential to look at the label’s output. The third release in the Visionquest catalog was Tale of Us’ early 2010 breakout hit “Dark Song,” which Resident Advisor described as, “in a word, stunning. In a few more words, it’s serene, atmospheric, haunting and breathless.” The first two EPs the Detroit expats signed before that were from Benoit & Sergio and Footprintz, respectively—two duos often classified in the indie dance persuasion. Other standout signings for the stamp include Maceo Plex’s “Falling” and “Morgana,” a collaboration between Life and Death’s Thugfucker and Tale of Us. All of these artists—now well-known in their own right—were relatively young in their careers at the time they were welcomed into the Visionquest cohort. “I still believe that the Native American ‘Visionquest’ is part of what we do. We’ve seen many artists grow into their own while working with us,” Curtiss acknowledges.

Some of the artists he’s referring to have been invited to play “Need I Say More” over the years, the infamous annual party the guys throw on Monday of every Movement weekend since 2006. “Need I Say More started in the back patio area of a restaurant called Agave, which is no longer in operation,” Crosson informs. “Seth and I asked a few friends to play and the restaurant prepared a small breakfast for the people in attendance. I think the food lasted maybe an hour. I don’t even remember how we came to use that venue to be honest, if you even want to call it a venue. It was a little back patio for about 80 people. We had some shitty powered Mackie monitors from Seth and a little baby sub,” he recollects.

Although you may have to wait a while to get in now that word of the gathering has gotten out, you can usually count on either Crosson or Troxler there to personally collect your $10 when you do get to the door. While Troxler no longer maintains membership in the collective, the musical movement they ushered in, and the city in which they did it, will always keep them connected. Predating the formation of Visionquest, Need I Say More is arguably an embodiment of the everlasting bond that subsists between this brotherhood.

“It’s kind of like being in a relationship before you go to college, or right when you start college,” Troxler expresses. “You’re dreaming so big and so idealistic of the world and what you’re going to do with the rest of your lives and how you’re going to take those steps . . . Those were my best friends, and we dreamed. We created something. We created a movement, an idea that we all went on to flourish from.”

Those dreams began back in a ’90s basement while Troxler and Curtiss were living together in Detroit, and later materialized in a cabin in Northern Michigan. “Detroit’s music scene had so much to do with all of our careers, I doubt it’s explainable,” Curtiss expresses. There is, however, a certain attitude they associate with the city and identify within themselves. Crosson defines it as, “Always feeling you have to work for your meal and [have] something to prove. Taking nothing for granted. There’s always someone out there working just as hard, if not harder than you, so you have to stay on your toes.”

Self-described by Curtiss as “humble people with complex minds,” they scoff at the idea that anyone would refer to them as superstars. “I began by practicing in my bedroom and swearing at my turntables. Then staring at a computer screen and swearing at it until I could make somewhat decent beats. It took a while,” Crosson admits. Peruse Troxler’s Facebook page, and you may stumble on a revealing screenshot; taken from a 2008 message board, it shows a post made by Troxler looking for additional gigs while he and Crosson were going to be in Europe. It refers to them as “simple folk” and promises “the favor would be returned in any of you are in detroit [sic].”

Visionquest have come quite a long way since then, without ever losing touch with their beginnings, or their appreciation for each other. As Troxler earnestly articulates, “It’s really incredible to look back at what is now eight or nine years ago to a couple of guys in a basement hanging out, to [now] playing for tens of thousands of people every weekend . . . We were just young guys dreaming about the future.” With five official years behind them and endless possibilities ahead, we hope they still are.