With an upcoming EP destined for release on Sydney imprint NLV Records, Strict Face uses 21st century technology to push the limits of his sound and connect to new, more intimate audiences.
Strict Face on making dance music for an audience of one
“I just love experimenting with a threshold and seeing how far I can raise it,” Jon Santos says from within his Goodwood recording studio-slash-bedroom.
Jon has been releasing internationally renowned music for a decade now under the moniker Strict Face, and this experimental ethos is evident in his sound.
The Strict Face catalogue is a cocktail of opposing ideas and flavours. Tracks range from rollicking dance-floor fillers rich with razor-sharp samples and off-kilter percussion to funk-filled slow burns ideal for listening at home.
“Things that make me go ‘What the hell was that?’ inspire me,” Jon says.
“It’s things that I wouldn’t normally hear or see or even just sounds that I don’t normally come across.”
In 2016, Jon signed to NLV Records, the label founded by DJ and former Triple J host Nina Las Vegas.
This is a big deal for a musician based in Adelaide and it has allowed him to release works, like the New Racer mixtape and Urgency EP, to a global audience, and tour across the world.
Since the pandemic, Jon has had more time to write.
As we speak, the musician plays CityMag some songs which are soon to be released on a new EP.
There are lush keys with elements of house, which has been a genre of interest for Jon over the last year.
Jon has no plans to move from Adelaide, the city he’s lived in for most of his life.
In fact, he sees advantages to being based here.
“Being in Adelaide probably gives me enough of an edge,” Jon says.
“I don’t have to worry about competing, which means I can focus on my own creative process.
“It’s good having that lack of outside influence, too.”
From the age of 10, Jon played around with audio production programs like Ableton and FruityLoops.
Musically, he was raised on a diet of Radiohead, Sonic Youth and New Order.
As an adult, he has maintained a voracious musical appetite, and continues to explore the never-ending expanse of electronic music production online.
In addition to his production work, Jon has also carved out a successful career in the city’s nightclub scene as a DJ, mixing dance music, dancehall, noughties Euro-trash and garage.
He recently played a rave in the Parklands, where punters shuffled their feet in the dirt to pop bangers spliced with lesser-known techno tracks.
But Jon seems most at home behind a chunky HP laptop, orbited by cables, two studio monitors and a midi keyboard on a desk.
While travel outside of Adelaide is restricted, his computer allows him to connect to interstate and international audiences outside of the nightclub context.
“I think electronic music has such a different effect in terms of how it’s consumed and processed and heard,” Jon says.
“People would still want to experience these tracks in some kind of way, whether they’re listening to it on their headphones or listening on a stereo.
“If they’re able to actually experience that rush of euphoria that they get typically from being in a club, if they’re able to experience it in some intimate, smaller space, then I’ve done my job.”