HM Soundsystem: Spinning Sounds & Fashion

Photo: Aldo Padilla - ās’tər****visual index

Phrasing a perfect mix to get the dance floor stirring is what HM Soundsystem does best. DJ duo HM Selecta and Amy Phamous are providing unique blends of music driven by style and desire for unique HM sound to all of L.A.

All about creating a high-energy atmosphere, HM Selecta and Amy Phamous have not only taken to the turntables and produced graphic artistry to give HM Soundsystem a distinctive look, they have also started ÇA VOI: a jewelry, accessories, and clothing line for artists and young professionals that look for the unique alternative to corporate brand jewelry.

For those who have never experienced first-class HM sound, HM Selecta describes original HM music as,  “Halfway between Ramp meets My Bloody Valentine. So on the one side you have a real 70s groove style and that’s the rhythm, but then on top of it instead of James brown singing you have ethereal singing.”

Staging events all over Los Angeles, HM Soundsystem partygoers experience a wide variety of music from original HM sound to instrumental melodies, slower groove oriented R&B tunes and some dance/electronic beats.

Amy Phamous says, “We mix in a little bit of everything.  As DJs we cater to the audience a lot, so whatever gets the audience dancing and whatever the audience likes to listen to, we play it with our own spin on it.” She adds, “we specialize in a lot of old school hip hop, old school funk, soul and disco, and we mix it all in. Then we throw in electro, indie, alternative, and 80s; we have a little bit of everything for everybody.”

Recent tracks up HM Soundsystem’s sleeve are centered on a “fused Lush/My Bloody Valentine kinda sound mixed with a funky 70s Soul vibe,” says Amy Phamous.

The creators of HM music were not always together. At the beginning the duo was a solo, and HM Selecta handled the turntables alone.

He recalls what got him started in DJing as a progression from being in bands as a teen to collecting music throughout the years, and then one day being asked by his friends to DJ.

He took a leap and said yes.

“My first couple gigs, I was like ‘wow, I got paid?’ It was like 30 bucks, and I was like ‘Dude! That was thirty dollars more than most of my band gigs!’ and I didn’t have to split it with six people.”

That was about six years ago, and the music hasn’t stopped. It has only grown in style, and with bringing Amy Phamous on board HM Soundsystem was born.

“I brought her in because she plays the same stuff I play. I’ve hired so many DJs that are big around L.A., and they tank when they get up there.” HM Selecta continued, “Our sets are real complementary; She knows what I want to play, I know what she’s going to play, and she’s dependable so I can leave her alone up there and things are fine.”

And fine they are; HM Soundsystem has grabbed L.A. by the horns and has established residencies at two L.A. hotspots.

The Broadway Bar is home to HM Soundsystem every Thursday evening, while the Mountain Bar in Chinatown hosts the duo on the second Saturday of every month.

It was with practice that Amy Phamous learned to be a perfect complement to HM Selecta. After holing herself up in her room for days on end when her brother brought home a turntable, Amy has the golden touch along with her musical partner.

Amy Phamous revealed what drives her while she spins when she said, “Every gig, I think what gets me really into it is just the fact that I can play certain songs and get people in the right mood to want to have a good time and just have fun.”

“Knowing that we have that power is really gratifying.  Honestly if we weren’t there then people would be sitting and talking and it’d be silent; no joy.”

With variety in the songs they play, HM Soundsystem varies the venues they play at as well. “We’re not high-brow about our events, we’re not high-brow about our music,” says HM Selecta. “People are like, ‘Oh, how’s that bar, what’s the atmosphere?’ I’m like ‘who cares?’ I don’t really care.”

He added, “We’ll do anything if everything’s right and it’s a professional gig.”

In addition to their music and laid-back attitude, a factor that plays into people’s excitement about HM Soundsystem is having a female DJ spinning at the turntables.

Amy Phamous draws people’s interest from every aspect. From her overall look to the jewelry that dangles from her fingers as she spins, Amy Phamous adds to the hype that is HM Soundsystem.

