DJ duo Moontanners grows alongside developing student EDM community

Logan Dubel, Senior Life & Arts Reporter

Whenever attending a party, David Cohen found himself above the crowd in the DJ booth, playing some of his favorite EDM tracks from his phone. The mechanical engineering senior said his skills transformed from doodling to DJing. He eventually joined forces with his like-minded roommate, Maxwell Edelheit, and started producing remixes and playing for friends. 

“We came to the conclusion together that we both like this kind of music, but we were just auxing at that point,” Cohen said. “We thought we might as well turn this into something and become DJs, and actually learn to do it technically.” 

Last year, the duo said their friends just viewed their stage name, Moontanners, as a punch line, but it recently became a serious musical endeavor. Taking their passion from their den to downtown, the pair bought a DJ controller from a friend and got the hang of it through trial and error before starting to play gigs last semester. For now, Cohen handles production, while Edelheit oversees management and ushers in crowds. 

With some gig experience under their belts, the Moontanners said branding themselves as typical DJs or unique artists will define their future success.

“A key distinction a lot of DJs have to figure out is whether they want to be branded as any other DJ or whether they actually want to move into the world of production,” Cohen said. “That’s where we’re trying to look long-term — release some sort of original music under our name, release more remixes and just build that up so that we can continue growing.” 

Some favorite house-style, self-produced remixes include Soulja Boy’s “Pretty Boy Swag” and Taylor Swift’s “Snow on the Beach,” with several more in production. 

Sporting upbeat remixes and seamless transitions, the Moontanners make up one of many local student acts supported by a larger network, Movement Nightlife. Founded by Alejo Orvañanos – a fellow student DJ – the organization helps others find venues to showcase their talents and develop a sound. 

Edelheit said Movement offers young artists the chance to take their skills to top-tier fraternities and downtown bars, which wouldn’t normally consider booking college students.

“The mission of Movement is to empower artists through community,” said Orvañanos, an accounting senior. “I (saw the Moontanners) DJ and knew they were good and could work the crowd. I got the opportunity to book them for a 2000s party, and they absolutely smashed it … We booked them again recently, and they delivered.” 

Despite growing popularity, the pair said their weekend spinning will not divert their weekday dreams, as they balance their STEM majors with what they call the equivalent of a startup business. Both will remain in Austin after graduation, though for now, they consider Moontanners a chapter for their 20s and not necessarily a lifetime. Still, they said they feel ready to ride the live music capital of the world’s DJ circuit wave. 

“I view (Moontanners) separately from my major or finding a job, or medical school. It’s truly something that’s fun for me,” said Edelheit, a biology senior. “Once you start school, it’s a whirlwind if you’re trying to get good grades, and that’s all you’re really focused on. This has been something that I get to do with my best friend, and I can’t wait to see where it goes.”