It’s a family affair and career for Seattle DJs Gem & Tauri
May 14, 2022 Updated Sun., May 15, 2022 at 11:32 a.m.
Seattle DJ duo Gem & Tauri is Emma Montalvo (Tauri), left, because Montalvo is a Taurus and Courtney Simmons (Gem) because Simmons is a Gemini. (Courtesy of Beyond Wonderland)
The Electric Daisy Carnival is at Las Vegas Motor Speedway next weekend (Friday through Sunday) – I covered it as a journalist in its first year in Sin City in 2011 and then the next six consecutive years. It’s one of my favorite music events on Earth, and one of the reasons is the opportunity to discover and hear new electronic dance music artists and their work.
Seattle DJ duo Gem & Tauri stand out in the EDM world. Gem, non-DJ name Emma Montalvo, is married to Jeff Montalvo, who is known in the music world as Seven Lions. Tauri, non-DJ name Courtney Simmons, is the couple’s girlfriend. Gem & Tauri answered questions Tuesday night ahead of EDC Las Vegas 2022:
How did Gem & Tauri come to be – how did you meet, and how did you come up with the name?
Simmons: We met at a Burning Man fundraiser party in June 2018 and became very close friends, which eventually blossomed into a romantic relationship. We were on the road with Jeff for a few of his shows one night in Colorado at Mission Ballroom at the end of 2019 that he needed an opener for, so Emma and I agreed to freestyle on a massive and very intimidating stage for the first time together, and the crowd seemed to receive it very well.
We decided our house duo eventually needed a name, and Emma came up with the idea of Gem & Tauri because I am a Gemini and Emma is a Taurus. We’ve both DJ’d separately at parties for years, and Emma opened some of Jeff’s tours in the past. Once we realized how great our chemistry was together onstage, we decided we had to pursue it as a duo.
After the world shut down and everything was online, we started a weekly livestream together, and I think that’s what really brought our music project to life and we realized how big of a passion it was for us.
Are you based in Seattle, and what prompted your interest in EDM – house, bass house and techno?
Montalvo: Jeff took me to my first EDM event in 2007. It was all uphill after that. EDM events became a major interest to me and after a few years of exploring all genres within dance music, I found myself gravitating toward the house stages more often than not. I love a simple beat and a groovy baseline. I also found that I enjoy a melodic, dreamy vocal, then came my love for melodic house and techno.
Simmons: I have lived in Seattle my whole life and have grown up listening to house and trance music. Music has always been my happy place. My mom always played trance when I was young, so I will always have a deep love for it. But I’ve always loved the fun party energy of house and the way it made me want to dance. We wanted to combine our love for beautiful melodies with fun groovy house and techno, which is what inspired our sound.
2021 was your first time at the Electric Daisy Carnival in Las Vegas – how did it go?
Montalvo: 2021 was our first time playing EDC Las Vegas, and we were thrilled to be a part of it. The Parliament Art Car is such a great vibe, and we were fortunate to have all of our friends out there supporting us. This is another one Jeff took me to when we were younger, I believe it was 2008 when it was held in L.A. When the event moved to Las Vegas, we started going back in 2014 when Jeff played the Bass Pod.
Simmons: It was amazing! I first attended EDC in 2013 and was blown away with the level of production, and it has only gotten bigger since then. I never imagined having the opportunity to play a set at such an iconic festival, and we are beyond grateful for how well it went on the Parliament Art Car. We don’t have flames in our sets yet, so it was pretty cool to have the flames blasting in front of us to the music.
And you’re returning this year and opening the main stage, Kinetic Field, on Friday night. How does that feel?
Simmons: I honestly don’t think I’ve actually internalized how epic this is. I am so nervous and excited! The stage is huge, and I have seen absolute legends on that stage. I am beyond grateful to my team and everyone who supports us and makes it possible. It feels like it’s all happening really fast sometimes.