“People like a female DJ. It’s a good look. She’s a stylish Asian girl DJ, as clichéd as that is, but people notice for that.” However, Amy Phamous is not just eye candy, she contributes to HM Soundsystem’s success through her talent as well; HM Selecta added, “The difference is, once we get on, we can deliver on the decks.”

“In such a male dominated field as DJing, there’s a lot more attention, and a lot more people are drawn to that,” says Amy Phamous. “Being a female DJ leaves an impression in people’s minds.”

Delivering through music is not the only forte of Amy Phamous, for she has launched her own line of clothing and accessories: ÇA VOI.

Amy Phamous started making clothes for herself a couple of years ago, since her mother taught her how to sew. “I used to go to vintage sales and find pieces from back in the day that nobody wants to wear anymore, and then I rework it so it’s kind of modernized.”

Still drawing from the ideas that take hold of her, Amy Phamous is creating trendy, revamped vintage and original styles that anyone can wear.

Since she is the designer of ÇA VOI, and her clothing inspires questions such as “Where can I buy that?” or “Where do you buy your clothes,” Amy Phamous says, “I started stockpiling on my pieces, and they have built up over time. I’m getting more out, and now I’m starting to sell them.”

HM Selecta has been there through every aspect of ÇA VOI’s inception and said, “Amy likes clothes, so she makes a lot of her own stuff, and every time we’re out, people ask about it. We were like ‘what’s the next natural step?’”

Inevitably, he says, the natural step to take was to establish ÇA VOI and sell the styles that Amy Phamous has created.

Pronounced “se-voy,” Amy’s fashion line of stylish ensembles and original jewelry is already being sold at Gas’d Station in downtown L.A., and a ÇA VOI online shop is soon to follow.

The extent to which HM Soundsystem reaches its audiences and fans is broad, and the pair has experienced moments worth revealing to fans.

For HM Selecta, an exciting event that stands out in his memories is when he DJ’d for Mercedes Fashion week “In New York it’s like Marc Jacobs, and over here I think the biggest name was Lauren Conrad. I was like ‘Awesome, Lauren Conrad!’ It was cool because the guy that booked me was going to play all house, so I went in there and played a couple house tunes and people weren’t moving, and then I played Hip-Hop and people went nuts! I played hip hop for like two hours.”

He continued with a description of two peculiar male models who made their mark on the event, “Some male models came, all buff, no hair on their bodies, with manicured eyebrows and makeup asking if I’d announce that they were going to break dance and I was like ‘No, I’m not going to announce that,’ so here they come, all chiseled and buff and spread the crowd themselves. This girl I was with said, ‘Wow, models really are self centered.’ I agreed. To me, it’s so weird, they don’t have any hair; they look like giant fetuses to me.”

“Every single experience is special in its own right, there’s always something different that happens at each one,” says Amy Phamous, not only summing up HM Selecta’s strange male-model experience, but also her own crazy moment.

She does have an embarrassing moment to tell about a night at Freak City, a throwback-to-the-80s club in Hollywood under the offices of the old school hip-hop label Delicious Vinyl in Hollywood. “Whenever we play gigs there, the crowd is so ready to party, so when we drop the first beat of our song, they go nuts.” On one particular summer night it got “really really hot and there’s so many warm bodies that as I started DJing, I started sweating like crazy and it started dripping on the vinyl. I tried wiping it between sets, hoping no one noticed, but it wasn’t cute.”

Despite embarrassing moments or challenging gigs, HM Selecta and Amy Phamous always have to get along with one another and help each other get past anything that may get in their way.

Spinning and blending high quality mixes defines HM Soundsystem’s talent to make its’ audience move, but when it is examined, that quality sound just may come from HM Selecta and Amy Phamous’ ability to mix well with each other.

So how do they do it? The answer is simple; they are brother and sister Minh and Amy Pham.

To Amy, the best part is that they are related, “With us, at the end of the day no matter how much we hate each other, we’re still related by blood; it develops a really strong bond, and we can really trust each other because we are family.”

To see more of HM Soundsystem, visit their site to hear samples of their music, access HM’s calendar of events and see photos of the events and parties hosted by Minh and Amy.

By Justine Mrsich
ās’tər****visual index


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