John Smith (left) and Richard Grant (right) planned the Cal Poly Harlem Shake video. -Photo by Aryn Sanderson/Mustang Daily

Aryn Sanderson

John Smith and Richard Grant hover over a keyboard.

“I’m no Bach, but I can string together a note or two and make a melody that sounds good,” Smith says.

Modest words for a disc jockey (DJ) whose EP charted in the top five for electro house.

Smith, half of the duo TastyTreat, and Grant, who spins under the persona Philthy Rich, have been a big deal in the San Luis Obispo electronic dance music (EDM) scene for a long while now.

But in the past 48 hours, Smith and Grant became San Luis Obispo legends for something other than the bass they bump. The two are the minds behind the Cal Poly Harlem Shake YouTube sensation.

“(Smith) had been posting the Harlem Shake videos like every day,” said Grant, an agricultural business senior. “And I was leaving a meeting for my senior project, walking back through the UU, and my first idea was how great it’d be if Cal Poly could have a Harlem Shake.”

Grant called Smith, and they moved quickly. Smith and Grant organized the entire event in about two days, using Facebook and word of mouth.

“We see how quickly trends come and go. We’re known as the kids who try to get people together to have a good time, but I still couldn’t believe how quickly it spread and how big it blew up on campus,” Smith said.

Central Pacific Ski Club influenced the turnout, he added.

“Ski Club’s always been super supportive,” Smith said. “Those people are crazy.”

More than 200 community members came, he estimated.

After filming, Smith and Grant knew it was going to go viral.

“I mean, whenever you have that many kids together, it’s gonna hit a lot of networks,” Smith said.

Business administration freshman Jessyca Luxenberg, who participated in the video, was psyched about the buzz.

“It feels awesome to know that we’re trending and we’ve been on the news,” Luxenberg said. “I loved being a part of such a crazy, fun YouTube sensation.”

The video garnered more than 25,000 views in less than 12 hours and drew about 80,000 hits in less than a day. It was spotlighted on the “Today” show and ranked second on Into the AM’s top ten Harlem Shakes list.

“KSBY were the first to put us out there, and a bunch of EDM blogs, rave companies and local bars have shouted us out or put us on their websites,” Smith said. “People from SLO want to band together and represent.”

Originally, their goal was to hit a million views, but Grant says they’re becoming more realistic.

“We’ll be happy with 100,000,” he said.

But Smith and Grant agree it was epic, citing a tower of Nesquik, a lamp and a Gumby costume as some of the most memorable props.

“My personal favorite is, if you watch the video, in the corner, there’s just a 6-year-old kid air-humping,” Grant said, standing up to demonstrate. “He must’ve been touring on campus with his parents, and they just joined in. That was the best. We had no clue he was there until we were watching it back.”

Grant and Smith were originally members of the DJ group the Casa Street Hooligans.

“When we first started DJing, Richard and I started a group called the Casa Street Hooligans because we lived on Casa Street and would throw a party every day … literally every day,” Smith said. “Then, we started DJing bigger and bigger shows.”

Now, the former crewmates are roommates, living in a house full of up-and-coming local DJs “out in the boonies,” Smith said. “We can play our music as loud as we want and practice without causing a ruckus.”

“It’s like a mini-fraternity house for DJs,” Grant said.

But, for 22-year-old Grant and 25-year-old Smith, the party is almost over.

Grant will walk at graduation in spring and is getting ready to leave San Luis Obispo, and Smith is moving on to bigger and better things as part of the duo TastyTreat with DJ Devin Hardy.

TastyTreat recently signed with an independent label and a talent agency, he said. They’re in the process of planning a spring tour and will play several of shows “pre- and post-Coachella with some pretty big names,” Smith said.

“It’s all about staying current and reinvention,” he said. “Even though what I do is unorthodox, I still think I’m trying to be something. I’m trying to strive for something, even though it’s not your typical 9-to-5.”

Grant nodded.

“We never wanted to be the sell-out DJs,” Grant said. “When you’re just playing what people want to hear, there’s no creation aspect to it.”

Smith finishes Grant’s thought: “There’s no soul to it when you’re just trying to play for the masses,” he said. “I’ll be in the music industry for a while, but probably not in SLO for much longer.”

Grant agrees: “I don’t see SLO being the hot spot it once was for EDM. It got really flooded in SLO, run to the ground, and now there’s not as many shows as there once were.”

Editor’s note: Watch the Cal Poly Harlem Shake video below.

YouTube video

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