I honestly need to work on remembering to slow down and show myself some love for our accomplishments because I am a bit hard on myself to always work harder and do more. This is definitely a moment to be proud of – I can’t wait to feel what it’s like to be on such a big stage and have that emotional moment of connecting with so many people at once.
Montalvo: It feels insane! This is massive for me. It’s hard to express how I feel at the moment. All that comes to mind is nerves. I am sure I’ll have more to say when I step off stage. I feel really blessed to be asked to play such an iconic stage and honored to share this stage not only with my girlfriend but also my husband who plays later in the night. Not to mention all the amazing artists in between. It’s gonna be a good one.
Please tell me about your partnership with Seven Lions.
Montalvo: We have always been DJs and never thought that we would journey into creating our own music, but Jeff has really inspired us and encouraged us to venture out and embrace our creative side.
He helped us with our first EP while we sat in the studio and worked together on the songs. A few years ago, I discovered my love for songwriting and conveying emotions through lyrics. I’m still very amateur, but I love sitting in writing sessions with vocalists and making magic happen.
Simmons: I have always had a deep love for music, and DJ’ing was always fun for me because I got to share it with others. I guess I might have had some mental blocks, which is why I never thought I could produce my own music, but with Jeff’s encouragement, I have fully embraced this creative side of myself and attended some production school so that I have a better understanding of composing music.
I am having so much fun with new ideas and projects and so excited to see how we evolve. I am forever grateful to Jeff for his confidence in us and for trusting us to play on big stages with him. It really gives us a boost in the right direction, and the pressure was the best thing that ever happened to me.
What have been some of your favorite festivals, venues and cities to play? I would guess that the Gorge Amphitheatre is one of them.
Simmons: The Gorge was my very first festival ever in 2012, and it absolutely blew my mind how amazing and gorgeous that venue is. The memories I made at the Gorge growing up really shaped my love for live music and the whole community, and playing on that stage this last year was a full circle emotional event for me.
It was definitely one of the best moments of my life. There are also so many amazing cities we have gotten to travel to and meet amazing people and explore. Before music, I hadn’t really traveled much, so it’s been really fun seeing the world.
Montalvo: The Gorge is up there with the best of the outdoor venues in this country. I loved being able to open up Chronicles 3 last year as well as Red Rocks. One of my favorite venues to play, though, is Bill Graham in San Francisco. It is a special place for me, and it felt so good to open up the Pantheon tour there last year alongside all our beloved Ophelia Records family.
Which DJs and non-DJs do you admire and inspire you?
Simmons: Well, my favorite artist growing up was Kaskade, and I loved Daft Punk’s funky vibes. Our first EP had a lot of inspiration from Camelphat, Tinlicker, Gorgon City and Duke Dumont. I am always so inspired by artists who can include beautiful chords and melodies in their music but also make it drop hard and groovy and be so fun to dance to.
I am super inspired by groovy house acts like Kyle Watson, Westend, Funk Hunters and Marten Horger. When I’m not listening to EDM, I also love classic rock like Pink Floyd, Dire Straits, Fleetwood Mac, Queen – musicians who can shred a good guitar solo.
Montalvo: My favorite DJs in the EDM space are Pan Pot, Funk Hunters, Artbat and Anna. Outside EDM, I am a huge fan of what I like to call Dad Rock, which is basically anything my dad listened to when I was younger. Some of that includes Fleetwood Mac, Cat Stevens, Queen, Depeche Mode and David Bowie.
What’s next for Gem & Tauri after EDC Las Vegas 2022?
Simmons: We have some really great things in the works, some new music in the works for this year that we are pretty excited about. We are working on an idea to eventually curate our own shows and bring talented artists into the spotlight to play on stages with us, to give them the opportunity we’ve been given. We have a ton of amazing festivals we’ve been asked to play. Hope to see y’all out at some of them!
For more about Gem & Tauri and EDC Las Vegas, go to instagram.com/gemandtauri and lasvegas.electricdaisycarnival.com.
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