“Sometimes it’s bass-heavy, really party music. Other times, it’s really deep. But whatever it is, it always has to be sexy,” says Clint Stewart, one-half of the 2-year-old San Francisco house duo Safeword.
The up-and-coming techno DJs are headlining a libidinal dance set at Milk Bar’s “Spilt Milk” two-year anniversary party Saturday in the Haight, free with RSVP.
The date is part of grand plans for 2013, as Stewart and co-producer Marc Smith are sitting on a bunch of new EPs they intend to release on Mobilee and Bad Animal in 2013. They will bring those new beats to life Saturday using two laptops running Ableton Live and a couple of MIDI controllers.
“Marc runs most of the actual song structure,” Stewart says. “I’m doing atmospheric stuff and additions — little bits of drums, sweeps and stuff to build texture.”
Dance music brought the duo to San Francisco. Raised in Florida, the guys met in college at the University of North Florida in Jacksonville in 2000, and later moved to Miami together.
These days, they live in separate Outer Richmond district apartments and record in one massive studio at Smith’s house.
“This is where the people that inspire me are,” Stewart said. “It’s such a beautiful city and such an amazing place to be, although it’s getting to the point where being an artist in The City is almost impossible. ... Studio apartments are $1,600 a month.”
Stewart has a degree in graphic design, while Smith majored in advertising. Both have side jobs while they work on Safeword, a name that started as an inside joke in 2008. A “safe word” is jargon from kinky sex culture. A person’s “safe word” is used to end sexual role play.
“We used to just say, ‘The safe word is ‘butterscotch,’” says Stewart.
But then the two did a track together that ended up on their first EP, and the moniker stuck. Safeword played its first live show in 2011, and by 2012 Safeword was playing the Mobilee pool party at Sonar in Barcelona and releasing music on the Berlin-based label Bad Animal.
“It still feels like the beginning to me,” Stewart says. “We’re getting really close to the tipping point.”
And when it goes too far, do the guys have safe words of their own? “Kenny Loggins,” Smith said.
“It’s never gone too far,” Stewart said. “Never.”