Black Carl! and VCTRE are two of electronic music’s fastest rising stars, not just in Alabama but around the nation. The Birmingham-based DJs have been busy touring the country and were recently announced in the lineup for next year’s Okeechobee Music Festival–both as individual musicians and together on stage under the name Integrate. The dynamic duo just played a homecoming celebration of sorts after a year of constant travel, including VCTRE’s tour with well-known electronic musician Minnesota, on Halloween night at Zydeco

The venue they are playing at brings things full circle for VCTRE and Black Carl!.  “Everybody’s stepping stone was to play Zydeco,” Carl recalls. The early days looked like finding opening slots to play then sharing it with friends. Simply having a good time making music and trying to find the best path forward.

VCTRE and Black Carl! attended nearby high schools, Oak Mountain and Hoover, but didn’t cross paths until they met through mutual friends after graduating. They quickly discovered they had similar interests, and a friendship was formed. It didn’t take long for this heartwarming moment to morph into an ever-increasing collection of catchy tunes.

“We mixed one time and we knew we had chemistry, and we just kept mixing together. That eventually led to us playing a show,” shares Carl, going on to detail their earliest sets at Zydeco and similar venues. “If I’m playing a show and Aaron’s there, the last 15 minutes I’d say ‘Yo, come on stage and be back to back.’ Cause he’d have some new stuff to play, and I’d have some new stuff to play, and we’d just have fun with it.”

Black Carl! and VCTRE playing to a captivated audience. Image by Ashtro J Photography

These moments weren’t designed with the intention of forming a music festival playing group, it was just two friends having fun. Sharing the stage eventually became working together on a song, then another, and eventually a full project. The two decided they needed a new name for this venture, and Integrate was formed. 

This collaborative effort allows the musicians to venture in whatever creative direction they are feeling, not bound by genres or labels. “We have our main projects where we’re pushing a certain thing, but when we come together on this we just try to have fun with it,” the duo shares, “but we definitely try to push the bar. We always try to make something with some pizazz.” 

Another benefit of working together is the freshness of ideas that come with not being the only one working on a project. “It’s good to have two minds on certain things,” VCTRE shares, detailing how Carl’s perspective has made him go from scrapping song ideas to expanding the parts that stick out and coming up with a whole new creation. 

This formula, just like their individual musical decisions, has proven to be popular around the country, but VCTRE and Black Carl! truly feel there’s no place like home. For all the fun memories made in city’s around the nation, sharing the stage with your best friend in your hometown is a tough one to beat. And we’re happy it’s right here in the Magic City.