The Song of the Summer is usually based on radio and chart dominance — this summer’s crown went to Iggy Azalea and Charli XCX who ruled the airwaves with “Fancy.” But with festival fever at an all-time-high, the tracks that rocked the main stages are worth a look, too. This year, the song that ruled festival season was a remix by a relatively unknown producer called Audien (not to be confused with Audion) from the sleepy town of Mystic, Conn.
In January, the 22-year-old Audien (real name: Nate Rathbun) uploaded his remix of Bastille’s Pompeii to SoundCloud. By September, it had become the most played track at Electric Daisy Carnival and Coachella, and it was one of the five most-played tracks at Tomorrowland, according to the Berlin-based site 1001 Tracks that stores and measures tracklists in an extensive online database.
So far, the remix has five million views on YouTube and SoundCloud, and climbing. The momentum took Rathbun largely by surprise.
“This was one of the ones I never expected to blow up,” he told Billboard. After being asked to remix the original last fall, his version was picked up by the tastemaking YouTube user Proximity in February, and the song took on a life of its own. “What really set it off was other DJs playing it constantly,” he said. “I suppose it’s a great safety net song because it always gets the crowd together and singing.”
Rathburn has released music on Armin van Buuren’s Armada Music and produced guest mixes for Above and Beyond’s legendary dance radio program Group Therapy. He’s drawn to luscious power-chords and pop-leaning melodies, and prefers to work with vocals than without.
“I’ve done a couple songs that really lent themselves to radio, and it made me realize I want to make music people can sing along to,” he said. “‘Pompeii’ is an anthem.'”
Dan Smith, the British singer-songwriter who heads up Bastille, said he loves the concept of remixing and welcomes artists to reinterpret his music and bring it to audiences he wouldn’t otherwise reach. “The EDM world is a world we’re not super involved in,” he said, “So to see these massive crowds going mental over this song we made was very surreal. Audien just knew exactly what kind of production would resonate with them.”
In November, Rathbun will embark on his Audacity tour that includes stops in New York, San Francisco and Los Angeles. He’ll bring “Pompeii” along for the ride, but said he’s eager to play new material, too, particularly a bootleg remix of a Van Halen’s “Jump.“
“That song is like the earliest version of the stuff I make today,” he said. “Power chords, dance beats… You can actually hear the sonic similarities. It’s a jam.”